Places, activities, and events that I adore, and unsolicited and non-compensated endorsements of businesses and products that I use, am genuinely enthusiastic about, and highly recommend.
FRAMEBUILDER Antonio Taverna, Cicli Vetta, Padua, who built my wonderful new all-road (gravel) bike.
CYCLEWEAR...Sportful, whose headquarters and factory store are in Fonzaso, 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. Manager Vincenzo, and Steffi, Mattia, and Irina, the friendly, helpful staff, know the products inside out, and can be trusted for good advice.
BIKE SADDLE...The SMP Lite 209. The entire line of SMP saddles has the same unique, patented, 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 my 47 years of cycling. Read what a pro bike fitter has to say about SMPs.
COMPONENTS...Campagnolo (pronounced kahm pah n'yolo) and Miche (pronounced mee kay), but not just because they are Veneto-based companies. I've been using Campagnolo components since I bought a Legnano with a Nuovo Record group in the 70's. I still have it on my vintage bike, as well as 8, 9, and 10 speed shifters and derailleurs on various bikes. They still work fine! (and if they were to break or wear out, it would be possible to rebuild them). I prefer the "one lever, one action" method to shifting with a brake lever, and the hoods are more comfortable for my hands and riding position (I think they are more elegant and attractive as well). My road and all road bikes both use Miche cassettes, which give you the invaluable option of choosing cogs with whatever number of teeth you prefer.
BIKEPACKING GEAR...Miss Grape...designed and manufactured right here in the Veneto.
TRAINING & RECOVERY AID...my Compex muscle electrostimulator and TENS unit, a delight for tired, aching legs and other woes.
GO GIRL... if you're a woman who prefers bib cycling shorts, this is for you.
SECRET WEAPON...acupuncture! Improved functioning and pain relief, without medications.
ICE CREAM 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 Artigianale in the center of Castello di Godego is well worth the short detour from the Ezzelini bike path. Maria Pia Rodato creates so many enticing flavors of wonderful ice cream that you will want a bis (second helping). Loveria Do Re Mi in the center San Zenone degli Ezzelini makes absolutely delicious, irresistable, ice cream and is yet another favorite.
EATERIES...I prefer genuine, simple, hearty food, served in a cozy and relaxing atmosphere, to sophisticated cuisine in an elegant restaurant. Cornale Collalto Il Confin Il Rustico
WINERY...the award-winning Pat del Colmel, in the hills of Castelucco, produces not only Prosecco DOC del Montello e Colli Asolani, but other excellent wines, both 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 lovely views of the surrounding hills and nearby Monte Grappa.
BEER...The Pedavena brewery in the town of Pedavena, just north of Feltre (and at the foot of Passo Croce d'Aune), has been making award-winning beer since 1897. (Its founders, the Luciani brothers, were from Canale d'Agordo, and related to Pope Luciani, John Paul I). 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, and because it's unfiltered and unpasteurized, is available only on tap at the bar and restaurant, where you'll find everything from bruschette to complete dinners made with local products. Birra Dolomiti is an ultra-premium quality beer made with barley grown in the communities of the National Park of the Bellunese Dolomites.
The Bottega Dolomitica, just down the street, offers a grand array of Birra Pedavena and Birra Dolomiti items: mugs and glasses, aprons, lanyards, multi-function headgear, t-shirts, sweatshirts, polos, metal signs, posters, and more, all of which make great souvenirs and gifts. You can buy beer at the attractive bar, or by the bottle or case. Additional sections feature tourist info, local food products, and Karpos technical sportswear (made by the nearby Sportful company), where you can purchase a Dolomiti Beer cycling kit!
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.
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).
MUSIC...Tolo Marton, 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.
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 many 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.
Photo © April Pedersen Santinon
MOTORCYCLE...my adorable, loveable, little Suzuki RV125 VanVan is perect for exploring both paved and unpaved country lanes.
CAFÉ...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 Tatiana Guderzo at his shop.
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 be found in Whole Foods and other supermarkets in the USA, as well as at online sellers.
BIKE SHOPS...There are scores of fine shops throughout the Veneto, each with its own faithful following. My local go-to shop is Cicli Premier in San Zenone degli Ezzelini. Luigino Premier, the proprietor, is an expert, accomplished, cyclist and mechanic, and he and his family are always personable and helpful.