When Johnny and I dreamed up this idea of “serious cycling for serious foodies” we had a “type” of client in mind. One that was keen to ride, really push themselves to their physical limits but also be ready to laugh and enjoy the great out of saddle experiences we had planned. We were so lucky with our recent experienceit ride week to have 6 awesome clients that made our week truly amazing. From the huge climbs of the Coll dell’Agnello to those tough champions climbs every one of our riders made us incredibly proud of their effort and tenacity. For us it was a great pleasure to welcome them into our lives for them to experience the great countryside and the riding it offers but also the truly unique “out of saddle experiences” Whether it was a few beers with Maurizio in his Scarampola microbrewery in the ancient monastery, a 5 star post ride picnic in the grounds of an old santuario, a wonderful lunch at Bossotti winery looking over the hills of the Langhe eating home cooked meal prepared by Giovanna and Vincenzo, watching the Italian soccer team get to the UEFA final surrounded by mad Italian fans, the various 10 course dinners, a ride to the sea to take a dip in the Med, the odd Aperol spritz in medieval surrounds or the great hearty mountain fare served up after tackling the colle they partied as hard as they rode in true Italian style! To Bob, Meredith, Lew, Andrew, David and Lora thanks for a wonderful week and we hope that we have created a monster and that you come back and ride with us again soon!
Since coming here to Italy we’ve come to understand that there is beer and there is BEER! Being introduced to amazing Italian craft beer has been quite an experience. No preservatives, no additives, non pasteurised this stuff tastes absolutely amazing. And with the help of our resident BB, Simone we have been lucky enough to stumble upon some amazing producers such as Birra del Borgo, Croce di Malto
Brewfist and SorAlama. We liked the beer so much we thought it was a shame that everyone in Oz didn’t have a chance to share it so we started importing it into Australia via our wine and beer importing business Experienceit wines/ Birra Italiana Now the beers are heading down under in a big way and they are even going to take on the worlds best at the Australian Industry Beer Awards in May. Since diving into the world of beer we are amazed to find that there are a huge group of beer connoissers that really know and appreciate their beer. So now we’re going to take our passion for the beer one step further and start undertaking not just wine tours but beers tours. These tours will get you some hands on time with these great beer producers in their birrerias , visit their suppliers and enable you to match these great beers with the amazing food of the area. Check out the article written about the tours in Brewnews . So whatever your poison beer or wine, Experienceit we’ll design a tour for you that enables you to get the most out of your passion for the liquid stuff. Drop us a line and ask us for more details
Experience It Cycling offers everything to have a wonderful cycling experience in Barolo, Piedmot, Italy: lodge, bike, personal guide, recommendations, etc. Experience It Cycling is handled by Kerrie. She does everything form the commercial piece to the tours themselves. Thus, I will introduce her. Kerrie is an Australian settled in Italy with her family but seems an Italian who has lived abroad and thus acquired a very particular and nice accent when she speaks Italian. She was a professional swimmer and now she is passionate of bikes and cycling. She has deeply understood the essence of the place where she lives and she knows everybody, every hill, wine canteens, restaurants, castles, etc. For some neighbors she is Kerrie, for others she is “la mamma di Molly e Izzy”, her two beautiful kids, or “la moglie di Johnny”.
I am of Italian descent, live in Argentina and I like to connect with the Italian culture. This time I travelled to Italy to visit relatives in Asti and I had four free-days during which I wanted to combine some outdoor activity with a cultural tour.
I was referred to Experience It Cycling by the Ente Turismo Alba Bra Langhe e Roero (a Governmental Agency that promotes tourism in that area of Northern Italy). Their recommendation couldn’t be better for my needs because by only contacting Experience It Cycling everything was solved: lodging, bike, activities, etc. My stay at the house at Monforte d’Alba was very pleasant. It is very comfortable and well-equipped and maintains its local flavor (cellar with collection of wines included). I imagined myself a Piedmontese countryman living in the house.
