“I hope you don't think we're crazy,” sang Marina as she shimmied her way past our table, boldly leading the second conga of the night over the pool and back into the bar.

Unfortunately all the signs were pointing to the Hotel Belvedere and its host being just that.

Firstly, this was Riccione on the Italian Riviera, a place where people are far too busy being beautiful and sipping Prosecco in beachfront bars to host wild parties with folks they’ve only just met. And secondly every single person currently swaying dangerously close to the water’s edge had spent the day cycling anything from 90-125km with ex-pro road racers acting as tour guides among the vine-laced rollercoaster terrain of Emiglia-Romagna.

Where did they get the strength for dancing? Watching the speed with which barman Maxim was serving up potent Negroni’s it became clearer.

The Belvedere is part of the Italy Bike Hotels consortium — a collection of top notch hotels which cater for cyclists.

Yes they wash your Lycra daily, yes there is a spa to recover in, yes the food —including local speciality spaghetti allo scoglio (spaghetti of the clifftops) — is delicious, and yes you get the pick of high-end racing bikes for the week, with mechanics on hand. But no the staff won’t push you up the hills. The idea is that each day you ride hard, then play harder Italian style — Campari, seaside, shopping. The rides range from not very hard to very very hard indeed, a minor distinction lost on anyone who believes 25km/h should be a speed reserved for motorized vehicles.

This area of Italy is steeped in cycling lore making riding here akin to walking in the footsteps of giants. Marco Pantani —who won the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia in 1998 — was born just up the road in pretty Cesenatico — a bustling fishing town.

Each year the Pantanissima memorial race traces the routes Marco trained on in the surrounding hills. And the hills aren’t as brutal as you’d think, the guides interspersing the inclines with panoramic descents hugging the coastline, coffee stops in crumbling hilltop villages and rolling routes through vistas burdened with historic beauty.

Our motley peloton made up of cycle enthusiasts (Lycra is a given) from across the globe definitely balanced out pain with gain.

But then they were crazy.

Italy’s finest rides

Monti liguri: Mountain bike past the cervia salt marshes and Massa Carrara area.
Emilia-Romagna: Mountain bike and street bike routes in Emilia-Romagna, Marche and Tuscany
Adriatic coast: See castles ancient citadels and nature along this trail

Cycling hotels
• As you cycle through Italy you will need a place to put up your feet and rest your head for the night. To find the best hotels along Italy’s best routes check out www.italybikehotels.it

• For deals on flights to Italy check out www.redtag.ca. They consistently have some of the best travel deals available. Flights to Italy are regularly on sale.

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