Our Top 5 Favorite Reasons to Travel to Sicily with VBT

Italy, Sicily, Sicilians on the road of the cemetery of Ragusa Ibla

This year we introduced a new bicycling vacation to the amazing Italian island of Sicily. As the Italy travel experts, we knew we had to return to this Mediterranean island that has developed its own distinct Italian flavor by incorporating diverse influences. We’ve improved our Sicily: Biking the Southern Coastal Villages vacation for 2014—including a new Pre-trip to Taormina and an added lunch on a local family’s farm—and wanted to share our Top 5 reasons to join VBT cycling  the southeastern corner of Sicily and discovering its rich history, delicious cuisine, and friendly locals.

The Bike Routes
Sicily is a beautiful island in the heart of the Mediterranean with some rolling hills and vast farmlands. “I was quite surprised at the beauty in the countryside with all of the acres of vegetables. We had the pleasure of lemon trees being in bloom which just accentuates the aura of the area” recalled a VBT traveler. The trip also mixes the terrain up a bit from day to day with stops at a couple of beaches and some lovely coastal riding as well. This tour is rated as Easy/Moderate which does include some hills, but rest assured that the VBT support van will always be on call to offer a snack or encouragement or transport you to any point along the way if you desire.

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The Pre-and Post-trip Extensions
We listened to traveler feedback and have changed the Pre-trip extension from Palermo to Taormina for this vacation in Ortigia island, Syracuse2014. You’ll have 2 nights to enjoy Taormina, with its incredible views ranging from its blue waters, the Etna volcano, the bay and rocks, and the little isle of Isola Bella. Take some time to stroll along the Corso Umberto with its classical music cafés, pastry shops and monuments left from the Arabs and Normans—like its gothic and baroque buildings.  The tour ends in Syracuse and VBT offers a 2 night extension in the historic city. One VBT traveler advised “don’t skip the post-trip in Syracuse. It’s a delightfully sized, walkable city with our hotel on the island portion called Ortigia. If you’re up for a great walk there are miles of paths along the coast with a shipwreck along the way and views of Mt. Etna.”

The Local Cuisine
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The region has a long history of producing a variety of noted cuisines and wines due to the diversity in cultural history and perfect climate—we’ve even heard some refer to the region as “God’s Kitchen”.  We’ve added a new lunch at a local farm in Ognina, where we’ll picnic on the private grounds of a local family and learn about the native cherry tomatoes or ‘pomodoro Pachino’—which take their name from the nearby town of Pachino, where they were grown for the first time. Also included on this tour are stops at a Masserie, a local farm that prepares delicious pizza and empanadas, and an exclusive tour of the Antica Dolceria Bonajuto chocolate factory—which has processed cocoa seeds according to old Aztecan techniques since the late 1800’s. While staying in Noto we’ll pick borage, wild fennel, lemons and oranges on our hotel’s estate, and then take them to the kitchen to prepare a Sicilian recipe under the guidance of our chef. “The food and eating establishments VBT selected were beyond description and always served fresh and outstanding food,” said a VBT traveler after returning from a trip last May.

The Rich History
Sicily has a very rich history that is distinct from other areas of Italy. Since 750BC the island has been courted by the Ragusa IblaGreeks, refined by the Romans and influenced by the Moors. “We forget how young our own country is when walking in cities with history that is over 2,500 years old,” remembered a VBT traveler who visited last spring. Travelers on this trip will stay in a restored 19th century residence, explore fishing village founded in the 16th century and visit the ruins of Noto Antica—a town destroyed in an earthquake in 1693 that was once one of Sicily’s wealthiest and most beautiful towns. We’ll also venture to Ragusa Ibla—listed as a UNESCO World Site for its Baroque palaces and churches— and stroll along the pedestrian streets to discover the incredible architectural beauty.

The Warm Weather
While many biking vacations are only offered from the late spring through the early fall, our Sicily vacation has departures running from March to November, giving you plenty of chances to fit this amazing vacation in to your schedule. Since Sicily is located in the heart of the Mediterranean and lies much more south than most of Europe, you’ll enjoy weather with average temperatures in the mid 60’s or higher on all departures dates. One VBT traveler said “the weather was just right for pedaling; sunny and warm…with clear blue skies and ocean views”. That’s sounds pretty tough to beat!

