Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The Dolomites Bike Tour (or: why it's always good to have padded cycling shorts)

The 15th to the 21st of September 2013...I don't think I will ever forget this week.

Partly because I spent almost every day in some not very flattering cycling shorts, and partly because it was a week of firsts: first bike tour, first look at the stunning Dolomites and Lake Garda and, funnily enough, the first time that I ate swordfish (which, incidentally, was very yummy indeed).

Instead of waffling on with a day by day account of all the wonderful things we did (there were many), for all of you out there with a slightly smaller attention span/who get bored reading big chunks of text (I am a fully fledged member of both groups of people), I will present to you my top ten tour moments. Because everyone loves a good top ten.

  1. First and foremost, I have to mention the safety issue. The majority of the Dolomites tour was on lovely smooth cycle paths. Any road riding was on minor roads and I found the drivers all the be very considerate indeed. (A slight difference from down here in the South..ahem)
  2. Meeting new people and having an endless number of giggles. What better way to get to know people than over a whole load of great food, great wine and in the presence of some super stunning locations.
  3. Getting the chance to discover some very 'off the beaten track' places, thanks to the guide and her extensive research. My highlight? A rustic little agriturismo near Lake Garda, nestled up in the mountains. I may not have enjoyed the windy road up (for someone who gets travel sick it's not the best way to start a meal) but the food and hospitality made up for it big time. Pasta with olives, rabbit, creme caramel...triple yum. 
  4. Visiting Merano. I had heard a lot of great things about this place so was eager to see it for myself. The verdict? A very charming place with some absolutely gorgeous views. Plus a restaurant that serves simply the best mushroom soup I have EVER tasted. Ever.
  5. Exploring the region of Alto Adige in general. As you enter this part of Italy you'll notice the big German language influence. I found it to be a perfect mix of the Germanic and the Italian...respect and punctuality coupled with Italian flair. As I graduate of German now living in Italy, I absolutely loved it.
  6.  The fact that we stayed in a castle. Located near Missiano, the Scloss Hotel Korb, perched high up on a hill, was simply amazing (and the location of the swordfish eating). It was also home to a ENORMOUS yet ridiculously timid dog.
  7. Riding through apple orchards. We cycled through so many of them, each one more beautiful and fragrant than the next. We also had a cheeky stop at an apple stand for some fresh juice and calorific strudel.
  8. Tasting. And no, I don't mean wine tasting (even though we did that too), but olive oil tasting. I learnt how it is made and how to taste it 'correctly' (oh yes, there is a particular method.)
  9. Experiencing an incredible sense of peace and tranquillity. A breathtakingly beautiful region, a belly full of delicious delights and the gentle pedalling as I cruised through those apple orchards... words can't describe it.
  10. Realising that yes, I can manage a fairly hefty (but by no means overwhelming) amount of kilometres each day. As a total bike tour virgin, this is a good sign for all of you non-bikers out there. If I can do it...
  11. Yes, I know I said top ten but I just had to add this one in. Number 11? Spotting the Orient Express when I was in Verona on the way back! Ah, I'm definitely my dad's daughter...


We actually learnt about the wine before we drank it...

Just chilling in my castle...

Views near Merano

Aapple stand stop. Funnily enough, I'm the one at the back...

If only this had been MY train...sigh...

And now for the important deets...

I went with the lovely Kara and her tour company Kara Mia Italian Adventures. Check out her website for details on her tours (she does Piedmont and Tuscany trips too) at or give her a call and let her explain her bike tour philosophy to you.

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