We were cajoled to sign up for a Slow Cyclist holiday in the Apennine mountains of Abruzzo, mid-east Italy, among the sheep, ruins and wine. What a complete joy!
We formed a loose group of friends and acquaintances, although our chief instigator had to bale because of an operation in a Lucerne hospital, happily successful. We had a perfectly imperfect group of eight, plus a hero who joined at the 11th hour instead of our leaders.
From Rome we were driven the two and a half hours to Rocca Calascio where we occupied a tiny rundown pre-medieval mountain village, bought by an intrepid woman Christine, and which she had successfully restored into a joyous spread-out and higgledy piggledy hotel.
Ella was our Slow Cyclist hostess. Fun and unfussy, everything was done well, from the day’s itinerary, to picking up lost / forgotten bags / telephones etc., in a very cheerful and un-judgemental way. We must have all seemed ancient to her 27 years! But she never once made us feel like old cronies, bless her, and some of us were fast approaching three times her age.
We also met our cultural guide called Pierluigi, who was encyclopaedic in his knowledge of the area, its farming, its cultural history, its architecture, its glorious churches etc. and he couldn’t have been more patient and interesting if he had tried for a month of Sundays.
On that first evening of our arrival, Pierluigi led us up to the highest castle in the Apennines. Only ruins, because of serious earthquake damage – 1461 and 2009 being the main culprits.
Later we returned down the half mile to the village for delicious supper, wine and deep sleep at 5,000ft, higher than anything in the UK.
The next morning we were introduced to our big, strong bicycles and given a lesson on their gears. In great excitement, like a school outing, we set off in a single file up and down, down and up, and sometimes along, on very good empty roads with no potholes, arriving triumphant and ravenous for our lunches. These were always fabulous food, local cheeses, meats, breads, fruits, beers and wines. So thus was the rhythm of our days. Ride, eat / drink, ride, explore with wonderful background histories of abbeys, hermitages, and churches from Pierluigi.
One of our descents was 40 minutes and 13 kilometres. Sheer bliss and exhilaration, with not one pedal being harmed or pushed.
So the company called the Slow Cyclist comes very highly recommended from an ancient, unfit and occasional cyclist! And the joy of one’s hotels, restaurants, meals and even food being chosen and included so no thought or money was needed. Everything prepaid. We were looked after from morn to night.
Even our bags were transported from room to room. We enjoyed every mouthful, sip, view, pedal push and sun filled moment.
Image Credits: Col Everett .