Cycling areas of Tuscany

Cycling areas of Tuscany

This is a quick overlook about cycling areas of Tuscany, giving an idea about terrain, landscapes, traffic and kind of tourism you’ll find in each area.

Tuscany cycling areas

The North – From Versilia shores to the Garfagnana mountains

This is one of favorite areas for training, a perfect location for Pro cycling teams.
Here you’ll find long, flat and straight roads along the coast, then several and severe climbs as soon as you move inland. The coast is a sequence of beach hotels (some quite big) so the coast is busy during summer.
Our ideal base for a cycling holiday on the area would be Lucca, because it’s elegant city center nestled on its Renaissance walls. This town is not as crowded as other Tuscan cities, yet offers charming accommodations and fantastic restaurants.
There’s very little traffic around Lucca, plus a cycling path taking you from Lucca to Viareggio.
From there you can ride along the coast passing popular places like Marina di Pietrasanta and Forte dei Marmi, all the way north until Carrara. If you head for the inland…well, it’s better you like climbing 🙂

Central Tuscany – The Chianti,Val d’Orcia, Crete…iconic countryside

Winding roads and cypress trees, that’s the Tuscany that comes in mind when you start thinking about a cycling tour in this region. Just to embrace the area in cardinal points, if you put Siena in the center, it has Volterra on the west, Montalcino and the slopes of Amiata mountain in the South, Rapolano thermal baths in the west and the Chianti area in the north. Considering that this is the most important touristic area of Tuscany, we’d suggest to avoid the warmest months of the year, not just for the heat but also because of the traffic. There’s lots of tourism also during spring and early fall, but on our tours we use many small roads with very little traffic. It’s the area that offers the highest number of charming hotels, castles and villas of the region, with plenty of wines, wineries, and vineyards.
If you opt for a base in the Chianti, we’d recommend to ride some stretch of “Strade Bianche”, the tuscan unpaved roads made popular thanks to the Eroica bike ride.
The hills are not that big, but it takes to consider that many villages are beautifully hilltop located, so do not expect super easy rides.
In the south we’d stay near San Quirico d’Orcia, thus having the chance to ride either west to Montalcino or east to Pienza and Montepulciano.

valdorcia

Eastern Tuscany – Valdichiana, Valdarno and Casentino

Passed the Valdarno, there’s still a lot to explore.
The area has Arezzo in the center, Cortona in the east and the Vallombrosa natural reserve north.
Arezzo is another jewel, and the frescos of Piero della Francesca worth a whole trip. The town isn’t that big, but traffic makes entering and leaving it a bit tricky.
Heading north from Arezzo, a popular cycling road is the SP 1, called “Setteponti”, almost a natural terrace with some superb views over the countryside. This road will lead you until the Vallombrosa natural reserve, a quiet, shady and thick forest, with a fantastic climb taking you up to the Casentino mountains. It’s really cool in summer, and can be very chilly during fall and spring.
Our favorite cycling base in the eastern Tuscany is Cortona, offering some of the most enchanting sunset of Tuscany. This is the place described on the famous book “under the Tuscan Sun”, and it’s not overrated at all. What we like the most is riding south towards Trasimeno Lake, gaining the views from Castiglion sul Lago but also the ones over Umbrian hamlets untouched by mass tourism and surrounded by a peaceful countryside like Gioiella.

South West – Cycling the Amiata to the charmingly rustic Maremma. Elba island

If you like training, the best is staying close to the Amiata mountain, and start with a great loop ride arund the slopes of the mountain, about 75 km with 1500 meters of climbing.
South of Monte Amiata, with Grosseto in the center, we can divide the Maremma in south and north. This is a quite rural area, still untouched by the tuscan touristic flow, a region that doesn’t pose yet offers great food and landscapes.
The southern part of Maremma offers quite rolling hills with the scenic towns of Pitigliano and Sovana. Those medieval towns along with the village of Sorano create the archaeological park of Tufa stone towns. This is the area of our Etruscan explorer tour, arriving to Saturnia, to us the most scenic thermal baths of whole Tuscany. If you like sea views pedal on the scenic natural reserve of Orbetello, but north of Grosseto we’d suggest to ride inland than along the coast. The road connecting Massa Marittima to Suvereto and arriving until Castagneto Carducci and Bolgheri gives an out of ordinary cycling ride. Then there’s the Elba, lovely island that with a small effort will give you plenty of emotions. Just don’t go there during summer season, too many cars for such a small island.

Cycling areas of Sicily

Cycling areas of Sicily

Sicily is a vast region with plenty of different landscapes, so it’s quite difficult to pick the best cycling area. For sure a bike tour in the south east it’s very diverse from a tour inland…unless you want to do our Sicily Bike Expedition, covering almost the whole region 🙂
We are in love with this island, yet we need to say that you may see litter along the roads, especially close to main cities. This is disturbing, but extensively compensated by its food, wines, immense culture and lovely people.

