Michela began leading tours with ExperiencePlus! in 2012. She has an amazing variety of interests and though she is quite an accomplished athlete she prefers to gauge her accomplishments today in terms of adventure and fun – not winning. Her professional history is equally diverse so we thought we’d check in and get to know her a bit better.
You have a very diverse background – Art History, Languages, and Business – how did all of that translate to leading bicycle tours?
If you think about it, even before I was involved in leading, not bicycle tours, but the family business. I attended a school for languages, because I would have wanted to travel around the world. At the same time I knew I had responsibilities towards my family and somehow I would have to learn about business. Soon after high school I had the chance to attend a business school and learn the basis of how to lead a company. After my studies I got involved immediately in the family business, and I had to set aside my travel aspirations. I discovered Tour Leading in 1995, as a customer on a trip in Canada. After I saw the four Tour leaders in action I decided I wanted to become one of them. I found out about leading cycling tours later on in 2006. When I told some friends I wanted to become a tour leader, they gave me some names of cycling tour companies, which I contacted back then but never had the courage to leave the family and the business until 2011. I got another opportunity when I quit my job, I went walking on the Camino de Santiago and further on I met Beatrice (Italian country coordinator), on a desert trekking tour. She encouraged me to apply for a tour leader position at ExperiencePlus! It was the right moment and the right time.
You grew up and still live near Lake Garda in Italy and ExperiencePlus! introduced a new tour that highlights this area in 2015 – What do you think people will love about the Bike Paths of Lake Garda Sightseer tour?
What can I say, everybody tells me that I talk too much about “The Lake”. They are right, but everyone living in this area celebrates Lake Garda as one of the best places in the world. Maybe I’ve been influenced a little bit!
I can only say that I am lucky to have grown up in such an enchanting place… with little fishing villages, lemon, orange, and oleander trees which bloom everywhere in the summertime. It is a Mediterranean area nested in the Alps … A nice combination.
I like visiting the area, by bike, but as it is such a big area I also love going around by Vespa among the olive trees. My favorite transportation option is a sail boat, stopping at little piers for a gourmet lunch or dinner on the shore. So peaceful and relaxing. It’s a fabulous place to visit any time of year. I like spring and fall, when there are fewer people, but even in the sunny days of the winter it’s nice, with all the snow on the surrounding mountains. What can I say – I like it 365 days of the year.
What do you do for fun, or work during the “offseason”?
Well, I keep myself very busy helping at home, cooking, studying, or travelling if I have the opportunity. I do not really practice sports seriously anymore. Mainly because I look more for personal challenges like flying to Porto (Portugal) and then riding my bicycle home to northern Italy.
I started with athletics very young and was already dancing by the age of four. I also played soccer and was good enough to be recruited. I moved on to volleyball, roller skating, tennis, fencing, swimming, biking, skiing, running, hiking, karate, and sailing. I did some regional and national competitions depending on the sport. I have to say that fencing is my favorite and though I would love to continue to practice I had to abandon it because there is no longer a good school in my area.
If you could take a year off and do anything, go anywhere what would you do and where would you go? I would travel the world Walter Bonatti style, or perhaps in a gentler way, because I do not have the same courage nor the preparation time that he needed for his level of adventures. For sure I would leave for a walking/bike trip around the world without using airplanes, just following the wind and find my way back home.
If price didn’t matter what would your dream bike look like? I am not a bike addict or gearhead, so I am not familiar with all the different bikes on the market. I do like going fast so I would want a racing bike, but I also enjoy vintage 1950 -1960 Italian styles.
Do you have a favorite piece of cycling clothing or gear? I like to wear the bike pants that finish under the knee, pirate style.
Any cycling tips to share? Take it easy and enjoy every moment of the ride, no matter the time.
What’s your favorite snack on a long ride? Fruit, fresh peach in summer time or a banana.
How do you prepare physically for the start of the tour leading season? Some walking, some cycling around my area where I can find some really hilly options.
What are a few of your favorite on tour experiences and why? Besides gourmet food, I like visiting small towns, meeting the locals and imagining life in the past.
Tell us something about yourself that would surprise most people. Before choosing business school I checked into Private Investigator and circus schools. I wanted to become a P.I. or a clown.