Cycling Italy's Culinary Delights

Cycling Italy's Culinary Delights

Selected as one of the Seven Best Food and Wine Adventure trips by away.com.

On this popular tour, you'll bicycle through Italy's premier pasta region. Every meal will include extraordinary local dishes made according to tradition. Every day of pedaling will not only take you behind-the-scenes visits of Parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar, and wine makers, but also to ancient castles and world heritage UNESCO sites. Here, history, art, culture, and tradition conspire to make this tour unforgettable!

***If this sounds great, but you'd like a longer tour check out our Cycling Italy's Culinary Delights Plus! the Farm tour, which adds 3 days to this itinerary.***

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Trip At-A-Glance

  • Length / 8 Days
  • Total Distance / 345 km (213 miles)
  • Avg. Distance / 57 km (35 miles) per riding day
  • Tour Level / 1.5
  • Countries / Italy
  • Begin/End / Cremona / Bologna
  • Price / From USD$3995
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  • Daily Itinerary
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Tour Summary

Tour Summary

  • Highlights
    Cremona - home to torrone or Italian nougat, Towns of Parma, Modena, and Bologna, Parma famous cured ham, Parmesan cheese, Castle Torrechiara, Violin workshop, Bologna

    Keep in Mind: We work hard to maintain consistency across all of our tours, but some trips have unique differences. Here are some things to keep in mind about this tour.

    • We highly recommend you spend an additional day in Cremona before the beginning of the tour. It's a true little gem to discover. For things to do, we recommend visiting the amazing Museo del Violino (note it is closed on Mondays). Read our article about Cremona here.
    • OSTERIA FRANCESCANA IN MODENA: This restaurant has been voted one of the world’s top 50 restaurants! If you’d like to enjoy an evening here on your free night (Day 6), you will need to make reservations online in advance: www.osteriafrancescana.it
  • Includes
    8 days, 7 nights' accommodation; all breakfasts, 4 dinners, 3 lunches; cooking demonstration in Bologna; guided visit of Sabbioneta and Bologna; special culinary highlights and tastings listed in itinerary

    The Usual (Included with every ExperiencePlus! tour)

    • Superb tour leaders who are fun, bilingual and avid cyclists.
    • Help with flights, trains and pre/post tour hotels.
    • Comfortable lodging in 3-4 star hotels. 
    • All breakfasts and at least half of your dinners.
    • Use of a high quality 27-30 speed bike.
    • Full van support to carry luggage – and tired cyclists, too! 
    • Special events like wine tastings, cultural visits and chocolatiers.
    • All tips and gratuities at tour hotels and group meals.
    • Unique routes, marked with our famous chalk dust arrows.
    • Daily mileage options.
    • Detailed route map and free use of our traveling resource library.

    What's not included:

    • Transportation to and from the bicycling tour including airfare, or train travel
    • Helmets - we ask that you bring your own to ensure the best fit
    • Meals not listed in the itinerary
    • Tour Leader gratuity

    See the complete list of what's included with every ExperiencePlus! Tour.

  • Arrive / Depart
    Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport (BLQ)
  • Overall Tour Level
  • Daily Ride Summary

    Day

    **Distance/Gain
    mi/ftkm/m

    Terrain

    Day Level

    Notes

    1
    Test ride
    2
    57km / 221m
    Mostly flat
    difficulty level 1.5
    3
    58km / 232m
    Mostly flat
    difficulty level 1.5
    4
    45km / 247m
    Mostly flat
    difficulty level 1.0
    5
    64km / 359m
    Mostly flat
    difficulty level 1.5
    6
    50km / 189m
    Mostly flat
    difficulty level 1.0
    7
    65km / 351m
    Mostly flat
    difficulty level 1.5
    8
    Last day

    Tour Level Note: Perfect for cyclists who prefer non-hilly terrain. Bicycle paths allows us to share the region with other non-car tourists.

    **We use Ride With GPS (ridewithgps.com) to calculate elevation and mileage information. Due to variance between mapping technologies, totals may differ slightly across devices and applications

Terrain Legend

Mostly flat Mostly flat

Rolling hills Rolling

Hilly Hilly

Very hilly Very hilly

Mountainous Mountainous

Daily Itinerary

DAY 1: Welcome to Cremona

Highlights: Cremona, home to creamy Italian nougat, handcrafted Stradivari violins, and an impressive plaza

Arrive in Cremona, home of the noble tradition of violin making. Visit a workshop to learn how Antonio Stradivarius raised violin-making to an art form and taste some torrone (the creamy nougat made from honey, nuts, and egg whites) in one of the several pasticcerie in town! We meet in the afternoon for our bike fitting at the hotel. After enjoying an aperitivo together, we celebrate the beginning of our culinary experience with a welcome dinner.

