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Places, activities, and events that I adore, and unsolicited endorsements of businesses and products
that I am genuinely enthusiastic about and highly recommend.

BIKE SHOPS...There are scores of fine shops throughout the Veneto, each with its own faithful following. Some of the shops in my area that I frequent are Cicli the Best in Fellette di Romano d'Ezzelino (Leopoldo Ceccon, proprietor), Cicli Premier in San Zenone degli Ezzelini Luigino Premier, prop), Cicli Dalla Rosa in Feltre (Renzo Dalla Rosa, prop), and Polo Bike in the Marchesane section of Bassano del Grappa (Riccardo Polo, prop).

CYCLEWEAR...Sportful, whose headquarters and factory store are in Fonsazo, near Feltre and Pedavena, at the foot of the Dolomites. Their designs are stylish, tasteful and modern, the quality is excellent, and garments are not ridiculously overpriced. The store employees are knowledgeable, friendly, and helpful. One of my favorite pieces of kit, the legendary Gabba jersey, is made by their sister company, Castelli. I have one of their rain jackets too, and it is a beautiful work of art.

BIKE SADDLE...The SMP Lite 209. The entire line of Strike saddles has the same unique, eye-catching design, which was developed from studies and analyses of the way a cyclist's anatomy interacts with the saddle in various positions and situations. I have found it to be the most comfortable saddle I've ever used in over 40 years of cycling. Polo Bike (mentioned above) has Strike saddles that you can demo, to find the one that suits you best.

SUNGLASSES...Rudy Project. In my Granfondo Gallery there are photos of me from 2004 wearing a pair of copper Rudy Rydons. I am still wearing them and they are like new. Sweat, dust, road debris, and rain have not damaged them or caused them to deteriorite in any way. They are optically perfect, offer excellent protection and field of vision, are super light and comfortable, and are attractive and stylish--so much so that I bought a second pair in silver. The company is based in Treviso province here in the Veneto.

TRAINING & RECOVERY AID
...my Compex muscle electrostimulator, a delight for tired, aching legs and other woes.

SECRET WEAPON...acupuncture! Improved functioning and pain relief...without medications.

ICE CREAM & PASTRY SHOPS...Pasticceria San Gaetano in Castelcucco makes superb ice cream--dense, creamy, intensely flavorful--and offers a large selection of interesting flavors (closed Wednesdays). The Boutique del Gelato in the center of Castello di Godego is well worth the short detour from the Ezzelini bike path. Mary Rodato creates so many enticing flavors of wonderful ice cream that you will want a bis (second helping). Gelateria di Gimmy in Feltre (Via Martiri della Libertà, near the hospital), has the seal of quality from the National Park of the Bellunese Dolomites, and mastro gelataio Andrea Reato creates many delightful flavors using ingredients cultivated within the park borders (fruits, nuts, berries e.g.), plus other unique ones such as saffron, cinnamon, ginger, and beer! (I've suggested polenta).

EATERIES..I love agriturismi and rifugi, as I prefer genuine, simple, hearty food, served in a rustic atmosphere, to fancy cuisine in an elegant restaurant. For help in finding your own favorite places to eat and stay, visit the official Veneto region agriturismo site. (Beware, though, many agriturismi are fake, that is, are merely trattorie in disguise, craftily taking advantage of the numerous financial benefits accorded to farm touring establishments, but offering food procured from the same suppliers as restaurants. If it looks too fancy or features too much nostalgic country decor, it's probably not the real thing). If you're planning a visit to the Feltre-Belluno-Agordino area, consult the site of the National Park of the Bellunese Dolomites. The park certifies each and every establishment on the list, assuring high quality traditional cuisine prepared with wholesome, genuine products from local farmers. Bruschetteria Mighelon in Nave di Mel offers a grand choice of wonderful bruschette, grappas flavored with fruits, flowers, and herbs collected by the owners, and a wonderful view of the Dolomites.

WINERY... Pat del Colmel, in the hills of Castelucco, produces not only Prosecco DOC del Montello e Colli Asolani, but other excellent reds and whites as well, such as the local Recantina and Bianchetta. There's also an agriturismo (authentic!) where you can enjoy delicious dishes in a charming setting which offers views of the surrounding hills and nearby Monte Grappa.

LOCAL BEER...The Pedavena brewery, in the town of Pedavena (at the bottom of Passo Croce d'Aune), just north of Feltre, has been making award-winning beer since 1897. The adjacent restaurant and beer garden have welcomed generations of local families and visitors from all over the world. It's more than just an inviting, casual place where you can drop in anytime for great beer and a bite to eat; it's a renowned, beloved institution which is an integral part of the local history, culture, tradition and identity. The Centenario--centennial--beer is a favorite; as it is unpasteurized, it is available only on tap at the bar and restaurant, where you'll find everything from bruschette to complete dinners made with local products. Master brewer Gianni Pasa is especially proud of Birra Dolomiti, an ultra-premium quality beer made with barley grown in the communities of the National Park of the Bellunese Dolomites, and water that originates in the mountains north of town, also within the confines of the park.
The Bottega Dolomiti offers a grand array of Birra Pedavena and Birra Dolomiti items: mugs and glasses, aprons, lanyards, and multi-function headgear, t-shirts, sweatshirts, and polos, metal signs, posters, and more. You can buy beer by the bottle or case, and there's an attractive bar. There are additional sections featuring tourist info, local food products, and Karpos technical sportswear (made by the nearby Sportful company), where you can purchase a Dolomiti Beer cycling kit!

