Today, cycle tourism is an ever-growing sector, fuelled by the need for serenity and lightness that the period we are experiencing has aroused in each of us. And at the same time it retains a great desire for adventure, which is fundamental to any trip.
For bicycle lovers, travelling on two wheels means exploring territories from a new perspective, moving slowly, savouring every little bump along the way. It means choosing carefully the items to take on the trip, eliminating the superfluous as much as possible. It also means taking time for yourself, leaving behind the hectic pace we are used to.
Travelling along roads, often dirt tracks, country lanes and through small villages brings us into contact with the locals, to enjoy every facet of territories that preserve authentic traditions.
As Ernest Hemingway said "it is by riding a bicycle that you learn best the contours of a country, because you have to sweat on the hills and freewheel down the slopes", and it is just like that.
Come with us on this journey through the history of cycle tourism!
Cycling, what a passion!
The first chapter in the history of cycle tourism starts at the end of the 19th century and features Paul De Vivie, an extravagant French broker from a textile company in Saint Etienne. For his work he used to travel to England, where he became familiar with the use of the bicycle not only as a means of transport. Inspired by English culture, he then decided to found Europe's first club of touring cyclists, the Club des cyclistes stéphanois, with the aim of spreading a greater awareness of cycling in France as a means of recreation.
His was a visionary intuition since he was able to foresee the extraordinary spread of bike travel, thus changing the history of cycle tourism.
Between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, the use of the bicycle changed radically, thanks also to the productive impulse that the industrial revolution brought. From being a means of transport used by a small circle, the bicycle became more and more accessible to everyone, both for economic and technical reasons. It was precisely with the transition from the complex Gran Bi, the bicycle characterized by a much larger front wheel than the rear, to the safer Rover, the bike much closer to what we know today, that opened the doors to cycle tourism.
In addition, the use of rubber tyres and the introduction of the 'freewheel', which still allows cyclists to set their own pace, have made the bicycle increasingly comfortable and suitable for everyone.
In an era of radical renovations, De Vivie can today be rightly described as an outstanding innovator, because he was able to talk about his idea of society by founding the specialized newspaper Le Cycliste. Here he made himself known to the general public under the pseudonym of Vélocio, which he also used to talk about cycle tourism for the first time.
It was the time when, even in Italy, the use of bicycles for travelling began to take hold. These were the years when solo adventure travel became popular: real heroic gestures spiced with a genuine desire to discover the world.
Like the story of Marco Bertolini, priest, professor of literature and poet who at the beginning of the 1900s crossed Turin and the Aosta Valley to continue his itinerary towards Central Europe up to England. His journey then became the book "Across Europe by bicycle" which influenced the history of cycling in our country.
Since then, many have followed his example, some out of passion, some out of necessity, some just to challenge themselves. In our absurd modern times, e-bikes, the pedal-assisted bicycles, are slowly changing the concept of cycle tourism and sports tourism in general, greatly reducing the difficulties and constraints linked to the route to be followed.
Agencies and specialized associations
The history of cycle tourism would not be the same without the commitment of cycling associations who collaborate with local administrations, to design more and more spaces dedicated to two-wheel enthusiasts in general, precisely to collect such an important legacy.
Here too, De Vivie was ahead of his time: following the example of the British Cyclist Touring Club, the world's oldest tourist organisation founded in 1878, he managed to understand the importance of trade associations, becoming one of the most active founders of the Touring Club de France (1889).
Other associations were also founded in Italy in the years when Vélocio was speaking in the pages of his newspaper, such as the Touring Club Ciclistico Italiano, founded in 1894 by a group of 57 enthusiasts to protect this type of tourism.
Created more recently, FIAB (National Federation of the Environment and Bicycle) is an environmental organization that promotes the daily use of bicycles and cycle tourism to protect the environment and combat the climate crisis.
FIAB has collaborated in the realisation of two projects of great importance in terms of cycle tourism: Eurovelo, the European cycle network connecting 15 long-distance cycle routes across the European continent, and Bicitalia, a wide-ranging cycle tourism network of supra-regional dimensions or connecting with neighbouring countries, along the lines of the various networks now successfully implemented in various European countries.
Over the years, travel agencies and tour operators have also specialized in sustainable travel, responding to the needs of travelers less and less inclined to mass tourism destinations and more interested in tailor-made travel, great for discovering authentic places accompanied by the locals.
Here at Slow Active Tours, we are a tour operator specialising in increasingly responsible and sustainable tourism. We believe that each of our holidays should leave a mark, so that those who travel with us can truly return home feeling better, having just had a truly authentic experience. We focus our attention on the environment, local culture and traditions, proposing trips as educational, social, emotional and participatory experiences that allow us to understand the values of the places visited.
In compliance with our attentions, we take advantage of "soft" mobility, on foot, by bicycle and using public transport whenever possible, and we are convinced that, through this concept of travel and cultural tourism, we can contribute to the development of a habit of sustainability in a broad sense also in the destinations we offer you. Following these ideals, we want to make a small, but concrete, contribution to our territory, committing ourselves with passion and dedication to meet the expectations of those who choose to travel with us.
Slow Active Tours means active holidays at a 'slow pace' because this is how you savour every moment of a beautiful trip, full of adventure, abundant breakfasts, relaxing moments of wellness in the spas, wine and food tastings, cool dips in the most beautiful seas of Puglia and other southern Italian regions, kayak tours, and walks in total relaxation to enjoy the most beautiful moments.
At our office in Lecce you can rent different types of bicycles to suit all tastes and needs. In bike tourism, the fundamental element is the bicycle, and we will accompany you in choosing the one that best suits you and will be your travelling companion during all your excursions.
- You will find trekking bikes for both men and women, reliable and resistant: they are ideal for those who love slow pedaling.
- For those who want more performance, you can try the experience of riding a Gravel bike that combines the elegance of a racing bike with the carefree nature of a mountain bike.
- And for those seeking comfort along with reliability, our highly efficient e-bikes are also available.
Our trips are also designed with families in mind, which is why you can find children's and youth bikes and all useful transport accessories, such as the innovative follow-me tandem, the trailer trolley and the child seat.
As a Tour Operator specialising in environmentally friendly travel, we love our region, its traditions and culture first and foremost.
Rely on Slow Active Tours to regain calm and tranquillity, to smile and think, to admire what nature has to offer, to chat with locals, to have a direct approach to local cultures and to travel in a sustainable and responsible manner.
So what are you waiting for? All aboard, let's ride!