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.
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.
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.