Hannibal – Barcelona to Rome

Tour Overview

Join us on a ride of epic proportions as we cycle in the footsteps of Hannibal, one of history’s greatest military commanders. From Barcelona to Rome, cycle on some of Europe’s most beautiful and breath taking bike routes and infamous climbs. Dive into the diverse gastronomy of Spain, France and Italy, cultures famous for their cuisine. Sommeliers, picnics sourced from local fromageries, boulangeries and boucheries, and hand picked restaurants will excite your taste buds daily.

Immerse yourself in the landscape, history and culture of the places we visit as we ride this inspirational trail. The terrain is best seen from the small roads we hand pick, maximising cycling pleasure and safety. Staying in monasteries, castles and agriturismi you will relax and refresh each evening in unique and exceptionally interesting places with a masseuse on hand.

Conceptualised by Australian Sam Wood, Roman archaeologist, BBC documentary presenter. Sam created and has guided this tour for the past five years. Discover from the saddle why Hannibal’s invasion of Rome in 218 BC was a major turning point in history. Take a look at 'On Hannibal's Trail' to see first hand why Sam loved this trip and why he wanted to take others to experience it.

Tour Highlights

Stage 1 - Barcelona -> Avignon -> Alba

  • Explore Barcelona, the city which never sleeps
  • Iconic climbs through the Alps - Ventoux, Alpe d'hu Huez, Galibier and Izoard
  • Rest day in the stunning city of Avignon
  • A gastronomic odyssey as we traverse from Catalonian Spain, through France and into Italy.
  • Experience the essence of the road less travelled as we cycle through Cathar country
  • A wine connoisseurs dream as we ride between the vines of some of European's great wine producers
  • Ascend France's Col Agnel (2744m) and then descend 50km down into Italy!
  • Follow the tyre tracks of the greatest Italian cyclist, Fausto Coppi through the Langhe and Monferrato
  • Find out why Hannibal crossed the Alps and how he did it

Stage 2 - Alba -> Pisa -> Rome

  • Ride the stunning ridge lines of the Langhe hills through some of Italy’s most prestigious vineyards
  • There is a third mountain range on this tour called the Apennines – not to be underestimated!
  • Sleep through history with castles, monasteries and borgo’s among our accommodation choices
  • Compare the finest of Italy’s wine – Barolo or Brunello?
  • Italian's finest gastronomy through its most famous foodie regions
  • Lake Trasimene where Hannibal destroyed a Roman army by forcing them into it
  • Renaissance Italy through beautiful scenery and medieval hill towns
  • Cycle into the heart of Rome along the banks of the River Tiber

Tour Leader – Sam Wood

Sam is the founder of Bike Odyssey. His original trade was as a Roman archaeologist for the British Museum, London before cycling historical trails to create documentaries for the BBC. He created 'On Hannibal's Trail' for the BBC in 2010 and now has now run it as a guided tour for the last 5 years as it was too good not to share!

Press

2018 Tour Dates and Prices

Tour Accommodation

On my BBC documentary, we pitched tents every night….. as much fun as that was, I really wanted to make this tour as comfortable as it could possibly be. After a day in the saddle, I think a fantastic dinner and a very comfortable place to relax and sleep is essential to getting the most out of the tour. Thus, we have chosen places which are authentic and unique. They are always commented on as an exceptional part of the tour. Whether it be a castle, a monastery or an agriturismo, I guarantee you will love the places we stay in each night as much as the rides we do in the day. Here are a few to whet your appetite...

Hostal Spa Empuries, Spain.

This beautiful, classy hotel overlooks the Mediterranean where we will certainly enjoy a swim after our first day in the saddle! Hannibal also set up camp here on his route north, a fact attested to by the ancient ruins next door to the hotel.

Villa Sparina, Gavi Italy.

Villa Sparina Bike Tour
An 18th century farmhouse surrounded by the panoramic vineyards of Monterotondo, in the region of Piedmont, we sample it’s own wines in what is one of the best evenings of the trip.

 

Castello di Tabiano, Italy.

