Tuscany is close to our hearts and particularly Chianti, as this is where we have our HQ and home base when we are in Italy. It is a region that is full of undulating hills covered in bosco (lush green forest), vineyards, olive groves and beautiful strade bianche. It is for us, a place that opens your heart and puts you at ease as soon as you exit the autostrada and make your way up the first hill, with the soft light shimmering off the leaves.
The whole of Chianti was once described to us as a “bike park”, and we believe this is a perfect description.
Stage eleven of this year’s “beautiful race” will find its way into magical Tuscany, weaving its way through the iconic UNESCO World Heritage area of the Val d’Orcia, before finishing in Montalcino. With over half of the final 70km on spectacular unpaved Strade Bianche, this will be a stage not to miss.
The Tuscan action keeps coming with stage twelve starting in Siena and heading north through our home region of Chianti, before they tackle the day’s four climbs and their combined total distance of 50 plus kms. Another long day for sure.
As the Giro rolls through Tuscany for the first time since 2019, and in particular through two areas that we traverse on our own Tuscany Cycling Tour, we’ll be watching in anticipation as the beauty and magic unfolds for the riders during these two stages, as it will for us again soon. Here are some of our reflections on this great region of Italy.
Our Favourite towns
Siena has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995 and for very good reason, as it’s a superbly well-preserved medieval gem and home to much colour, tradition and history. On our Tour of Tuscany, both the riders and non-riders enjoy an experience on the inside of this walled city; a small city that delivers a punch, especially when you are meandering through its streets and then you turn a corner, and suddenly find yourself immersed in the majesty of the Piazza del Campo and its surrounding buildings. This is a place where you can while away the hours and in our view, is a ‘must visit’ town on any visit to Tuscany.
San Gimignano, the hilltop town with its 16 towers strikes an unforgettable pose from any direction. While it’s often crowded with many people visiting for the day, this is a town that truly shines from 4pm onwards when the hordes depart and only the residents, and those visitors who are staying the night, remain. Leading down from the high point of the piazza, the cobblestoned streets and alleys are dotted with seriously amazing gelato shops and restaurants creating a local speciality of pappardelle pasta with sausage and saffron, grown in the surrounding hills. This dish is so good, we’ve been known to have it for our first course and our second course (well, Damian has at least!) and when paired with a glass of the local Vernaccia di San Gimignano, it’s a meal made in heaven. The little wine bars lining the streets provide the perfect setting to just sit and soak up the atmosphere, enjoying local wines and pecorino cheeses as you watch the world go by.
Gaiole in Chianti, is the village where we spend most of our time and it is also the birth place and home of L’Eroica. A quaint town that is historically a market village, it sits beside a little stream and is the perfect place to become part of Italian village life. With a population of 800 warm and happy people, we have been welcomed with open arms and we look forward to sharing our village again soon with guests on our Tuscany cycling tour and our very unique L’Eroica cycling tour.
Our Favourite Rides
L’Eroica, this is in our opinion the best day you will have on a bike, bar none. Big call we know, but it just always delivers something new and special with each edition. This is the “vintage and gravel” ride that has given birth to a whole new sector and culture in cycling. The pre 87 steel bikes with down tube shifters, tubular tyres, metal cages, and the woollen jerseys and gravel all combine to give you a riding experience that will never leave you.
Chianti to the Val d”Orcia, north to south, this is the ride we always do on day 4 of our Tour of Tuscany. It’s such a beautiful day, where the green woods of Chianti, slowly give way to the iconic open rolling hills of the Crete Senesi, that depending on the season will be either covered with green and dotted with wild flowers, be a sea golden wheat swaying in the breeze or a barren, rich brown ploughed earth. Whatever the month, these hills are just mesmerising.
Our Favourite Food
Bistecca alla Fiorentina, this is the iconic T-bone steak that comes from the Chianina cow and is cooked over charcoal. For it to be classed as a Bistecca alla Fiorentina, it needs to weigh over 800grams and be more than 5cm thick. Needless to say, this is a steak that you share. We have on one occasion had a Bistecca alla Fiorentina that was 3.2kg and shared amongst four of us… and it was a very big, yet absolutely incredible meal indeed. We love our Italian Bee Bee Q experience on our Tuscany bike tour which features this magnificent steak, sourced from a local butcher who not only rears the cows, but also produces all of their feed.
Fegatini, is a Tuscan chicken liver pate that is super delicious. We were shown how to make this by our good friend, Andrea. What makes this Tuscan version quite different from others in the use of anchovies, capers and the local vin santo, or holy wine, as well as all of the ingredients only being combined with a fork, giving it a beautiful rustic texture. Stay tuned for the recipe.
Our Favourite Wine
Chianti Classico, is our local drop and one that we love. Wherever we are in Italy, we always drink the local wines and we are absolutely spoilt for choice in our home village. Each little hill is different from the next, but one we do love comes from the very tiny hamlet of San Felice, where their Il Grigio Chianti Classico Riserva is sublime.
Vernaccia di San Gimignano is made from the Vernaccia grape, and only from the hills surrounding San Gimignano. This has been considered one of Italy’s finest white wines since the Renaissance and it was the first wine to be awarded the DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) status in 1966, which was then upgraded to the DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) status in 1993. This is a wine that has both a minerality and freshness that we really enjoy and makes for the perfect refreshment after completing more than 500km’s and almost 10,000m of riding on our Tuscany Tour.
Click the following links for more information about our Giro d’Italia Bike Tour or our Tour of Tuscany or L’Eroica Cycling Tour, and if you’re interested in joining us in 2022 or 2023, be sure to check out our dates here.