An Italian Experience: VBT Travelers Recount Their Italy Bike Tour

Often, our most resounding travel memories are born out of happenstance. With the help of outstanding local Trip Leaders, VBT vacations are designed to foster our travelers’ natural inclination to wander and explore, making the occurrence of a delightful chance encounter possible at any bend in the road. VBT travelers, Maryanne and Rich D. were kind enough to lend us a bit of their experiences on one of our Italy Bike Tours.

Rich and I cannot wait to have an opportunity to provide feedback regarding our recent tour to Puglia, Italy. Our tour guides Marco and Giuliano were superb in every way and they worked so well together. Since Rich and I were frequently the first riders to venture out in the morning, we had several opportunities to get lost, but we typically didn’t have any trouble at the “tricky turns” as Giuliano or Marco were there to lead the way. When we did veer off course (exploring as they would say) we weren’t away for long as Marco and Giuliano found us. When we asked if we were lost, they would gently state “Just a little, of course. Follow me!”

One of the highlights of the trip came when a local dog followed a small group of us as we rode. We affectionately called him VBT or Pawsers. He started out with us in the morning, but when we stopped for lunch he appeared to find a new pack, down by the Adriatic Sea. However, when we ventured out on the road to start our trip back to the hotel, he was there with us again. He ran 20 miles that day, and even managed to run faster than we could pedal! At the end of the day, one of my fellow bicyclists asked Marco to bring him back to the square where an inn keeper offered to keep him along with her other 8 dogs. It was decided that since he appeared to be so well cared for – that Marco would bring Pawsers back to the square.

In short there wasn’t anything that Marco and Giuliano wouldn’t do to make our trip memorable. All the best, and thanks for an absolutely wonderful time.

Maryanne and Rich D.

Vietnamese Soup Recipe

Vietnamese cuisine is often praised for its health benefits as well as its emphasis on fresh, nutritious ingredients. Filled with enlivening chopped vegetables and aromatic spices, Vietnamese soup is great for fall, but easily pleases the palette year-round. On VBT’s Vietnam Bike Tour, we explore Hanoi and northern Vietnamese cuisine, so we thought it appropriate to offer up a Vietnamese classic, Hanoi Beef Noodle Soup. So set aside a bit of time and savor an inspired take on an easy Vietnamese recipe.

Vietnamese Food, Vietnamese Cuisine, Vietnamese Recipe, Vietnam food

Ingredients: Serves 8

  • 2 onions unpeeled, halved and studded with 8 whole cloves
  • 3 shallots, unpeeled
  • 2 inches fresh ginger, unpeeled
  • 12 cups cold water
  • 4 lbs. oxtail
  • 1 lb. beef shank
  • 2 pieces star anise
  • 1 ½ sticks cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon crushed peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 4 cups rice stick noodles (yields 7 cups)
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1 lb Beef sirloin or flank steak
  • 2 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 cups bean sprouts, blanched
  • 2 limes or lemons, cut into 8 sections
  • 4 chili peppers, sliced
  • 6 sprigs fresh cilantro, chopped coarsely
  • 1 lime
  • 2/3 cup fresh Thai basil leaves

Vietnamese Food, Vietnamese Cuisine, Vietnamese Recipe, Vietnam food, Beef Noodle Soup, Vietnamese Soup, Pho Bo


  1. Char the onions, shallots and ginger under the grill until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Place into a large stockpot. Add the water, oxtail, beef shank, star anise, cinnamon, peppercorns and salt to the stockpot. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, skim the solid surface and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 2 hours.
  2. Meanwhile, soak the noodles in warm water for 30 minutes. Drain and set aside. In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil and add the noodles, stirring for one minute. Drain, rinse with cold water and portion the noodles among 8 large soup bowls.
  3. Remove the beef shank and oxtail from the stock, making sure these are tender. Thinly slice the sirloin or flank steak into strips 1 x 2 x 1/8 in and set aside.
  4. Season the soup with fish sauce and continue to cook over low heat. When the meat is cool enough to handle, slice the beef shank into uniform slices the same size as the sliced sirloin or flank steak. Discard the bones.
  5. Add the sliced steak into the broth. Cook for 3 minutes and remove.

To serve, place a portion of noodles in a soup bowl and layer the cooked shank and sliced steak on top of the noodles. Then place onion slices and bean sprouts on top of the meat. Ladle the hot broth over the ingredients.

Garnish with several slices of chili peppers and fresh cilantro. Repeat process for each serving. Pass the extra onions, bean sprouts, fresh chilies, lime sections and basil on a platter.

Season with additional fish sauce, if needed and enjoy.

Note: Recipe serves 8, but soup may be frozen up to 4 months. To reheat, place frozen soup in a saucepan and heat slowly at medium heat for about 20 minutes, or until simmering and hot throughout. Garnish and enjoy immediately.