Kathy Bechtel and her business partner, Vernon, post adventure travel tips and information as well as upcoming tour dates on their company websites, www.italiaoutdoorsfoodandwine.com and www.italiaoutdoors.com.
Kathy is the resident food and wine expert and quite the active adventure travel enthusiast as well. She divides her time between the Northeast in the USA and the northeast region of Italy.
Kathy will talk about Italy for the most part in this Q&A, and you may also want to check out the article Kathy wrote for this website titled Italy Wine Tours – 10 Insider Tips.
ATM: I understand that you’re the Culinary Director at Italia Outdoors. Tell us a little about the foods your clients enjoy most in Northeast Italy.
Kathy: Northeast Italy has such a wide variety of foods. There is something for everyone. From the seafood of the Adriatic you find in Venice or Trieste, to the mountain cuisine of Trentino-Alto Adige with its distinctive German and Austrian influences, there is so much to discover.
You also find so much more than pasta like rich risottos, polenta, gnocchi and fresh vegetables from radicchio to mushrooms to white asparagus.
What about the wines. Can you give use a short list of your favorite regional wines and what makes them special to you?
A ‘short’ list is tough – my favorites are the ones that I can’t find anywhere else.
In the Veneto I enjoy the Raboso reds found in Piave, and the whites based on the Garganega grapes; Soave and Gambellara.
In Trentino-Alto Adige there are wonderful reds like Lagrein, Schiava, and Teroldego Rotaliano, and Fruili-Venezia Giulia has a great, spicy red called Schioppettino that I really enjoy. I’ve written up my Top 10 Undiscovered Wines of Northeastern Italy on my blog.
There’s another side to Italia Outdoors – the non-food related adventure travel experiences. Tell us a little about the most popular active adventures people can enjoy in Northeast Italy.
The terrain is so varied; these regions can support an incredible range of activities.
We host a lot of bicycle tours, and support trips from tourist routes that have more level terrain for casual riders to long climbs in the Dolomites for expert riders looking for real challenge.
In the winter there are multiple ski areas within an easy drive of the cities of Alto Adige and Trentino, so you can enjoy city night life and restaurants at the end of a great day on the slopes. But there is also hiking in the Dolomites, climbing, sailing, mountain biking, and so much more.
Tell us about the culture of Northeast Italy. What are the most popular cultural events and where do they fall on the calendar?
There is no ‘one’ culture of Northeast Italy. Venice was its own Republic for hundreds of year trading with ports all over the world. Trentino-Alto Adige was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire until World War I.
The cultural events reflect these regional variations. In February you can visit Venice to celebrate Carnivale. During the spring, summer and fall there are many festivals to celebrate the local harvests or specialty products.
For example, we’re planning a spring bike tour to coincide with Primavera del Prosecco, a multi-week celebration in the Prosecco wine region.
What is your favorite region of Northeast Italy, and why do you like to spend your time there?
During the spring and fall I love the Veneto where you’ll find wonderful bike rides, different seasonal foods from the spring white asparagus to the mushroom, chestnuts and wine harvest in the fall.
In the winter there are the Dolomites in Alto Adige to visit on a ski adventure, and in the summer this same region has a little bit cooler weather with great bike paths along the Strada del Vino (Wine Roads).
Is there a peak season for tourism in Northeast Italy or is it steady throughout the year.
Late spring through early fall seems to be the peak season, but I think that mostly derives from Americans not appreciating the differences between Northeastern Italy and the rest of the country.
These Northeast regions remain a bit cooler in the summer, and have the mountains, so the summers are not quite as hot as further south. Also, they still remain relatively undiscovered. Many Americans still only think of Italy as Tuscany, Rome and Sicily.
What are your favorite adventure activities when in the USA?
I bike a lot during the summer around my home in Massachusetts. I participated in the Pan Mass Challenge this year, which is a 190 mile, two day bike trek across Massachusetts to raise money for cancer research. In the winter I teach skiing at Sugarloaf, ME.
What about when you’re in Italy?
I get to bike some more challenging terrain when I am in Italy.
I’m training now for an ascent up Monte Grappa on my next trip. I’m not sure how I’ll do this while I am on skis this winter, but I’ll be ready!
What is your best Italia Outdoors adventure travel planning advice for someone interested in touring Northeastern Italy.
Find a group that really has local expertise, not a tour company where the guides are leading tours in the Veneto this week, then leading a tour in Tuscany the following week. The local flavor of the regions you are exploring is amazing, something not to be missed.
Give us your top insider tips for adventure seekers considering Northeastern Italy. What can they do and where can they go for great value and experiences of a lifetime?
Well, I’d suggest they visit on one of our tours: either our food and wine tours or some of our more challenging tours for strong bikers offered on Italiaoutdoors.com. But both places are good resources if you are just in the market for information.
My partner, Vernon McClure, has been leading adventure tours in this region for over 15 years, and has lots of bike routes, hiking routes and climbing information on his site referenced above.
For information on the foods and wines of the regions, you can visit my site. We are also happy to answer questions on what you read. Just drop us a line via our “Contact Us” on our sites.
Tell us about Italia Outdoors? What is it that makes your adventure travel tours special to your clients?
What makes our tours truly special is our passion for the region, and our desire to share this with our clients. Vernon and I create the itineraries and personally lead each and every trip.
Vernon has a huge amount of expertise in both adventure travel programming and the history and culture of the regions we explore, where he has lived, biked, hiked, skied, climbed and sailed for the last 20 years.
I visit many weeks a year, and spend the rest of the year researching, cooking, and tasting as I continue to study the foods and wines of the region.
Years of research have been put into each of our tours and the great thing is we still are discovering new things on each and every adventure.
You have you own blog at Chefbikeski.com. What do you focus on in your posts?
Probably too many things.
I post recipes, most of which are inspired by my travels, but are also adapted for the seasonal ingredients I find here.
I also post on the new regional wines I discover, specific wine tastings and pairing suggestions.
I also have trip reports whenever I explore a new wine region… what I saw, where I ate. I have many more ideas for posts than I have time to write!
Kathy Bechtel enjoys the outdoors, but has a passion for food and wine.
As a trained chef and wine taster, Kathy co-founded Italia Outdoors to offer special food and wine tours, biking, skiing, and active outdoor adventure experiences.
Check out the website to see programs offered with a focus on the food and wine for the northeastern regions of Italy.