Antico Borgo di Tabiano Castello, Italy.
Built in the 11th century for its strategic hill top position this hotel is an exceptional stop with a lovely Spa and pool looking down the valley - but the description should warn you it is at the top of a solid climb!

 

Do you fancy a massage?

Massage Soigneur Bike tour
What could be better after a long day's ride than to have your weary legs massaged back to health? This isn't a gimmick that you have to pay extra for; each guest will be able to experience this ecstasy 2-3 times a week as part of your tour.

 

The History

Hannibal Barca is one of the greatest military commanders of all time. As a leader of the ancient superpower, Carthage, he waged a lifelong war against the Romans and nearly destroyed them. And yet, today we know very little about Hannibal or his people: the Carthaginians. What we do remember is one of his amazing feats: to fight the Romans on their own turf, Hannibal led an army that included nearly forty elephants, over the frozen mountain tops of the Alps and into Italy.

That achievement, leading the largest land animal over one of the biggest mountain chains, was just part of an incredible journey that took Hannibal and his force of sixty thousand men from southern Spain, through France, into Italy via the Alps and finally, over the sea and back to the now Tunisian city of Carthage. For Hannibal Barca this was a very personal conflict - a family affair. As a boy he'd sworn to his father Hamilcar that he would fight Rome to the death and his top generals were his two brothers, Hasdrubal and Mago. Their struggle was the main event during the biggest and bloodiest conflict of ancient times, the century long Punic Wars (264-146 BC). With Hannibal as commander, it really looked as if Carthage was going to win. European civilisation came so close to being something very different – Rome-free, and yet Rome totally dominates our imagination when we think about the ancient world. When Hannibal lived, things were very different.

Food and Wine

The Hannibal is a true culinary odyssey hence our samples coming from the great foodie regions of Catalonia, Spain, Languedoc, France and Emilia Romagna, Italy. So much great and well earned food to enjoy!

Can Roura, St Marti, Spain

Empuries Bike Tour
After a beautiful walk along the Mediterranean past the ruins of Empuries we find ourselves in the tiny village of Sant Marti where we enjoy the ‘Chef’s Table’ for genuine Catalan fair on our last night in Spain.

Fleurs D’Olargues France

One of our favourite stops. This family run hotel and restaurant in an exceptional setting under the Pont du Diable in Olargue. The degustation menu never fails to impress, especially the deserts!

Rivalta Castle, Italy

After an aperitif overlooking the River Trebbia, where Hannibal had his first major battle (and victory of course) against the Romans we enjoy fantastic local Emilia-Romagna cuisine - a exceptional Italian feast!

Read more about the regions we ride through and the food and wine they offer us on tour

Spain: Catalonia

Catalan food, on the whole, is excellent and very healthy. It is part of the famed Mediterranean diet that is rich in beans, pulses, fish (sardine, anchovy, tuna, and cod), pork prepared in as many ways as you can imagine, vegetables (especially tomato, garlic, eggplant, aubergine, capsicum, artichokes and mushrooms), and olive oil. The essence of all good Catalan food lies in its range of exceptional sauces for fish and meat. And there is always paella. This dish famous all along the coast, is presented in a different way every single time you have it. It is filling and delicious, whether you like it with fish, meat or just vegetables.

The Catalan region of Spain has a long winemaking tradition and was the birthplace of the sparkling wine Cava. It was invented in the early 1870s by Josep Raventos of Codorniu Winery in Sant Sadurni d’Anoia. At the turn of the 20th century, the Catalan wine industry led Spain's emergence as a world leader in quality wine production. The area is also an important cork producing region, with output aimed primarily at the local Cava houses. Who does not love a glass of bubbly at the end of a day’s ride?

France: Languedoc-Roussillon & Provence

A strong Catalan influence can be found in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, so you will see a lighter style of eating here than in the rest of France. This influence can be found in the regional dishes here such as Brandade which is made from a purée of dried cod wrapped in beet leaves, Crème Catalane (cream with lemon, vanilla and fennel seed) and Morue à la Catalane, a cod dished served with tomatoes and pepper and anchoïade (anchovies with garlic and olive oil). Snails are plentiful and are also prepared in a specific Catalan style known as a Cargolade – grilled in their shells with salt, pepper, and herbs.

