Polignano al Mare
Welcome to Polignano! Today we meet the group at 12:30 pm in the hotel lobby for a "let's get acquainted" lunch. After, we will change into our cycling gear for a bike fitting and short warm-up ride along the Adriatic coast. When we return, we’ll visit Gelateria Mario Campanella, Mario is known as the Mago del Gelo, (The Magician of Ice). His Bar Gelateria is a destination in itself. This evening we enjoy aperitivi and dinner followed a passeggiata by the sea, possibly more gelato (!) or perhaps a “Cafe Speciale”, another creation of the Mago del Gelo -- an espresso made with a dollop of whipped creamed and a shot of Amaretto, steamed with a lemon zest. (Don’t worry, we’ll ride if off tomorrow!)
Polignano al Mare to Alberobello
We’ll ride on rolling, narrow roads lined with stone walls as we travel through an enchanting fantasy-land of conical-shaped houses known as trulli. We make a stop at a special café to sample Espressino Freddo, have lunch is in Locorotondo and then we continue to Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to over 1,000 trulli. Alberobello is home to another of Italy’s best gelateria “L’Arte Fredda” (The Frozen Art) where its pistacchio gelato is made only from the Pistacchi (DOP) grown of the flanks of Mont Etna in Sicily, or fresh cherries from the very trees which have been shading our ride today. Before dinner we visit Cantina Albea for a wine tasting and tour of their wine museum that explains the wine-making traditions of the local farmers.
Alberobello to Matera
Today’s ride is one of the flattest and with several long stretches of very straight road. We continue to see more stacked stone walls though far more manicured than the tiny farms we passed in the Trulli-land between Alberobello and Martina Franca. We stop in Mottola for views of the Ionian Sea and a Ciclismo picnic at an Agriturismo where our friend Giaccomina runs her family’s farm and prepares our lunch made with ingredients she produces. The afternoon ride presents vast, less inhabited landscape where you can imagine some of the spaghetti westerns being filmed. Finally, we arrive in Matera, a UNESCO World Heritage site and another magical place and a whole other world.
Rest Day or Loop to Montescaglioso
Take the morning to explore Matera’s winding streets or take a short spin to Montescaglioso, a hilltop town with an important ancient abbey where we’ll take a short visit to the Monastery. This ride provides a preview of the sort of climbs to come during the next days of the tour. We’ll be back in Matera for lunch. In the afternoon we’ll meet with a local guide for a walking tour of this unique 8,000-year-old city and it intriguing sassi (caves) with more than a thousand dwellings plus nowadays a large number of shops and workshops.
Matera to Castelmezzano
Today is a spectacular roller coaster ride through the hilly landscape of Basilicata. We start with a descent to the Bradano River Valley to Lago di Giuliano then ride through this World Wildlife Foundation-protected forest of pine and eucalyptus trees. Here we enjoy breathtaking views of the Lago di Giuliano and several of the hilltop villages written about by Carlo Levi in his historic novel Christ Stopped at Eboli. We pass through a once important Roman outposts Tricarico, where we’ll have lunch. We then descend with great views of the Piccolo Dolomiti and finish the day climbing into the Piccolo Dolomite to the remote town of Castelmezzano perched on mountainside.
Castelmezzano to Padula
Starting at approximately 3,200 feet we continue to climb steadily as we leave Castelmezzano. Most of today’s ride is through a bucolic landscape and follows virtually un-trafficked roads. We encounter a spectacular descent to our lunch spot in Viggiano. Then once again we climb to descend until we arrive at the base of our “Cima Coppi”, the most challenging climb of the entire tour, but oh, what a climb and oh, what a view. Finally, we descend through a sweet-smelling pine forest to the town of Padula and it wonderful Certosa (Dominican cloister) which you will have the opportunity to visit with a guide in the late afternoon.
Padula to Palinuro
Today’s ride starts out rolling and without significant elevation gains in the Tangaro Valley. From Sanza we enter the Cilento Park and we start with a climb that begins gently but finishes a bit steeper as we arrive at the top of Passo Inferno “Hell Pass.” After Passo Inferno, we enjoy a long cruising descent to Rofrano followed by another climb passing through chestnut forests to our lunch spot in Montano Antilia. From here we start to see, more olive trees again—from which comes the prestigious Cilentano Olive Oil—and glimpse the sparkling Tyrrhenian Sea! The end of today’s ride rewards us with a blissful 12-mile incredible descent to the coast followed by some refreshing granita!
Rest Day or Palinuro Marina di Pisciotta Loop Ride
Optional rest or ride day! The hotel has a private beach and the crystal-clear waters are certainly inviting. Lunch and dinner are on your own so you may choose to eat at the beach or there are several places in town to go to. Or you can get a small boat to pick you up at the beach and take you to the famous “grottos” of the area. This afternoon we will be treated to a gelato making demonstration by the sea by “Master” Carmello at his “Cioccolato e Pistacchio” Gelateria. Carmello, who is charming and soft-spoken, has been making gelato for over 70 years. We sample some of his special favor creations like “Tartufon” (dark chocolate, fresh almonds and local honey) or Baba al Rhum.
Palinuro to Maratea
Today’s ride is beautiful and scenic, as we travel along “the other Amalfi Coast,” the stretches of beach that Italians prefer to the more famous and touristy ones farther north. First, we head towards Marina di Camerota and Sapri, then in the afternoon, we ride along the narrow cliffs of Cersuta, and just a couple of miles before Maratea we come to a narrow dramatic stretch of road known as “Passeggiata Apprezzami L’Asino.” Once we arrive in the charming seaside town of Maratea, known as the “town of 44 churches,” we head to the center for a special tasting of local products and produce.
Maratea to Morano Calabro
Today’s route starts with some climbing from the sea and then a second climb to Lauria, where the 1989 Giro d’Italia commenced. After Lauria, we continue climbing and eventually enter the Pollino National Park, in Calabria. You’ll notice as the elevation changes the lush, green landscape turns gradually more stark and mountainous. In the evening we’ll be entertained by Bruzi musicians. Bruzi is the ancient name of the Calabrese people. This evening we’ll also be treated to a mozzarella-making demonstration and tasting and another exceptional dinner of local specialties.
Morano Calabro to Cittadella del Capo
Today’s route is extremely curvy with some challenging sections of climbing as we continue to travel on the periphery of the Pollino National Park. The riding is great fun though! We will pass through some of the small towns settled by Albanians who fled from the Turks over 500 years ago. Many of these communities maintain their own language and traditional dress. We’ll pass through Firmo, Lungro, and Acquaformosa, all of which are examples of characteristic Albanian villages. The ride finishes with a truly spectacular descent from Passo Scalone, at 2,500 ft all the way to the sea and to our 5-star resort hotel, Palazzo del Capo. Enjoy the beach, the pool or a relaxing spa treatment before a sumptuous farewell feast.
After breakfast around 9 am, we provide one group shuttle that will take you to Lamezia airport (2 hours from the hotel, airport code SUF). Expect to arrive at the airport around 11 am.