The cycle tours were superb. I am 45 years old and 20 years without even touching a bike. Kerrie was smart in training me and in organizing the tours. As soon as the second day, I was ready for tours of some 20 kilometers in the middle of hills, castles, vineyards, ancient towns (Grinzane Cavour, Barolo, Dogliani, Novello, Castiglione Falletto, etc) and making the stops to visit the several attractions in each of these places. She provides the bike (has several models for all type of cyclers), the clothes, helmet, etc. The bike tours took all morning and she was able to plan them perfectly so I could arrive home at the due time for preparing myself for having lunch with a friend. I think Kerrie was also able to calculate the right level of “fatigue”. I thought I was exhausted but after a shower I was as fresh as a daisy to continue my activities. After lunch and some rest, in the afternoon, Kerrie came back with her car to pick me up for a tour to more distant places like Racconigi, Cherasco, Pollenzo, all full of art and history. She hires local guides for these places, focusing on history, art or other aspects as per your interests.
The key of everything is Kerrie’s flexibility. If you want an agonistic tour, all day on the bike, Kerrie will certainly organize it if you want a more “quiet one” she will do it with pleasure too. In large groups, in small groups, alone, etc. And you can freely talk price, dates, etc and she will surely come back with a good proposal. Kerrie is also a good companion for lunch, for talking, etc. and never invades your privacy.
The area offers a lot of things: a beautiful landscape, history, art, good food and wine, things to do at night, etc. I had a wonderful time in these four days at Barolo.
It was my first glimpse of the winding roads of the Piedmont region. I was curious to see where the countryside peppered with vineyards, orchards and hazelnut groves would lead me. We arrived at a small town with a history of witches and wineries and drove into a beautiful Italian family compound. La Ciuenda is a small cooking school and food business operated by Cristina and her mother in Piedmont. I had no idea of hard work in a kitchen until I saw these ladies in action- working all day and night over the stoves to produce the finest quality dips (Bagnet Verde, Bagna Caouda), pear mustards, preserves, relishes and the all time guilty pleasure, Torta Di Nocciola (Hazelnut Cake). All are made with such quality ingredients, time, passion and the magic ingredient, love.
I was lucky enough to spend two days with these inspirational ladies in their kitchen, the hazelnut groves and woods surrounding the village, and at a Slow Food market in Alba where they were selling their produce. I gained an insight into the techniques involved and tried my hand at some, including the traditional Piedmontese pasta Plin, a ravioli filled with rabbit, veal and pork, accompanied by a hazelnut sauce and shaved truffle. The feeling of rolling out fresh pasta dough on the table and preparing the filling – was I doing it right? The angst as my work was assessed to determine if it was up to scratch. Despite the feeling of disappointment if my plin wasn’t quite pinched closed enough, it was so special being taught by people with such high standards – Italians just have to have their food made a particular way!
Bidding La Ciuenda farewell, Kerrie Abba – my infectious ExperienceIT personal guide – and I drove through the Roero region to Matteo Corregio, all the while Kerrie informing me of the history of the region and pointing out the special landmarks. These ad hoc discussions were so fantastic and so valuable to learn about the towns and the people. Matteo Corregio produces several white and red varieties on site. Laboratory tests to determine the perfect pH or sugar level do not reign supreme here, Lucca is adamant that what happens out in the vineyard is of paramount importance for what happens in the production process.
We had just finished our tour of the winery; the old barrels, the cellar door and the cool, clay walled tunnels stocked to the roof with old bottles, when Lucca offered to take us up to the vineyard. “It’s no limosine” he warned us as we jumped into his old ute. Just as well it wasn’t, because no limo I know of would be able to navigate the steep, undulating tracks to the vineyard rows which are pruned into perfect and very narrow lines. This chance offer to see the winery in its most natural state was the highlight of the day.
The next day held in store a drive out to Saluzzo, a small historic town at the foot of the Alps. Arriving at the cheese shop to show up all cheese shops, I was overwhelmed with the variety and choice! These cheeses were unlike any I had tasted in Australia, namely due to the milk used in small production houses in Italy is unpasteurised- a huge ‘no no’ in Australia!
