Trip timing tips and the benefits of self-guided travel

Europe’s self-guided, active travel leader, Pure Adventures, designs game plans for adventurous cycling vacations throughout Europe and the UK, suggests that one way to get into the heart of a country is to drop into a local festival. In the case of Italy, it might be a culinary feast, or, this summer in Ireland, a return to emerald roots at the summer-long event dubbed, The Gathering.

“Because you’re on your own wheels and your own time, you can linger – or not – as you wish at these events that draw on a region’s history and culture. The only consideration then becomes the seasonal time frame in which Pure Adventures offers programs to a region,” said Loren Siekman, founder.

Time your self-guided cycling trip to take part in Italy's Cavalcata Festival
Time your self-guided cycling trip to take part in Italy’s Cavalcata Festival.

Italy’s Puglia is a relatively new region offered to Pure Adventures clients seeking self-guided tours of six nights. In addition to the trulli (white limestone dwellings that resemble pointed witches hats), this region bordering the Adriatic is one of Italy’s wilder sides, with ample urban-stress-relief cycling through agricultural vistas and national parks. Here, as elsewhere in Italy, there are year-round calendar of events for nearly every village. These events celebrate patron saints, the Virgin Mary and, of course, Carnivale. This website offers a sampling of events in Puglia.

Medieval festivals in towns around Florence begin cropping up in May, competing for attention with multitudes of food and wine happenings on four- and six-night self-guided tours. See the Discover Tuscany website to find more events. In Umbria, onion and tulip festivals mix with Medieval music and dance, and if cycling guests plan accordingly, they can take in a happening on a six-night tour.

Another part of Italy that Pure Adventures offers over six nights is Maremma in western Tuscany. Here in May guests can stumble on a crossbow competition in a Middle Ages city and explore the secrets of the prized Prugnolo mushroom.

Hopping over to Ireland, this country’s 2013 cause célèbre is The Gathering, billed as an island-wide festival of events meant to draw in people seeking to connect with their Irish roots. On seven- and four-night Ireland self-guided tours cyclists can plan to tuck in more than one musical event along with pub visits. The tours focus on Connemara and on Galway and the Aran Isles.