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MOUNTAIN HIDEAWAY...Chalet Piereni in Val Canali (Trentino region), between Fiera di Primiero and Passo Cereda. We happened upon this enchanted place in 1970, and have been going back ever since. The Zagonel family has, over the years, enlarged their little hotel and added amenities, but the valley itself is within a national park and will remain forever undeveloped and unspoiled. You can sit outside at night, feel the powerful presence of the mountains, marvel at the huge starry sky, and hear nothing but the soothing sound of the rushing torrent far below. (0439-62348)

CITY...Feltre, a charming, cheerful, lovely, and lively little city at the foot of the Dolomites. The historic center includes a steep street, Via Mezzaterra, lined with arcades, colorful frescoes, fountains, and flowers cascading from window boxes, leading to a wonderful piazza. You can even visit the Roman city that lies beneath the piazza in front of the duomo. I also love Vittorio Veneto, which is darker and more austere, but like Feltre, offers a masterpiece piazza, inviting medieval streets, a castle, mountain environs, and a fascinating history.

my friends and I head out for a stroll after lunch at the Chalet Piereni

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MEDIEVAL HANGOUT...The Zumelle Castle in Mel, province of Belluno. This stark, classic castle set against the spectacular backdrop of the Dolomites, offers a museum, characteristic inn and restaurant, and thrilling atmosphere. (Via San Donà, 4; follow signs from Villa di Villa)

 

FESTIVALS...the Palio di Feltre, a competition between the four contrade of Feltre, featuring a renowned medieval pageant with a street market, flag throwers, processions of knights and nobles in authentic costumes, athletic contests, open air shows, bareback horse race, and more. (1st weekend of August). The Artigianato Vivo festival (2nd week of August) turns the entire town of Cison di Valmarino into a showplace for artists, artisans, musicians, and crafters. Torchlit rustic courtyards, palaces, charming old barns, and cozy stone houses provide a unique backdrop and magical atmosphere for displaying their wares. It's always an interesting town to visit. It's the starting point of a unique and delightful path called the Via dei Mulini, which follows a stream past old mills, taking you back in time. The Cafè Roma is an inviting place to eat a hot sandwich and relax. Arte e Natura is a charming festival that takes place in September along a lovely route that winds through the hills between the hamlets of Costalunga, Bocca di Serra, and Castelcies, in the comune of Cavaso del Tomba. Artists, sculptors, photographers (including yours truly), poets, crafters, and musicians create an enchanting atmosphere.
 

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(right) My husband, Alan, and friends Silvano and Marisa at the start of the enchanting Via dei Molini

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MUSIC...Tolo Marton. I never miss a live show of Italy's greatest rock guitarist, who's known as far away as Austin, Texas, and was the winner of the Jimi Hendrix International Guitar Competition in Seattle. Defying categorization, always fresh and original, yet somehow evoking deeply buried musical memories, Tolo serves up a dazzling but never gratuitous array of techniques that surprise and astound even his loyal followers, while retaining a wonderful sense of musicality and taste, and his genious for improvisation is legendary. Tolo's passion and respect for his art and instrument shine through in every note. His touch is deft, sure, and sensitive, his tone warm and rich, his mastery total. There's nothing he can't do on a guitar! In addition, he is a fine song writer, each of whose numerous compositions has its own individuality and identity. This is genuine, "handcrafted" music straight from the heart and soul of a genius. His instrumental classic, Alpine Valley, continues to bring audiences to an awed and reverent silence. You can listen to and see Tolo on YouTube and buy his songs on the iTunes store.

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ENCHANTING JOURNEY...getting there is all the fun when you travel on a old-time train pulled by a restored steam locomotive. A number of these wonderful trips are organized each year and I've gone on several of them. They route is always scenic and there's usually a festival or guided tour (or even a bike ride) at the destination, but the train ride is the real attraction: all along the route, people stand by the tracks and hang out of windows, waving and smiling; they film the train from moving cars and crowd the stations. Surprised motorists burst into large grins. On one trip, a brass band was playing as we rolled into Belluno. The fascinating sights and sounds of the train fill people of all ages with pure, childlike delight.

La Carrozza Matta is a local association (from Valstagna/Carpanè, north of Bassano del Grappa) of steam train enthusiasts which organizes cultural/historical railroad events, and has established a museum.

Learn more about their mission in this video.

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MOTORCYCLE...my retro-styled Suzuki RV125 VanVan, perect for exploring country lanes, whether paved or unpaved

FOOTBALL (SOCCER) TEAM...Cittadella, a small, medieval walled city in Padua province, not far from where I used to live. It stole my heart when I first saw it back in the 60's. Isn't this a good enough reason to root for a team? But if that's not enough, they have also won awards for best sportsmanship, having the most sportsmanlike fans, and having the best relationship with the local population. They compete in Serie B. Forza granata!

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COFFEE BAR...AND COFFEE...La Casa del Caffè, and their house brand, Caffè Marosticana. In this small shop on the the chessboard piazza in Marostica, you'll find an excellent selection of fine coffees roasted by the owners themselves, as well as liqueurs, chocolates, and pastries, cups and saucers (some with a cycling theme), and coffee canisters, all of which also make great souvenirs and gifts. Owner/proprietor Maurizio Vedovello is a cyclist and fixture of the local cycling community; you might run into local pros Enrico Battaglin and Tatania Guderzo at his shop. You can also visit on Facebook.

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DECADENT TREAT...Nocciolata (pronounced No-cho-LAH-tah) is like Nutella but much better, because it's made with wholesome organic ingredients by Rigoni of Asiago (a place better known for its cheese). You don't have to go to Italy to buy it though; it can now be found in Whole Foods, Shoprite, and other supermarkets in the USA, as well as at online sellers.

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