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Top 3 European Towns to Bike Through Before They’re Changed Forever
Bike Tours
May 24, 2019

Top 3 European Towns to Bike Through Before They’re Changed Forever

Civita di Bagnoregio

One of the greatest appeals of a Ciclismo Classico cycling tour is going places you’d never travel to by yourself.

Ask anyone who has ever taken our Costa Brava trip and stayed in Besalù. Or folks from our Bike Across France departure who rave about Albi.

There are a number of European towns which are undergoing massive changes in 2019. There are also several provincial villages that have been experiencing major transformations over the past years.

Make sure to get yourself to these enchanting spots before they change forever:

Bagnoreggio:

For decades Ciclismo Classico has offered its Bike Across Italy tour. This departure has many gems along the way. One of the most interesting towns is Bagnoreggio. It is an ancient Etruscan hilltop village perched high above a mesa of tufo stone.

Why it’s changing: NPR reported in 2017 how erosion and the volume of tourists visiting this Bourg are changing the face of this ancient Etruscan town.

A 2018 census report claims the village only has 12 inhabitants, yet more than 700,000 tourists visit the small village every year.

Wind and rain erosion created the stunning Valle dei Calanchi around Bagnoreggio. Yet these same elements have been chipping away at the town’s buildings and infrastructure.

Sambuca di Sicilia:

While Ciclismo Classico doesn’t actually go to Sambuca di Sicilia, what is happening in Sambuca is happening in many villages across Sicily, such as Ragusa and Caltagirone on our Bella Sicilia departure.

Sambuca di Sicilia doesn’t share the same popularity of the elixir of the same name. However, Sambuca di Sicilia is an ancient Greek colony, crediting the Arab invasions of the 800s with the reputation and elegance the village experienced in the last century.

Why it’s changing: What’s happening in Sambuca is happening in many small towns across Sicily, including Mussomeli. These quaint, characteristic and historic towns are losing their populations.

Once upon a time, these villages were the center of agricultural commerce and trade. Nowadays, younger generations are moving to bigger cities (like Palermo, Milan, and London, for example) to pursue careers in banking, international law, and information technology.

The exodus to the big cities leaves a lot of nonnas’ houses abandoned in the villages. Thus, the Italian government is trying to save them.

There is a catch, however. The price tag may read € 1, but that is only after the house doesn’t sell at auction. As this Guardian article suggests, the auction price for most houses in Sambuca went from € 1,000 to € 25,000.

In addition, some of these houses are over one-hundred years old. The buyers need to install heating (yes, even in the winter in Sicily it gets cold), new plumbing, possibly new roofs, and basic renovations.

And there is no avoiding the renovation. Part of the deal for getting a “cheap” house is that the new owner renovates the structure with modern technology.

Disappearing “Frenchness” in small French Villages:

This concept of the disappearing village isn’t unique to Sicily, nor unique to buildings. The French are concerned about losing their “Frenchness.”

A few years ago the New York Times reported on French villages losing their “Je ne sais quoi.”

They highlighted Albi. This southwestern French city is one of the special gems on Ciclismo Classico’s Bike Across France destination. The cathedral dedicated to Saint Cecile boasts the most painted internal walls of any church in Europe, with over 18,500 m2 of beautiful frescos.

Its Italian Renaissance design and imposing pipe organ give new meaning to the majesty of the French heritage. The famous mid-19 C. painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was born in this beautiful city, and UNESCO has protected a number of the city’s notable landmarks, such as the Puente Viejo built in 1040.

Why it’s changing: Blame it on globalization, immigration or whatever you like. There is no doubt the center of many smaller French cities is changing for local inhabitants. Where there was once a laundromat there is now an abandoned storefront; where there was a primary school is today another deserted building. In the evening the streets are so deafening quiet it is hard to believe you are in a city with over 50,000 residents.

Whereas Sicily encourages the financial assistance brought in by foreign interests, France isn’t quite so accommodating. The nationalists appreciate the outside economic help. But when a group of foreigners buys a vineyard, the local French people may not be too pleased when the estate is renamed “Imperial Rabbit.”

So if you’re looking to visit some of Europe’s hidden gems before they change forever, make sure to check out Ciclismo Classico’s Bike Across Italy, La Bella Sicilia and the Bike Across France departures.

 

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