Riding in Tuscany; The Perfect Challenge & Reward

two cyclist riding in Tuscany

In the last few years I’ve had the opportunity to ride in many parts of Italy and one region we keep coming back to is Tuscany.

It’s a place that I always look forward to returning to and never tire of….. there just seems to be a peacefulness and a quiet calm when you enter the Tuscan countryside that is like nowhere else.

This is an ancient land settled by the Etruscans with many distinct regions that include Chianti, Siena, the Crete Senesi, the Val d’Orcia, the San Gimignano province and then the whole area in the north around Lucca and the Garfagnana, each with there own charm but all with incredible beauty and diverse landscapes, which will see you ride through dense forest, up beside ancient vineyards and down along geometric olive groves, past castles and little hilltop towns and through open valleys. This is a playground just made for us.

There is a rule of thumb in Tuscany that goes something like “for every 30k’s you ride, you’ll climb at least 400m”. Note the words ‘at least’, as was the case on our recent Friday ride out to Greve in Chianti where we rode a grand total 70k and climbed 1500m, with 5 distinct climbs for the day.

a cycling riding in Tusany

We were greeted to a brisk morning and after another complete Italian breakfast of a brioche con crema, a salami and formaggio panino and a couple of caffe macchiati, we got going and rolled down the hill through town, starting our first climb before we had even completed a km. No waiting, no delay, just straight into it. The next seven k’s saw us wind our way up and out of the valley through dense forest and home to the delicious cinghiale (wild boar).

We turned and kept climbing a little more before hitting the top, where we waited and regrouped for the superb descent into the outskirts of Radda. 7 up and then 7 down. This is a beautiful free flowing descent past a quintessential Tuscan landscape of long gravel roads lined with cypress pines and ancient stone buildings perched on top of nearby hills…. we take it all in as we fly past.

a tuscan villa surrounded by vineyards and olive groves

We were still descending when we rolled past a sign that said ‘15% descent up ahead’ ….. I thought to myself, that can’t be good as if it’s 15% going down, there is more than likely a 15% ascent on the other side……. and sure enough a couple of km’s down the road, we rolled past the corresponding sign saying ‘15% ascent up ahead’. This was to make up part of our next challenge; climb #2 for the day.

We had already turned off the secondary road to what amounted to something akin to a small country lane and we were in for something special; the first hairpin turn was our 15% ascent on the corner and this set the tone for another 8k climb that toggled between 4 and 13%. I was now down to my 2nd last gear and had the trouble of keeping focused and concentrating on each pedal stoke, while looking up at the next amazing view that had just unveiled itself, as we turned the corner or made it over the next rise.

a rider cycling up a steep hill in Tuscany

Our 2nd and hardest climb of the day was done and it was now time to enjoy another long descent as we rolled through tiny hamlets on our way to Dudda, where we stopped to regroup once again, fill the bottles and take off the gilets and jackets as it had now warmed up. With no wind, it started to reveal a perfect day.

Riders cycling in Tuscany on holidays

We took off up our next ”hill” and traversed our way around rather than over, giving us a different perspective of the landscape. Everyone was rolling at their own pace as we hit the half way mark, cleared the top and then started another thrilling and free flowing descent. We were now in the heart of Chianti country and this was pure magic.

people cycling in Tuscany on holidays

This next 10 km section of road was described by one of the guys in our group as the prettiest landscape he has seen in all of Italy on his 4 week trip, and it’s hard to disagree.

This next climb was steady with only a couple of “pinches” at 6%, allowing you to be able to take in the beauty of Tuscany as we pushed to the top.

It was now time for a break and we pulled into a cafe for a little lunch of panino and pizza, taking our time to also enjoy another macchiato.

a cyclist outside a gelateria in Tuscany

We enjoyed the Autumn sun on our backs as we started rolling again for the final 25k home. We were now on a section of road that is fast and open, with the postcard prefect Tuscan landscape following us as we head for home.

vineyards in Tuscany

As we cruise along the valley floor for a while, I think of how great it is to be riding in the warm Tuscan sun with a great group of riders, while it is still cold back home….. I really don’t want this to end…. I am kicked out of my day dream as we start the final ascent of the day, but this is “gentle” compared to what we have already tackled earlier in the day. We all roll up at our own pace, regroup at the top and then take off again for the final down hill rush for the day, making our way back to the villa.

This has been an absolutley cracking day on the bike, beautiful weather and a perfect mix of climbing and descending, of challenge and reward.

There’s a challenge involved every time you hit the road in Tuscany and take on the continual rollercoaster, but there is also a balance because the descents are not technical like the Alps. They are fast, free flowing and thrilling.

This is all part of the beautiful dynamic of what I often describe as the ‘challenge & reward’ of riding…. you can’t have one without the other. And the reward in Italy, other than the ride itself, is the food, wine and amazing hospitality of the locals. After a great ride you can “reward” yourself with some amazing food…. and I mean “lots” of amazing food. This was one of our post ride dinners.

a mixed antipasti plate
The antispasti… no translation is needed.

a plate of pasta
The primi: (the entree of a small pasta)

a second course in Tuscany
The secondi,: (ahh the main course, with a little truffle no less)

A tuscan side dish
The contorni: (the side dish)

a plate of dessert
The Dolci: (dessert)

Ride all day and eat all night. There is nothing better….. I just love it.

Here’s a couple of testimonials that have just arrived in from guests on our recent tour to L’Eroica & Tuscany and if you’re keen on enjoying for yourself the challenge and reward of Tuscany, join us for our Tour of Tuscany or our L’Eroica & Tuscany Tours in 2018.

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