Cycling holidays in Sicily
Crossing Sicily by bicycle means immersing yourself in a remote, evocative world. Characterised by picturesque villages, majestic sea cliffs and dense expanses of orange and olive groves, the landscape of this region is truly exceptional. With natural parks and protected reserves, Sicily also…
Crossing Sicily by bicycle means immersing yourself in a remote, evocative world. Characterised by picturesque villages, majestic sea cliffs and dense expanses of orange and olive groves, the landscape of this region is truly exceptional. With natural parks and protected reserves, Sicily also boasts a vast and diverse natural heritage – alongside the cultural and artistic influence of the locals. Exploring Sicily by bike is an adventure everyone who loves cycling should try at least once in their life.
Sicily offers memorable experiences for every kind of rider, with a plethora of choices whatever your preference; road, gravel, trail or the unexplored path. Those who like to recharge on the beach can hug the coast, where the roads are quiet and the sea is always in sight. More adventurous riders can take the Magna Via Francigena – a 186km pilgrims route that connects Palermo to Agrigento. Here, they can find ancient villages, enchanting castles and a uniquely Sicilian atmosphere. Climbers looking to challenge themselves can retreat to the hinterland between Palermo and Messina – where the Madonie and Nebrodi mountain ranges wait for the curious (and brave).
Naturally, it’s hard to talk about bike touring in Sicily without mentioning the majesty of Etna, the largest active volcano in Europe. Etna Park offers an impressive, lunar playground for mountain bikes, gravel bikes and road bikes – a paradise for those who relish the opportunity to pedal uphill. In short, Sicily is more than capable of satisfying the needs of every cyclist – and thanks to the rich cuisine that the region offers, it won’t be a problem to satiate the appetite of those who want to fill their stay with as much riding as possible.
Pasta alla Norma
Pasta alla Norma is a triumph of Mediterranean flavours, as well as symbolic of the culinary tradition in southern Italy. The ingredients are few and simple – macaroni, tomato, fried aubergine, salted ricotta and basil. The dish, which was originally from Catania but spread throughout Italy, owes its name to the famous work of the same name by the composer Vincenzo Bellini (much loved by the Sicilian playwright Nino Martoglio). It is said that Martoglio – entranced by the flavour of this cuisine – decided to give it this name. What is certain though, is that pasta alla Norma is the perfect way to recover after a bike ride through the beautiful Sicilian countryside.
Cannoli are one of the most popular pastry specialties in Italy. Crispy fried waffle stuffed with ricotta is simply irresistible. Its origins are uncertain, but there are those who believe that it was invented in Caltanissetta during the Saracen conquests. In fact, it seems that the Saracens were the first to experiment with sweet ricotta, mixing it with sugar. Another hypothesis has it that the dessert was prepared for the first time by the cloistered nuns of a convent in the city, on the occasion of Carnival. Whatever the truth, you can be sure of one thing – this luscious flavour bomb will be able to provide you with all the energy you need for hours in the saddle.
These crunchy, fried rice balls – usually stuffed with meat sauce, peas and carrots – are another classic of Sicilian gastronomy. Their origin is debated and official sources are scarce, but as with many other traditional Sicilian dishes, it is presumed they were invented during the Saracen rule. The discussion on nomenclature is famous: are they called arancine or arancini? If in Palermo, the feminine “arancine” declination is preferred. In Catania the masculine variant of “arancini” is used. Tradition has it that the arancine from Palermo are perfectly round, while those from Catania have a larger, conical shape. A small tip: both versions easily fit into the pocket of a cycling jersey and taste much better than some energy bars!
History & Culture
Sicily is a unique island, with a wealth of history, art and culture. Due to its strategic position and the fertile landscape, it has been inhabited since the Palaeolithic era by countless civilisations, including the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Saracens, Swabians and Normans. Over centuries and millennia, this mixture of ancestry and tradition has created a vibrant melting pot – where the DNA of every era is found in Sicily’s exceptional artistic, archaeological and cultural offering (and obviously in its gastronomy). There are many archaeological parks scattered throughout the region – Agrigento, Solunto, Tindari, Selinunte – all potential stops for your next cycling adventure in Sicily.
Bike hotels in Sicily
Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily
1 April - 30 October 2023