Friday, June 19, 2020

Getting Dirty in Sicily

Harry & Leather get dirty in Sicily

Until just last week travel was still restricted in Italy due to the pandemic so we decided to explore more of Sicily with bicycles. Currently plans are to allow visitors to Italy from the USA without quarantine starting in July so check with us if you'd like to enjoy Piedmont Cycling Resort in 2020. And while we we're at it during this restricted period, why not help out a local tour operator since we're all stuck on the island? 

ETNA Bike Tours got the call! You can see our itinerary (as well as all of their other offerings) via the link provided. They're now fully open for business but normally need 4 participants to make a tour viable so we suggested if/when they could come up with 2 more to contact us and we'd join them. They instead proposed running it with just the two of us. We weren't going to turn that down, especially as they asked for no increase in price, so we signed up.

They even picked us up right here on Ortigia (at a small extra charge) so we could get started riding right away. As you can see above, Italians are taking the pandemic seriously and following the recommended protocols, including masks when you can't respect the social-distance.

After a short transfer and stop for espresso and change of clothing we jumped on the MTB's they provided after installing our favorite SMP saddles. We always seem to be in-between S and M on bikes sold in t-shirt sizes, but a bit too small is way better than a bit too big! We began on the slopes of Mt. Etna on a Saturday along with plenty of others out on this popular trail - probably because it's easy to get-to from Catania. Normally ETNA Bike Tours would pick you up upon arrival at the Fontanarossa (CTA) airport. 

A lot of this day's riding was double-track with a carpet of pine needles along with a few spots like these. BELLA, no?

Eventually we got to the lava fields, no way around them unless you want to do out-and-back, which was not our plan - we had a guide to drive a vehicle around so we could ride to our night's lodging where our luggage awaited!

We're not big fans of bouncing over large lava rocks but it was just the first day and we really wanted to experience ETNA, so bounce we did.

Our favorite day's ride was our third of the tour. You might be able to see some details HERE. We climbed up a steep paved road in a natural forest preserve to arrive at some really fun double-track with no huge rocks to bounce over. We really had fun, remembering why we got into MTB's in the first place.

For us, there's no pedala forte (and there was plenty of that!) without the mangia bene and ETNA Bike Tours has that covered as well. Maurizio is certainly a buona forchetta who enjoys sharing his knowledge of the best local specialties and where to find them.

Maurizio was there with us every day, helped on various days by Una or JoAnn, ex-pats who like us, have fallen in love with Sicilia and moved here permanently.

More from our favorite riding day.

The final day we rode (mostly) downhill to Giardini Naxos as Heather wanted to check out the museum there. Maurizio and Una rode with us while another staffer, Sergio drove the van down there so we could skip the long slog inland (and uphill!) back to our lodging. GRAZIE!!!

We've worked with a few bike tour biz colleagues over the decades but none as nice or as well-organized as ETNA Bike Tours.  Same with their bicycles - mechanically they were perfect (grazie Sergio!) unlike so many rental bikes that seem to see professional servicing only when they stop working entirely.

We look forward to having them visit us at Piedmont Cycling Resort in the future. 


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