By Zachary Moses, Marketing Director
I arrived in Rome, Italy several days before my biking tour in Puglia. I checked myself into the strangest bed and breakfast I’ve ever stayed at: just a second bedroom in some strange guy’s flat. There was no kitchen, the bathroom was shared with the owner, and he had a habit of bringing loud women to the flat. But hell, you can’t beat 40 euros a night in Rome!
One of the guys from my upcoming tour had also come to Italy several days early, and we had a day of overlap in Rome. We met up and toured the Vatican together. I’ve never been inside the Vatican. Did you know that they have covered all the male anatomical features with fig leaves? What a letdown: seeing what was underneath was the only reason I came. I must have seen something like 1000 disappointingly figged statues. (It’s a funny contrast to see the Vatican’s prudishness when there are thousands of statues in the rest of Rome that leave nothing to the imagination.)
If I’d wanted to see that, I’d have visited the Museum of Art at Brigham Young University back home in Utah. (Did you hear Utah just approved plural gay marriage?) Watch our calendar for the all new “Mormon Missionary Position Bike Tour” to SLC, Utah!
There was a vast collection at the Vatican of some pretty radical art that priests and explorers have brought here from all over the world. I was just amazed at how much loot can be collected after just one or two thousand years of pillaging.
We also had this really great sacrilegious tour guide who laid it on thick about how much the local Romans hate the Vatican and its mandatory tithes that get taxed right out of their paychecks. I guess we get a little spoiled in a place with freedom of religion.
My favorite part of the Vatican? The cute guy that gave me my espresso for free! My second favorite part? The Sistine Chapel. It’s beautiful, if slightly overcrowded. I laughed about the constant shushing by all the guards. They would get right up into your face and just shush away.
After the Vatican, I took the subway to the Roman Coliseum.
That was one big fat check mark on the old bucket list, and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Not as cool as say… a near death experience, but a close second. I also really enjoyed a quick visit over to the Trevi Fountain, which is an absolute must see!! I mean, I know that it’s hard to compete with the replica at the Venetian Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, but the real thing is really cool anyway. There are tons of tourists, but… for good reason. Both sites are totally wicked!
I also found a nice fridge magnet of the statue David’s cock n’ balls. I bought it and added it to my swelling collection of tacky fridge magnets.
Off to Puglia
I had to fly for a couple more hours to get from Rome to the southern region called Puglia along the Adriatic Sea coast. Puglia is all about agriculture. There is very little to do with tourism in this region. That’s precisely why we chose it for our tour. The surrounding area has over 60 million olive trees. It’s absolutely stunning.
I was met at the Bari airport by our outspoken local host Paul Cappelli. Paul is the classic Italian. He’s loud, he smokes like a chimney, he’s a fantastic cook, and he’s downright hilarious. Paul used to run a marketing firm in New York City, but now lives full time in Italy. He spends his days managing his Villa, and making his olive oil. His favorite activity is yelling obscenities in English at the local gay boys. They can’t understand a word he says, but he yells it with a big smile, so they all giggle and take it as a compliment. Hilarious!
I spent the next three days familiarizing myself with the Villa and the surrounding region. The villa has an 18-foot wall around it, and is furnished with old-world Italian furniture.
The villa’s stone walls date back nearly 1000 years. I immediately started dreaming up ideas of future tours here, including one where you would check your technology at the door and just travel back in time for a week. It would be the kind of tour that would help a high-powered CEO recharge his or her creative batteries.
Our first guest arrived a day early. He’d done this trip previously and loved it so much that he joined up to do it again. He’s an ER nurse, and the guys had taken to calling him Nurse Jackie on the last tour. It never caught on with the group this year, but I never heard the owners call him anything but Nurse Jackie. It made me giggle every time.
Paul and I got some squid ink and eggs (a local delicacy) from a local fish monger. The raw squid looked like something from the movie Alien. Paul made the most amazing dish with these grotesque looking ingredients.
It was soooo tasty dipping my bread in it. It had a kind of familiar flavor though… moments later I realized the flavor…iodine. I’m horribly allergic to iodine. Squid ink is pretty much pure iodine. I spent the rest of my evening huddled in agony in the darkest corner of my bedroom… you know what though? I would do it again. It was seriously delicious!
I woke up this morning, a bit hung over from my reaction to the squid ink… and all the whiskey… that got me through my allergies.
Today included a lot of errand running. Paul and I ran into town and bought all sorts of food supplies. We visited the fish monger again… but I steered clear of the squid ink this time.
The food in southern Italy is amazing, and super cheap. You would not believe what $100 euros bought. It was at least ten times what I can get at home in Key West.
When we got back to the Villa, we started prepping to grab all the guys from the airport and train station as they arrived. One by one they trickled in. No-one hesitated to familiarize themselves with the villa. Soon we had several people taking advantage of the clothing optional pool area. This year’s tour even had a lesbian couple. I was worried that they would be squeamish about nudity around the pool. Oddly enough, they egged all the guys on.
Before you knew it, we had a genuine naked pool party on our hands. It was awesome! The owners said they had been worried too, but the mixed group had been way more gregarious than any previous group. Who knew!
He-Travel rents out the entire Villa for this twice-a-year biking event (that can accommodate non-cyclists as well). It’s really cool hanging out in a castle with a bunch of gays, just having a good time. No one felt the least bit uncomfortable.
Once everyone had arrived, I had an orientation. Did I mention that there is an open bar throughout the week, featuring wines from the Villa’s own vineyards as well as other beverages from the region? Yeah… you may want to know that if you decide to join next time!
Read Part 2 HERE