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

Sardinian wines for dummies – Part 2, Red wines.

Sardinian wines for dummies – Part 2, Red wines.

Growing quality

Up to few decades ago, sardinian wines were use to blend softer nothern italian ones.
Then some local producer start improving vinification techniques, creating very elegant wines. 2015 has been a great year for our winemakers, able to receive many important prices.

Sardinian red wine

As for the withes, I’ll tell about the better known wines, about the ones you may know less, and about the ones you’d like to discover. For each wine I suggest a bottle of red and one of Rosè when interesting.

The one you know

Cannonau
Our most famous wine, has an ancient history, and probably is the father of the Grenache. As strong as the production areas, has a ruby color, reminds about red berries and pomegranate. Alcoholic, dry, it doesn’t have too much tannins. It’s produced mostly in central eastern Sardinia, and in Oliena area gets the name of Nepente.
The bottle
Red: Nepente riserva – Gostolai. Because Antonino Arcadu puts love and technique in his wine.
Rosé: Eressia – Sedilesu. Because you’ll be surprised by the freshness of this Cannonau

Sardinian Cannonau red wine

The ones you knwo less

Monica
It’s a lovely and simple wine, soft with red berries bouquet, with a sweet yet never boring aftertaste. Is grown mostly in the southern Sardinia.
The bottle: Perdera – Argiolas. Because this is the symbol of hard work: a simple wine made beautifully.

Carignano
Personally is my favorite red wine. Important, with a rich and powerful bouquet, its grapes can grow even on the sand. Its best production zone is in the south west on the Sulcis region.
The bottle
Red: Rocca Rubia – Cantina sociale di Santadi. Because you really can’t imagine its perfumes.
Rosé: Rosa Grande – Mesa. Because it’s cool, wine and label too.

Sardinian Carignano red wine

The ones you should know about

Cagnulari
This precious grape is cultivated in the north west around Usini, a small village close to Alghero, on clay soil hills. Ruby and with scents of red berries, has a distinctive spiced taste that makes this wine so interesting.
The bottle: Cagnulari – Chessa. Because you’ll feel all the passion of the family that creates this wine.

Muristellu
This is the ancient sardinian Bovale. It can be produced in a single variety vinification, giving (to my taste) a pointy wine.
I prefer it when blended with Monica and Cannonau, as they do in the Mandrolisai area, a beautiful garden of vineyards right in the middle of the island.
The bottle: Mandrolisai superiore – Cantina del Mandrolisai. Because it’s a superb blend.

Red wines of Sardinia

Nieddera
Little more than 100 hectares cultivated just in the Oristano area, give this beautiful and rare wine. With right amount of tannin, it has an huge quantity of polyphenols. I’ve always said it was healthy 😉 It’s my favourite among Roses.
The bottle
Red: Spinarba – Orro. Because Davide Orro works hard to preserve good agricolture.
Rosé: Nieddera – Contini. Because this was the wine of local farmers, and was made rosé.

Next time we’ll discover dessert and meditation wines, to keep discovering unique flavours and ancient history.

Part 1 – Whites

Sardinian wines for dummies – Part 1, White Wines

Sardinian wines for dummies – Part 1, White Wines

This short journey want to tell about the most known sardinian wines and grapes, some you may don’t know that well and some you’d like to discover.
To each wine I suggest an easy to find bottle with a good value for money.

Sardinian wines

I’m not a sommelier, neither a super expert, I just love wine (as you can tell) and thanks of my job I have the chance to taste wines and get to know winemakers. So I want to share this passion with you. Salludi! (Cheers!)

Winemakers since 3000 years

The nuragic sardinians (early bronze age) knew about wine. The final proof has arrived this year, thanks to the discovery of 15 thousands grape seeds found in the nuragic well of Sa Osa, in Cabras. The DNA research allowed to understand that those seeds are closer relatives of local sardinian grapes.
Again it’s thanks to DNA that we identified more than 120 different grapes, putting Sardinia among the italian regions with the largest number of local wines.

Like a proper wine tasting, let’s start with whites 🙂

The one you know

Vermentino
Fresh, with almonds and citrus bouquets, it’s the perfect summer wine.
The only Sardinian DOCG ( certified and guaranteed denomination of origin), gives its best in the granites of Gallura. It can be grown in many other areas, developing distinctive tastes related to each terroir.
The bottle: Giogantinu – Cantina sociale del Giogantinu

Sardinian wines

The ones you know less

Nuragus
Full bodied and yellow, grown in all southern Sardinia, was the most typical white table wine. Several winemakers reinterpret it, being able to smoothen its strong identity with a touch of elegance.
The Bottle: S’Elegas – Argiolas

Torbato
This delicate wine has a difficult vinification because of its thick skin grapes. It’s cultivated just in the Alghero area, gives a pale yellow wine with green glares and with a slightly bitter aftertaste.
With or without bubbles, It’s always a perfect aperitif.
The bottle: Torbato brut – Sella e Mosca

The one you should kow about

Semidano di Mogoro
Semidano is a fresh wine with a delicate acidity. Its bouquet has white fruit and herbs, has a very pale yellow color, It’s cultivated just in the Mogoro area.
The bottle: Semidano – Cantina sociale di Mogoro

Sardinian wines

Now it’s your turn, tell us about your favorites sardinian wines, we’ll discover them as son as possible 🙂
On next article we’ll present our selection of red and rosé ones, happy wine to everybody!