How to explore the real Tuscany: by bike

There is a reason some 14 million people visit Tuscany, Italy every year.

Unique countryside and a culinary tradition that lives up to it’s thousands of years of history…

Not to mention, Tuscany is the home of Chianti wine.

We believe, if you visit somewhere by car, bus or train, you often miss something. That sense of really being in a place. Inside a glass and metal bubble, you just don’t connect with the great outdoors.

When it comes to the rolling hills and vineyards of the spectacular Tuscan countryside, you don’t want to miss a thing. So, to get a a little closer to nature, we got on our bike. Well, someone else’s bike.

This was not 2-wheel larceny. We’d signed up for a Tuscany bike tour. Not only would we get to experience the area and really breathe it in, we’d also be able to drink plenty of wine without being arrested for drink driving. Bonus.

History, wine and olive oil

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The day starts at a 12th century medieval castle, where you get to visit the castle’s wine and olive oil making facilities. Italy has a long history of making fresh, traditional products, which this castle (still lived in by a count and countess by the way) has been a part of for hundreds of years.

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Our trusty tour guide, Jason, explained all about the olive oil making process, and also took us up to the top of the castle’s tower for magnificent views of the surrounding country side.

Now, we all know it would be rude to show off all the wine and olive oil equipment, without letting their guests taste the finished product… They didn’t disappoint.

Offered for all to enjoy was a sizeable glass of red wine and some local Tuscany bread seriously smothered in olive oil. This is no ordinary supermarket olive oil. The oil, made exclusively on site, is special. Seriously, it was unlike anything we had ever tasted. Fresh, full of flavour (or “zing” as Tommo puts it) and served on fresh Tuscan bread.

We personally would have liked the opportunity to try a few of their other wines, but this is not specifically a wine tasting tour, and we are known alcoholics, so we were just feeling greedy because the wine was so tasty. Anyway, you wouldn’t want too much under your belt before heading out on a days ride.

Everyone does have the opportunity to buy the wine or olive oil to take home, which is held for you while you head off on your ride. We picked up some of the olive oil, it really was that good, we couldn’t resist.

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Time to work off all the yums

That actually seems to be the theme of this tour – eat, drink, work it off. Then start again. Our sort of tour.

All bikes are supplied in top working order with helmets and instructions from your guides about gear use and road safety. There’s even a water bottle supplied that you get to keep as a memento.

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The ride itself takes you through small towns, and around the rolling hills of the Tuscan countryside. Surrounded by vines and olive groves, you could easily be riding through a movie set. Photo stops are included along the way and we even nicked a couple of grapes to try at the local vineyard. They looked so delicious we didn’t think they’d miss them…

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One thing we really liked about this tour is the constant van support on hand. Yes, if things get a bit too hard you don’t have to tough it out. A van with a bike trailer is there every step of the way in case you need assistance.

After about 1 hour riding, it’s time for lunch.

The pace, at this point had been cruisey, leaving you time to soak up the atmosphere and engage with your surroundings. But, don’t worry, for the fitness fans, it’ll be time to “bring it” later. Before that, lunch.

We arrived at a family run restaurant. They serve up salad and a selection of pastas to share amongst the group. Also, desert and coffee – all included in the price of the tour. We always try to eat on a budget and have had some amazing pasta for around 6-8 euros per portion in many different restaurants around Italy. The pasta here, sadly, did not live up to the standard we’ve experienced elsewhere. But, it was still a filling and adequate meal and there was plenty to go around. Everyone else seemed to enjoy the meal. Oh, and there was a surplus of wine available, so we were happy.

Talk during lunch very quickly turned to what came next – “The Hill”.

Not all of this tour is a breeze. In fact, be warned. There is about 950m of steep hill towards the end – and I mean steep. Your fitness level and how much you eat and drink at lunch are important factors in whether you will make this hill – 50% of the group probably won’t.

Tommo being the adventurous go getter that he is, decided to conquer the hill no matter what. I decided to have an extra couple of glasses of wine at lunch, and take the van. As mentioned earlier, the van is there for you through all of the tour if you need it. This is where you might need it!

But honestly it is the only part where the van is necessary. The rest of the day is an enjoyable, easy ride though the Tuscan countryside.

The days ride finishes where it started after you complete the loop back to the castle.

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Now for those of you that are thinking “Wait. How do we get out there, do we have to ride the whole way from Florence?”

No, the meeting point is located in downtown Florence, and it is here that you meet your guides and fellow bikers. Once everyone arrives it’s time to jump into the vans that take you to the castle. Easy!

Things to know:

  • Tour Cost: 80 euro per person or 75 euro for students (under 26 and full time) lunch and wine/olive oil tastings are included in the price.
  • Riders need to be able to confidently ride a bike and be relatively fit
  • You will be riding on roads used by cars and other vehicles. But there is no pressure if you’re not “super biker”. You can ride at your own pace
  • There is a small rear bag on the bike, so you can keep valuables or your camera with you without having to carry it, or leave it behind.
  • The entire ride is 13 miles or 23 kilometres long, with “the hill” included. The bikes all come with easy to use gears and the majority of the ride is fairly flat.
  • We had a sunny day, but the tour runs rain or shine so consider bringing necessary rain gear.
  • Tours are only in operation from March to November
  • Tuscany Bike Tours also offer vespa tours as well.

 

We would  like to thank Tuscany Bike Tours and their great staff for their hospitality on the day.

Jason is one of a few guides that work for Tuscany Bike Tours – you could score any of them. No matter who you get, all of the staff are friendly, approachable and a good laugh.

Looking for hotel options in Tuscany? We recommend HotelsCombinedThey have a great selection and help you get the best possible price!

Disclaimer: Our tour was complimentary. However, like with all other write ups on our site, we always provide an honest account of our experiences.

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