There’s a reason our coast-to-coast Bike Across Italy Tour starts in region of Le Marche on Italy’s Adriatic Coast, before continuing through Umbria, Lazio and Tuscany and reaching the Mediterranean Sea. This 11-day journey is inspired by the life-changing solo bike trip Ciclismo Classico founder Lauren Hefferon took in 1983 to reconnect with her roots in little-known Le Marche.
Graduating from Cornell with four years of Italian under her belt, Lauren sent letters to cousins in Le Marche asking to visit and learn more about her family. Landing in Pisa, she biked for five days to reach the little town of Genga, where her grandmother Beatrice Fracassini lived until the age of 18 when she left for the U.S.
“My grandmother’s cousin ran down the road when she saw me, she grabbed my fully-loaded bike and brought me to her family’s house,” Lauren says. “Over the course of the next few days, I met all of the relatives of my grandmother and ate many wonderful meals of Marchegiani specialties.”
The Bike Across Italy Tour spends a day and night in Genga – which has changed since Lauren’s grandmother left this poor town. The discovery of the nearby Grotte di Frassassi in the 1950s and 60s now brings visitors from all over the world. These are largest caves or grottoes in Europe – filled with otherworldly stalactites and stalagmites formed by an underground river.
Tipping a hat to Lauren’s grandfather, Generoso Orazietti who was born in the seaside city of Fano, the Bike Across Italy Tour explores this former ancient Roman settlement with a guided tour ending with a fresh fish dinner prepared Le Marche-style.
Proving just how varied the landscape of Le Marche is, the Bike Across Italy Tour then takes intermediate cyclists inland pedaling through fields and farmland with foothills in the distance. This is where the walled, fairy tale city of Urbino awaits. Under the patronage of the Duke of Montefeltro in the mid-15th century, Urbino enjoyed its own independent Renaissance, resulting in the construction of great palaces and churches as well as the birth of new artistic traditions and indeed, the birth of High Renaissance master Raphael who hails from Urbino.
Our days in Le Marche are just the beginning of our Bike Across Italy Tour but set the tone for a grand Italian journey filled with both connections and surprises.