Tuscany is a cycling paradise, with its stunning landscapes, picturesque hilltop towns, and world-class cuisine. From the iconic white gravel roads of the “strade bianche” to the rolling vineyards and olive groves, Tuscany offers a diverse range of cycling experiences for riders of all levels.
In this guide, we’ll explore the best routes, must-see attractions, and practical tips to make the most of your Tuscan cycling adventure.
Best time to visit
To fully enjoy your cycling adventure in Tuscany, it’s essential to choose the right time of year for your visit. Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect during each season:
Spring (April to June): Spring is an ideal time to cycle in Tuscany, as the temperatures are mild, ranging from 15°C to 25°C (59°F to 77°F), and the landscapes are bursting with color. Wildflowers, such as poppies and sunflowers, cover the fields, creating a picturesque backdrop for your rides. Rain is possible, especially in April, so pack some waterproof gear just in case. Spring also brings fewer crowds, allowing you to enjoy the region’s beauty in relative peace.
Summer (June to August): Summer in Tuscany can be hot and crowded, with temperatures often exceeding 30°C (86°F) during the day. While early mornings and evenings can provide cooler riding conditions, cycling during the heat of the day can be challenging. If you choose to visit Tuscany in the summer, plan your rides for the cooler parts of the day and ensure you stay hydrated. On the plus side, summer brings numerous events and festivals, such as the Palio di Siena, which can enrich your experience.
Autumn (September to October): Autumn is another fantastic season for cycling in Tuscany, with pleasant temperatures ranging from 15°C to 25°C (59°F to 77°F) and vibrant fall foliage adding an extra dimension of beauty to the landscape. The grape harvest takes place during this time, providing a unique opportunity to witness and participate in this traditional activity. Like spring, autumn sees fewer tourists, making for a more relaxed cycling experience. However, rain can become more frequent in October, so pack accordingly.
Winter (November to March): Winter in Tuscany brings cooler temperatures, with daytime highs ranging from 7°C to 14°C (45°F to 57°F) and nighttime lows sometimes dipping below freezing. While the region doesn’t typically experience heavy snowfall, rain is more common during this season. Winter can be a great time to explore Tuscany’s cities and towns, but cycling can be less enjoyable due to the weather conditions. If you do choose to cycle during the winter, be prepared with warm clothing and waterproof gear.
The best times to visit Tuscany for cycling are spring and autumn, which offer mild temperatures, beautiful landscapes, and fewer crowds. However, each season has its unique charms, so consider your personal preferences and tolerance for weather conditions when planning your Tuscan cycling adventure.
Where to go
Tuscany offers a wide variety of destinations for cyclists, encompassing everything from bustling cities filled with art and history to charming villages and stunning natural landscapes. To get a true taste of the region, consider exploring a mix of these diverse settings:
Florence: The capital of Tuscany and birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence is a must-visit city for its world-class art, architecture, and history. Cycle along the banks of the Arno River, and take in iconic sights such as the Ponte Vecchio, the Duomo, and the Uffizi Gallery.
Siena: Another jewel of Tuscany, Siena is famous for its medieval architecture and the historic Palio horse race. Wander the narrow streets, visit the impressive Piazza del Campo, and soak up the atmosphere of this enchanting city.
Hilltop towns: Tuscany is dotted with picturesque hilltop towns, each with its own unique charm and character. Some favorites include San Gimignano, with its medieval towers; Montepulciano, known for its wine production; Cortona, with stunning views over the Val di Chiana; and Pitigliano, a remarkable town perched atop a tufa rock cliff, often referred to as “Little Jerusalem” due to its historic Jewish community.
Coastal areas: Tuscany’s coastline offers beautiful beaches, rugged cliffs, and charming seaside towns. Explore the Versilia coast, with its fashionable resorts like Forte dei Marmi, or venture to the Maremma region, known for its wild landscapes and unspoiled beaches.
Countryside, Strade Bianche, and natural parks: Tuscany’s countryside is a patchwork of vineyards, olive groves, and cypress-lined roads, interspersed with the iconic “strade bianche” or white gravel roads. These unpaved roads offer a unique and challenging cycling experience, taking you through the heart of Tuscany’s rural landscapes. The Chianti wine region, the rolling hills of Val d’Orcia, and the lunar landscapes of the Crete Senesi are perfect areas to explore on these famous routes. For a more rugged experience, venture into Tuscany’s natural parks, such as the Apuan Alps, the Casentino Forest, or the Maremma Natural Park, where you can enjoy diverse terrain and breathtaking scenery.
By incorporating a mix of cities, towns, and natural landscapes, including the iconic “strade bianche,” into your Tuscan cycling itinerary, you’ll experience the full range of what this captivating region has to offer.
Routes and events in Tuscany
Tuscany is a haven for bikepacking enthusiasts and cyclists seeking unforgettable routes through diverse landscapes. The region boasts a variety of famous itineraries that cater to different skill levels and interests, offering unforgettable experiences for all riders. Here are some notable routes to consider for your Tuscan cycling adventure:
- Tuscany Trail: The most partecipated bikepacking event in the world, the Tuscany Trail takes riders on a 530 km (329 miles) journey through some of the region’s most beautiful landscapes, including the Chianti hills, the Crete Senesi, and the Maremma coastline. Taking place usually in the first week of July.
