Operator Profile: Discover beautiful Riccione, Italy with Hotel Milano Helvetia
Bike tours based out of one hotel are on the rise. With this increase in popularity, BikeToursDirect Vice President Natalie Cook recently spoke with Steve Myers, from Hotel Milano Helvetia, over e-mail.
They operate the popular, flexible, and affordable Riccione Bike Tour (based out of one hotel) in Riccione, Italy. Here is what they had to say about their location, tour, and why you should discover their region by bicycle.
Tell us about your location (as a destination) and your hotel property.
The Milano Helvetia enjoys a prime location in Riccione, Italy, literally a minute’s walk from the beach and only a couple of hundred meters from the famous Viale Ceccarrini shopping precinct. Riccione is close to Rimini on the Adriatic Coast so you have the beach life but within minutes after heading inland you have beautiful countryside with spectacular landscapes and views.
The hotel has more than 70 rooms and can trace its history back more than 100 years, to this day retaining its traditional style. It is family managed with the hotel manager Emiliano Carlini also working as one of the guides. His mother is responsible for the delicious food the kitchen serves. The hotel is a genuine Italian hotel run by genuinely friendly people…the staff are the same after many years so you know by that it’s a great place not only to holiday but to work also!
How did you get into the hotel business, and at what point did you decide to make your property into a cycling hub?
The Carlini family have been hoteliers for many years — it’s in the family genes! It was a natural progression to run a larger hotel and the location is a great cycling area, scenic and full of history. Emilaino and his father Piero are both enthusiastic cyclists, so it was not a hard decision to start offering bike holidays so that they can share their passion with others.
Your tour is offered as guided or self-guided. What are the benefits of riding with a guide? How does GPS help on the self-guided option?
With a guide, you don’t have to worry about anything! The guide can easily adapt a ride and give advice and safety warnings along the way…a map or GPS won’t tell you where there is a steep descent or bad road surface approaching!! A guide will look after the group ensuring no one is left behind and also be able to show you not only the best destinations in the area, but take you there on the best roads with the nicest views and the fewest cars!!
The only con is that if it’s a group ride, you might have to wait for the slower riders but the hotel usually offers at least 2 levels of daily ride to cater for differing levels. If you like to sightsee, then this not so easy when with a group of others as most don’t want to stop too long or too often…they come mainly to ride.
However, if you come on a quiet week when the hotel does not have any/many other cyclists, you may have a guide to yourself and they can do whatever you like! Alternatively, the hotel can arrange a private guide (at extra cost) who will tailor a ride to the guest’s requirements and time would not be a factor.
If you choose a self-guided tour, GPX files are available. During the last 2-3 years, I’ve spent a lot of time compiling a folder of nearly 70 rides, each with a written description of what to expect, the distance, climbing meters and a difficulty rating along with the GPX file so guests who don’t book a guide or just wish to ride alone can do so knowing they will find their way on the best roads in the area. It’s easy to get a map and plot a route but without local knowledge you maybe won’t see the best the area has to offer. There are tours from 24 miles/40km to 87 miles/140km available.
Tell us about your guides.
The management employ only experienced, mature guides, nearly all of whom speak English. Our main guide is actually from the UK and plans most of the routes. He has been holidaying and working in Riccione since 2007. He knows even the small roads and often shows our local Italian guides new ways to go! The guides are very safety conscious and considerate and are strong riders. However, they spend equal time with all guests, not just the strong ones at the front of the group! They use their experience to control the groups’ pace yet still make it fun for all.
How do you choose the routes for your tours? What do you look for when designing the daily rides?
It is easy to choose destinations for our tours as there are so many great places in the area to visit and many ways to reach each area. We focus on designing our tours based on several factors: Great views, fantastic destinations and as many car-free roads as possible–which is a lot as we have an intricate network of roads so it’s not too hard to find the small pretty ones. Th
ere is an abundance of pretty towns, hilltop castles and churches and, combined with the beautiful natural scenery and rolling countryside, it’s a great place to cycle!
Describe your favorite route to ride personally.
All the guides love Urbino. It’s not the hardest 62 miles/100km you will ever ride but it’s truly a beautiful ride and destination. If you have a group that can manage it, then there is also the option to see The Furlo Gorge with its spectacular natural scenery.
What special programs do you offer during the Nove Colli Gran Fondo?
We have some themed weeks available including the Nove Colli Gran Fondo in May. Gran Fondos are timed mass participation rides with between as little as 500 riders to as many as 13,000 on The Nove Colli. We arrange everything for our clients: registration, transportation, a member of staff to meet and greet at the end and often some of the guides will ride too!
During the Nove Colli week we make a nice program to include some recovery days so the participants are not too tired for the big day itself! We can arrange massages and help with off-the-bike activities for non-riders as sometimes the riders bring partners who are not cyclists themselves. Usually around this time the Giro d’Italia passes through the area so we always arrange a ride or bus trip to see how the pros do it.
However, The Nove Colli is not the only Gran Fondo available. If a client asks, we can usually find one most times of the year and arrange everything for the guest. There are other challenges in the region, including Gran Fondo Pantanissima (dedicated to the late great Marco Pantani) and in May there is the Challenge Rimini Triathlon. (Contact BikeToursDirect to book a special package.)
Why is your area best seen by bike?
Easy question to answer…it’s beautiful and by bike you get to see it while breathing in fresh air and soaking up the sun! It’s a great way to travel and we have a lot of traffic-free roads. There is nothing quite like reaching the top of a long hill then enjoying a coffee in a picturesque Italian village to savor the moment. You then also get to enjoy the exhilarating descent!
Book your stay at Hotel Milano Helvetia
Stay for 7 nights with full board (with meals cooked by Emiliano’s own la Mama!) and use of property amenities (including a beautiful pool and Turkish bath) for less than €500! Choose whether to ride with a guide or self-guided. Rental bikes available. Bonus for solo travelers — no single room supplement.