377: How the project was born

377: How the project was born

377 Project is an art project dedicated to Sardinia.

The artist is Sebastiano Dessanay, he will bike across every single town of Sardinia: 377 towns in 377 days.

The very start

It was about a year ago, I’ve got a call from Sebastiano, he was still in Uk at that time:

“Hi Simo, I’d like to do a bike tour across all towns of Sardinia”

Very good.

“I want to spend a day per each single village, so the whole tour will last 377 days, that’s the number of Sardinian towns”

Terrific!

“Well, I don’t just want ride across them by bike, I want to narrate them through my music”

Fantastic, marvelous, enchanting!!!

“Do you really think I’d be able to realize something like that?”

I’m telling you: you MUST do that!

A month later, during a friend’s wedding, the idea started to come to life.

“I’d need a decent bike”

That’s easy, the world is plenty of bicycles. But just in case you have problems, do you know how to fix a bike?

“Ehm…not really”

Well, this needs to be fixed 🙂

The very same day he had a proper touring bike, supplied by Sandro of Dolcevita and a scheduled bike mechanic class with our friends of Ciclofficina Sella del Diavolo. Many friends, little problems, as we say in Italy. We were the very first “sponsor” of this adventure. And very proud too 🙂

The idea becomes a project

It was spring, with Marcello and Sandro we met Sebastiano in Cagliari. He brought a large sheet of transparent paper, with the drawing of Sardinia’s map contour. On the map he appointed all names of Sardinian Villages without the roads. I had a map with me, by the way it was the exact scale of the one he used to draw the contour. We put his map over mine, and the four of us started dreaming like kids about the best roads from a village to the next. That time we’ve had the idea of a tour starting from his ancestor’s town, Nuoro, then ending in the capital of Sardinia, Cagliari.

We designed a tour covering the whole region like a spiral, leaving the coldest areas for the warmest months and the warmer southern coastline for the upcoming winter. We had few dinners since then, the pic was taken in my kitchen just two days before the official start.

Art is about giving

This project shows the whole dedication, planning and pragmatism of Sebastiano, he left his job and invested all his resources on this challenge. As simply as that. He’s creating a piece of art out of a bike tour. A project inspired as well to the beauty of Maria Lai art, since it really unites the communities of the Island.

Well, what I like the most of 377 Project is that Sebastiano is not just receiving hospitality, food, emotions, but he is truly giving back this piece of art to whole Sardinia.

Cycling areas of Tuscany

Cycling areas of Tuscany

This is a quick overlook about cycling areas of Tuscany, giving an idea about terrain, landscapes, traffic and kind of tourism you’ll find in each area.

Tuscany cycling areas

The North – From Versilia shores to the Garfagnana mountains

This is one of favorite areas for training, a perfect location for Pro cycling teams.
Here you’ll find long, flat and straight roads along the coast, then several and severe climbs as soon as you move inland. The coast is a sequence of beach hotels (some quite big) so the coast is busy during summer.
Our ideal base for a cycling holiday on the area would be Lucca, because it’s elegant city center nestled on its Renaissance walls. This town is not as crowded as other Tuscan cities, yet offers charming accommodations and fantastic restaurants.
There’s very little traffic around Lucca, plus a cycling path taking you from Lucca to Viareggio.
From there you can ride along the coast passing popular places like Marina di Pietrasanta and Forte dei Marmi, all the way north until Carrara. If you head for the inland…well, it’s better you like climbing 🙂

Central Tuscany – The Chianti,Val d’Orcia, Crete…iconic countryside

Winding roads and cypress trees, that’s the Tuscany that comes in mind when you start thinking about a cycling tour in this region. Just to embrace the area in cardinal points, if you put Siena in the center, it has Volterra on the west, Montalcino and the slopes of Amiata mountain in the South, Rapolano thermal baths in the west and the Chianti area in the north. Considering that this is the most important touristic area of Tuscany, we’d suggest to avoid the warmest months of the year, not just for the heat but also because of the traffic. There’s lots of tourism also during spring and early fall, but on our tours we use many small roads with very little traffic. It’s the area that offers the highest number of charming hotels, castles and villas of the region, with plenty of wines, wineries, and vineyards.
If you opt for a base in the Chianti, we’d recommend to ride some stretch of “Strade Bianche”, the tuscan unpaved roads made popular thanks to the Eroica bike ride.
The hills are not that big, but it takes to consider that many villages are beautifully hilltop located, so do not expect super easy rides.
In the south we’d stay near San Quirico d’Orcia, thus having the chance to ride either west to Montalcino or east to Pienza and Montepulciano.