DAY 2: Royal Court of Sabbioneta

Highlights: Guided visit to the violin lab, Po River valley, Gonzaga summer residence of Sabbioneta, guided tour of Sabbioneta

Today we cycle along quaint bike paths along the Po River to the town of Sabbioneta, a UNESCO world heritage site. Sabbioneta was named the "Little Athens of the Gonzaga" after the local ruling family for its importance as an artistic center in the Renaissance. Inside the well-preserved walls, we will have a guided tour to see the architectural jewels of the town such as the Palazzo Ducale, Palazzo del Giardino, and Teatro Olimpico as a group. If you get the chance to try a slice of sbrisolona cake, an almond crumble cake of ancient origins, try some!

  • Distance: 57 km (36 mi)
  • Gain: 221 m (725 ft)
  • Terrain: Mostly flat
  • Day Level: Day Level 1.5
  • Meals: Breakfast
  • Lodging:
    • Albergo Giulia Gonzaga

DAY 3: Bike to Parma

Highlights: Regal residence of Colorno, quiet country roads, Parma cured ham and Parmesan cheese, World Heritage Site of Parma

We head south to Parma today, one of the undisputed culinary capitals of Italy, through pleasant country roads where you can catch a glimpse of our local farm life. Our journey takes us to the ducal palace of Colorno. While it passed through the hands of many rulers, today, it houses the headquarters of ALMA, the International School of Italian Cuisine. We continue on to Parma, a city where your taste buds will not be disappointed. It is a city where the arts have flourished Parmigianino, Correggio, and Giuseppe Verdi are some of the most famous citizens. Take a stroll around the historical center before dinner together.

  • Distance: 58 km (36 mi)
  • Gain: 232 m (761 ft)
  • Terrain: Mostly flat
  • Day Level: Day Level 1.5
  • Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
  • Lodging:

DAY 4: Loop ride into hills to the castle of Torrechiara

Highlights: The Parma hills to the castle of Torrechiara and lunch with a view

Get ready for another day of bicycling amidst ancient castles and local traditions! Today's ride will loop to the breath-taking castle of Torrechiara. Dominating the Val Parma, the castle was constructed between 1448 and 1460, devised as an instrument of defense as well as a distinguished home for the count and his lover. This area is famous for its cured prosciutto and local salame--we will have lunch in this historic setting to taste them! We return to Parma, where, if you are still hungry, our tour leaders will suggest restaurants for dinner.

  • Distance: 45 km (28 mi)
  • Gain: 247 m (810 ft)
  • Terrain: Mostly flat
  • Day Level: Day Level 1.0
  • Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
  • Lodging:

DAY 5: Ride to Reggio nell'Emilia countryside

Highlights: Prosciutto di Parma making, stay in an agriturismo

Another eventful day today, we'll stop at a salumificio to see how they make Prosciutto di Parma before heading to Reggio Emilia around lunch time. We'll continue on our way along back roads and bike paths to reach our agriturismo, a country house/hotel with a working farm, where we'll stay tonight. Dinner is together at the agriturismo.

  • Distance: 64 km (40 mi)
  • Gain: 359 m (1178 ft)
  • Terrain: Mostly flat
  • Day Level: Day Level 1.5
  • Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
  • Lodging:

DAY 6: Ride to Modena

Highlights: Parmesan cheese making, a balsamic vinegar visit in a historical vinegar cellar, World Heritage Site of historic Modena

We have an early start this morning to observe the artistry of a working Parmesan cheese maker. The proud Consorzio will explain the intricacies of this poignant but delicate cheese on our guided tour. Another culinary mystery is unveiled today as we stop at an acetaia, a traditional balsamic vinegar factory to learn how leftover grapes are transformed into the sweet rich vinegar that can sometimes be worth hundreds of dollars. Tradition is beautifully preserved here as the historic methods of production are still in use. A picnic lunch will follow the visit to the acetaia before continuing on to Modena. Don't miss a visit to the historic center of town.

