AN INTERVIEW WITH JOSH WILSON, RUE LA LA PROJECT MANAGER
We always prefer the scenic route. So in preparation for our upcoming Experience from Ciclismo Classico, purveyors of bike tour vacations in foreign locales, we sat down with our very own Josh Wilson, who recently toured Tuscany with the company, to get a taste of his experience.
Rue La La: How is traveling on a bike different from, say, a bus tour or cruise?
Josh: This is a much more personal and hands-on experience. You are slowly riding through the countryside so you take in the smells, sights, sounds, and people in a way that you can’t in a bus.
Rue La La: We love getting around on our bikes, but… what kind of intensity are we talking about?
Josh: The average route for our tour was about 40 miles per day and included one or two challenging climbs. There’s flexibility built in each day – those who want to do more miles and see more of Tuscany can break off from the main pack and do an extra loop. It’s a great opportunity to ride faster and climb harder and I looked forward to them each day.
Rue La La: How about people who aren’t avid bikers?
Josh: There are cooking demonstrations, history and language lessons, walking tours of ancient cities, great restaurants, and some really wonderful shopping. The tour we did switched hotels every couple of days. If you didn’t want to ride every day you could only ride on the days when you were switching hotels and spend the day shopping instead.
Rue La La: What do you pack for a tour like this?
Josh: Ciclismo Classico provides a good list. In addition to bike clothes and evening attire you should bring packable rain gear. I also recommend bringing the pedals and saddle from your bike at home. The guides are happy to install these on your bike for the tour and you’ll be more comfortable riding on something that you are used to.
Rue La La: Okay, but you’re someone who happens to have great style. Could you be stylish on this kind of trip?
Josh: I rode in a couple pairs of Ibex wool bike shorts and wool jerseys that I hand-washed at night in the hotel sink. In the evening, I wore leather shoes, khakis, and dress shirts. My wife Cory chose to ride in more modern synthetic bike shorts and colorful cotton T-shirts. She wore dresses and skirts that were lightweight and not wrinkle-prone when she was off the bike. Irons and laundry service aren’t readily available so you need to be smart about what you pack.
Rue La La: We’re talking Italy – the food had to have been amazing.
Josh: We ate a lot of authentic Tuscan foods (boar, white beans, rustic pasta, pecorino Toscano cheese). One of our guides, Sandro, owns a farm where he raises livestock and grows olives for oil and grapes for wine. Sandro made sure we ate well and always had a perfect local wine pairing to go with the food. He also got us into a Sassicaia tasting in Cortona where we got to try some amazing Super Tuscans. The most memorable meal of the tour was at the Fattoria Santa Vittoria vineyard in the Chiana valley. The vineyard owner, Marta, made us the tastiest lasagna that I’ve ever eaten from local mushrooms and cheeses. We sat down to the lasagna, local prosciutto and figs, and some roasted vegetables along with a sampling of the vineyard’s wine – this was a simple, home-cooked meal but by far the best of the tour.
Rue La La: What did the group leaders bring to the experience?
Josh: Our guides were with us from early in the morning til late at night and showed a real interest in sharing their language and culture with us. They loved their country and were very proud of its natural beauty, art, culture, and food but were also very candid and truthful about the problems that face modern Italy. Cory and I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Italy after the tour ended, and it wasn’t the same without our guides. They were able to provide us with a level of access and insight that you can’t get on your own. We’re already planning a reunion trip to one of the guides’ farm in Sienna.
We had more questions for Josh – read his responses on Facebook.
Our Ciclismo Classico – Italy & Vietnam Boutique opens Friday, January 21 at 11AM ET.