The Italian town of Castelmezzano(Susanna Thornton)
Enrico Pizzorni: Tour leader for Ciclismo Classico, which runs small-group cycling and hiking trips in the U.S. and Europe (ciclismoclassico.com)
A native of Piedmont, Italy, Enrico Pizzorni grew up idolizing cyclist Fausto Coppi, who won the Tour de France twice and the Giro d'Italia five times. In 1998, Pizzorni channeled his cycling talents into a gig leading and then developing small tours for Ciclismo Classico, which leads bicycle groups through Europe and New England. When destination-hunting in the off-season, Pizzorni says he tries to find "a cycling route that has something different to show the customer every day. Even if the landscape is nice, if it doesn't change after a week, it may become boring."
One of the company's most varied routes begins in Puglia by the Adriatic Sea and heads southwest across the arch of Italy to finish in Calabria. After completing that trip, Pizzorni and a colleague wondered if they could find a more appealing place to stay than their base in Potenza.
One night they skipped dinner to scope out the surrounding villages. "It was dusk, and we were driving up a little mountain and then through a tunnel when all of a sudden this incredible place appeared," recalls Pizzorni. The tunnel is no longer open--visitors to Castelmezzano now enter town from a different direction--but cream-colored houses still hug the sides of craggy peaks known as the Dolomiti Lucane for their resemblance to the Dolomites in northern Italy. (The region around Castelmezzano was once called Lucania.)
Wandering among the fairy-tale village's alleys, Pizzorni and his colleague--who were by then starving--lucked upon Al Becco della Civetta, a restaurant with an adjoining hotel run by a family that seeks to preserve recipes such as cavatelli con la mollica (pasta covered with bread crumbs). "They make things that you don't hear about even in the other nearby villages," marvels Pizzorni. He recommends a 20-minute after-dinner stroll further up the slope to the base of the rocky spires that overlook Castelmezzano's 13th-century church, the ruins of a Norman fortress, and the Basento valley. "It's very romantic," he says. "Italy is full of these unknown places."
How to get there: Public SITA buses from Potenza take about an hour, sitabus.it, $3; Al Becco della Civetta, 7 Vico 1 Maglietta, 011-39/0971-986249, beccodellacivetta.it, cavatelli $8, doubles from $101.