  • Distance: 50 km (31 mi)
  • Gain: 189 m (620 ft)
  • Terrain: Mostly flat
  • Day Level: Day Level 1.0
  • Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
  • Lodging:

DAY 7: Bicycle to Bologna

Highlights: Guided tour of Bologna

We leave Modena's Duomo and the Ghirlandaia tower along a rails to trails bike path that leads to the fortress town of Bazzano, a perfect spot for a morning snack before enjoying stunning views of the hills on our way to Bologna, our destination for tonight. We'll complete the day with a guided visit of this great city before dinner together.

  • Distance: 65 km (41 mi)
  • Gain: 351 m (1151 ft)
  • Terrain: Mostly flat
  • Day Level: Day Level 1.5
  • Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
  • Lodging:

DAY 8: Bologna - Tour End

Highlights: Cooking school and lunch

We invite you to stick around this morning as we have a special cooking demonstration and lunch planned. After that we'll send you on your way to begin your own culinary explorations.

  • Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
Travel Information

Travel Information

Day 1: Arrival Information

Welcome to Cremona

Lodging: Delle Arti Design Hotel

Meeting time 2 p.m. - on Day 1, meet your fellow cyclists and Tour Leaders at the Day 1 Hotel specified on your itinerary.

Note:

As you are planning, remember that the hotels listed in our itineraries are our primary hotels and are - in rare cases - subject to change. Before you make arrangements, check with us if your tour departure is guaranteed. If your tour departure is out further than 6 months, please also check with us as there might be slight changes to the itinerary.

The below information will help you plan your arrival. For more tips or other routes, you might like Rome2Rio. The fare and timing information listed below is approximate.

The airports closest to the tour start are

  • Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport (BLQ) and
  • Milano Malpensa (MXP) both of which are 2 to 3 hours from Cremona.
Note: If you are flying into Milan, note that flights from the U.S. arrive at the Malpensa Airport (MXP). Most European flights arrive at the Linate (LIN) airport.

Flying into BLQ

  1. Taxi from Bologna airport to the Bologna Centrale main train station (20 min/EUR 20-25) or Airport Shuttle Bus (Aerobus-BLQ), no pre-purchase necessary (20 min/EUR 6)
  2. Train from Bologna Centrale to Cremona (2.5 hours/fares vary)
Flying into MXP

  • If you stop over in Milan: Train rom Malpensa Aeroporto to Milano Centrale (www.malpensaexpress.it) (50 min/EUR 13)
  • If you continue directly to the tour start: Train from Malpensa Aeroporto to Cremona (you will still need to change trains at Milano Centrale) (2-3 hours/fares vary)

From the Cremona train station to the Day 1 Hotel

  • Taxi (5 min/EUR 8-10)
  • Look up Italian train schedules at Trenitalia.com or Trainline.eu. Questions? See our information on taking trains in Europe here or ask us.

    Day 8: Departure Information

    Bologna - Tour End

    Your bicycle tour ends after the cooking lesson and lunch in Bologna, around 1:30 p.m.

    The below information will help you plan your departure. For more tips or other routes, you might like Rome2Rio.

    We recommend flying out of the Bologna Airport (BLQ).

  • Taxi from the ending hotel to the Bolgona Airport (20 min/EUR 20-25)
  • What's Included

    For a full list of what's included before, during and after your bike tour, visit our What's Included page.

    Keep in Mind

    We work hard to maintain consistency across all of our tours, but some trips have unique differences. Here are some things to keep in mind about this tour.

    • We highly recommend you spend an additional day in Cremona before the beginning of the tour. It's a true little gem to discover. For things to do, we recommend visiting the amazing Museo del Violino (note it is closed on Mondays). Read our article about Cremona here.
    • OSTERIA FRANCESCANA IN MODENA: This restaurant has been voted one of the world’s top 50 restaurants! If you’d like to enjoy an evening here on your free night (Day 6), you will need to make reservations online in advance: www.osteriafrancescana.it

    Pre-Trip Planning Checklist

    To do right after you booked!

    6 to 3 Months Prior to Tour Start Date

    • Check the online itinerary of your trip and review the arrival and departure information under the "Travel Information" tab to see meeting place and time, if a reservation on a complimentary ExperiencePlus! Shuttle (if applicable) is required, and other important information to help you plan your arrival and departure.
    • Reserve your flights after you know you have a confirmed tour departure. Please check with our office if you do not know if your trip is confirmed.
    • Book your pre and post-tour hotel nights.
    • 12 weeks before your tour begin your training program: https://www.experienceplus.com/blog/travel-planning/bicycle-tour-training/
    • Final payment is due 90 days prior to the tour start. Please refer to your Deposit Payment Invoice and the Final Payment Reminder e-mail you have received for detailed instructions.

