Our non-riding partner program on our Italian cycling tours is unique – both in its curation and in how it’s delivered. Born out of a desire to give couples, friends and family members the opportunity to share the tour experience with a cyclist, our program ensures that non-riders enjoy a meaningful travel experience in their own right. It’s our focus on our non-riding partners’ experience, together with the curation of our diverse programs, that sets us apart. Our non-riding partners are central to our offering and while the experience is rewarding to share for the couple, mother/daughter or friends involved, it is equally rewarding for our overall group experience as we join together around the dinner table in the evenings and share our experiences from the day – it’s a balanced, diverse conversation with various learnings shared from cyclists and non-riding partners alike.
So what can a non-riding partner expect from our tours and how do the programs across different tours vary? These are just a couple of the questions we are asked by guests who are planning on joining us with a non-riding partner, and so here we share our answers – both from an overall perspective, and with a look into each tour.
5 Key Elements To Our Non-Riding Program Curation
Overall, there are 5 key elements that drive the curation of every tour’s non-riding partner program. While each tour has its own flavour and tone, based on the essential nature of the region we are in, non-riding partners can expect a similar small group experience and general set of activities on every tour, with the emphasis on various activities shifting from tour to tour.
1. An Active Adventure – as a cycling tour operator, our focus is on our cycling guests experiencing the best of Italy on a bike, while enjoying the rewards of an active and often challenging adventure. This same philosophy and set of beliefs also applies to our non-riding partner program where being active is an essential part of every program. From hikes and walks in nature, to enjoying yoga in the garden and water-oriented activities such as kayaking and swimming, we believe in curating active adventures;
2. A Small Group Experience – it is important for our non-riding partners to enjoy sharing a small group experience during the days, which may include from 1-5 other non-riding guests. This requires being open-minded, flexible and enjoying experiences that sometimes may not be the activities you would choose for yourself, but which are extending your experience of a place, a culture, or what it means to travel in groups;
3. Cultural Experiences that Immerse you with Locals – our tours are all about immersion – from the diverse food and wine experience we curate to the accommodations we stay in, and the non-riding and post-ride activities we include, we believe that time with locals, is an important element to the program and to your overall experience. This is why for our non-riding partner program, Nancy selects a handful of authentic guides and partners with whom guests share the experience – it means that a ‘cooking class’ is often so much more than just that, it’s actually a day of cultural immersion with a family where you’ll learn about food, quality, family culture and language;
4. Expert Guiding Interactions – in a country that is so deep in history, culture and monumental sites, we believe that having expert guides for different elements of our program is also key to your experience. Whether it’s a volcanologist guiding us on our hike of Mount Etna, an anthropologist guiding us in Siracusa, a nature guide accompanying us on hike in the Dolomites, or a local guide in Alberobello or Siena helping us appreciate how their beautiful town not only helped shape their history and culture, but also their family life and experiences growing up, these are the essential characteristics we look for in our expert partners and guides that make your experience so much richer;
5. Free Time For You – we believe in having space to breathe and free time to enjoy what you want to enjoy – even within a group tour experience. This is why we like to create opportunities for our non-riding guests to enjoy time out. Whether you choose to skip a hike because it’s not your thing, sit out a walking tour or a cooking class to enjoy the sights and sounds of a town we’re staying in, or just want a day out to enjoy your own photography, writing or drawing, this is absolutely encouraged – and sometimes we’ll create these ‘free’ opportunities for all non-riding guests;
Our Tour By Tour Curation
Our Sicily Cycling Tour
Sicily is an island of wonder; so richly diverse in nature and deep in its distinct culture.
In Sicily, our program taps into the sights, traditions and cultural influences left behind by the Greeks, Romans, Spaniards and the Arabs, while also embracing the absolute beauty that Sicily is blessed with – its natural environment.
We enjoy 3-4 amazing hikes across Sicily, including Mount Etna. Each hike is distinctly different and equally amazing, with generally 2 out of 3 expertly guided by the most knowledgeable local guides, and all hikes range in length from 8-10km, on undulating terrain.
Complementing our hikes in nature are a range of walking tours of historic towns in the west, and also the baroque towns in the east, including Siracusa and the beautiful Taormina. Learning about their history, architecture, most notable monuments, and how the various civilisations throughout the centuries have left their mark, is an important element of our walking tours.
Finally, to ensure you leave Sicily fully immersed in the local culture and food traditions, you’ll often experience a selection of either a cooking class and olive oil tasting, learn about the ancient art of chocolate making and enjoy the delights of Sicilian pistachios.
Giro Cycling Tour
One of the most exciting elements of the Giro is that our tour destinations change each year, making the design and curation of the overall tour, and the non-riding partner program as part of it, an adventure-filled challenge. However, while the destinations change, we almost always spend 60-70% of our time in the Alps and Dolomites – and this makes it a tour that lends itself to the more active type of non-riding partner who loves hiking and the outdoors – and of course, who loves being amongst the action of the Giro with our cycling group – this definitely makes for some great fun.
In 2024, we’ll spend the first 3 days of our Giro cycling tour in the Alps, and more specifically in the Stelvio National Park, where we’ll enjoy hikes in nature, one of which will be expertly guided. The hikes are 10-15km in length and of medium intensity, and they certainly are not overly challenging, but they are incredibly rewarding. We’ll also take in some of the Giro action around Bormio.
We’ll then move across to the Dolomites and enjoy some spectacular scenery from one of the most iconic viewpoints in the Dolomites – enjoying a funicular ride up and some walking on the ridge. This day out in the Dolomites will be sure to remain etched in your memory forever and is also the perfect day for any budding photographer.