Cheesemakers everywhere here were telling me that the reason why the Italian cheeses were so flavourful, was because of the fact that they use ‘latte cruda’ (raw milk). The cows, sheep and goats are left to graze on wild greens, violets and herbs, giving the cheese a robust and grassy complexity of flavour– a party on the palate!
The next day saw us bid farewell to Barolo and say hello to Finale Liguria, the journey there was as spectacular as the end result! The mountainous countryside had valleys so low I couldn’t see the bottom and mountains so high, the clouds precluded the view to the top.
Seeing this, I can completely understand why different villages had regional food only made in their area. Each area has a different micro climate depending on its altitude and incline, and certain plants thrive in areas where others fail.
The town of Finale Borgo brought an exciting array of winding tunnels and cobbled footpaths. We dined alfresco (much to the shock of the restaurant owners as it was ‘cold’ outside)! Traditional pesto pasta and calamari was the regional delicacy- it was the best I’ve ever had! After lunch we took a stroll into the main square; a visit to any Italian town is incomplete without a gelato! I sampled a rich, creamy and smooth duo of hazelnut and chocolate- absolutely heaven (and I even have the photo as evidence that nutritionists do eat ice cream!)
Onward to a small cheese producer resulted in an experience like no other –
a tour of the farm, a visit to the sheep in the barn and a private degustation in a cottage on a mountaintop overlooking the Langhe.
The whole experience was ‘organic’, from seeing the cheeses drying on their wooden shelves, to seeing the sheep let out for their afternoon graze in the paddock, to Silvio opening a fantastic bottle of red, serving a plate of hand made quality cheeses, bread made with a 40 year old yeast, and lighting the candles for us.
This was easily the highlight of the week in the valley. This was an experience which could never be replaced by anyone- the generosity of our host, the taste of the freshest cheese on earth- the smell and flavour of ‘farm’ was so evident.
The Pecorino was outstanding on its own, but when Silvio suggested we pair it with Cugna, a rich fruity preserve- utterly mindblowing!! This whole experience was like being invited into a family home, with such pride and respect for the product they made being evident in the tasting we were given.
My last day with Kerrie was spent at the Grinzane Cavour, a medieval castle transformed into a museum and wine museum perched on top of a mountain. The morning visit to another family run winery was also a unique experience. The care taken to ensure the solids are not dispersed through the wine, then the solids being used as fertiliser in the garden. The tasting was also very special, with such love and respect for the end product.
The stand out feature to me of this week in the Piedmont region, meeting producers, seeing and sampling their products has demonstrated to me just how much respect these people show their food and wine they are making.
Nothing is mass produced, the most important thing is to care for the grapes while in the vineyard, to keep the sheep warm at night so they are happy and healthy, and to pair the most complimentary foods together to ensure the greatest flavours are showcased. Here, the people value this care and respect for food demonstrated by the producers. They are happy to pay a little extra if it means their products are shown the respect and care they deserve, and to bring out the best in each ingredient.
Heading to the Gavi region here in Piemonte is about as close as you’ll get to english gentry here in the “bel Paese!” Whilst Gavi is officially in Piemonte it is in fact closely aligned with Genova and was and continues to be a place where the Genovese aristocrats had their country manors. So a short drive from Genova inland to the rolling hill of Gavi you come across vine filled hillsides dotted with lovely, HUGE country houses.
We headed to Broglia as I had heard that the Gavi from this producer was very good and it had recently been featured high in the Wine Spectator. Greeted in the “drawing room” of this stately manor we observed photographs of the owners hunting collection as we waited to be met by the current owner Dr Gian Piero Broglia. Dressed in his hunting cloths of tweeds and corduroy he seemed more english than Italian…until he spoke of course. yes hunting was a passion up there with his wine he told us. He went on to give us a detailed and incredibly interesting history of the area and explaining the close association to the Genvoese and thus the development of a wine that suited the Mediterranean diet of seafood instead of the hearty meat dishes of Piemonte. We went on to taste the range of wines from the the sparkling spumante to the Gavi Bruno Broglia made from vines planted in 1953. We were incredibly impressed by the freshness and palate of these wines and happily discussed heading back to the winery again on our tours as well as collaborating by importing some of the wines into Oz with Experienceit wines. As we made our way to lunch in our rear vision micro we saw Dr Gian Piero driving off to his lunch appointment..in what car??…A range rover of course!