valdorcia

Eastern Tuscany – Valdichiana, Valdarno and Casentino

Passed the Valdarno, there’s still a lot to explore.
The area has Arezzo in the center, Cortona in the east and the Vallombrosa natural reserve north.
Arezzo is another jewel, and the frescos of Piero della Francesca worth a whole trip. The town isn’t that big, but traffic makes entering and leaving it a bit tricky.
Heading north from Arezzo, a popular cycling road is the SP 1, called “Setteponti”, almost a natural terrace with some superb views over the countryside. This road will lead you until the Vallombrosa natural reserve, a quiet, shady and thick forest, with a fantastic climb taking you up to the Casentino mountains. It’s really cool in summer, and can be very chilly during fall and spring.
Our favorite cycling base in the eastern Tuscany is Cortona, offering some of the most enchanting sunset of Tuscany. This is the place described on the famous book “under the Tuscan Sun”, and it’s not overrated at all. What we like the most is riding south towards Trasimeno Lake, gaining the views from Castiglion sul Lago but also the ones over Umbrian hamlets untouched by mass tourism and surrounded by a peaceful countryside like Gioiella.

South West – Cycling the Amiata to the charmingly rustic Maremma. Elba island

If you like training, the best is staying close to the Amiata mountain, and start with a great loop ride arund the slopes of the mountain, about 75 km with 1500 meters of climbing.
South of Monte Amiata, with Grosseto in the center, we can divide the Maremma in south and north. This is a quite rural area, still untouched by the tuscan touristic flow, a region that doesn’t pose yet offers great food and landscapes.
The southern part of Maremma offers quite rolling hills with the scenic towns of Pitigliano and Sovana. Those medieval towns along with the village of Sorano create the archaeological park of Tufa stone towns. This is the area of our Etruscan explorer tour, arriving to Saturnia, to us the most scenic thermal baths of whole Tuscany. If you like sea views pedal on the scenic natural reserve of Orbetello, but north of Grosseto we’d suggest to ride inland than along the coast. The road connecting Massa Marittima to Suvereto and arriving until Castagneto Carducci and Bolgheri gives an out of ordinary cycling ride. Then there’s the Elba, lovely island that with a small effort will give you plenty of emotions. Just don’t go there during summer season, too many cars for such a small island.

Cycling areas of Sicily

Cycling areas of Sicily

Sicily is a vast region with plenty of different landscapes, so it’s quite difficult to pick the best cycling area. For sure a bike tour in the south east it’s very diverse from a tour inland…unless you want to do our Sicily Bike Expedition, covering almost the whole region 🙂
We are in love with this island, yet we need to say that you may see litter along the roads, especially close to main cities. This is disturbing, but extensively compensated by its food, wines, immense culture and lovely people.

Sicily_cycling_areas

The West

It’s the most Arabic part of Sicily, you’ll find this in the food, architecture and even the people. There’s a good hotel selection near the main towns, and some nice Agriturismo (farmland called “Bagli”) inland.
There are fantastic beaches like San Vito lo Capo and stunning view points like Erice, the countryside is cultivated and there are some marvelous vineyards. This is for sure a great cycling area.
Terrain
flat/rolling along the coast, rolling inland.

The North

Palermo is a flamboyant city, and you deserve visiting it. Avoid the cycling along first stretch from Palermo to Cefalu, there’s traffic and it’s not so appealing.
Starting from Cefalu the coastline gives some great views over the ocean, with the Eolian Islands in the distance during clear days. Messina greets you with Ganzirri lagoon and the views over the “Stretto”, the strait separating Sicily from Italy main land.
Terrain
Gently rolling with few climbs to the top of some villages along the coast, and serious climbs going inland to Nebrodi and Madonie mountains.

