Note: This tour itinerary is subject to slight change. To be confirmed December 2020
This tour begins and finishes in Bari, Italy. Tour participants should arrive arrive early afternoon Friday 24th (Ryanair flight ex Dublin scheduled to arrive 12.35).
Day 1 (Friday 24th)
Transfer from airport, handover of motorcycles, followed by tour briefing.
Days 2, 3 & 4
Travelling southwest in search of the Mountains of Calabria with some of the highest peaks in Italy. Lush dense vegetation, clear streams, lakes, and beautiful waterfalls grace these mountains, which are still perfectly wild and uncontaminated in many areas. More specifically we will be based in the Sila Massif for two nights. The Sila massif is divided into three groups: the Sila Greca, Sila Grande, and Sila Piccola, and as its slogan confidently proclaims, “Its nature will amaze you.”
The Sila Greca is the northernmost section and is now mostly cultivated rather than thick woods. Around this area, we will find 15th-century Albanian villages such as San Demetrio Corone which sprang up when Albanians were fleeing the wrath of Muslim invaders; famous for a festival that features exquisite costumes and traditional singing in Albanian.
Sila Grande – The highest peaks in the whole range are found in this densely forested part of the Sila massif – Monte Scuro, Monte Curcio, and the tallest, Monte Botte Donato, which stands 1928 meters (6300 feet) tall. Situated in the Sila Grande but stretching into the Sila Greca is also a National Park complete with picnic spots, including La Fossiata.
Sila Piccola – Foresta di Gariglione anchors this most densely forested part of all of Calabria with its fir, beech, and the gigantic turkey oak for which the woods are named. The southern tip of the Sila Piccola reaches Catanzaro and the Ionian Coast. Now a national park, the Sila Piccola is heavily protected and very sparsely populated, but two notable towns in the range are Belcastro and Taverna.
Leaving Calabria behind it’s time to cross the Straits of Messina to Sicily as the largest island in the Mediterranean. Straits of Messina had a formidable reputation amongst Sailors of old. Greek Mythology talks of Scylla , a monster and Charybdis a whirlpool on opposing sides of the narrowest part of the Strait where only a mile separates Sicily and Italy. The take the Sella Mandrazzi, which offers excellent views of the Aeolian Islands to the north and Mt. Etna to the south.
Rest day with optional rideout and activities. Strategically? based in the shadows of Mt. Etna (Europe’s highest active Volcano at 3327m) there’s lots to see and do in the area. Such attractions include. Mt. Etna Cable Car, one of the Godfather scenes at Bar Vitelli, Mt. Etna, megaliths of Argimusco and of course the stunning beaches and glowing sunrises at Taormina – a magnet for beauty and adventure lovers. Spectacularly perched on the side of a mountain, Taormina is Sicily’s most popular summer destination, And while it is unashamedly touristy and has a main street lined with high-end designer shops, the town remains a beautiful spot with gorgeous medieval churches, a stunning Greek theatre and sweeping views of the Gulf of Naxos and Mt Etna.
Days 6 & 7
Takes us south along the east coast of Sicily to Syracuse; once the largest city of the ancient world (bigger than Athens & Corinth) before turning west along the southern coast via the baroque towns of Noto, Modica and Ragusa and onwards to Agrigento. Agrigento, once the fourth-largest city in the known world and home to Sicily’s most impressive Greek ruins. The Unesco-listed Valley of the Temples is one of the most important sites in the Mediterranean, boasting the largest and best-preserved ancient Greek buildings outside of Greece, including seven monumental Greek temples in the Doric style, constructed during the 6th and 5th centuries BC.
Rest day with optional rideouts east to the wine growing region of Marsala, the large flat salt plains and scenic windmills of Trapani where sea salt (white gold) is still harvested in the traditional way. We’ll also have an opportunity to visit the small towns of Prizzi & Corleone; home to several mafia bosses as well as several fictional charachters such as Vito Corleone in The Godfather.
Days 9 & 10
Leaving Agrigento behind its time for us to head north east, across the Nebrodi Mountains and back across the Straits of Messina to mainland Italy and the town of Tropea. Tropea, famous for its onion, the cipolla di Tropea, is located along the Costa degli Dei and is described as the ‘pearl of the Thyrrenian’. On a cliff overlooking the sea, the church of Santa Maria dell’Isola is the symbol of town. Tropea has been nominated to be the 2022 Italian capital of Culture. Travelling further north along the “instep” of Italy’s foot with the Pollino National Park / mountains of the Apennines to our right and Tyrrhenian Sea to the left.
Rest day with optional rideout to Pollino or Cilento National Parks.
In the Pollino National Park you’ll find beech trees, rare plant and animal species such as the Loricato Pine and the Royal Eagle, Dolomite-like rock formations, glacial deposits, and countless cave systems. Within its borders, the Pollino National Park hosts many paleontology and archaeology sites, including the Romito Caves and the Mercure Valley, as well as sanctuaries, convents, castles, and historical centers of the original Albanian settlers from the 15th and 16th centuries.
The Cilento National Park is a lesser-known paradise of jagged coastline and inland hills that combine beautiful seas with green natural splendor. South of Salerno lies the Cilento, where you’ll find small seaports, quaint fishing villages painted in a palatte of pastels, and time-worn hill towns resting amidst forested foothills. Natural landscapes and genuine hospitality are the hallmarks of the Cilento, which lies south of the famous Amalfi Coast but is a world away from the crowds and tourist shops. Here, you’ll find street markets where locals shop and small stores for everyday life. The National Park of Cilento and Vallo di Diano houses many animal species. Their undisputed queen is undoubtedly the golden eagle that nests on the highest peaks. But other birds fly over the territory of the Park, including peregrine falcons, buzzards, sparrow hawk, owl and the owl. The territory is also inhabited by wolves, wild boars, foxes, martens, badgers, weasels and other mammals that bear witness to the progressive enrichment of the ecosystem of the Park of Cilento.
Time to leave the west coast of Italy behind and cross back to our finish point in Bari on the east coast but not without a visit to Matera on-route. Considered one of the most interesting, unusual and memorable tourist destinations in Italy. In the remote southern region of Basilicata (also called Lucania), still little-visited by foreign travellers, it is a town famous for its extensive cave-dwelling districts, the sassi. The caves of Matera had been inhabited for centuries; some humble and some smarter residences, but by the early twentieth-century the area was a by-word for poverty. Until the 1950s hundreds of families were still living crowded into cave-houses here. The squalor and malaria-ridden conditions became a national scandal and finally the cave residents were moved – by law – to modern buildings on the plateau above. By the 1980s the abandoned caves of Matera were no longer scandalous, but fascinating reminders of the past. A few rather more well-to-do residents moved back and renovated old cave houses. In 1993 the town was made a UNESCO World Heritage site, for being “the most outstanding, intact example of a troglodyte settlement in the Mediterranean region, perfectly adapted to its terrain and ecosystem”. And ever since, Matera has become steadily more popular as an off-the-beaten-track tourist destination. Matera (2019 European capital of culture) was the one of the filming locations for Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ, with shots showing the sassi and the gorge below and the latest James Bond Film No Time to Die.