Get out your pink gear as the best looking boys in pink will be passing our way next year in the Giro d’Italia! This great race in 2012 starts out in Denmark on the 5th May before heading to the “Bel Paese” to get serious! We’ve got two great legs passing within a stones throw of our place so we’re putting together a Giro Fever long weekend from Thursday 17th May through till Sunday 20th May. Arriving Thursday evening we’ll get you checked in and prepared to head out for some riding the following day. On Friday we’ll head out early for some great riding through the Alta Langhe finishing by riding into the Cervere to see the boys come in for the final stages of the 13th leg. On Saturday morning we’ll do the same get up get some great riding in before heading to the start of the 14th leg in the historical town of Cherasco. Depending on flight time on the Sunday we’ll head out again to punish those legs a bit more before you head back home. And whilst you will be doing some amazing riding, getting involved with this huge event you’ll also be getting a taste of all the great food and wine in this famous foodie area. So come on, get involved in what will be a long and very pink weekend!!!!!!
Well it was a wonderful orgy of a week eating and drinking like kings and queens! A week that has left the group with one great dilemma, how on earth are they going to find food this good when they head back to the UK and USA respectively! A week of dining in a range of places from higher end restaurants to local osterias, visiting honey producers, salami producers, gorging on truffle and washing it down with some great wine. We even rolled up our sleeves and had a day getting our hands dirty in the kitchens of La Ciuenda where we discovered that hand cutting pasta is really an art form, hats off to the nonnas! We headed up into the mountains, our gorgeous journey momentarily interrupted by a site of hundreds of cows approaching making their annual trip down from the mountain pastures to the comparatively warm lowlands. We instead headed up, up, up and warmed ourselves on the open fire and delicious gnocchi al castelmagno cooked by our wonderful host Giorgio. There wasn’t much we didn’t do and all the guests went home truly believing they got a great taste of the history, culture and traditions of this great part of Italy!
Following a visit to Apicoltura Daniele Devalle I was completely amazed and awestruck by how interesting and amazing bees really are! Here’s just 10 of the many things that I learnt about them:
1. pollen is a fantastic source of protein and makes a great protein supplement for vegetarians
2. bees cannot survive if they get wet. They can sense 1 hour before a storm arrives and one will go back to the hive, lift his bottom into the air, flap his little wings and send out pheromones to message to all the other bees to get back to the hive asap
3. bees die when they sting as the sting is actually a large muscle which becomes detached when they sting, it is the equivalent of us chopping off an arm and thus they cannot survive
4. all worker bees are female
5. the boys role is only to inseminate the queen bee and they are unable to feed themselves, the women worker bees must feed the boys
6. only some bees leave the hive to search for lovely pollen and nectar, once they find a great patch they head back to the hive and signal to the others with a dance the distance, quality, type and location of the great nectar they found
7. bees can fly up to 3-4 km
8.the worker bee lives for only 40 days whilst the queen bee lives for up to 5 years
9. bees collect pollen on their bodies and collect it all by licking their fur and creating one big pollen ball which they carry on their legs
10. creamed honey is made of 80% glucose and therefore has the tendency to crystallise whereas runny honey such as acacia honey is 80% fructose and therefore does not tend to crystallise
Oh and the list could go on and on!!!! These really are the most amazing little creatures that are so important not only to us but to our environment.
We are having record temperatures here in Italy at the moment and it doesn’t look like letting up for a while! So it’s just great that we have our cycle mad friends here at the moment training for an Alpine Challenge. That means riding every day for at least 4 hours a day in 30+ temperatures! Not even the early starts are helping as it is already 29 degrees at 9am! Oh well at least there is one advantage…the cold beer tastes all the better at the end of the ride!
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