The South East

Probably this is the best cycling area of the whole region, thanks to the heritage of Baroque, a neat countryside and a vast offer of charming hotels. Not to mention the food…but this apply to all Sicily. All towns of the area always have an incredible historical center, one of the ones we like the most is Ragusa, with its views of ancient Ragusa Ibla.
The peaceful countryside is garnished with endlessly limestone walls, and the coast hosts towns like the charming Siracusa and sandy beaches like the ones south of Modica.
Terrain
Hilly, with some proper climbs to reach the hilltop villages and to get on top of Monti Iblei plateau.

The Inland

This is the less touristic part of Sicily, so do not expect to find charming accommodations everywhere. Yet you’ll be rewarded with the serenity of this part of the region.
Vast grain fields and flocks of sheep, deserted roads and “vintage” villages, riding here makes you feeling you are really off the beaten path.
Terrain
You’ll find big hills, so the climbs are not steep but can be long.

The Etna

We totally love this majestic Volcano, with its extremely neat villages built with basaltic black stone. The views, either towards the mountain or to the coastline, are unbelievable on clear days, and the countryside is very well kept with little litter compared to other areas of the region.
Terrain
Well, Etna is a 3300 meters mountain (about 10k feet), and of course if you want it’s plenty of climbing. Fortunately it’s possible to ride on its slopes, along the roads connecting charming villages like Zafferana, Pedara, Linguaglossa and so on. On the other side there’s Bronte, famous for its typical Pistachio.

The South

The cycling from Sciacca to Agrigento is lovely, our tours follow some small roads along the coast, exploring the inland when it gets more interesting.The Valle dei Templi just outside of Agrigento, is one of the highlights of whole Sicily. There are some beautiful spots along the coast, like Siculiana and the famous Scala dei Turchi rock formation. The less interesting part goes from Agrigento to Gela, because of oil refineries and industrial areas.
Terrain
Mostly flat, with some gentle rolling roads.

Creating cycling tours in Sicily

Creating cycling tours in Sicily

White church, Erice

We’ve just come back from a great week of designing cycling tours in Sicily, meaning the whole Sicily 🙂
We were there to tune our tours in the region, here you can have a look at our Sicily bike expedition.
Long story short we were driving our car something like 10 hrs per day, scouting every single km of the roads we will pedal, checking the hotels, restaurants and experiences we’ll propose on our Sicilian tours. And of course doing lots of work at desk, adjusting the routes at the pc and working at the pics…bravo Marcello!

Itinerary in a glimpse

We flew from Cagliari to Trapani, got a rental car and drove all Sicily clock wise, heading immediately to Palermo, along the northern coast, up to the Etna, down to Messina, south to Siracusa and Ragusa, inland to Piazza Armerina, back to the coast in Agrigento and eventually west to Trapani….all of that along small countryside roads, of course!
We promise, creating a tour it’s not an exactly relaxing holiday 🙂

cycling sicily

Palermo traffic and Monreale majestic serenity

Palermo is extremely fascinating, you may not fall in love with this big city, but there’s an incredible energy. Well, the traffic is insane, luckily there are some areas where cars can’t get in, we love Ballarò and Vucciria markets, especially at evening, so cool!
Monreale cathedral is an absolute work of art created uniting skills and cultures, its mosaics are just stunning.

Monreale

From the sea of Cefalu up to the Etna volcano and down to the strait of Messina.

The first part of the coast from Palermo to Cefalu is not interesting for cycling, but in Cefalu we’ll appreciate the several restaurants over the sea and the charm of this fisherman village.
We left Cefalu along the coast, then we went inland climbing the Nebrodi mountains then the Etna with its Pistacchio groves. The fog made everything mysterious, we were intrigued by those volcanic stone neat villages.
Down from the Etna we’ve drive along the west coast of Sicily, nothing to die for, but the views from Taormina and the ones over the Stretto (Messina strait) with the toe of Italy on the other side are quite something. And we are particularly proud to have selected a super nice hotel overlooking the Ganzirri lagoon, we’ll have the freshest mussels you can imagine!

Magna Grecia in Siracusa, Baroque of Ragusa and Piazza Armerina

…and then Siracusa, with another incredible Cathedral, a Greek, Arabic and Norman imposing temple, the legendary Aretusa fresh water spring right in front of the ocean, the peaceful and silent countryside with proper limestone stone walls, and the allure of Ragusa with the labyrinthic Ibla, ending with the serene agricultural countryside of Piazza Armerina.

