Continuing on, we arrived at "the farm," the headquarters of ExperiencePlus. There we met Rick and Paola, the founders of the company, now owned and managed by their daughters Monica (based in Italy) and Maria Elena (based in Fort Collins, CO). It was also a pleasure to run into Javier, a guide from my first ExPlus trip, in Patagonia, who now works full time at the farm, and Christina, one of the guides from my Croatia trip. We had a great picnic, prepared by the staff at the farm (enough to justify skipping dinner, which, you will seem, we did not do). Then we had a tour through the facilities (all in a converted pig barn), where they house their offices, kitchen, dorms for guides passing through, and the bikes. All told, they have 350 bikes and a staff of three mechanics to care for them.
We returned to the kitchen to watch Paola's aunt make pasta from scratch, with no more tools than her hands, a rolling pin, and a knife. She made cappelletti, ravioli, and tagliatelle. A few of our number tried their hand at filling and folding cappeletti.
The restaurant in our hotel was highly recommended, and is headed by a chef who is highly regarded in Italy -- we saw a magazine with a feature article on him. Six of us dined at one table (several others from our group also dined in this restaurant). Of the six, four of us ordered the chef's surprise tasting menu. They would not even tell us the number of courses to expect -- everything was a surprise. We started at 7:30 pm, and the food just kept coming. The chef himself brought out each course and explained it. All the dishes were fantastic -- my favorites were the "spring rolls" with tempura style shrimp, the risotto with shrimp, calimari and lime, and finally, the skewered pork with blackberries. All together we had nine courses. There might have been more had we not begged the chef to stop because we were so full and we had to get up in the morning and cycle.
It is now Friday morning, and we are set to cycle over the Apennines. We will probably climb to about 300 feet. Should it prove to be more than we wish to undertake, their are to opportunities to peel off and take the train. I make no promises or predictions at this point.
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