So join us next year and let us show you the real Sicily. Our expert Trip Leaders are all from the area and know the local customs and traditions, as well as inside information about reliable places to shop, eat, explore, and relax while on tour. To learn more about Sicily: Biking the Southern Coastal Villages​ simply click on the following link: http://bit.ly/VBTSicily

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Top 5 Reasons to Take a Biking Tour of Puglia with VBT

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There are many reasons to travel to Puglia with VBT, the Italy Experts.  You’ll cycle along stunning coastal roads overlooking the Adriatic, glide past ancient olive groves and sample their oils with a local family. And off the road we’ll explore the iconic trulli homes of Alberobello and stay in cozy masserie— authentic 16th-century fortified farms. To help you learn more about this wonderful region we’ve compiled our Top 5 reasons to join VBT and uncover a part of Italy that may be less familiar—but is by no means less inviting—on our Puglia: Italy’s Undiscovered Coast bicycling vacation.

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The Bike Routes
Puglia is a beautiful and scenic region located on the “heel” of Italy’s boot. The peninsula is at the convergence of the Adriatic and Ionian seas and our cycling routes offer everything from wonderful views along the rugged Adriatic coast to peaceful country roads through 800-year-old olive groves. One VBT traveler said “The last riding day, on the plateau over the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, is the loveliest route I have ever ridden.” And know that you’ll be in good hands with our expert, local Trip Leaders guiding you along the way and making sweeps along the route with our outfitted VBT support van, ready to assist in any way.

The “Off-the-beaten-path” Feel
IMG_0299Our Puglia vacation is dubbed “Italy’s Undiscovered Coast” and as one of our travelers can attest, “the trip title is very accurate—this ‘undiscovered’ area of Italy was a delight. There were few tourists, lots of contacts with local people, beautiful scenery, and great food.” Our Trip Leaders are all natives of the region and know the roads, people, history, and customs of the region like the back of their hand. Since Puglia is less of a tourist destination, you’ll be immersed in Puglian culture with enlightening interactions with the locals, homemade meals and stays in gorgeous, family run accommodations.

The Masserie
Far away from any chain hotel, the Puglian countryside is dotted with historic Coccaro doorfortified farms known as masserie, which have been renovated into amazing farm hotels and 5-star resorts.  The fortifications of the masserie originated around the 16th century as a means to ward off attacks by pirates and brigands. They feature high boundary walls, angular towers, drawbridges and watchtowers. Inside the walls, families worked and lived together with their own church, oil mill and oven to bake bread. Today, the masserie that we’ll stay at are destinations unto themselves with many modern amenities while maintaining their historic charm. “The gorgeous garden, underground spa and surrounding olive groves would all be enough by itself. But the food here takes it to another level. We took the cooking class and reveled in the delicious dinners and endless breakfast buffet,” said one VBT traveler after returning from this vacation.

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The Architecture
Although Puglia is home to ancient temples, medieval relics and early Roman castles; the region is perhaps best known—architecturally—for its trulli houses. A trullo is a unique type of building consisting of a whitewashed, round house topped by a large cone of local stones – all assembled without mortar. It is believed that trulli originated as storage sheds built for agricultural implements but eventually they became dwellings, with adjoining buildings added as families grew. Many trulli are still used and inhabited today, and some of their roofs show mysterious chalk marks, either to protect from evil or to bless the house.  One VBT traveler said “we were drawn to Puglia because of the charming, quirky trulli houses found in this region. I delighted in every one of these amazing structures I saw, whether the vast numbers in the World Heritage site of Alborobello or the unpretentious homes we rode by. My curiosity was satisfied by our opportunity to see the inside of a trullo and how the architecture perfectly suited the environment.”

The Food
agnello_060530_0032The location of Puglia within Italy directly reflects the food that the region is known for, and it even received a UNESCO heritage award for its Mediterranean cuisine. Because of the warm and sunny climate, Puglia ranks first in Italy in the production of olive oil and wine, and second for almonds.  VBT offers an unparalleled foodie experience while on the Puglia vacation. This trip features cooking classes, wine tastings and even a home-hosted lunch and olive oil tasting with a local family. A VBT traveler recalled her experience with the cuisine quite fondly, “I long for the great food we were introduced to. Breaking open fresh green pods to find sweet, tender almonds inside and feasting on olives, cheeses, seafood, and the local Primitivo red wine was just glorious. Did I mention I learned to make pasta with the master chef at the amazing masseria where we first stayed?”

You can discover your own favorite reason to visit Puglia with VBT in 2014. Simply follow the link to read what many other VBT travelers have to say about this active vacation of a lifetime! http://bit.ly/VBTPUReview

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