Something connected to cycling.
Just over 2.5 years ago I got the happy news that my Sicilian girlfriend was pregnant. I had a steady job in Copenhagen, and now I had to deal with a child in Sicily. The consequence was that I suddenly found myself half the year in Sicily 3000 km from Copenhagen. Eventually I resigned my job, a decision my employer welcomed when he did not really think it was a good idea that I came to the office only half of the year.
Moving to another country where you don’t speak the language is like starting over again. It is a huge challenge that really requires a lot of effort to integrate, establish networks, learn the language and the local culture. At the same time it is also a great gift to be torn out of your daily routine that you might not really have been questioning for a long time.
In Sicily, I was suddenly confronted with the question - what do you do now? Next to my normal job I always worked with cycling and therefore my thoughts was circling around how I could do something connected to cycling.
One day on the road, I stood somewhat annoyed and patched my bike after puncturing number 3. A cyclist passed, but turned around and came back and asked me if I was ok. I replied displeased in English that I was about to fix my tube after puncturing number 3. The rider comes right up to me and starts talking loose. Over the next 30 minutes we find out that we have a common passion for cycling that goes beyond just training.
In the following months we talk together almost every day. Much of our conversation was about our shared enthusiasm for cycling - and Sicily. The training, the equipment, the heat, the mountains, the food, the culture and history on the island.
From there it did not take long before we had the first basic ideas for what would become our company - Sicily Cycling Club - we’d want to share our passion for cycling and Sicily with likeminded.
Etna - 3500 meter high giant
Sicily is special partly because it has historically been subject to a large number of nations; Maurer, Romans, French and Spaniard has dominated the island. First in 1860 Sicily was incorporated in Italy.
Therefore Sicily featuring a diversity of relics from a lot of different cultures. From Norman Castles to Italian Baroque and a food culture as in the rest of Italy that is absolutely fantastic. In addition, the island is unbelievably beautiful. The mixing of culture and nature, as well as a fantastic climate, makes Sicily the obvious cycling mecca.
Cycling takes place outdoors all year round. In the winter when it is coldest the temperature is creeping down to 10-14 degrees. In the spring here is typically 20-22 degrees. In the summer 27-30 degrees and in autumn 18-20 degrees.
The main city in the eastern part of Sicily is Catania. A vibrant metropolis with a very beautiful city center. Catania is also famous for its diverse fish market.
The most spectacular nature in Sicily is Etna. Europe's largest active volcano. When you are located in the eastern part of Sicily you can enjoy this giant everywhere from Siracusa in the south, to Messina in the north.
As such there is always a little eruption going on. When it goes a little more fiercely she throws large amounts of red hot lava into the air - a truly amazing sight. Luckily most outbreaks rarely damage much so in that way she is also a friendly volcano.
The whole Etna park - as the big area encirceling the vulcano is called - is a dream for a cyclist. There are three roads leading up to the top of the south, and two roads leading up to another top north respectively in 2000 and 1800 meters altitude. For us who know the area well, there are some more secret roads that cross the main roads.
The ascent to the top is long. If one starts right at the foot of the south, there are approximately 30 km. to the top. The last 18 kilometers. have an incline of 7.2 percent. A classic ride is all the way around Etna. Approximately 150 km around the volcano, here it goes up and down all day, and you are rewarded with one spectacular views of Etna after another.
Taormina - Legendary Fortress Town
Close at the foot of Mount Etna in the northeast, you find the legendary Taormina. Perhaps the most beautiful town in Sicily. It is here that many rich foreigners own houses. Here the house prices can compete with the expensive cities of Europe.
That is also why we have chosen a relaxed hotel in Taormina as accommodation for our customers in Sicily Cycling Club. From the hotel there is a clear view of Calabria's coast and to the famous rocky Island Isola Bella. Here you can really relax after a day on the road.