Ragusa at night

Temple valley in Agrigento and fisherman heritage of Sciacca and Mazara

Scouting a tour doesn’t means that you have to find a route. It means that you have to find “the best” route. So the stage between Agrigento and Piazza Armerina is one of the reason that will take us back to Sicily soon, we want the best ever route :). We cannot describe the stunning beauty of the Temple Valley, and here too we’ve selected another outstanding hotel, with unparalleled views on the temples. Just this worth the trip.
We’ve head west along small backroads, with the north african vibes in Sciacca and Mazara, exploring the Kasbah district and watching the fisherman boats coming back from a day in the sea.

Saltwork of Marsala and Trapani, conquering the castle of Erice

After the rain of first days we ended the week with warm weather and lots of sun, appreciating the beauty of the saltworks of Mozia and the elegance of Marsala and Trapani old town, with its peninsula stretched along the sea. From here we’ve explored the all area around the medieval village Erice, with its charming labyrinth of cobblestone streets and stone houses. On the way down we’ve been chasing a group of cyclists flying down the road…please don’t go that fast while in tour with us 🙂

Cycling through Mozia saltworks, Sicily

Three unique islands – The Mediterranean Ride

Three unique islands – The Mediterranean Ride

Epic bike journey across 3 beautiful yet so diverse islands, Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily. What makes them unique?

The Mediterranean Ride map

Ok, there is no question that we are talking about 3 cycling paradises, and certainly you fall madly in love with each one of them. But what really makes them different?

The sun, the beauty and quality of life would seem to be the only features shared by these three islands.
In fact, despite their proximity, this three jewels of the Mediterranean have a very different history, landscape, gastronomy and national character, sometimes wildly different!
I mean, if you are in Corsica with a smile on your face they may ask themselves: “Is he okay??”.
If you are in Sicily without a smile on your face they may ask directly to you “Are you okay??”.

Those differences make the wealth of the Mediterranean. As we’ll cross the islands by bike, sometimes they’ll look so similar, then suddenly we’ll discover something unique, making them looking like worlds apart.
Come on, let’s learn more about similarities and differences that we will discover along our journey:

Landscapes and landmarks

  • Corsica – Les Agriates, Les Calanques de Piana, Bonifacio cliffs
  • Sardinia – Costa Smeralda, Supramonte, Nuraghe Arrubiu
  • Sicily – The Cathedral of Monreale, Ragusa Ibla, Etna volcano

Rides

  • Corsica – The road D81 from Piana to Porto
  • Sardinia – The road SS125 from Dorgali to Baunei
  • Sicily – The road SS187 from Balata di Baida to Valderice

Traditional music

  • Corsica – Paghjella
  • Sardinia – Canto a Tenore
  • Sicily – U Ballettu

Three Wines

  • Corsica – Niellucciu, Scicarellu, Muscatel
  • Sardinia – Vermentino di Gallura, Nepente, Malvasia di Cagliari
  • Sicily – Marsala, Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Zibibbo

Three Cheese

  • Corsica – Brocciu, Niolo, Casgiu Sartinesu
  • Sardinia – Fiore Sardo, Casizzolu, Pecorino Romano
  • Sicily – Caciocavallo, Canestrato, Ricotta secca

Three Dishes

  • Corsica – Aziminu, Figateli, Canistrelli
  • Sardinia – Suppa cuata, Maccarrones de Punzu, Sa Burrida
  • Sicily – Arancini, Caponata, Cannoli.

Fruits and vegetables

  • Corsica – Clementine, Chestnuts and Hazelnuts
  • Sardinia – Carciofo spinoso, Grano Cappelli, Oliva bosana
  • Sicily – Tarocco siciliano, Capperi, Eggplant

Personalities

  • Corsica – Pasquale Paoli, Napoleone Bonaparte, Angelo Mariani
  • Sardinia – Antonio Gramsci, Grazia Deledda, Paolo Fresu
  • Sicily – Federico II, Luigi Pirandello, Giuseppe Tornatore

Bandits

  • Corsica – André Spada
  • Sardinia – Samuele Stocchino
  • Sicily – Salvatore Giuliano

Famous Cyclist

  • Sardinia – Fabio Aru
  • Sicily – Vincenzo Nibali
  • Corsica – He’s coming… 🙂