Cycling adventures that tickle the palate

A cycling trip in Italy can only be a journey of discovery into the varied culinary traditions of the Belpaese. Italy, from north to south, is a land identified by the cultural diversity of each region, represented (above all) by its many culinary traditions. Typical local products, recipes that have been handed down for centuries and food and wine excellence renowned throughout the world are the result of a continuous social and cultural evolution process that has characterised the Italian culinary tradition over the millennia. It is a cuisine that finds its strong point in the simplicity and quality of its ingredients, in short, the concept of less is more dominates on Italian tables. It is a cuisine that celebrates the Mediterranean diet (a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2010) and in which the influences of the traditions of ancient Greece and Rome, Byzantine, Arabic and Jewish can be found. This is Italian cuisine, where a simple recipe hides stories and anecdotes, where the flavours are linked to the memories of entire generations. This section offers some ideas for discovering the best regional Italian delicacies on your next cycling trip in Italy.


Livigno, Bormio e Stelvio

Italy Bike Territory – Livigno

A mountain resort located in the heart of the Alta Valtellina, Livigno means above all pizzoccheri. These are a kind of short tagliatelle pasta made from a mixture of wheat and buckwheat flour, to be dressed with potatoes, chard or savoy cabbage (depending on the season), cheese and an infusion of butter, garlic and sage. And to complete the culinary experience, be sure not to forget a taste of bresaola or slinzega (typical local cold cuts). And, of course, there’s no shortage of good wine here, and you’ll find no less than five varieties of Valtellina Superiore, all made from chiavennasca grapes, a Valtellina variant of nebbiolo: Sassella, Grumello, Valgella, Inferno and Maroggia.

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The same specialities can be found in nearby Bormio: what about a plate of pizzoccheri and a glass of Sassella after climbing the Stelvio and Gavia?

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The Dolomites

Italy Bike Territory – The Dolomites

Here, the flavours of South Tyrolean cuisine combine with those of the Mediterranean cuisine. You can discover this when you bite into spätzle or canederli, or when you try the lesser-known casunzei, a kind of ravioli made of the finest egg pasta, filled with boiled potatoes and red turnip and topped with melted butter. Every proper meal ends with a slice of local strudel, the dessert par excellence in the Dolomites. When it comes to wines, there are plenty of excellent ones: Teroldego for red wine enthusiasts, and Gewürtzraminer for those who prefer white. And what about speck from the Dolomites? Try it in a sandwich halfway round the tour, possibly in a local refuge.

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 Rome and the Apennines

Italy Bike Territory – Rome and the Apennines

When talking about Rome and the surrounding area, we can certainly mention spaghetti alla carbonara, one of the most famous and most discussed dishes in the world. If you happen to be in this area, go into one of the local trattorias and order a dish – Italian style: you will discover that apart from the pasta, egg, bacon, pecorino cheese and pepper, there is no cream! All kidding aside, although the origin of the recipe may be American, in Rome you will taste a mouth-watering dish of carbonara. Just try to spend a few days and cover many kilometres on your bike, because there are so many specialities to try: spaghetti alla gricia, cacio e pepe and all’amatriciana, artichokes alla giudìa, abbacchio, coda alla vaccinara, supplì, gnocchi alla romana. Need anything else?

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Piedmont

Italy Bike Territory – Piedmont

Piedmont is first and foremost a land of great wines. The Monferrato and Langhe regions have made this destination famous among wine lovers from all over the world. Here, where vineyards extend over the hills as far as the eye can see, excellent wines such as Barolo and Barbaresco are produced, but also great wines such as Nebbiolo (from whose grapes Barolo and Barbaresco are made), Barbera d’Alba and Asti and Arneis del Roero. With these wines, on the table you will find delicacies such as agnolotti (small ravioli filled with meat), vitello tonnato (veal in tuna sauce), anchovies in green sauce and bonet, a dessert made with eggs, sugar, cocoa, liqueur and dried macaroons. Fact: The tradition of anchovies in green sauce originates from the time of the ancient Via del Sale, when traders from Piedmont exchanged local wine and meat for oil and anchovies from nearby Liguria.

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Liguria & Finale

Italy Bike Territory – Liguria

Trofie with pesto, focaccia, sardeinara, chickpea farinata (a kind of focaccia made with water, chickpea flour, salt and extra virgin olive oil), borage ravioli, pansoti and canestrelli biscuits. All this can be found in Liguria, a land between sea and mountains and rich in food and wine traditions. From the coast to the inland villages, there are many specialities to taste, in a journey of sensory stops. If you head for the hills, it is worth stopping in Dolceacqua for a glass of Rossese wine and a tasting of Ligurian olive oil. Speaking of medieval villages, not far from Sanremo you will find Apricale: stop to taste the Pansarole con lo zabaione, pancakes to be dipped in a cream made of eggs, sugar and liqueur.

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Island of Elba

Italy Bike Territory – Island of Elba

Do you love fish? Is there anything better than an island to enjoy it fresh and prepared according to recipes with a long tradition? If you happen to be on the Island of Elba, we recommend you try the Sburrita, a fish soup flavoured with spices and vegetables, made with salt cod, wild mint, chilli pepper and Tuscan homemade bread. And to continue, order a dish of Gurguglione, a pan-fried dish of onions, peppers, aubergines, courgettes and tomatoes – strictly from the island. Lastly, Sportella, an aniseed-based cake typically made at Easter (it can also be found at other times of the year).

