Italy

You know that land where lemon orchards bloom,
Its golden oranges aglow in gloom,
That land of soft wind blowing from blue sky,
Where myrtle hushes and the laurel's high?
You know that land?
That way! That way
I'd go with you, my love, and go today...

You know that mountain and its clouded peak?
The path through mist that hooves of donkeys seek?
In caves the ancient dragon-spawn now rove.
The rocks loom high, and rivers burst above.
You know that place?
That way! That way,
O Father, lies our path! Let's go today!

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Goethe, the eminent German writer and statesman, pined for the balmy climes of Italy when he wrote this poem more than 200 years ago. He travelled all the way to Sicily, visiting Florence, Rome, and Naples as well as Venice, Milan and many places in between during his 2 year visit. He travelled by stagecoach, mostly alone, and he would have had much more fun on a bicycle in the company of friends.

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Exploring and discovering Italy by bike is a wonderful way of getting a taste of the real Italy. Rolling along with a group is the easiest, as you just follow your guide from town to town, and if you are the more adventurous sort, you can always set out on your own, following a set itinerary complete with pre-arranged hotels and your luggage traveling by van. Whichever way to pedal along, Italy's byways are full of charm and delight.

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The Toscana is probably the most popular destinations for American cycling enthusiasts of all levels, from amateur cyclists to anyone just wishing to pedal calmly while enjoying the beauty of the region. On paved road for anyone who loves racing bikes or off road on mountain bikes to get away from traffic and be surrounded by nature. Every area in Tuscany offers routes rich in interesting places to visit and see as well as extraordinary panoramas.

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Venice and its hinterland, the Veneto, offer fantastic terrain for the veloists seeking flat terrain and lots of things to see! Follow small roads that wander through vineyard-covered hillsides crested by medieval castles, ancient cities with arcaded piazzas and flower-bedecked balconies. Be sure to taste the local wines such as Soave and Valpolicella, and take time in the historic cities of Venice, Vicenza, Padova, and little known Treviso, with its Renaissance squares, palaces, richly frescoed churches, streets threaded with ancient waterways.

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Sicily is beautifully complex created by an alluring mix of cultures, history, architecture, and cuisine. What better way to explore it than by bike or hike. The island's strategic position, lying between Europe and Africa in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, made it an attractive strong hold for many countries throughout the centuries. Each invader left a mark adding to the many layers that make Sicily spectacular. You will want to make it your stronghold as well, although for other reasons. Whether by bike or hike you will be a part of it all - the bold wildflowers, flowering almond trees, the salty smell of the sea, stunning ancient sites, and sounds of the birds. The ancient voices of Sicily are calling to you.

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The Dolomiti are perfectly located within yodeling distance of Austria and just a quick pedal to Venice. The Grande Strada delle Dolomoti (Great Dolomites Road) make the mountains extremely bike tour friendly. This snake of asphalt coils in and around the Dolomites' 30-plus massifs, affording the eyes the type of views that make even the Matterhorn appear ho-hum. The road accesses many of the Dolomites' famous resort towns, including Cortino d' Ampezzo, the Dolomites' most popular ski area, and multicultural Bolzano/Bozen. This German-speaking town permanently feels as if it is just one tuba player away from an impromptu Oktoberfest. Despite its altitude, Bolzano is also part of the region's famous wine road, allowing you to taste some surprisingly impressive vintages in tiny farmhouse settings. Tram rides and hiking trails line the entire length of the Great Dolomites Road, presenting plenty of diversions.