A new tour bike is born and here are some highlights from the itinerary that I hope will entice you to find out more or perhaps to visit. It takes place along wonderful low-key tourism routes in the Veneto region.
Two of its highlights (and the main reasons that prompted us to design this cycling tour) gave name to the itinerary: Grappa and Prosecco.
As iconic as Grappa and Prosecco are, most people would find it challenging to point them out on a map of Italy. Let us show you around.
All in all, the "Grappa and Prosecco" area we explore is a reasonably compact area in northeastern Italy between the pre-Alps (with the majestic Dolomites in the backdrop) and Venice on the Adriatic just 30 miles away. It goes without saying that Venice offers plenty of inspiration and excuses for a pre-tour or a post-tour extension. Also, while the towns we visit might very well pre-date Roman times, the influence of the Republic of Venice (697–1797) is dominant and palpable everywhere from architecture to cuisine to customs.
In the walled village of Cittadella, you are catapulted back to the Middle Ages when you are faced with the beautifully-preserved village center and defensive walls. Thanks to recent renovations, you can enjoy a panoramic walk along the full circle (less than a mile).
Bassano del Grappa is an important center with distant echoes of warfare (During World War I Bassano was in the front area). On our tour, we get to know it and appreciate it by spending two nights there and taking a walking tour with a local guide. Its elegant piazzas and cobbled streets have a cozy feeling. The fulcrum of Bassano is the wooden bridge over the Brenta River. Wooden bridges are rather unique in Italy and this particular one has been destroyed and rebuilt several times in exactly the same way. We could call it a bridge-monument to WWI, venerated by the Alpine soldiers (the Italian mountain army that fought there). In 1928 Bassano Veneto was renamed Bassano del Grappa to forge its bond to the mountain overlooking it (Mount Grappa). Ernest Hemingway, during his days as an ambulance driver in the war, spent many days in Bassano and his time there served as an inspiration for his novel, A Farewell to Arms.
For many people, the planned climb to Mount Grappa will reveal how WWI really was.
Moving east we make our lunch stop in Asolo, a gem on the way to the Prosecco area. We also cross the Piave River and we cannot downplay the importance of the Piave as the last front defending the Italian territory against the enemy after the terrifying defeat at Caporetto (on the Isonzo River, some 50 miles east on the Julian Alps). In June 1918, the last major Austro-Hungarian attack on the Italians failed. It would later become clear that the battle was in fact the beginning of the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
There is no such thing as the "Prosecco grape," in the same way as there is no such thing as a "Champagne grape" (prosecco wine is made from glera). The Prosecco area is wedged between mountains and the plain before the Adriatic and is perilously hilly, with the grapes growing at 150 to 1600 ft (50-500 meters) above sea level. A route has arisen between the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene and the road between the two has been named the Strada del Prosecco. Yes, that’s right: Prosecco Wine Route, and it’s the perfect riding playground for wine lovers!
A Bike Tour is the perfect way to travel the Strada del Prosecco.
There’s hardly anything as dramatic as the vineyards of Prosecco, with its steep hill slopes perfectly contoured by the vineyards. Its fierce topography is a sort of dichotomy to the reputation that the wine has gained as a fun, bubbly wine often enjoyed in cocktails.
If we have a goal on our tour for delivering the Tourissimo Experience, it is to educate on the Superiore (DOCG) production area versus the Prosecco (generic) DOC area.
You’ll be surprised at how well you’ll understand the difference in tradition and taste once you ride those hills and engage with the producers. This is the best Prosecco, period.
Villa Abbazia in Follina is our hub for the Prosecco area exploration. It’s a charming and relaxing 5* hotel (a member of Relais & Chateaux) with an in-house, 1-Michelin star restaurant.
Relevant blog: Prosecco: Top Quality Wines and Rides