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Tuscany - A villa in...

Tuscany Bike Tour Overview

Our tour seeks to embrace the classic Tuscan blueprint whilst also staying true to our philosophy of seeking out the road less travelled and offering an authentic travel experience. Hence, whilst we still pedal the rolling hills of the Chiantigiana and visit some of Tuscany’s iconic sites we also open your eyes to some of the lesser known highlights that the region has to offer.

It is for this reason that we host our Tuscan odyssey at the villa 'Il Molinello' at the heart of the crete Senesi. This former mill, is built on travertine marble foundations, first used in the Etruscan period. Beautiful examples of Etruscan tombs lie just over the hill from the villa and in the 14th century a thermal spring was routed under the villa to run the grinding Mill (Molino), whose ruins have been renovated to form this classic Italian residence.

We pass through the region's premier wine area where you’ll find the villages of Montepulciano and Montalcino before heading up in to the heart of Chianti Classico country. We visit the fantastic towns of Siena and Pienza and ride the immaculate Val d'Orcia.  Together with the timeless landscapes of Tuscany we also introduce you to a rustic cuisine that has few equals and we sample an array of Italy’s finest wines. Clichéd as it may sound Tuscany it not just a destination, it is an experience.

Tuscany Bike Tour Highlights

>  Enjoy your own authentic Tuscan villa with swimming pool and all modern facilities.

>  Experience authentic Italian food prepared infront of your by your own Italian chef who will cook many meals for you in your villa.

>  Explore the Via delle Volte in Castellina, an underground medieval street with secret nooks and cellars.

>  Judge for yourself if the gelateria in San Gimignano is worthy of its award for producing the world’s best gelato.

>  Take in the views at sunset from the beguiling town of Pienza whilst sampling a plethora of the different pecorino cheeses for which it is has become famous.

>  Investigate the Etruscan carvings found in the tufo rock around Pitigliano and Sorano and draw your own conclusions as to what they signified.

>  Ride the immaculate postcard hills of the UNESCO protected Val d'Orcia.

>  Sample the delights of Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano during an intimate and informative wine tasting.

>  Experience an olive oil tasting and tour as our guide explains why she believes Tuscan olive oil to be the world’s best.

Tuscany Bike Tour Dates & Prices

TourStart Date 2015End Date 2015DaysCost (Euros)
A villa in Tuscany - European Spring 8 (7 nights) €2295
A villa in Tuscany - European Autumn  8 (7 nights) €2295
A villa in Tuscany - Custom Tour ? ? ? ?

All dates are Saturday to Saturday to ensure ease of travel arrangements.

These are our recomended travelling periods - get in first and set the dates!

If you are part of a group, please get in contact and we'll run through the options available.

Tuscany Bike Tour Food & Wine

FOOD

Tuscan cuisine is characterised by its close association with the land. The unique language of the ancient Etruscans may have all but disappeared but their earthy cuisine lives on in Tuscany. Simplicity is the key to Tuscan cuisine that reflects the region's peasant traditions and changing seasons.

* Bistecca alla Fiorentina -This thick premium cut of Chianina beef is cooked over coals and flavoured only with olive oil, salt and pepper and  is worth the journey to Tuscany alone.

* Panzanella -Preferring something lighter you could sample this unique Tuscan salad which is a bread salad with tomato and basil – a fantastic summer dish.

* Ribollita - Perhaps the signature dish of the region this hearty soup is peasant fare at its finest. Based primarily on stale bread, cabbage and cannelloni – Tuscan white beans.

* Pici pasta – Typical of Tuscany these ‘fat’ spaghetti are perfect with a wild boar ragu or, when in season, the delicious porcini mushrooms that are among the world’s most sought after mushrooms.

* Fagioli al fiasco  – Beans are a staple in Tuscan cuisine and this method of simmering them in an empty Chianti bottle over charcoal works a treat.

* Tuscan Oil - A central theme of Tuscan cuisine is the generous use of its prized olive oils for cooking, dressing salads, flavouring soups and dipping bread. Indeed, grilled bruschetta rubbed with garlic and olive oil is a tasty start to any meal.

* Cantucci - Our personal favourite way to end a Tuscan meal involves dipping ‘cantucci’ –biscotti- into the Tuscan sweet wine which is aptly named vin santo – holy wine.

WINE

Home to many great wines, Tuscany is the great rival to Piedmont for the mantle of being Italy’s premier wine area. The Tuscans certainly believe that they are deserving of the honour and with Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and the ‘Super Tuscans’ all produced in the region they clearly have a strong case.

* Chintigiana – We cycle through the heart of the Chianti region and visit two of the jewels of the area - Castellina in Chianti and Radda in Chianti.

* Montepulciano – We cycle up to this stunning hilltop town and visit a small cantina within the town walls where we can sample some exceptional Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

* Orvieto – Whilst over the border in Umbria, our starting point for the tour, we will try one of Italy’s premier white wines in the town that bears its name.

* Super Tuscans – Whilst we don’t cycle in the area where the most famous wine of this genre is made – Sassicaia – we will have opportunity via the wine kitty to make our own minds up about their relative merits over dinner.

* Brunello di Montalcino – One of the tour's extra loops takes us to the village of Montalcino, the home of Tuscany’s most esteemed wine. Brunello is the local term for the Sangiovese grape and unlike Chianti, must contain 100%. Rich in black fruits and spices the best of these wines are to die for.

* Vin Santo – This ‘heavenly’ sweet wine is produced by drying Malvasia and Trebbiano grapes before fermenting them. Tuscans traditionally dunk Cantuccini biscuits in their vin santo after dinner and we look forward to introducing you to the tradition. We’ll also introduce you to some of the finer stuff which should be enjoyed on its own.

