Friday, 14 December 2012

Tuscany by bike: self-guided bicycling tours in Tuscany

Today I have a few tips on a subject very popular with Tuscans as well as tourists, namely, Tuscany by bike: self-guided bicycling tours in Tuscany. Cycling for pleasure and fitness is extremely popular in Tuscany, as it is throughout Italy, despite (or perhaps because of) Tuscany being on the whole very hilly. The network of lightly-travelled country roads passing through very scenic areas from one picturesque sight to another makes it a real pleasure to get around Tuscany by bike. The idea is NOT to ride within or through the outskirts of the major cities, notably Florence. Unless local experts advise otherwise, put your bike in the baggage space under a bus and start your ride from out in the country.

Tuscany by bike: self-guided bicycling tours in Tuscany
Cycling through the Tuscan countryside - pure joy!
Because cycling as a sport is so popular in Tuscany, there are numerous excellent bike route books available. Some are published by bicycling clubs and others by individual enthusiasts. The routes described as well as the quality of the maps have to be taken into account when choosing your cycling atlas. After you've done a bit if research, it will become evident which are the classic rides. These latter are the ones for a first time visitor to Tuscany to stick with.

My recommendation is to buy one or more bicycle route books well before you depart for your vacation so that you can plan your itinerary and accommodation around the routes rather than vice versa. For example, one of the classic bike rides is from Florence to Sienna and back, along the Via Chiantigiana. Florentines start off from wherever they live in Florence but they have the experience on how to avoid or at least deal with traffic. Newcomers should either take the SITA bus out of Florence or plan to stay in the country and join the cycling routes near where they are staying.

Cycling in Tuscany - Tuscany on a bike
All set to go! Tuscany by bike.

There are several guided bicycle tours of Tuscany offered on the internet. These have the advantage of providing the bikes, a support vehicle and accommodation booked along the routes, plus, of course, the planning of the route itself. Some are accompanied by a guide while other provide a route plan and are effectively self-guided. Personally, I don't think it's necessary to lock oneself into an organised tour, guided or self-guided. Armed with a good route book, you can easily choose a base and nearby routes. On the other hand, if the organised tour provides the bicycles, you could well save a lot of time unless you are experienced at shipping your own bike.

I have reviewed a selection of cycling atlases of Italy and Tuscany here.

A comprehensive assortment of Tuscany bicycling route books

Today's top links: For everything you need to know about what to do and where to stay in Tuscany: The Chianti Travel Guide and The Greve in Chianti Tuscany Blog.



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