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Apulia

Italy Bike Territory – Apulia

A separate article could be dedicated to the culinary tradition of Apulia, so we will make it short. If you go to Apulia, don’t come back until you’ve tasted orecchiette con cime di rapa, the region’s signature dish. This is homemade ear-shaped pasta (hence the name) that is cooked with turnip greens (to give you an idea, a vegetable with leaves and inflorescences that look like small broccoli). The turnip greens are then sautéed with oil, garlic and chilli (anchovies if desired) and added to the pasta. In the version without anchovies they are a traditional vegan dish, a recipe that has been handed down for centuries even before any idea of vegetarian or vegan cooking existed. Focaccia Barese, burrata di Andria IGP and Primitivo IGT wine are other must-tries during your cycle holiday in Apulia.

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Adriatic Coast

Italy Bike Territory – Adriatic Coast

As the cradle of Italy’s regional gastronomic tradition, the Adriatic Riviera sums up the concept of “eating the Italian way”: simplicity, authenticity and taste. From the sea to the hinterland, you can discover ancient recipes and local products that are unique in the world. Fish and pasta dishes (obviously) reign supreme on the tables along the coast. If we had to mention two of them, we would definitely say try spaghetti with clams and lasagne. In the inland area, wines and cheeses are worth focusing on: Sangiovese di Romagna and Formaggio di Fossa cheese from Sogliano al Rubicone above all. And piadina? The street food of excellence in Romagna, try those from the kiosks on the beaches!

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Garda Lake

Italy Bike Territory – Garda Lake

High-quality wines and olive oil, lake fish dishes and traditional regional delicacies are a part of every trip to the Lake Garda region. Let us proceed in order. One of the most famous wines of the area is Lugana, whose vineyards are located between the southern part of the lake and the moraine hills. While staying in this area, we recommend you try the Tortellini di Valeggio sul Mincio, in meat broth or dressed with melted butter. Garda PDO olive oil is another speciality that cannot be forgotten on a food and wine cycling trip. If you love meat, we recommend the carne salada, typical of the Trentino area of the lake. As for fish from the lake, you might like to try the risotto with tench or a classic perch fillet.

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Como Lake

Italy Bike Territory – Como Lake

You are on the lake, in Lombardy. This means that the culinary tradition of the area is made up of dishes based on lake fish and polenta. The real speciality of Lake Como is missoltini with polenta, dried agoni, grilled and then served with polenta croutons – in some areas you may also find tagliolini with missoltini, a real treat accompanied by breadcrumbs, sultanas and fennel. A good risotto with perch fillet or lavarello in carpione are also traditional dishes in Como. And to end on a high note, treat yourself to a cutizza, the typical pancake found at local festivals.

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Lake Maggiore

Italy Bike Territory – Lake Maggiore

Lake fish is obviously the king of the table on Lake Maggiore. Perch, eel, pike and trout are the basic ingredients of many local dishes, concentrations of taste and tradition. If you come here during the colder season, you are sure to find comfort in a plate of eel served with polenta and sauce. More delicate palates will be delighted by the ever-present risotto with perch or trout with Alpine aromas.

The area is also renowned for its delicious cheeses, such as Bettelmatt and Gorgonzola.

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Apennines – Abruzzo

Italy Bike Territory – Abruzzo

A land of sea and mountains, Abruzzo is a region of shepherds and fishermen. In other words, on the coast you eat excellent fish and in the inland area of the region sheep are the protagonists of local specialities. Let’s start with the sea, where the typical Brodetto di pesce all’abruzzese (Abruzzo-style fish soup) is the undisputed icon of tradition: cod, red mullet, scorpion fish, squid, mantis shrimp and scampi, as well as mussels and clams, cooked in (lots of) extra virgin olive oil, garlic, tomatoes and peppers. Once in the hills, don’t miss the typical Abruzzo sheep arrosticini. And if you don’t eat meat, try a plate of ravioli with sauce. As for wines, we recommend the ever-present Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (red) and Pecorina (white).

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Umbria

Italy Bike Territory – Umbria

Umbria boasts the production of cured meats par excellence: the so-called norcineria. Among the Umbrian specialities, the coglioni di mulo (cured pork meat literally meaning “mule’s bollocks”) are a must. As the name suggests, this pork-based sausage has a typical saddlebag shape. Pasta alla Norcina is the Umbrian dish par excellence. There are two recipes: the main ingredients of the first are sausage and cream, served with penne or tagliatelle, sometimes with a sprinkling of truffle. The second recipe is prepared with long pasta (tagliatelle or linguine) combined with black truffles from Norcia, anchovies, olive oil and garlic.

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Tuscany

Italy Bike Territory – Tuscany

Wine, meat, fish, cheese, pasta, cured meats, oil: in Tuscany, everything is delicious. Here are a few tips for sampling the traditional must-tries. Home of the “ciccia” (meat, as Tuscany puts it), this region offers several (naturally and unknowingly) vegan delicacies: ribollita (vegetable soup made with black cabbage, beans and bread croutons), pici all’aglione, pappa al pomodoro and panzanella above all. For meat lovers, try a Florentine steak (the one from Panzano is sublime). If you move to the coast, don’t forget a bowl of caciucco, the typical Tuscan fish soup. Wine? Chianti, if you don’t want to go wrong.

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Veneto

Italy Bike Territory – Veneto

Umbria boasts the production of cured meats par excellence: the so-called norcineria. Among the Umbrian specialities, the coglioni di mulo (cured pork meat literally meaning “mule’s bollocks”) are a must. As the name suggests, this pork-based sausage has a typical saddlebag shape. Pasta alla Norcina is the Umbrian dish par excellence. There are two recipes: the main ingredients of the first are sausage and cream, served with penne or tagliatelle, sometimes with a sprinkling of truffle. The second recipe is prepared with long pasta (tagliatelle or linguine) combined with black truffles from Norcia, anchovies, olive oil and garlic.

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