A Guide to Scenic Cycling in Tuscany

Looking to add a dash of fitness to your next holiday? If you’re travelling to Tuscany, that’s a great idea – while ambrosial, the region’s food is known to go straight from lips to hips!

If cycling strikes your fancy, perhaps you’ve thought about pedalling through Tuscany, whose scenery simply couldn’t be more picturesque. Over the centuries, countless trails have been laid throughout the region, meaning that you’ll have plenty of attractive choices. But how do you pick a trail? And how do you prepare for your athletic undertaking?

After over a decade of living and cycling in this beautiful region, I’ve come to know the area’s winding paths like the back of my hand. To get the most exciting and varied glimpse of Tuscany, tours are – in my experience – your best bet, especially if you’re pressed for time. Here’s how to prepare for your excursion – and what you can expect to discover.

Where to Go

While it’s possible to bike along the coast or through the mountainous region of Garfagnana, I always recommend the Chianti region, whose rolling hills, tranquil woods and stunning vineyards and olive groves allow you to fully immerse yourself in nature. The majority of the trails are easy to moderately challenging, but there are also more challenging stretches, such as those in and around Gaiole, which are perfect for advanced cyclists.

No matter your level of proficiency, however, you’re in for a breathtaking outing – and that’s not a reflection of your fitness level! The views of the classic Tuscan countryside, which surround you at all times, are blissfully beautiful. If you’d like to pedal through rural Tuscany, tours with experienced and local guides are your best bet.

Prepare to Pedal

While you don’t have to be a pro to make your way through the meandering paths of the Italian countryside, it’s helpful – and recommended – to have a good grasp on the fundamentals of cycling. Luckily, you don’t have to leave this page for some insider tips. Here’s what I’ve learned while cycling through Tuscany.

1. Always wear a helmet. This may sound blatantly obvious, but it’s an absolute must.

2. Know how to brake. I’ve found that it’s generally best to use your hand brakes. If you need to stop quickly and/or unexpectedly, push down both brakes and move towards the rear of the saddle to prevent falling over your handlebars. Be particularly careful when you’re going downhill: instead of cruising, be sure to lightly activate the brakes at regular intervals.

3. Dress appropriately. Make sure that you wear exercise clothing that won’t irritate your skin, such as leggings and comfortable, closed-toe sneakers.

4. Take care of your muscles. To avoid charley horse and general discomfort, try pedalling consistently – even when you’re going downhill (albeit more gently). This prevents the build-up of lactic acid, which causes muscle tenderness.

5. Shift gears. If you have (or are renting) a bicycle with gears, be kind to your knees by shifting down to lower gears regularly. This will be easier on your knees – not to mention that you’ll pedal faster and burn more calories!

Listen to Your Guide

Although the five tips above are highly important, listening to your guide is the most significant piece of advice I can give you. If you’re opting for a guided cycling excursion in Tuscany, tours that are led by reputable guides will help you get around safely and at a comfortable pace. What’s more, you’re sure to learn a thing or two about the region.

If safety, fun and a varied agenda define a great bike ride in your mind, one of our favourite Tuscany tours – The Original Tuscany Bike Tour – may be just up your alley. In addition to gliding through the most scenic parts of the region, our expert guides will take you to a wine and olive oil tasting, as well as offering you an exclusive glimpse into a Renaissance villa and a royal hunting lodge. Ready, set, bike!

Rose Magers is an Australian-born Italophile and the founder of ArtViva. With an international reputation for excellence and creativity, ArtViva are at the forefront of escorted day tours in Italy. Rose has indulged her own passion for history and the arts by designing an innovative range of exceptional small group Tuscany tours and experiences, from hiking and biking through the Tuscan countryside to unforgettable villa visits.

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Author: Desiree Michels