My guests and cycling friends inevitably always ask me what is my favorite place to ride and, although I am reluctant to respond (as if I had to choose a favorite child), my answer is always Sardinia
, a small island about 120 miles west of the Italian peninsula. As one of my favorite web sites, In Italy Online
, writes: "Its coastline is probably Europe's most spectacular. Its waters teem with fish and shellfish. Its broad valleys turn into golden oceans of wheat in summer. ... Nestled into its silent olive groves are some of the continent's oldest archaeological remains, dating back to 1700 BC. Its people speak a language incomprehensible to all other Italians, celebrate more saints' days than anyone else in the nation, and love to dress up in elaborate costumes at the drop of a finely-embroidered hat."
Backpedaling for a moment: I love cycling almost anywhere -- pedaling outside always puts me in a better frame of mind, no matter where I am. It's a fact that, for the record, I have never had a bad bike ride ANYWHERE!
Having made that grand proclamation, there are cycling destinations that simply make my heart, soul, and body soar. So why do I pick Sardinia as my ultimate favorite place in the world to pedal? It fulfills the following top 10 list on what I think makes a premier family cycling destination:
1.) Smooth, untrafficked, varied network of roads with many terrain options. Sardinia's tourist season is mainly in August and on the Northern Coast, which means that on the rest of the island for the rest of the year, Sardinia's silky smooth roads are cycling heaven. My favorite ride in the world is the descent to Cala Ganone (one of my favorite places in the world) and the gradual 20 mile ascent from Dorgali to the Barbagia Mountains with the sea on one side and the mountains on the other. My favorite cycling is along stunning coastline and Sardinia has more than anyplace I have been.
2.) An abundance of gorgeous views and scenery. Sardinia has a wonderful blend of mountain and seascapes. Unlike the rest of Europe, Sardinia is rural, and underdeveloped -- one of the last off the beaten path destinations Europe has to offer. It is like Wyoming surrounded by an amazingly beautiful blue waters.
3.) Abundant opportunities to connect with the local culture.
Sardinia -- with its own unique language, many distinct cultures, and rich craftsmanship -- offers the cyclist plenty of opportunities to connect with the local culture. Sardinian traditional music is in every sense one of the richest and oldest in the Mediterranean; undoubtedly one of the most original forms in the island's polyvocal heritage is the Canto a Tenores
, or Tenors song.