Meet Rita: VBT’s Traveler of the Month for December 2013

Rita bt the coast

Recently we received a note from a traveler linking to her pictures from a biking vacation to Sicily. Turns out it was Rita Cary—Morning Drive DJ for 92.5 the River, Boston’s Independent Radio—who is also a longtime VBT traveler. Rita has been traveling with VBT since 2003 and has gone on both biking and bike & barge vacations with us, so we thought it would be fun to sit down with her and find out about how she learned of VBT and why she continues to travel with us on an almost yearly basis.

Rita loves to travel and often goes with avid bikers so an active vacation is the perfect fit. After traveling with bike ritasome other companies, she heard about VBT and decided to try a bike trip to Italy with us. She chose The Tuscan Coast because the vacation seemed to  “pack a lot of bang for the buck!” She—along with her tour group—really enjoyed the different route options which allowed Rita to take her time and enjoy the scenery while others on the vacation could challenge themselves with longer rides. Since that first vacation she hasn’t looked back and has been everywhere from Puglia to Vietnam to Spain and Croatia with VBT. What she really loves is that VBT “takes care of you from the minute you leave the airport” and arrive in your destination. Rita said she loves having local Trip Leaders that can offer insight into the best places to shop and dine when there is some free time off the road or trails. She also appreciates the knack VBT has for choosing nice hotels that really reflect their surroundings—especially the masserias in Puglia.

seafood ritaHer most recent trip to Sicily was actually the second time Rita had been to the Mediterranean island with VBT. She took our old Sicily: Island and Volcanoes vacation back in 2005 and was quite delighted to find how different, yet equally rewarding an experience the newer Sicily: Biking the Southern Coastal Villagesvacation is. Where volcanoes and the Aeolian islands highlighted her 2005 trip, Rita was more than happy to immerse herself in the warmth and nice summer beaches of the southeastern part of Sicily on the 2013 trip.

With her 10th vacation with VBT coming up this fall—she is going on our Heart of France Bike and Barge vacation with some friends she met on a previous VBT trip—we asked Rita what her favorite vacation has been so far. Although she has had a great time on her many trips, she said that traveling to Vietnam is an experience she’ll never forget.  While she appreciated the easier bike routes on the tour, it was the quality of the hotels and the cultural differences that really stood out.
ruins ritA

The Food of the Italian Lakes

Dinner on lake Como
The Italian Lakes region is known for its beautiful alpine scenery as well as the luxurious villas that dot the shores of Lake Como. On our Walking the Italian Lakes vacation, travelers will walk amazing mountain paths, visit colorful gardens andCaprese Salad also explore some of the most picturesque towns in Italy. Of course the cuisine in Italy is worth a trip alone and the lakes region is no different. The food of Lake Como, Lake Orta, and Lake Maggiore tends to be a hearty mix of meat, pasta, fish and bountiful produce in the summer months. On this vacation we’ll get to dine at lakeside restaurants and local trattorias, sample wines, enjoy a hosted lunch on a family farm, peruse a bustling summer market and even eat fresh fish on the aptly named Isola dei Pescatori—translated as ‘Fisherman’s Island’—which is just a short boat ride from our hotel in Stresa.

Local Restaurants
Lakeside Restaurant Bellagio
As with any VBT vacation, there are a mix of group meals as well as time to venture into town on your own. During a lunch stopover, you can find one of the amazing restaurants in Bellagio, Italy to try. Known for its 12th-century basilica, Meat and Cheese plate Italycobblestone streets and stone staircases, Bellagio also has many delicious places to eat, often right on the lake. We recommend sampling some of the local cheeses made from goat or sheep milk as well as Parma ham, which is dry-cured and served uncooked in thin slices. If you’d like to try some pasta, this region is known for some heartier dishes like gnocchi and ravioli.  If you’d like a recommendation, our local Trip Leaders always have the inside information on some of the best restaurants to try.

Later in the trip we’ll have a great meal at one of the trattorias of Stresa, Italy on the aforementioned Isola dei Pescatori,Lake Perch where fresh seafood is the specialty. Trout and perch are very common in Lake Maggiore and both smoked and fried options are common at the trattorias on the island. The sunsets are especially lovely here, imagine soaking in the view while sipping a glass of local wine before our lakeside dinner.

Farm to Table
Enoteca in Orta san Gulio
Of course VBT vacations also come with included tastings and home-hosted meals. On this vacation we’ll stop for lunch at an enoteca—Italian wine bars which usually pair local wines and food— in Orta San Gulio. Here we’ll treat our taste buds with Piedmontese wines and local dishes like bagna cauda, a fondue-like dip made with butter, garlic and anchovies and served with crostini, truffles and vegetables. We’ll also visit a small farm in Coiromonte known for producing excellent cheese, which we’ll have the opportunity to sample during a picnic lunch prepared for us by the farm’s owners. Our feast also includes local specialties made with organic vegetables grown in the owners’ garden.

Markets Lenno Market
Summertime in the Italian Lakes is a wonderful time to eat fresh. Local producers often bring their wares to village centers for weekly markets. We’ll have a chance to explore one of Lake Como’s most vibrant markets during a stop in Lenno. Here, the weekly market is held every Tuesday and provides a colorful snapshot of local life. Take in the sweeping views of the area wile perusing for anything from local fruits and vegetables to meats and cheese to clothing and jewelry!

Island in the Lake ItalyTo read more about our Walking the Italian Lakes vacation please click here. To request a walking catalog or learn more about any of our other exciting walking destinations from New Zealand to Yellowstone National Park to Provence and beyond, please visit http://bit.ly/VBTWalking2014. If you would like to reserve a vacation or speak with one of our Tour Consultants, please call 800-245-3868, available Monday-Friday from 8:30am to 6:30pm EST.