Sicily_cycling_areas

The West

It’s the most Arabic part of Sicily, you’ll find this in the food, architecture and even the people. There’s a good hotel selection near the main towns, and some nice Agriturismo (farmland called “Bagli”) inland.
There are fantastic beaches like San Vito lo Capo and stunning view points like Erice, the countryside is cultivated and there are some marvelous vineyards. This is for sure a great cycling area.
Terrain
flat/rolling along the coast, rolling inland.

The North

Palermo is a flamboyant city, and you deserve visiting it. Avoid the cycling along first stretch from Palermo to Cefalu, there’s traffic and it’s not so appealing.
Starting from Cefalu the coastline gives some great views over the ocean, with the Eolian Islands in the distance during clear days. Messina greets you with Ganzirri lagoon and the views over the “Stretto”, the strait separating Sicily from Italy main land.
Terrain
Gently rolling with few climbs to the top of some villages along the coast, and serious climbs going inland to Nebrodi and Madonie mountains.

The South East

Probably this is the best cycling area of the whole region, thanks to the heritage of Baroque, a neat countryside and a vast offer of charming hotels. Not to mention the food…but this apply to all Sicily. All towns of the area always have an incredible historical center, one of the ones we like the most is Ragusa, with its views of ancient Ragusa Ibla.
The peaceful countryside is garnished with endlessly limestone walls, and the coast hosts towns like the charming Siracusa and sandy beaches like the ones south of Modica.
Terrain
Hilly, with some proper climbs to reach the hilltop villages and to get on top of Monti Iblei plateau.

The Inland

This is the less touristic part of Sicily, so do not expect to find charming accommodations everywhere. Yet you’ll be rewarded with the serenity of this part of the region.
Vast grain fields and flocks of sheep, deserted roads and “vintage” villages, riding here makes you feeling you are really off the beaten path.
Terrain
You’ll find big hills, so the climbs are not steep but can be long.

The Etna

We totally love this majestic Volcano, with its extremely neat villages built with basaltic black stone. The views, either towards the mountain or to the coastline, are unbelievable on clear days, and the countryside is very well kept with little litter compared to other areas of the region.
Terrain
Well, Etna is a 3300 meters mountain (about 10k feet), and of course if you want it’s plenty of climbing. Fortunately it’s possible to ride on its slopes, along the roads connecting charming villages like Zafferana, Pedara, Linguaglossa and so on. On the other side there’s Bronte, famous for its typical Pistachio.

The South

The cycling from Sciacca to Agrigento is lovely, our tours follow some small roads along the coast, exploring the inland when it gets more interesting.The Valle dei Templi just outside of Agrigento, is one of the highlights of whole Sicily. There are some beautiful spots along the coast, like Siculiana and the famous Scala dei Turchi rock formation. The less interesting part goes from Agrigento to Gela, because of oil refineries and industrial areas.
Terrain
Mostly flat, with some gentle rolling roads.

Sardinian wines for dummies – Part 2, Red wines.

Sardinian wines for dummies – Part 2, Red wines.

Growing quality

Up to few decades ago, sardinian wines were use to blend softer nothern italian ones.
Then some local producer start improving vinification techniques, creating very elegant wines. 2015 has been a great year for our winemakers, able to receive many important prices.

Sardinian red wine

As for the withes, I’ll tell about the better known wines, about the ones you may know less, and about the ones you’d like to discover. For each wine I suggest a bottle of red and one of Rosè when interesting.

The one you know

Cannonau
Our most famous wine, has an ancient history, and probably is the father of the Grenache. As strong as the production areas, has a ruby color, reminds about red berries and pomegranate. Alcoholic, dry, it doesn’t have too much tannins. It’s produced mostly in central eastern Sardinia, and in Oliena area gets the name of Nepente.
The bottle
Red: Nepente riserva – Gostolai. Because Antonino Arcadu puts love and technique in his wine.
Rosé: Eressia – Sedilesu. Because you’ll be surprised by the freshness of this Cannonau

Sardinian Cannonau red wine

The ones you knwo less

Monica
It’s a lovely and simple wine, soft with red berries bouquet, with a sweet yet never boring aftertaste. Is grown mostly in the southern Sardinia.
The bottle: Perdera – Argiolas. Because this is the symbol of hard work: a simple wine made beautifully.

Carignano
Personally is my favorite red wine. Important, with a rich and powerful bouquet, its grapes can grow even on the sand. Its best production zone is in the south west on the Sulcis region.
The bottle
Red: Rocca Rubia – Cantina sociale di Santadi. Because you really can’t imagine its perfumes.
Rosé: Rosa Grande – Mesa. Because it’s cool, wine and label too.

