An Italian Cycling Expedition: Alps to the Adriatic
Q&A With Tour Leader Lisa Merighi
We asked ExperiencePlus! Tour Leader and Expedition Expert Lisa Merighi to share some highlights about the 2017 Alps to Adriatic tour.
Lisa has guided most of our expedition tours since she started working with ExperiencePlus! Her ability to stay focused, energized and organized on a 25+ day trip is her special power. We checked in with her to get some thoughts on next year’s Italian expedition from the Alps to Adriatic, a repeat of a trip we ran in 2013. This Expedition has been referred to, by some, as the best expedition we’ve ever created!
Rumor has it that you will be leading this trip, do you know which other tour leaders will be with you on this expedition?
That’s right, I am leading the Alps to Adriatic! Though I don’t know who will be leading the tour with me yet, I am hoping Loic will also be on this expedition with me as we worked really well together during the Tallin-Sofia Expedition. Of course, he would be the third tour leader since he is not an Italian native. A third tour leader would mean we would have to have a full tour for him to join us. As for Italians, we don’t know who else would join the team yet.
Describe your favorite day on this expedition.
The beauty of this tour is the many great days on tour; we ride through so much history and culture! I really like to ride in central Italy, in the Marche and Abruzzo region, which offers small, quaint villages, where people can stop for a cappuccino while enjoying landscapes that still look like paintings by Piero della Francesca.
Describe your favorite ride on this expedition.
As far as rides are concerned, I truly loved riding from Trento to Vicenza along the “Pian delle Fugazze,” a majestic Alpine climb along a breath-taking valley and a screaming descent into the Padana plain. The views are amazing, and the cycling is top notch. Another unforgettable ride is along the Gargano peninsula in Puglia. I have ridden a lot of coast lines around the world and this still is one of the most beautiful coastal rides I have ever done: there’s very little traffic, as it will be low season, stunning scenery, and great roads.
Describe your favorite meal on this expedition.
I’m a bit of a glutton myself, so I look at this as a culinary tour of Italy: north to south. Every region has its own local pasta specialty, and we cyclists are still allowed to eat carbs, aren’t we? I like to indulge and to show our guests how varied home-made pasta is along the peninsula: different shapes, fillings and sauces. I have to admit though that I’m a fish lover, so I love our favorite restaurant at the Venice Lido and our dinner with a view at a Michelin-rated restaurant at our destination in Santa Maria di Leuca where we sample the freshest catch of the day.
What kind of a rider would love this trip?
Anyone who loves Italy or wants to learn more about Italian culture, art, cuisine, and all the idiosyncrasies of this complex yet fascinating country. Then cyclists who want a challenging ride: yes, we go across the Alps, but the real tough ride starts in central Italy where we tackle the Apennines hills, which I affectionately dubbed “leg breakers”. Finally, somebody who is interested in going beyond the stereotype of the sunny, happy, mandolin-playing, pizza-eating country. We are there to show you Italy is a lot more than that.
What is your favorite art/architecture/cultural aspect?
We have a rest day in Venice, which doesn’t need any introductions. However, we also have the opportunity to go visit some “hidden gems”. I’m just going to name a few: Ferrara in Emilia Romagna, also known as the Italian capital of cycling and UNESCO site, Ascoli Piceno in the Marche, a beautiful destination yet unknown to mass tourism, where locals are still intrigued by foreign visitors on bicycles, and Matera in Basilicata, which most people on the 2013 expedition didn’t know about but which became their favorite destination once we visited.
Does the trip have a “theme” that you could easily identify?
Pedal like a pro, sleep like royalty, eat like a gourmand, immerse in Italian culture. Repeat.
We start pedaling in the German-speaking portion of the country, go through the modern North East, follow along the more rural central Italy to the breathtaking coast of Puglia. We cross a whopping eight Italian regions from north to south and the beauty of it is that we start from an picturesque Alpine, central-European culture, and end in the middle of the Mediterranean where the cactus prickly pear is a regular ingredient in every day recipes. Along the way, we witness architecture, dialects, cuisine, landscapes change and transform. It’s the beauty of this relatively small country, which offers varied, at time even contradictory, experiences along the way.
You want to explore Italy in depth and off the beaten path, being immersed in the landscape in a way only bike touring can afford you. You want a challenging ride, but are also interested in the cultural and historical aspects of the ride. We’ll ride through or to some great cities, like Trento, Vicenza, Venice, Ferrara, Ravenna, the Republic of San Marino, Urbino, Matera, Alberobello, Lecce… Not to mention that eight of the locations are UNESCO heritage sites! You also want to do it comfortably: along the road we’ll stay in splendid hotels, enjoy delicious regional food (which changes every 30 km) and have the opportunity to sample local wines. You will do this ride along with experienced leaders who have multiple years of experience leading expeditions AND know the country inside and out.
(Pssssst. Book the Alps to Adriatic by Novemeber 10th and save $200.)