Seafood forms an important part of the local diet, especially sea bream, mussels, red mullet and squid and are usually flavoured with locally produced olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, onions and aromatic herbs. A regional delicacy from the Languedoc-Roussillon include oysters from Etang de Thau, a spicy fish with aioli, which leaves your mouth tingling with pleasure. For the heartier meal, Gardiane is popular, a beef stew with red wine and served with rice. Fabulous goats cheeses, mushrooms, chestnuts, berries, honey, lamb, game, sausages and pâtés are all local and fresh produce from this area, perfect for picnics on a bike ride.

Provençal cooking is naturally tasty and flavoursome, due to the sun-kissed produce that is readily available in this region. The food here resembles more closely the sumptuous cuisine of Italy than Parisian meat-and-potatoes bistro fare. With emphasis on super ripe fresh vegetables, seafood, fresh herbs and a liberal helping of olive oil in every dish, traditional Provencal cuisine blends intense flavors and simple ingredients. Provence is the birthplace of three world renowned dishes: salade Nicoise, bouillabaisse and ratatouille. The first, literally meaning "Nice-style salad," is an elaborate, layered entree with crisp greens, tomatoes, boiled potatoes and haricots verts dressed with vinaigrette, hard-boiled eggs, olives and seared tuna steak. Bouillabaisse, a saffron-infused seafood stew, combines freshly caught Mediterranean fish and shellfish in a luscious tomato broth. It is usually served with a toasted baguette slathered in aioli, a traditional creamy garlic sauce. Ratatouille is simply stewed vegetables, but there is nothing simple about its taste. Usually tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini and onion softened in fruity, garlic-tinged olive oil, it is a dish bursting with deep rich flavours of the vegetables.

Wine in Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence. In both these regions, you will have wine aplenty to accompany the delights of their gastronomy. Languedoc-Roussillon wine region has around 700,000 acres (2,800 km2) under vines and is the single biggest wine producing region in the world, being responsible for more than a third of France's total wine production. In 2001, the region produced more wine than the United States.
The history of Languedoc wines can be traced to the first vineyards planted along the coast near Narbonne by the early Greeks in the fifth century BC. Along with parts of Provence, these are the oldest planted vineyards in France. Aesthetically, Languedoc- Roussillon wines unquestionably have a personality of its own - wild, unpredictable, characterful, ripe, and lush, with some of the headiest and most captivating aromatic profiles in France.
The Provence region sits along the Mediterranean coast of France and is blessed with a fantastic climate for grapes. The region gets lots of sunshine and not too much rain with warm days and cool evenings. The Mediterranean moderates the temperatures and the famous “Mistral” wind keeps the vineyards dry, free of pests and the skies clear. Wine has been made here for over 2600 years with their focus on Rosé and is home to the only research institute dedicated to the style.

Italy: Piedmont, Lombardy, Emilia Romagna, Umbria, Tuscany and Lazio

Piedmont's cuisine is famous for the immense variety of antipasti. The famous bagna càuda begins the meal with pieces of raw vegetables served with a heated sauce of garlic and anchovies in mixed olive oil and butter. The local variation of fonduta is an egg yolk enriched fondue made with Fontina cheese, milk, plenty of butter, and sometimes garnished with shaved white truffle. There is no better way to start a meal.

Moving into Lombardy, you will find its cuisine has roots in many different cultures, resulting in extravagant dishes. Lombardia cooking traditionally uses generous amounts of butter, cream and lard, making everything exceptionally yummy! To counter this richness, they eat lots of rice, both in risotto and in soups. The classic dish for Lombardy is the decadent Risotto alla Milanese. This creamy rice dish is heavily enriched with plenty of dairy butter and grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and its golden tint is provided by saffron, the most expensive spice in the world.

Emilia Romagna region is considered by many to be the culinary heart of Italy. Wheat is grown in abundance here to make a soft wheat, the base for the highest quality homemade pasta. Tortellini, lasagne verdi, gramigna and tagliatelle in Emilia Romagna is unparalleled throughout Italy. You can eat this pasta all by itself, but if you want a local speciality, try Garganelli pasta drizzled with Modena Balsamic and a sprinkle of beautiful Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. You cannot imagine how amazing this simple dish tastes here.

