Cycling in Sardinia, Italy
Food, wine and the World's Oldest People
By Dan Peltier
Most people travel to Italy to see the history, indulge in the al dente pasta and maybe get lucky enough to sample the pizza in Naples.
But fewer venture to the island of Sardinia off of Italy’s Mediterranean Coast, a place that miraculously has escaped the flood of tourists to mainland Italy and is still mostly undiscovered by many travelers.
Seeing Sardinia by bicycle allows for the opportunity to experience the island using all five senses. Ciclismo Classico, a bike tour company based in Arlington, Massachusetts, is leading a foodie cycling tour to the Italian island this fall.
“We get to know the local culture as much as possible and doing the bike tour makes it easy to experience the local foods,” said Simone Scalas, who is leading the tour with Ciclismo Classico.
Scalas has been leading cycling tours around Europe since 2000, but this is the first time that he is leading a tour of this kind to his native island. He will be accompanied by Chef Jody Adams, James Beard Award winner and the person behind two of Boston’s most popular restaurants, Rialto and TRADE.
Meet the Chef
Adams will guide the tour along with Scalas and perform several cooking demonstrations where guests can learn from the chef herself.
These include a cheese-making demonstration with local shepherds and a special dinner prepared by Adams at Villa Asfodeli. According to Scalas, Adams is coming along on the tour not only to give the tour participants the gift of Sardinian food but to also learn from the island’s cuisine.
“Jody wants to learn how the food is keeping people healthy and allowing them to live longer lives. And with Jody, we wanted someone who would not only be attached to the cycling but also attached to the local foods which is the heart of the tour,” said Scalas.
Adams’ culinary career has included her competing on BRAVO’s Top Chef Masters and also raising millions of dollars for causes and charities that she is passionate about, which range from Partners in Health, Share Our Strength, and the Greater Boston Food Bank.
She also has an impressive biking resume, having completed the 192-mile Pan Mass Challenge for the past three years while raising $250,000 with her Team Rialto-TRADE for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Something that most people don’t know about the Mediterranean’s largest island is that it contains the largest number of local grapes of anywhere in Italy, currently totaling 113 different kinds, according to Scalas.
“Sardinia is starting to become a destination for wine lovers like Tuscany has always been, and the wine on the island really is a hidden gem,” said Scalas.
Sardinia has some of the highest concentrations of people in the world who live longer than most humans. Many villages on the island contain groups of locals who are over 100 years old. Part of the reason why this is the case is because of the fresh food, much of which is unique to the island.
Most of the 300 small villages, for example, have their own kind of bread. Just like in the rest of Italy, nationalism plays out on the local level in a big way.
The tradition of bread-making in Sardinia stretches back several millennia and is a staple food on the island that helps maintain the longevity of the population.
Besides tasting the wide assortment of different breads, tour participants will also sample handmade pastas, Seada cake, Montiferru, local cheeses, cured meats and regional wines, all of which have local ties to the island. Sardinian food is much different than traditional Italian food and the tour will highlight those contrasts.
“Good food is not a luxury. We eat a whole new world that needs to be discovered while on this tour and all the food that we sample will be reasonably priced. A lot of people come to Italy to try the famous pasta and pizza, but this tour goes a step beyond that,” said Scalas.
Departing September 30 and returning October 6, 2014, this tour is filled with a bevy of activity that will challenge even the most ardent cycler or foodie.
The tour is already sold out after reaching a maximum of 16 people, but according to Scalas, another departure date for another tour is currently being planned for the next year as well to accommodate the tour’s growing popularity.
For six nights and seven days, participants are traveling nearly 40 miles per day by bike and absorbing as much Sardinian food as they can along the way.
The tour features stops along the west coast of the island and begins in Tresnuraghes. Participants then cross the center of the island through areas that are still largely spared from the footprints of tourism. The sites that await participants throughout their journey are scenes that only a calm place like Sardinia can offer.
The coast in Cabras with its lagoons and flamingos, the long sandy beaches of the Sinis peninsula and the windy coastal road to Pula are seaside highlights.
Visits to old mining towns, the ancient Phoenician and the Roman cities of Tharros and Nora will provide insight into the historical significance of the island.
Barumini & Montiferru
Participants will also be treated to the archeological site of Barumini and Montiferru pastures and olive oil groves.
The hotels that participants will stay in do not echo those of bigger cities like Rome or Florence.
“The hotels are small, charming, and in small villages so that even when we’re not biking we are still experiencing local culture, we really want everyone to become a part of our culture,” said Scalas.
By the end of the tour, the participants will have biked more than 300 kilometers across the island that some have called “almost a continent” because of its geographic diversity and its history dating back over 5,000 years. Not to mention they’ll have toned legs, full bellies and hints of sun on their faces from the island where the sun is no stranger.
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Daniel Peltier is a staff reporter for the travel news site Skift, in New York City. He began his travel writing after studying abroad, and then as an intern for GoNOMAD.com Travel. He got his journalism degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.