Sardinian Carignano red wine

The ones you should know about

Cagnulari
This precious grape is cultivated in the north west around Usini, a small village close to Alghero, on clay soil hills. Ruby and with scents of red berries, has a distinctive spiced taste that makes this wine so interesting.
The bottle: Cagnulari – Chessa. Because you’ll feel all the passion of the family that creates this wine.

Muristellu
This is the ancient sardinian Bovale. It can be produced in a single variety vinification, giving (to my taste) a pointy wine.
I prefer it when blended with Monica and Cannonau, as they do in the Mandrolisai area, a beautiful garden of vineyards right in the middle of the island.
The bottle: Mandrolisai superiore – Cantina del Mandrolisai. Because it’s a superb blend.

Red wines of Sardinia

Nieddera
Little more than 100 hectares cultivated just in the Oristano area, give this beautiful and rare wine. With right amount of tannin, it has an huge quantity of polyphenols. I’ve always said it was healthy 😉 It’s my favourite among Roses.
The bottle
Red: Spinarba – Orro. Because Davide Orro works hard to preserve good agricolture.
Rosé: Nieddera – Contini. Because this was the wine of local farmers, and was made rosé.

Next time we’ll discover dessert and meditation wines, to keep discovering unique flavours and ancient history.

Part 1 – Whites

Sardinian wines for dummies – Part 1, White Wines

Sardinian wines for dummies – Part 1, White Wines

This short journey want to tell about the most known sardinian wines and grapes, some you may don’t know that well and some you’d like to discover.
To each wine I suggest an easy to find bottle with a good value for money.

Sardinian wines

I’m not a sommelier, neither a super expert, I just love wine (as you can tell) and thanks of my job I have the chance to taste wines and get to know winemakers. So I want to share this passion with you. Salludi! (Cheers!)

Winemakers since 3000 years

The nuragic sardinians (early bronze age) knew about wine. The final proof has arrived this year, thanks to the discovery of 15 thousands grape seeds found in the nuragic well of Sa Osa, in Cabras. The DNA research allowed to understand that those seeds are closer relatives of local sardinian grapes.
Again it’s thanks to DNA that we identified more than 120 different grapes, putting Sardinia among the italian regions with the largest number of local wines.

Like a proper wine tasting, let’s start with whites 🙂

The one you know

Vermentino
Fresh, with almonds and citrus bouquets, it’s the perfect summer wine.
The only Sardinian DOCG ( certified and guaranteed denomination of origin), gives its best in the granites of Gallura. It can be grown in many other areas, developing distinctive tastes related to each terroir.
The bottle: Giogantinu – Cantina sociale del Giogantinu

Sardinian wines

The ones you know less

Nuragus
Full bodied and yellow, grown in all southern Sardinia, was the most typical white table wine. Several winemakers reinterpret it, being able to smoothen its strong identity with a touch of elegance.
The Bottle: S’Elegas – Argiolas

Torbato
This delicate wine has a difficult vinification because of its thick skin grapes. It’s cultivated just in the Alghero area, gives a pale yellow wine with green glares and with a slightly bitter aftertaste.
With or without bubbles, It’s always a perfect aperitif.
The bottle: Torbato brut – Sella e Mosca

The one you should kow about

Semidano di Mogoro
Semidano is a fresh wine with a delicate acidity. Its bouquet has white fruit and herbs, has a very pale yellow color, It’s cultivated just in the Mogoro area.
The bottle: Semidano – Cantina sociale di Mogoro

Sardinian wines

Now it’s your turn, tell us about your favorites sardinian wines, we’ll discover them as son as possible 🙂
On next article we’ll present our selection of red and rosé ones, happy wine to everybody!

Memories from a tour season

Memories from a tour season

A very intense active season is (almost) over, I’ve met so many people in several tours in Sardinia and Europe, doing a job that, after 15 years, still excites me.

Simo_Brindisi

It’s quite a challenge to summarize all of that on a blog page, I’ll pick among the best moments of my Sardinian tours.

Ospitality

  • The friendly welcome of Su Gologone hotel, always a magical place. And please, don’t let me drink sooo much Nepente 😉
  • The smile and helpfulness of Serena, Paola, Simona, Antonella at Aquae Sinis hotel, and the picnic at the terrace it’s a must!
  • T-Hotel competence, not to mention the view over Castello quarter at sunrise…the joy of early wake up to say good bye to guests.