Tuscany Bike Tour Essentials

Meeting point
The official meeting time is 12pm at Il Molinello. We will facilitate shuttles to the Villa as required.

Getting there and away
Flights – Rome Fiumicino airport is the most convenient international gateway for this tour.  Buses run every 30 minutes from the airport to Rome’s central train station –Termini – and take around 30 minutes.
Trains – There are regular trains from Roma Termini station to Orvieto which take just over an hour. To check schedules the Trenitalia website is a useful tool – www.trenitalia.com. Note that the Orvieto station is below the old town so you will need to get a taxi up the hill unless you are meeting the shuttle on Day 1 of the tour.

Departure- We finish our tour in Volterra and will arrange a shuttle to the main line train station at Cecina which takes around an hour. From here you are able to catch direct trains to Rome and Florence.

General information-
* Geography- Whilst we start our tour in Umbria and touch on the region of Lazio, Tuscany is the focus of our tour. Roughly triangular in shape and situated between the northern part of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the central Apennines, Tuscany has an area of approximately 22,993 square km (8,878 sq mi).
 * Population 3.7 million (population of Italy is 60 million)
* Capital city- Firenze (Florence)
* Languages spoken – Tuscany is considered to be the birthplace of the modern day Italian language. It has its own Tuscan dialect and is playfully parodied for the way in which the ‘c’ letter is aspirated. English is widely understood, particularly in the more touristy areas of the region.
* Local time- GMT +1
*Emergencies -Dial 113 for any emergency. You can also call 112 for the carabinieri (police), 118 for an ambulance, or 115 for the fire department.

Tuscany History

Named after the Etruscans, one of its original inhabitants, Tuscany or Toscana in Italian corresponds closely geographically to ancient Etruria. The Etruscans, known mostly nowadays for their impressive tomb sites, withstood the inevitable Roman expansion for a century or two until succumbing in the mid 4th century B.C.

Roman rule lasted close to 8 centuries and besides a few minor hiccups (such as Hannibal!) the region flourished. Road networks throughout Tuscany facilitated transport and trade and settlements on the sites of modern Florence, Lucca, Arezzo, Pisa and Pistoia prospered.

After the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century BC, and brief occupations by the Byzantines and Ostrogoths, Tuscany became a Lombard duchy (6th-8th cent. A.D.), with Lucca as its capital. Charlemagne destroyed the Lombard kingdom and the Frankish Empire ruled from the 8th to the 12th century. Castles, Monasteries and Abbeys were built, many surviving today, and many of the towns developed into communes independent of the Holy Roman Empire.

The rivalry between these communes in Trade and war was intense and after a period of Pisan dominance in the 11th to 13th centuries Florence became the foremost city in Tuscany. The relative peace that followed, initially ruled over by the Medici, was the catalyst for the prolific artistic style that identifies the area today and is known as the Renaissance period. This period marked great cultural change and achievement in Europe that spanned from the end of the 13th century to about 1600, marking the transition between Medieval and Early Modern Europe. 

After the Medici, Tuscany was ruled by the Austrian Dukes of Lorraine. The Dukes of Lorraine modernized and developed the area but in 1861 Tuscany voted in favour of annexation to a united Italy. Florence was briefly, prior to Rome, capital of the kingdom of Italy from 1865 to 1871.

Tuscany Reading

Written by Australian expat Isabelle Dusi, this book is slightly different from most of its genre in that the author had already been in Montalcino for a number of years before she wrote it. Slow in parts this book nonetheless provides a charming account of Tuscan village life.

Isabella Dusi, Vanilla Beans & Brodo

In light of our tour visiting a number of sites rich in Etruscan history we felt it important to include a book that attempts to unravel their mystery. Weiss has written a book that attempts to understand the Etruscan mind. Highly subjective it may be but it achieves its aim.

Morris.M.Weiss, The Mystery of the Tuscan Hills

Elisabeth Romer approaches Tuscan cuisine month by month and succeeds in presenting a delightfully written book which is more than just a recipe book. The writing is perhaps a little flat at times but as an overview of the traditonal Tuscan kitchen it works very well.

Elisabeth Romer, The Tuscan Year - Life & Food in an Italian Valley

Written by tour guide Dario Castagno this book provides a humourous insight into some of the extreme situations he has found himself in.  Heavy on anecdotes about tourists you hope you'll never encounter, this book, whilst slightly shallow, is still a good read.

Dario Castagno, Too Much Tuscan Sun -Confessions of a Chianti Tour Guide

Finding a book that focuses on Tuscany and the Romans is hard given the all encompassing nature of their empire. As an overview of Roman influence in Tuscany though the Blue Guide does a great job. Be warned it contains over 500 pages but as a definitive guide of the region it is hard to beat.

Alta Macadam, Blue Guide - Tuscany

Iris Origo's book is a classic that is written in diary form. With an immediacy that only a diary can give, this chronicle of daily life during the Second World War is powerful in its simplicity. In light of the affluence of the area today this book presents an insight into an altogether less fortunate era.

Iris Origo, War in Val D'Orcia - An Italian War Diary 1943-44

The Stages at-a-glance

Length - 8 days/ 7 nights

Grade - B Ride and Seek Bike Tours Espresso CupRide and Seek Bike Tours Espresso Cup

Day 1 - Warm up ride in the crete Senesi

Day 2 - Montepulciano loop

Day 3 - Etruscan loop

Day 4 - Chianti loop

Day 5Val d'Orcia loop

Day 6 - Pienza loop

Day 7 - Siena loop

Day 8 - Arriverderci

Extra riding available on each day

Price - €2295

Non cyclist options available