Cycling in Northern Italy3 min read
There are vacations, there are active vacations, there are adventure vacations… and then there’s the vacation Ed Blumenthal just returned from.
The 45-year-old Blumenthal and five of his buddies spent eight days in northern Italy cycling through the Italian countryside. Six grown men from suburban Philadelphia testing their fitness and enjoying the spectacular scenery of the Veneto region.
The group cycled for seven days out of eight, covering a total of about 375 miles. That’s a lot of miles, even for a group of avid recreational cyclists (Blumenthal refuses to characterize himself as any better than that). The elevations were daunting – Blumenthal says the most memorable ride was up Monte Grappa, rising 5400 feet over the course of a 19-mile ride.
“It took me two hours and 15 minutes to get to the summit – two hours and 15 minutes of torture,” said Blumenthal. “And it hurt. Then you get to the top, and you look at the valley below and have an espresso. I trained for it for over a year.”
The finale of the trip was the La Pina Gran Fondo, part bike ride, part festival, with five thousand Italians to ride along with for the 72 mile course, including two King of the Mountain timed climbs.
The group typically spent the mornings cycling up the mountains, and the afternoons enjoying a leisurely two-hour lunch and then some site seeing (not easy for Blumenthal because he suffered a badly sprained ankle before the trip).
“For me, the trip was a combination of three of my passions – travel in general, cycling, and friends,” said Blumenthal. “Why do people go on a golf vacation? It’s the identical motivation. They want to play different courses, we want to cycle on different roads. This particular region of Italy is the mecca of cycling.”
Blumenthal said the camaraderie among the friends is what made the trip so special; they probably used more lung capacity busting each other’s chops than they did riding.
“When we got there, there were four people from Buffalo arriving at the same time. After spending just a short amount of time with us, they asked the inevitable question: do you guys even like each other?” said Blumenthal, describing a relationship that men cherish (it doesn’t have to make sense; it’s a guy thing).
It wasn’t all physical exertion. Blumenthal rhapsodized about the long lunches and dinners they enjoyed every day.
“The Italians believe in the art of food and its preparation – it’s dining, not eating. We rode 375 miles in seven rides – about 50 miles a day – and I still gained a pound and a half.”
Having been to Italy twice before, Blumenthal says he’d much prefer to visit the country on his bike.
“We took a train to Venice on our off day and there was a cruise ship there. It struck me that these people are not seeing things the same way. I’d rather see more of the countryside. I’ve been to Rome, Florence, and Venice and would never tell anyone not to go to these famous places, but I’d rather see the less traveled side of Italy.”
And it sounds like he’ll be heading back in the future.
“Among our newfound friends from Buffalo was a guy named Steve, who’s 63 years old and in phenomenal shape,” said Blumenthal. “What was really inspiring to me was – I’m 45 years old. I’m with this guy who’s 63 and I can’t keep up with him going up a hill. You think an active vacation is for young people in their 20s and 30s, but that showed me that I can do this for the next couple decades — at least.”