Eating

  • That’s easy…S’Apposentu restaurant. Amazing food, perfect service, sharp timing, never an imperfection, even nice and kind people…almost annoying :))
  • Cucina.eat, nice place in Cagliari, contents and beauty. Good, fresh, healthy and nice looking food, bravo!
  • Riccardo Porceddu at Antica Dimora del Gruccione: move a chef from Monserrato to Santu Lussurgiu and you’ll get the coolest Jazz-chef of the island.
  • The ladies at Ristorante Pedra Longa in Baunei, what a vegan menu!

Wine

  • Sedilesu family in Mamoiada during grape harvest, a true celebration of a whole community.
  • Mauro Contini and protection of Vernaccia, among the oldest and sacred grapes of Sardinia.
  • Mr. Emidio Oggianu, with his Malvasia and wisdom : “ Mr. Emidio, cold you imagine that this guy has 174k employees?? “What an headache!”

Guests

  • Lisa from Utah, that lost credit card, money and documents at airport departure, but still made her journey to here and had a great holiday. Resolute!
  • Emanuela from Milano, with us the third time…. Do you love Sardinia??
  • The owner and director of that famous new yorker newspaper (yes, exactly that one), happy to be in Sardinia, and I even thought him my wild-boar joke 🙂

Friends

  • Angela, our shuttle driver in the north west, that bakes for us as a surprise the dilicious “panadinas”. If you want discover it just book a tour with us 🙂
  • Giovanni, that recognize a guest of us from the jersey, and during a head wind day escorts him with his van for 20 km till the hotel.
  • Antonello, shepherd in Mamoiada, that invites us in his home to offer us his own cheese.

Colleagues

  • Nicola, able to find the right trek in the right place: not even a rain drop, while few kms away it’s raining cats and dogs. He rocks!
  • Laura and her scenic picnics, from Montiferru to Cala Luna, of course with the right music too!
  • Cristina: how to add charm to any tour.

Memorable rides

Well…this is harder…too many choices

Simo_Marines

  • Riding all the way from Montevecchio to Pula, during a hot day with headwind, yet having enough “fuel” to pull three former English marines 6,2 foot tall. Mystical experience.
  • The serene magic of Meilogu area during our Randonnee last may.
  • The whole Gennargentu Loop, 170 km and 3500 meters of climbing. Why it was so cool? Because I was driving the van 🙂
Are you more like a Cyclist or a Cycling tourist?

Are you more like a Cyclist or a Cycling tourist?

The semi serious differences between Cycling and Cycling tourism.

Palau_countryside

Dear ALL cyclist friends, the post is from the point of view of a cycling tourist, but no worries, we’ll present also a list of differences from the point of view of the cyclists.

1.Focus

You are a cyclist if you focus on the back wheel of your bike companion, on the feelings you get from your body and you keep an eye on the chronometer.
You are a cycling tourist when you are more focused on the scenery, with its perfumes and colours.

2.Look

You are a cyclist if you dress one size less (and you can afford it;), if you own at least five pairs of cycling shoes to match with impossible to match cycling kits, already coordinated with your helmet and your bike, of course.
You are a cycling tourist when you can enter a restaurant without being confused with Mazinger Z.

3.Stops

You are a cyclist when you never stop (or you cannot, because of your friends) worrying to “get cold” Even when cycling in july in south west Sardinia on a day of southern wind.
You are a cycling tourist when you sops often, just to chill down. Better with a beer, or may be more, depending on temperature and team.

4.Drinking

A cyclist doesn’t just drink, he “rehydrates”, usually with powders with funny colours you believe magical.
You are a cycling tourist if you drink just natural stuff, like beer and wine, and sometimes even water.

5.Eating

You are a cyclist when your meals are a precise percent of carbohydrates, protein and vitamin.
You are a cycling tourist when your meals are a huge amount of many local and tasty foods.

6.Bike

You are a cyclist if your bike is fitted to go fast, and comfort is an optional.
You are a cycling tourist if your bike is fitted to be comfortable, and the goal is to go far.

7.Bumping into another cyclist

You are a cyclist if, bumping into another good looking cycling girl/guy, your attention is captured by the bike.
You are a cycling tourist if, bumping into another good looking cycling girl/guy, your attention maybe is captured by the bike too.

8.Subjects

You are a cyclist when you get excited talking about climbs and downhill speed, bikes and parts.
You are a cycling tourist when you get excited talking about places and people, food and wine. And of course about bike and parts.

9.Roads

You are a cyclist when you know everything about a road: the minutes and seconds it takes you to climb every single section, you know the average gradient and the total ascent, and you remember the performances of your friends on Strava.
You are a cycling tourist when, even commuting by bike, you always look for a new road.

10.Training

You are a cyclist when you ride your bike to train, and often it’s fun.
You are a cycling tourist when you ride your bike to have fun, and sometimes you end up training.

No matter if you are a cyclist or a cycling tourist, riding a bike make you feeling better, getting better and even looking better 🙂
Nice bike to all![:]