A trip to the apex of Italian "home food" in Emilia Romagna. From seaside resorts to the splendid Apennines, we ride to taste, and we taste to understand.
At Tourissimo we believe that you cannot explore and understand the gastronomy of a region without considering the region’s history, culture, landscape, and climate. But for the Emilia Romagna Chef Bike Tour we want to go further. We aim to showcase how food is linked to the well being of an area in terms of health, and socio-economically. Located between the fertile Po River Valley and the Apennines, Emilia-Romagna is renowned for its soul-satisfying food. To Italians it is known as the “home-cooking capital of Italy.” To others, it is known as the birthplace many of the foods that lie at the heart of Italian cooking- lasagna, tortellini, prosciutto di Parma, balsamic vinegar, and “The King of Cheeses,” Parmigiano-Reggiano, to name a few. The Romagna DOC wines are the perfect pairing to the regional dishes.
Chef Marc Meyer began his career in the 1980’s working at The Odeon under celebrated chef Patrick Clark, An American Place under legendary American Chef Larry FIorgine and Brasserie Savoy in San Francisco. After consulting for ARK Restaurants in the early 1990s, Meyer decided he belonged in the kitchen of his own restaurant. Five Points on Great Jones, opened in 1999 (reimagined as Vic’s in 2014), and became a mainstay of Greenwich Village. Meyer, along with his wife and partner Vicki Freeman, has since opened Cookshop (2005), which has been one of the hottest restaurants in NYC since, Rosie’s (2015) and Mediterranean inspired Shuka (2017), all showcasing local and seasonal food through vibrant, ingredient driven cuisine. In a recent article, Eater New York called the couple “Kings of Neighborhood Restaurants.” Marc is the author of several cookbooks and has been a guest on Good Morning America. He has lived in Rome and is an avid cyclist.
We've had the incredible pleasure of having Marc in 2018 in Piedmont; everyone loved his ways and appreciated his gregarious attitude towards the group. His knowledge of Italian cooking and his love for cycling make him the perfect co-host on Tourissimo's Chef Bike Tours.
The locals are revered for having a great balance of respect for tradition, cheerful attitude, and bursting entrepreneurship. In Emilia Romagna tradition merges with innovation and the past (in many practical ways) becomes the foundation for the future. And in all of this, food is an important part. Some would say the corner stone.
The riding is a superb mix of landscapes and views. From the flat plane of the Po river delta and the Comacchio Valley (WWF protected area) we ride to the hills and from the Apennines to the Adriatic. The rides are fully supported and participants can ride just part of the stage. The gran finale is in Rimini on the Adriatic riviera.
Optional one night extension to Bologna and the newly opened FICO Eataly World.
Ferrara - 8 miles - Flat
Our hotel is located in the majestic Piazza Castello. Ferrara is one of the centers of Italian Renaissance history and an outpost of papal power in the North of the country. Bicycles are the favorite mode of transport and its streets are closed to car traffic. In the Ferrara area, the bicycle has always been linked to work, commuting, socializing, and leisure. What better way to start a bike tour! Ferrara, with its uniquely well-preserved walls, is home to the stupendous monuments from the 13th-15th centuries: the Castello Estense, the Archiepiscopal Palace, Lion's tower, Rossetti's Renaissance Palace of Diamonds. Optional urban afternoon ride around the city walls. A pre-dinner walking tour with a local guide will cover both local architecture and history and traditional recipes.
Ravenna - 60 miles - Flat
We bike east, from the heart of Emilia-Romagna towards the Adriatic Sea, crossing the Pianura Padana, and edging the lagoon of Valli di Comacchio. Away from the large river Po one realizes the quantity of canals built by the man to keep irrigated every area of the plain. You will notice its variety of crops and ordered fields that occupy a vast reclaimed area. It’s the most important lagoon area of Italy. In the afternoon we enjoy crossing the River Reno over a small ferry and finally we enter Ravenna, the jewel Byzantine town once capital of the Roman Empire. It is the longest ride of the week but the terrain is flat. We will learn about the local fauna and flora and the economy of the wetland lagoon. As for river and lagoon fare, the eels of Comacchio are celebrated by gourmands and should be washed down with the red “wine of the sands”, Bosco Eliceo DOC. Upon arriving, you will have some free time to explore Ravenna on your own. Dinner is at Antica Trattoria al Gallo since 1909.