Via Francigena: This ancient pilgrimage route, which connects Canterbury in England to Rome, passes through the picturesque Tuscan countryside. Following sections of the Via Francigena will lead you through historic towns like San Gimignano, Monteriggioni, and Siena, as well as the beautiful Val d’Orcia region.
The Grand Escape: this road bikepacking event series takes you to low-traffic, secondary roads in the most scenic and beautiful landscapes of Tuscany. Riding it you can benefit from the speed of a road bike and still visiting the towns, hills and landscape of the true Tuscany. Taking place in early September
Montalcino to Montepulciano: This popular route connects two of Tuscany’s most famous wine-producing towns, Montalcino and Montepulciano. Along the way, you’ll traverse rolling vineyards, ancient hilltop towns, and charming countryside, providing ample opportunities to taste world-renowned wines and delicious local cuisine.
- “Strade Bianche“: This iconic route takes you on a journey through the heart of Chianti along scenic “strade bianche.” The L’Eroica route can be adapted to various lengths and difficulty levels, offering stunning views of vineyards, olive groves, and medieval villages.
- Unpaved Roads: This is a gravel event series with a lot of benefits for the participants. It’s a weekend event in beautiful places where you can relax and ride in some really particular and breath-taking landscapes. A must for finish a touristic week in Tuscany. Taking place from spring to autumn (check the calendar here)
Maremma Coastal Route: For those who prefer coastal scenery, this route takes you along Tuscany’s Maremma coast, passing through lush Mediterranean vegetation, unspoiled beaches, and quaint fishing villages. Highlights include the Maremma Natural Park, the Argentario Peninsula, and the ancient Etruscan town of Populonia.
These famous itineraries showcase the best of Tuscany’s diverse landscapes, historic towns, and rich cultural heritage. Whether you’re an experienced bikepacker or a casual cyclist, these routes offer an unforgettable journey through one of Italy’s most captivating regions.
Food & Wine
Tuscan cuisine is renowned for its simplicity, hearty flavors, and use of high-quality local ingredients. Rooted in the “cucina povera” tradition, Tuscan dishes often feature rustic ingredients such as bread, beans, and olive oil, transforming them into delicious and satisfying meals. As you cycle through Tuscany, be sure to savor the region’s culinary delights, which vary from town to town, offering a true taste of the local culture.
Bread is a staple of Tuscan cuisine, often appearing in soups, salads, and antipasti. One famous dish is the ribollita, a hearty soup made with stale bread, beans, and a variety of vegetables, providing a perfect, warming meal after a long day of cycling. Panzanella, a refreshing bread salad with tomatoes, onions, and basil, is another Tuscan classic, perfect for a light summer lunch.
Tuscany is also known for its high-quality meats, particularly its Chianina beef, which is used to make the famous “bistecca alla fiorentina.” This thick, succulent T-bone steak is grilled over a wood fire and seasoned simply with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil, showcasing the meat’s natural flavors. Wild boar, or “cinghiale,” is another popular ingredient in Tuscan dishes, often used in hearty stews, pasta sauces, and cured meats like “prosciutto di cinghiale.”
The region’s fertile soil and sun-soaked hillsides produce an abundance of fresh vegetables, legumes, and fruit, which feature prominently in Tuscan dishes. Pappa al pomodoro, a rich tomato and bread soup, and fagioli all’uccelletto, a flavorful bean dish with sage and tomatoes, are prime examples of the Tuscan penchant for elevating simple ingredients to exquisite dishes.
Last but not least, Tuscany’s world-renowned wines are the perfect accompaniment to any meal. From the bold reds of Chianti and Montepulciano to the crisp whites of Vernaccia di San Gimignano, you’ll find a wide range of wines to suit your palate and complement your culinary discoveries. So, as you explore Tuscany by bike, be sure to indulge in the region’s gastronomic delights, savoring the flavors that make this part of Italy so special.
How to get to Tuscany with a bike
Traveling to Tuscany from abroad with your bike is a fairly straightforward process, thanks to the excellent transportation options available. Depending on your preferences and budget, you can choose between air, train, or even road travel to bring your bike to this beautiful region of Italy.
By air: Many major airlines offer services to Tuscany’s main airports, such as Florence’s Amerigo Vespucci Airport (FLR) and Pisa’s Galileo Galilei Airport (PSA). When flying with your bike, be sure to check the specific airline’s policy on bicycle transportation, as you may need to pack your bike in a dedicated box or bag and pay an additional fee. Once you arrive in Tuscany, you can easily assemble your bike and start your cycling adventure or use local transportation options like trains or buses to reach your desired starting point.
By train: International train services, such as the high-speed Trenitalia and Italo trains or the EuroCity and InterCity trains, connect major European cities with Italian hubs like Milan, Venice, and Rome. From there, you can take regional trains to reach various destinations in Tuscany. Most trains in Italy accommodate bicycles, but be sure to check the specific train’s policy and reserve a space for your bike if necessary. Some trains may require you to disassemble and store your bike in a dedicated bag.
By road: If you prefer traveling by road, you can either drive your own vehicle or rent one, making use of the well-maintained road network that connects Italy with the rest of Europe. This option allows you the flexibility to bring your bike on a bike rack, offering a seamless journey to your chosen Tuscan destination. Be prepared for tolls on Italian highways and ensure you have the appropriate vehicle insurance and documents for international travel.