In Umbria you have the opportunity to gorge on gelato, and I mean real gelato. Gelaterias using natural products, no artificial flavors, preservatives, or colors. The gelato here is not going to be bright red or purple, unless it is due to fresh fruits. “Gelati d’Italia (“Ice cream in Italy”) is a festival in Umbria that runs for 4 months celebrating the Italian tradition of homemade ice cream, hosting tastings, cultural events, exhibitions and social events in the streets. Match that enthusiasm with a morning on the bike and I know what will be the perfect cool pick up at coffee time.

When you arrive in Tuscany you will be faced with only one doubt about the food and that is “What are the foods I can’t miss, what will I regret not having eaten?” So, this is the one dish that is an absolute non-misser for me: Castagnaccio. It is a traditional cake made by a dough of chestnut, water, olive oil, pine nuts,and raisins and baked and is best served with ricotta, chestnut honey or sweet wines such as Vin Santo. It is very common to the Apennine mountainous area of Tuscany. It can be eaten all year round because it’s good both warm and cold, but is a typically autumnal dessert, perfect for our trip through on Hannibal. Do not miss this!

The hills in Lazio are rich and fertile making it easy to grow vegetables of all types, making up an important part of the cuisine in this area. Wild vegetables and herbs are gathered eagerly in the countryside along with snails which are a popular dish. They are cooked with liberal amounts of oil, herbs and garlic and more often than not a good portion of anchovies. Pasta features strongly but the bigger, chunkier types such as bucatini and conchiglie are favoured and are not to be missed. The popular pasta sauce arrabbiata, which means 'angry', comes from this region also and is so named because of the flakes of hot peperoncino that are in its rich tomato sauce. If you have tried it elsewhere, try it here too, it will surpass any before it.

Italy is home to some of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world, and Italian wines are known worldwide for their broad variety. Romans started the winemaking was prolific and well-organized, pioneering large-scale production and storage techniques like barrel making and bottling.
Over 2000 years later, Italy stilI is leading the way. It is the world’s largest wine producer by volume, representing about ⅓ of global production. Grapes are grown in almost every region of the country and there are more than one million vineyards under cultivation. The sun-drenched North-South peninsula embodies pockets of geographical, geological, and climatic perfection for the production of quality wine. Over the last thirty years, some of the best wines ever produced anywhere have come out of Italy: Amarone, Barolo, Brunello di Montalcino and Passito di Pantelleria. Italian wine information and experiences now sit amongst the most coveted wine regions of the world.

Testimonials

As a 65 yr old with 2 metal hips, I joined Sam’s very first Hannibal tour, with some appreciable trepidation. But any misgivings I might have entertained dissipated quickly. Stunning views, friendly and ever helpful guides, scrumptious local fare and excellent accommodation more than compensated for the fading grumblings of an initially reluctant body. By the 3rd day all fatigue was forgotten as I made friends with riders from very different backgrounds, learnt some useful lingo and soaked up sights, smells and history of a most interesting part of the World.

Bob Hofman

Sam did a faultless job running the tour from the hotels to the food, the support, the hire bikes and the incredible history of Hannibal along the way, I cannot imagine how it could have been executed any better. The guides were professional, dedicated, friendly and supportive. Their experience shone through and is their greatest asset.
I already have my next epic tour planned, and it wont be the last.

Jason Langer

The Hannibal Expedition has been the major riding highlight of my 20-year riding career. The scenery, food wine and accommodation were something I have no hesitation in recommending. For me, the greatest plus was achieving the challenge the Hannibal Expedition’s thoughtfully crafted route provides. Plenty of personal challenge, in beautiful and historic countries, with almost no traffic. What more could you ask for.

Stephen Seymour

What an amazing holiday! You can eat and drink as much as you like and you still go home fitter and trimmer than when you left! Wait till Woman’s Weekly or Cosmo hear about this holiday! You guys’ll be booked solid till early retirement. This was undoubtedly the best long weekend of my life so far. I’ll be back next year for at the very least a full stage, if not more! My legs look forward to cashing this cheque which my hand is currently writing!