The city is a fortified town with two large gates where you can enter or exit. From the coast there is a 5 km. beautiful climb up to Taormina. A favorite place for cyclist is one of the many cafes. With outside serving you can sit outside in the sun close to your bike and enjoy a cup of coffee and follow the life of the city passing by.
You can also skip the coffee here and ride up to Castelmola - a small fortress further up on top of the rock.
You get to Castelmola via a fantastic road in which the hairpin bends compete with the view. When the road ends, then you are in Castelmola. In addition to great views and cosiness of the narrow streets, you have to drop by cafe Torrisi. Here you will be greeted by hundreds of penises - Cafe Torrisi is known for its many penis shapes. It is quite fascinating.
When cycling in the area around Taormina and Castelmola you will also find the famous Godfather locations. Francis Ford Coppola chose all of its locations for scenes that played out in Sicily on the east coast close to Taormina. If you are a Godfather fan (as I am), then it is rather unusual to pass "Don Tommaso house" every week on a training ride.
Don Tommaso house is the focal point for much of the scenes in Sicily, and this is where Michael Corleone lost his first wife in a car bomb, and here he eventually dies seated in a chair in the courtyard in front of the house.
I know the owner of the house, Baron Franco. The house has been in the family since 16th century and it was his brother who along with Coppola chose the house as the focal point of the film's scenes in Sicily.
Mountain Towns and Barok Cities - Silence, Arhitecture, and a rich food culture
Taormina and Castelmola is the more famous places north of Catania, but there is a long count of small mountain towns that tourists do not know. Personally I am excited about these small towns because they reflect life in Sicily in a very authentic and original way. Most of them are small fortress towns on top of a cliff so there's nothing better than riding the ascent up to the small center of the town and stop at a cafe on the square and just enjoy the tranquility and be transported to another time and place. The local people here are incredible friendly. It's hard not to get excited here. In Sicily Cycling Club we always plan our bicycle routes, so we come through the small mountain towns.
South of Catania and Etna, the landscape is flatter. So here is the possible to have an easier day on the bike. In the south we find a string of beautiful Sicilian cities like Siracusa, Noto, and Ragusa. Siracusa oozes in history, especially since the philosopher Plato and the mathematician Archimedes lived here about 400 years BC. The city not only has a distinguished history, it is also incredible beautiful.
Particularly Ortigia which is actually an island. Here are a plethora of historic buildings in the Baroque and Renaissance style. In general the area to the southeast is known for its beautiful Baroque cities. In particular Noto and Ragusa.
In Sicily Cycling Club, we believe that food and wine are 'almost' as important as cycling. Sicily will NOT disappoint you here! As in the rest of Italy the food culture is wonderful. It is based on the freshest local products. On the market in any city, you will find a greater variety of vegetables and fruit in a quality that can make every food enthusiast from the northern hemisphere envious.
Sicilian wines is a story in itself. There are produced splendid red and white wines. Most often from small tradition-bound family-owned wineries, which we obviously like to visit after the day's training is completed.
Sicily Cycling Club - Training, Accomodation, and experience in Sicily
We organize bicycle trips for everybody - from cycling enthusiasts to serious cyclist. We plan regular training camps at selected times throughout the year. We also customize tours for groups and companies. If you have specific wishes for a tour we help you to make it a reality.
The people behind Sicily Cycling Club:
Tommaso Paxia is 38 year old Sicilian. Several times Ironman. Is the president of one of Southern Italy’s major triathlon Clubs. He has a background in Computer Science. Partner in a software company and lives in Catania with his wife Anna.
Thomas Opstrup is 43 years old, previously licensed rider, and has participated in bicycle racing for over 2 decades. He has trained a large number of cyclists and has been spinning instructor for 20+ years. He holds a Master Degree from Copenhagen Business School and has worked for international advertising agencies for 7 years. He is living in Sicily half of the year.
Come to Sicily and train with us - see more at: www.sicilycyclingclub.com/
or on Facebook: www.facebook.com/sicilycyclingclub/