    6 to 2 Weeks Prior to Tour Start Date

    Day of Your Flight

    Get as much sleep on the plane as you can. Pack your one day of cycling gear in your carry-on. See you soon!

    What to Expect on Tour

    Bicycles

    Your bike will be equipped with: a men's or women's saddle, a quick release style seat post adjustment, rear rack and expandable pack, pump, patch kit, spare tube, cable lock, cyclometer, rear lights, a water bottle cage (or two) and a water bottle (or two) and in some cases a bell. If you would like to bring your own pedals and shoes we recommend doing so—your tour leaders will install them during the bike fitting. We have flat pedals with or without cages available. For safety and hygiene reasons you are responsible for bringing a helmet.

    Daysheets

    Each day you'll receive a daysheet with information on the day's activities, meals and ride. These also include Tour Leader phone numbers, hotel information and interesting historical and cultural information about sites that you may want to stop and see along the route. Your Tour Leaders will also post daily announcements in the hotel lobby with information about sightseeing in town or restaurant recommendations for dinners on your own as well as important information about breakfast, luggage down and "arrows down" time.

    Navigating on Tour

    Each day we will provide you with a route map with the day's ride highlighted route. Of course, we also mark the route every day with our signature chalk dust arrows. Our arrows make navigating very easy—you may never need to look at the map! The arrows also allow you to ride at your own pace. There is no need to "keep up" with the group—this is your ride!

    But what if it rains? What happens to the arrows? In a light rain, the arrows actually "set up" and become more permanent. In a heavy rain, they do wash away. If that happens, we'll re-group to cycle together for those who want to continue cycling while those who prefer to stay dry can shuttle.

    For the tech-loving riders out there we offer the opportunity to download GPS tracks of most tour routes to your personal GPS device using RideWithGPS.com. Tracks are available upon request approximately three to four weeks prior to the departure.

    Van Support

    The van carries luggage and supports cyclists. It also has water, fruit and snacks. Though the van has snacks, we encourage you to stop and enjoy markets and find your own favorite local specialty.

    Hotels

    We have carefully chosen all of our accommodations for their charm and location. They are typically small, family run hotels that offer you a glimpse into the local culture.

    We prefer hotels near interesting sites in the center of town located along the best cycling route in the area. Because many of the hotels are small not all of the rooms will be exactly the same. We keep this in mind and do our best to distribute rooms fairly by the end of the tour. Our itinerary lists our primary hotels. On rare occasions, listed hotels are subject to change.

    Meals and Restaurants

    Breakfasts: we work hard to arrange complete breakfasts but some hotels still serve continental style breakfasts; cycling is energy intensive so we do recommend you plan for a morning or mid-morning snack on the road at a local café or market.

    Water is OK in almost all hotels and in country fountains; if there is a problem, we will advise you.

    We'll recommend lunch locations en route and most itineraries include a few group picnics. We limit the number of picnics so you don't feel pressured to be at a certain place in the middle of your ride.

    Dinners together are often pre-planned and pre-ordered. We'll ask you prior to your trip if you have special dietary requirements. Preplanned meals allow us to provide a variety of regional specialties and facilitate efficient service. Water, wine and beer are included.

    Tipping Your Tour Leader Team

    If you feel your tour leader team has demonstrated great expertise and service, common practice within the travel industry is to tip. Tipping is voluntary and greatly appreciated, and gratuity amounts vary widely. Should you decide to leave a tip, as a guideline, we suggest 5% of the tour cost per traveler – this for the entire tour leader team, not each Tour Leader. If you’d like to show your gratitude for your Tour Leaders’ excellent service you can give the tip to any member of the tour leader team, as they share it evenly. In order to avoid social tensions, we encourage you to tip as individuals and not as a group. If you feel your Tour Leaders did not quite meet your expectations, then we would like to know about it. You will also have the opportunity to leave your comments in our evaluation survey which we email to you after your trip.

    Photos

    By reserving space on tour, you agree that ExperiencePlus! Bicycle Tours may use, re-use and reproduce any images, photos or videos that you send to us, or that are taken by our guides and/or other travelers of you individually or in a group, in any medium, including but not limited to print, electronic media, or Internet, free of charge and without your right to inspection, for promoting and publicizing our travel products and services worldwide. If you do not want us to use any images of you that are taken by us or other participants during the tour, you must inform us or your tour leader in writing at the start of the tour.

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