Our second excursion in Italy was biking through the Italian Alps. And it was beyond anything I could have imagined.
It was an early morning wake-up call so we could catch the bus to Fenestrelle, 1 ½ hours away. I dozed on the way up and when I woke up, we were in the Alps – best way to wake up from a nap! We got off in Fenestrelle and breathing in the crisp mountain air made me realize how much I missed the mountains. Jillian, whose parents live in Denver, and I were saying how much it felt like Vail, except the real version.
Good thing we know what direction Black Hills, South Dakota is in.
We made a quick pit stop for an espresso (we are in Italy after all) and met up with our guides who took us to our bikes. Fortunately, we were using e-bikes, which I have heard about before, but never actually rode.
I had imagined a motorbike, but it’s more like a regular bike with a little extra boost when you need it; you definitely have to work hard to ride up mountains. We set off on the path and made a stop at the top of a fort.
We continued our journey, enjoying the beautiful gorgeous unreal (sorry, no words actually describe this) scenery of endless green mountains, interspersed with the sounds of cowbells jangling as they grazed over the grass. For you Californians, do you remember the “happy cows come from California” commercials? They lied. Happy cows come from the Alps.
Here’s a video of us riding – I clearly had a bit of an issue trying to record and steer at the beginning.
At a crossroads, we were asked if we’d like to continue up to the top of the pass or go straight to lunch. Luckily, we unanimously voted to go to the top. I mean we had motors on our bikes, how could we not!?
The climb up was actually pretty hard; I was even more impressed by those on regular bikes. But the views made it so worthwhile!
This was actually part of the Tour de France a few years ago. Just call me the next Lance Armstrong.
Here’s another video of the top, along with Jakemo telling us where the Tour de France took place.
Since we’re almost all girls (poor Jake is the only guy on the program) we proceeded to have a photo shoot:
But all the guys who were with us today enjoyed it too!
I was actually kind of nervous to ride back down the hill. Especially after our bike riding experience in Florence. But it was incredible! I got up to 36 km/hr. I have absolutely no idea how fast that is or if it’s even considered fast, but I felt like I was flying.
We rode to our lunch spot, Rifugio Lago delle Rane. Another “pinch me” moment to add to my growing list. We were in this tucked away restaurant, overlooking the Italian Alps, enjoying a wonderful, home-cooked, locally sourced meal with an incredible group of old friends and new. I’ve said this countless times, but I just feel so fortunate to be on this trip.
Lunch included polenta, sausage and peppers, beef, mushrooms, various cheeses and some Piedmont chocolate dessert that was incredibly rich and incredibly delicious. Which reminds me that I want to find a recipe and have my Aunt Susan, the queen of rich chocolate desserts, make one.
Post-lunch, jolted awake with another espresso, we made our way down to the tiny, idyllic town of Usseaux, population 191.
We proceeded to ride down the rest of the hill back to Fenestrelle where we took a tour of a fort. Actually, it’s the base of the fort that we originally saw at the beginning of our bike ride, just 4,000 stairs below our original vantage point. However, we proceeded to walk back up more than half of them on the tour. Suffice it to say that our legs were like noodles.
The fort was actually quite interesting and beautiful. The Italians and French met here to determine their countries’ borders. And after the Italians semi-lost WWII, part of their agreement was that the fort could no longer have a military presence.
I feel like I keep going places on this trip that are some of the most gorgeous views or places I’ve ever seen. Then the next week, I go somewhere else that surpasses it. This bike excursion was no exception.
The other thing this bike tour did was solidify my desire to go to Switzerland. I had been debating going to Zermatt or Chamonix since before I left for Europe. After spending the day in the mountains, I realized how much I love and miss being in them. Because I still go back to Denver so often for work, this has been the longest mountain-drought I’ve had in almost 12 years. There’s something about being in the mountain air that rejuvenates my soul. When I mentioned this to my Dad, his response was “it must run in the family” as he feels the same way. I booked my train ticket to Zermatt the next morning!