In this modern day age, we’re always racing against time – opportunities to slow down and reconnect are rare. However, in true Dolce Vita style, Lorenzo Suding hits the pause button terrain Italy’s Cinque Terre, and discovers some true Italian charm.
“Dolce Vita” is a famous Italian saying that describes an easy-going nonchalant sentiment, more precisely, the “we got all the time in the world” kind of attitude. It seeks to make the most out of those golden little moments, for example watching the sunset while having a beer with friends in front of an awesome view. It is also used as a nicer way to call someone lazy or transgressive, but that’s not the case when on vacation of course. Disregard for time and the absolute lack of worries becomes a virtue and makes you live out everything with a feeling of weightlessness. It is quite fitting, therefore, for an Italian bike holiday, especially as everything is taken care of by the tour leader. So, although your time is limited on this adventure, it should feel like time is more forgiving. I mean who would fast-forward an epic movie scene, right?
While on the topic of movies, I’m sure most people are familiar with the classic film “La Dolce Vita” by Federico Fellini, that gave this sentiment worldwide resonance in the ’60s. It depicted in black n’ white a journalist’s lust for life and pleasures in a charming yet decadent scenario in Rome.
The feeling of warmth and peace surrounding you is, in some places in Italy, more evident than in others. In Tuscany and Cinque Terre all the activities, perfumes and views are in sync in its essence with the Italian DV lifestyle. The mundane becomes special, like the loud discussions of two men arguing about wine and which of them makes the better vintage, then just before you think they’re about to go at it, they burst into laughter and exchange some “battute” (jokes) at the bar. All of this said, la dolce vita is just delightful on vacation, so we used that name and added bikes to the formula.
Having travelled through much of Italy, Cinque Terre is one of the spots that essentially strike me as one of the Dolce Vita icons. This country is so versatile and rich, every region has it’s own take. The Cinque Terre is almost too perfect in its picturesque views, but then it deflates a bit when you find tourists fresh from the cruise ship, listening to their tour guide and pointing fingers at the sights… A double edge sword you might say, but you learn to accept it as it makes everything more plausible, and it’s not crowded to the point of polluting the genuine charm of the place. Tourism is what keeps the economy going here, so it actually helps to preserve it.
Waking up in a hotel room by the shore of the Gulf of La Spezia is pretty special. You’ll want to have your morning coffee by the water with a good view onto the island you’ll be stepping on during your day. As the saying goes: “work before play”, we hitch a quick ride to the main harbour of La Spezia, to continue climbing on bikes. Reaching the top and beyond to the edge on the other side, we marvel at the most epic vertical cliffs falling straight down into the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Stunned at the majestic views, we take a minute or two trying to process it. Those are the moments that mean the most. Getting on with the loop feels like waking up with no caffeine to smack you sober. We ride all the way down to the port of Venus, on some beautiful flowy trails, with sights getting better and better as we reach the ancient town.
Coasting into this little fable-like place, we smell a yummy fragrance and our growling bellies lead us into one of the many local “Focaccerie”. We get a couple of focacce di Recco and find a spot to sit in the sunny “Piazza Bastreri”. We eat without a care in the world, again, that’s dolce vita! Before falling asleep in the sun, we grab a quick espresso at the bar and go over what’s next. Droopy eyed we move on in slow-motion to the docks and hear a “ciao ragazzi, sono qui!” That’s Federico, the wiry boat dude, telling us to come onboard with a big smile and a funny thumbs up.
Embarking a motorboat with your bike is pretty cool, but waking up skipping at full speed on waves to the island of Palmaria is nothing short of rad! Drifting by a huge watch tower with old canons watching over us, you can’t help imagining pirates attacking merchant ships. Arriving on the small Island, we gently ride to the top before starting a loop that requires some stops to check out the views. The island of Corsica can just be seen in the southern distance, so we rest for a moment on some warm slabs of rock. Sucking up the sun like lizards, almost falling asleep again, covering our eyes from the powerful reflection of the sun shimmering on the Ligurian sea. When our sweaty T-shirts are dry again, we start descending back to the shore. Our boat-ride back isn’t here yet, so we take advantage and dip in the crystal-clear water to cool off. We see Federico arriving, put our shorts back on and hop on deck to drift back to La Spezia for the evening.
After a refreshing shower in the hotel room, I throw something on, slip into my sandals and meet the others down in the lobby. We head out for a short walk to the bar, have a spritz, then move on to the trattoria for dinner. The mild breeze cooling our skin after a hot day feels amazing and the thought of food makes us pick up the pace. No doubts on what to order. Seafood of course! Locally sourced and freshly picked fruits of the sea are on point after a day looking over the Mediterranean. After a great dinner on the porch, we drink our espressos, then order the “ammazza caffé” to cap off with a toast and drag ourselves back to our rooms to continue dreaming the dolce vita.
For more info head to dolcevitabike.com
Words: Lorenzo Suding Photos: Andrea Passerini