EARNING PANPEPATO AND RATAFIA - NOT TO MENTION A SAUNA
CYCLING FROM THE AMBASCIATORI PLACE HOTEL, FIUGGI
Experiencing unique territories of Italy both from the saddle and beyond with Italy Bike Hotels has been a privilege of Chris Balogh's for many years. The bike hotel model originated in Emilia Romagna; Riccione to be more specific. With almost 70 bike hotels in the consortium, it is possible to enjoy the support that Italy Bike Hotels are known for, in many different corners of Italy.
Having cycled the Romagnola coast many times, I was excited to experience what the Ambasciatori Place Bike Hotel in Fiuggi had to offer. A very recent addition to the bike hotel consortium, it seemed like an undiscovered spot, famous more for its healing Fiuggi water than for cycling, that attracted me. Having met the crew from the Ambasciatori at the Toronto Bike Show, I was taken by their infectious energy for their province. My spontaneous promise to visit was one that I looked forward to keeping.
Fiuggi is in Frosinone province in the region of Lazio, only about an hour from Rome. Despite its convenient proximity to the capital, it is well hidden amongst the deep valleys of the central Appenines and feels like the middle of nowhere. Fiuggi is famous for its Acqua di Fiuggi whose healing powers were touted by Pope Boniface VIII in the 14th century, who discovered that the water healed his kidney stones. The water was soon on the tables of Europe’s royalty and the rest of the story is history in a bottle, that you can find on the shelves of your grocer today.
At first glance, the somewhat forgotten spa town looks like it could benefit from a few cyclists. Many visitors bring their kidney stones to Fiuggi rather than their bike helmet. The nation richest in stones seems to be Russia. The classic architecture and tree-lined streets invite you to stroll and discover treasures and secrets that are not readily offered up. Local specialties have yet to be over-marketed, allowing the discovery to still feel like one. Not to give away secrets….. but the amaretto biscuits are just the tip of the iceberg. Travel back to 1970 at Bar Monique Pasticerria and try a panpepato and a glass of ratafia …….. but only after you have suffered up a few climbs.
The Ambasciatori Place is a classic style hotel where waiters still take your order at the table rather than the buffet-style dining room common now with most bike hotels.
The fact that it offers a bike hotel experience in addition to its thriving spa hotel business, makes the experience as a cyclist that much richer. Of course, the team has you covered with good rental bikes, both road and mountain as well a fleet of E.Bikes, including mountain bikes at your disposal.
Our small group weaved along a cycling path along a ridge overlooking dry valleys on the first day. The quirky route was once the old railroad line to Rome. Thanks to our guide Livio, it was the perfect first day, with a wine tasting stop at Cantina Terenzi. The natives of nearby Piglio are proud of their native grapes, of which mention can be found dating back as far as the 15th century.
Two punctures on the way back were interesting in our slightly pickled state, a chance to laugh at each other and discover wild berries on the rocky walls. Our first day wrapped nicely, like the many to follow, in full enjoyment of the spa waters at the Ambasciatori. Dry sauna, Turkish bath and an infra red sauna are all ideal for recovery, while specific treatments and yoga make the in-house wellness centre ideal for cyclists.
After a few more days of climbing most of the nearby mountains, enjoying stops for wild boar salumis and coffee in quiet medieval towns like Fumone, our bikes were loaded into a van in order to explore the nearby coast. A pleasant morning drive landed us in Sabaudia from where we saddled up and followed the beach road towards a mountain known as the sleeping giant which would be our reference for the next couple days. The Mediterranean is very blue and clear along this stretch of coastline which is popular with Romans in the summer months. Riding in September is very pleasant as the crush of cars is long gone.
We enjoyed very tranquil rides with a challenging and scenic climb up into San Felice. It was exciting to walk around both Terracina and Nettuno, taking in the vibe of each town and enjoying the sea air. Our final coastal adventure was a cruise on a forty-five foot sailboat which we boarded in Nettuno. The Ambasciatori team prepared a wonderful lunch for us. The balance of riding and eating, then eating and napping on a sailboat while watching the sunlight dance off the waves, cannot be underrated.
This area is full of challenging riding and quiet roads. In our six-day adventure, we were impressed with the culture and the quality of the food. It seems like no surprise perhaps, that the food was good in Italy, but here there is a depth to the
cuisine, a higher standard. It is mirrored by the genuine unpretentious hospitality, abundance of good riding and a general ease that is not trying to market something.