Fratta Terme - 38 miles - Flat
We'll have a late start today to give you plenty of time to visit Ravenna's architectural and cultural treasures. The riding today is gorgeous, spinning through a pine forest and past fruit orchards and fields of sunflowers along tiny farm roads. We'll also cross a canal (Canale del Pino) with small, traditional fishing shacks lining the way. We will ride south to the saline of Cervia, artificial ponds where salt has been produced and traded for 2000 years. Salt was a highly valued trade item, considered "white gold" and a form of currency. We'll have a guided tour of the saline and then ride to our hotel in Fratta Terme with plenty of time to enjoy the thermal waters. Dinner will be prepared by our chef in team with the local chef.
Fratta Terme, Bertinoro - 23 miles - Hilly
Today's loop ride will take us along the Strada dei Vini e dei Sapori (Wine and Flavor Road), where we will pass vineyards and olive groves. For lunch we reach Bertinoro, a charming Medieval hilltop village that affords a stunning view of the surroundings. It is in fact named "The Balcony of Romagna" (234 mt above sea level). After Bertinoro we return to Fratta Terme to change and get ready for a pasta class and dinner at Casa Artusi in Forlimpopoli.
Casa Artusi is a museum, cooking school and restaurant named after Pellegrino Artusi (Forlimpopoli 1820 - Florence 1911) who is still considered the father of Italian gastronomy. Artusi’s book Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well was an unthinkable success. During the following 20 years, the author himself worked on 15 editions and the “Artusi” (by then simply called by the author’s name) became one of Italy’s best read books. We'll cook together under the lead of our chef and the local chef and pasta trainer.
Bagno di Romagna - 33 miles - Mountains
Today we ride to Bagno di Romagna on the Apennines. We climb steadily to Santa Sofia, a charming village sitting on the Bidente river. Picnic lunch along the river natural park. After a steady pass, we arrive in Bagno di Romagna. Take full advantage of the thermal water, as Bagno di Romagna is also a Spa town. Or check out the charming village, which - for the first time - hosted a Giro d’Italia stage in 2017. Whatever you decide to do, be ready for another culinary event as dinner will be prepared under the supervision of chef Paolo Teverini.
Rimini - 54 or 30 miles - Mountains
Today we head west while losing elevation. The Adriatic and its
Dinner is at one of the best seafood restaurants in town.
Nestled between the Alps and the Apennines, Emilia-Romagna owes a great deal to the unique nature of its territory when it comes to explaining its rich culinary tradition, which is often revered as one of the finest in Italy. The Po River, which runs across the whole of the region, marks the boundary between the fertile soil of the Pianura Padana Valley, the agricultural heart of northern Italy, and the gentle curves of the pre-Apennines on the border with Toscana. Following the course of the Po, the east of the region opens widely onto the Adriatic Sea with a low and uniform coastline and shallow waters.
Once marshland, the Pianura Padana is today one of the most fertile areas of the country following a long history of cultivation. Perhaps the first to spot the enormous agricultural potential of the region were the Romans, who made it a key center for the empire’s food production. Often dubbed ‘the food valley’, it is abundant in cereal crops and cattle rearing and home to some of the most renowned food producers in the country.
While institutionally one, from a cultural and gastronomical point of view Emilia-Romagna is in fact two. The sub-region of Emilia, which lies along an ancient Roman trading route, stretches from the western tip of the region with the cities of Piacenza, Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna, and Ferrara dotted around it like jewels in a crown. It is known for its solid, rich and indulgent cuisine, heavily based on pork and animal fats thanks to the Lombard (a Germanic tribe) domination of the region. It is also equally revered for being naturally effortless in its sophistication, something that the Renaissance court tradition has left as an indelible mark. In the words of Pellegrino Artusi, nineteenth century author of The Science of Cooking and the Art of Fine Dining: "When you come across the Cucina Emiliana (Emilia’s cuisine), take a bow, because it deserves it."
In the western part of the region, from Bologna to the Adriatic coast, lies Romagna. Here, unlike in Emilia, the Byzantine heritage influenced many aspects of Romagna’s culture; it is still evident in the stunning churches and mosaics of the city of Ravenna and in the prominence of terracotta-based cooking methods. Influenced more by the closeness of the sea than by the aristocratic tradition of the courts, Romagna’s gastronomic tradition is simpler and closer to the land, but just as varied and deep as its counterpart in Emilia.