THE BLOG
02/13/2014 03:20 pm ET Updated Apr 15, 2014

14 Things We Love About Italy

reasons-to-love-italy

Italy is a top travel destination for cyclists for good reason: challenging hills, temperate climate, mouth-watering cuisine and fascinating history all make for an unforgettable holiday. Year after year, our self-guided bicycle vacations in Italy continue to be Pure Adventures' top-selling tours. In honor of Valentine's Day (and to celebrate how much cyclists love Italy), here are the top 14 reasons to visit this amazing destination.

Tuscany's Heritage

Cycling in Tuscany is one of the best ways to experience this famously romantic countryside and three UNESCO heritage sites: Florence, San Gimignano and Siena. Did you know that the Palazzi Churches and museums in Florence contain more art than any other city in the world? The hilly terrain in our Florence to Chianti five-day tour make it popular with fit cyclists wanting a challenging yet scenic ride.

Puglia's Architecture

You may have heard of Puglia, but where is it? Found in the "boot heel" area of Italy, Puglia (also known as Apulia) produces one-tenth of the wine consumed in Europe and its olive oil is renowned. What makes Puglia distinctive is it's unique architecture, most notably Alberobello, a world heritage site. This small town in the Bari province is known for the conical shaped white Trulli dating back to the 13th century. Painted with strange symbols on their roofs, there are nearly 1,000 Trulli in this village. Cyclists visiting Puglia rave about the easy, rolling landscapes. 

Sicily's Friendliness

Influenced by so many cultures, Sicilian cuisine is surprisingly lavish, while the people are very warm -- just like the sunny island itself. Pure Adventures' self guided cycling tour in Sicily Italy takes you back in time and to a calm and simple way of life that has been host to numerous cultures of many millenniums.

Tuscany's Romance

Famously romantic, Tuscany is renowned for its picturesque countryside, sunny climate and of course -- the food: wines, pecorino cheese, olive oils, and local hospitality. Be sure to spend time in Siena, one of the best preserved Medieval towns in the world.Charming accommodations, friendly locals and epic cycling make our seven-day  self-guided tour a favorite for newlyweds who love to ride.

Umbria's Truffles

Experience the best of Italian life in Umbria. Authentic cuisine rules here: truffles, mushrooms, homemade pasta, game and fantastic red wines such as Sagrantino and Torgiano as well as white wines like Orvieto. The countryside is like a painting with a thousand colors; the silver-green of the olive groves, the yellow of the sunflowers and the red of the poppies against the green of the wheat. We highly recommend taking part in the optional cooking or wine tasting classes offered on our eight-day tour, but foodies will definitely want to book the fun and informative truffle hunting excursion with culinary superstar Augusto Tocci!

The Dolomites' Majesty

Located in northeastern Italy, the Dolomites are a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts including mountain climbers, skiers, hikers and cyclists. Charming towns and premium vineyards are another reason travelers flock here. See the best of the Dolomites and the Alps from your saddle on our easy self-guided tour -- most of the days feature rolling countryside roads or are downhill!

Piedmont's Wines

The heart of one of the most prestigious wine regions of Italy: the beautiful land of Barolo in the Piedmont region. The rise of the famous wines of Piedmont are from the successful growth of the  distinguished Nebbiolo grape. Mostly grown one small parcels of land owned by family estates, Piedmont produces the largest number of prize-winning wines, such as Barbera, Barolo, Barbaresco, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo, Grignolino, Malvasia and Asti Spumante. Pure Adventures offers a self-guided tour of the Piedmont region, a moderate eight days of cycling set against rolling green hills, with the white peaks of the Alps as a backdrop.

Venice's Canals

Renowned for the beauty of its setting and architecture, undoubtedly Venice is most famous for its network of canals and bridges. Venice has been known the "City of Water," "City of Bridges," "The Floating City,", and "City of Canals" because of its iconic labyrinth of waterways. Located in northeastern Italy, the entire city of Venice (all 118 interconnected islands!) was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. See Venice on your final day of Pure Adventure's self guided Veneto to Venice tour.

Orvieto's Underground City

Situated on the flat summit of a large piece of volcanic rock, the site of this Umbrian city is among the most dramatic in all of Europe. Once you see it -- rising above the near-vertical cliff faces that are completed by defensive stone walls -- you'll understand why. But perhaps the most intriguing thing about Orvieto is the secret underground city -- a labyrinth of caves, tunnels and passageways that lie beneath the surface which served as a means of escape for the noble families during times of siege. Spend time in Orvieto on Pure Adventures' nine-day self guided tour of Tuscany and Umbria.

Sardinia's Sunny Climate

Who needs the tropics when you can visit the charming country of Sardinia? The second largest island in the Mediterranean, Sardinia offers all the sand, sun and sea that you can handle, yet somehow manages to maintain its old-world charm. During summer months, the whole area is abuzz with visitors, while spring and fall bring quieter times, pleasant climate and picturesque landscapes covered in vibrant wildflowers. From coastline to mountain ranges, Sardinia runs the gambit and provides some spectacularly diverse scenery to behold.

Assisi's Castles

This lovely little town boasts a surprising number of sacred destinations including the Basilica of St. Francis, with its impeccably groomed grounds and impressive architecture. Built in the 1200's, the structure's grandiose and extravagant design contradicts the simple life of the man for whom it memorializes. In addition to this there is the St. Mary the Greater, which is believe to be Assisi's earliest extant church. The town is also dominated by two medieval castles, parts of which remain open to the public. Spend time in Assisi on Pure Adventures' 9 day self guided tour of Tuscany and Umbria.

Montepulciano's Traditions

This interesting little town is home to several famous structures, some delectable wines, and some rather unique traditions. Visitors here can sit back and enjoy a taste of the town's fine Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Rosso di Montepulciano wines. And those lucky enough to be cycling through in August may be able to witness one of Montepulciano's most famous traditions -- barrel rolling. During what's known as Bravìo delle Botti, representatives from each of the city's eight districts compete in rolling a heavy wine barrel 1.5 kilometer to the Piazza Grande. The winners get to keep the wine. Perhaps the best part of this competition is that the celebration carries on for days following the big event.

Siena's Car-Free Streets

This delightfully charming city offers a virtual step back in time to those who pass through. With its ancient city wall still intact, visitors often muse that it seems time has somehow stood still in Siena. The heart of the town, known as the Piazza del Campo, is lined with various restaurants and quaint cafés and is home to the famous fountain Fonte Gaia. Siena also boasts a multitude of museums which are filled with unique pieces of art and offer a glimpse into the town's culture and history. If that's not enough, the simple fact that there are no vehicles to contend with makes Siena a prime place to cycle.

Pienza's Perfection

Widely regarded as the "ideal" city of the Renaissance, Pope Pius II transformed the Italian village he was born in, into his vision of a perfect city. The Pope used his influence and affluence (assisted by architect Bernardo il Rossellino and humanist Leon Battista Alberti) to build a group of Renaissance inspired structures that are among the most photographed in Italy. Added to UNESCO's World Heritage List in 1996, we think that Pienza is pretty perfect too. Spend time in Pienza on our challenging 7 day self-guided cycling tour in the Tuscany region.