Will Wetherall

The guides on the Hannibal Expedition were excellent. They are excellent organisers, who think ahead, and are always looking to make the best possible experience for the riders, whether this be making sure the bikes are in top condition, or the picnics lunch is in “the spot”, or the evening meal is an experience to remember. The guides are happy to answer to questions on the route, and change things as weather or circumstance require. Sam’s historical knowledge and has willingness to share this knowledge really added to the trip.
I am very much looking forward to riding with them again.

Stephen Seymour

This was by far the most fun I have had on a bike. It was a pretty stern physical test for me, and thus perfect. I eyed off the van once or twice but never had to get in it. Lovely places and lovely routes that you would never find by yourself, and all fully supported.

Ted Robinson

Hannibal Barca, the wily Carthaginian General, was a fine strategist and leader. His attempt to conquer Rome by taking war elephants across the Alps was a real feat. If you wish to ride across the Alps, in fine style, without the support of war elephants, then you should sign up for this tour. They are great operators and their tour is first class.

Roddy Johnson

It is a rare thing to experience something that changes your perspective on life permanently, even more rare when that something is a choice, and not a challenge that life has forced upon you.
The Hannibal Tour did just that, it changed my perspective on life. I started the tour with very high expectations, to see the best of Europe, to make friends, to challenge myself physically. What it achieved was well beyond this. The Hannibal Tour covered some of the most extraordinary landscape I will ever see, including times when I truly was on top of the world. Meeting the physical challenge of 26 days of cycling when I have never in my life before been a cyclist has left me with an incredible belief that anything is possible in life. I have made lifelong friends from across the globe. On this tour, I felt more alive than I had since I was a kid. We all laughed hard, ate and drank like kings, and at the top of the Alps I cried with joy. And all this, from the seat of a bicycle.

Jason Langer

Sam had obviously put a lot of time and effort into researching and organising the Hannibal Epic. The detail in the planning is obvious from the start and resulted in a magnificent experience every day. The hotels, restaurants, routes, lunch stops including several picnics, coffee breaks and extras such as wine tastings and farmhouse meals were superb. An added feature of their tours is the historical aspect which was regularly explained to us in regard to our location. I feel very lucky to have found this tour and to have been able to participate as it was challenging, unforgettable and a great opportunity to meet other like minded cyclists and create new friendships. It was hard coming home after such a unique experience. Thank you Sam.

Kay Jacob

To go on a trip that has congruency with the challenge of the ride -the epic and the history, gastronomy, the culture, the landscapes and to provide such intelligent support is amazing . I loved it, felt challenged, gave myself to the whole experience and have no criticisms, just grateful for a marvellous trip.

Bernadette Redfern

The 25 days I spent on the road with Sam was the best month I have had in my life. To be able to travel through Spain, France and Italy, and to see, do, eat and enjoy so much, was a real privilege. Sam eliminates any stress that may come with such a huge undertaking. Really, all you have to do is keep pedalling and not lose control of your bike when you pinch yourself to check you are not actually dreaming.

Felix Lowe
See all our testimonials

Some Light Reading

Kane

Ben Kane Hannibal book
Ben Kane at his best! Ben has ridden Hannibal before and knows his stuff. Excellent historical fiction for a great introduction to Hannibal.

Lancel

Lancel Hannibal BIke Tour
Hannibal by Serge Lancel is perhaps the foremost historical work on the topic. A must read for anyone interested in the period.

Polybius

Polybius bike tour
The most reliable ancient source, who lived in Rome soon after Hannibal's time. He also walked Hannibal's route and met eye witnesses to the history

Cottrell

Cottrell Bike Tour Hannibal
This fun account of Leonard Cottrell's trip in a campervan over Alps in Hannibal's footsteps back in the mid 20th century is a great and entertaining read.

Lowe

Lowe bike tour
Felix Lowe road Hannibal with Sam in 2014. This lively account of the trip is an excellent read an introduction to life on tour!