These cold days always cause me to think about traveling. To be fair the average daytime winter temperature in the Charlotte area is 50-55 F (10-12 C) degrees. If I were Dutch or Belgium then I would probably think this is great weather for winter cycling but I am not so I don’t. I need warmer weather for cycling, walking, running, and visiting outdoor cafes to drink cappuccino.
Normally when I am in one of these moods I start thinking about the warm sun, great roads, wonderful outdoor cafes, and pedestrian friendly towns of Italy. Alla and I have been there several times since 2007 and I have come to love the Italy Bike Hotels and the Riccione Bike Hotels. The first group includes hotels from all of Italy while the second group is clustered in and around Riccione. We especially love the Riccione hotels because they are on the Adriatic Riviera. The city is just south of Rimini, another popular beach town, home of the late Federico Fellini and the location for several of his films.
The Emilia-Romagna region is home to some incredible cycling routes. Marco Pantani grew up riding and training on the roads around Cesenatico. I made a pilgrimage to his grave in the Cesenatico Cemetery. The Giro d’Italia regularly travels on roads in this region and professional teams often train here using one of the bicycle hotels as a base. For a cyclist, it is rather thrilling to know you are using the same routes and challenging the same climbs as the professionals.
The region also claims to be the culinary and gastronomic center of Italy. I cannot verify that claim but I can tell you that the food is outstanding. Many of the hotels have an inclusive package that includes breakfast, an after ride snack, dinner and wine. I was not a big fan of Italian wines until I stayed in Riccione. I think they keep the best and export the rest. Now when I visit the wine store I know how to shop for the best Sangiovese and Chiantis.
The hotels can arrange for bicycle rentals. My last rental was a full carbon Colnago which rode like a dream. You can also bring your own bike which I did the first time I visited. After that it just seemed too easy to rent a bicycle. The cost of excess baggage is about the same as the bike rental. All the hotels have safe bicycle storage rooms and a limited number of tools. You can ride each day with a guide and a group from your hotel or go out on your own. The beach is steps away and Florence is a day trip should you decide to skip a day riding.
You can see how a cyclist’s fancy would turn to Italy as winter hovers ever closer. My memories of France are also starting to resurface but that is a post for another day, maybe Tuesday.