Following the Dolomites, we’ll move to Bassano del Grappa in the Veneto and enjoy the cultural elements of this tour with a selection of experiences which may include an unforgettable cooking class experience, Venetian style, a walking tour of Bassano and a visit to an ancient ceramics village where the producers of some of Italy’s most recognised ceramics are found.
Tuscany Cycling Tour
Tuscany is a dream for cyclists and non-riding partners alike. Our tour of Tuscany taps into the very essence of Tuscany’s beauty – its landscapes, art and cultural history, and the region’s focus on very high quality food production – and our non-riding program provides the perfect balance of these elements.
Across the tour we enjoy 3 beautiful hikes – one in the Chianti hills taking in the quintessential countryside surrounded by stone villas, vineyards, castles and olive groves, another in the Val d’Orcia region where our morning embrace of the picturesque rolling hills is the perfect start to the day, and the best preparation for our Tuscan long lunch as a group, and the third takes in the most incredible views surrounding San Gimignano.
Complementing our beautiful hikes in nature are a wonderful city tour of medieval Siena which is expertly guided and takes you on a 2 hour journey of the beating heart of the town and it’s culture defining horse race, the Palio, amongst other key sights. There’s also the opportunity to enjoy guided experiences of Pienza and San Gimignano, which both provide wonderful insights to these magical medieval and renaissance era towns.
Meeting the producers is another highlight on our Tuscany tour as we delve into the organic philosophies of pecorino cheese making, olive oil production with one of Italy’s youngest female entrepreneurs and her family, enjoying amazing tasting experiences along with the tours, and also being immersed in nonna’s family home for a wonderfully authentic Tuscan cooking class for a day.
Piemonte Cycling Tour
Situated in the Barolo hills for some of our days and then in towns with the mountains as our backdrop for the other half of our tour, creates the opportunity for our Piemonte non riding program to be the perfect blend of experiences for the foodie and the adventurer alike. From a base nestled amongst the vines, we’ll explore the ‘producer haven’ that is Le Langhe with its focus on a special variety of produce – including hazelnuts (yes, they are the variety that made Nutella and Ferrero Rocher chocolates famous), a selection of special cheeses made from a local producer with incredible passion and style, a cooking class where you’ll learn from an amazing chef and her family how to make the sensational tajarin and ravioli del plin, and of course enjoy one of the highlights of Piemonte – a truffle hunt – this experience with the hunter and his dog is very special and highly engaging. Of course, we’ll also visit the hilltop towns and castles that make this area the picture-perfect postcard that it is.
From here, we’ll venture towards the base of the Alps and enjoy a hike or two in the very picturesque mountains, and also enjoy being a part of the action-packed Fausto Coppi Gran Fondo and a stage or two of the Tour de France with our ride group, in what will be a very special and unique experience.
Como, Stelvio, Dolomites Cycling Tour
Much like the Giro tour, we spend 70% of our time on our Como, Stelvio, Dolomites cycling tour in the Alps and Dolomites, with a greater proportion of our days in the Dolomites – making this the perfect tour for the fit, active person who loves to enjoy the most incredible walking and hiking experiences, together with jaw dropping scenery – this is a haven for photographers and nature lovers alike. One of our two hikes in the Dolomites is expertly guided and both are approx. 15-20km in length – these are not difficult hikes as we take the whole day to enjoy the scenery that is simply mesmerising, the stops along the way and of course, the company of our local guide from whom we learn so much. In the Dolomites, we also enjoy a truly unique cultural experience of a half day out with a family at their cheese-producing farm. This is a highlight of the tour for our non-riding guests each year as we immerse and enjoy a typical day in their life.
Before heading to the Alps and Dolomites, we spend two days on magnificent Lake Como, where we enjoy the highlights of the central lake area. A must-do boat trip on the lake will take us to 2-3 of our favourite lakeside towns and 1-2 magnificent villas, where we’ll experience the very essence of Lake Como’s sheer beauty. We’ll also enjoy an expertly guided tour of a lesser-known area on Lake Como that is a real highlight and one of those very special ‘off the beaten track’ experiences.
Puglia Cycling Tour
The heel of Italy is a gem for the traveller seeking a holiday experience that brings together the two coastlines of Puglia, with unique towns and the region’s beating agricultural heart of olive groves, farmhouses and endless trulli.
On our non-riding program in Puglia, we experience the limestone caves and rocky outbreaks of its coastline by boat and on foot, taking in some of the magnificent coastal stretches of the Adriatic and the spectacular turquoise waters of the Ionian sea. We enjoy hikes through national parks and for the fit adventurers, we can sometimes hire a sea kayak and enjoy swims in the sea.
Complementing our experiences in nature, we often enjoy expertly guided tours of the beautiful towns of Alberobello with its unique trulli, Ostuni with its winding alleyways and imposing position as the ‘white city’ on the hills, and of Lecce and its magnificent baroque architecture. These experiences are often further complemented by immersions with local families on their historic farmhouse properties, as you enjoy learning about the production and tasting techniques of olive oil, Puglia style with a visit to a masseria which has 2000 and 3000 year old olive trees (simply amazing!) and also of making orecchiette with nonna – only after you’ve had a tour of the incredible vegetable garden and picked produce for the cooking class, and before enjoying lunch with the family. This is a very authentic and special experience that you might never discover on your own.
If you’re interested in joining us on one of our Italian cycling tours as a non-riding partner, we’d love to share the experience with you. Like the cyclists, it’s about selecting the tour which best suits your desired level of physical activity and/or setting yourself the challenge of walking between 30-40km per week pre tour, so that you can enjoy all the rewards of the more challenging tours.