L'Eroica & Tuscany
Eroica Bike Tour Overview
Join us on a ride of historical proportions and take your chance to be part of one of the world’s greatest cycling events - L’Eroica (literally, ‘The Heroic’). Conceptualised in 1997, by the visionary Giancarlo Brocci, as a means of protecting Tuscany’s fabled ‘strade bianche’ (white gravel roads) from being paved, the ride can normally only be entered via a lottery system.
We have the good fortune of being able to get guaranteed entries. Our hosts for the tour – Elisa and Sandro – have long been involved with the event and have hosted Giancarlo on many occasions at their atmospheric agriturismo – Il Molinello. Situated in the heart of the Crete Senese and on the proverbial doorstep of the ‘strade bianche’ Il Molinello provides the perfect base for our tour.
In the lead up to the main event we will give you chance to acclimatise to the challenges posed by the strade bianche whilst also incorporating other elements such as a Brunello tasting and exploratory rides in cycling pearls such as Val d’Orcia and the Chiantigiana. On the day itself you can choose how ‘Heroic’ you want to be with 4 ride options available - 48km, 75km, 135km or 209km.
In terms of your steed for the rides in the lead up to the event you can choose. Bring your own, rent a 'normal' bike off us or spend the whole tour on a 'vintage' bike (either your own or rented from us).
For the Eroica the rules are that you must ride on a pre-1987 steel frame bike with ‘rat trap’ pedals, down tube shifters, and exposed cables, wearing woollen jerseys, and fuelled by decadent Italian food and wine! Vintage bikes are available if you do not own one.
Join us on this cycling odyssey leading up to what is known as the ‘most handsome race in the world’.
Eroica Bike Tour Highlights
> Choose your distance for the Eroica - 209km/135km/75km or 46km - and guaranteed entry that normally requires entry by lottery
> Savour the hospitality of Sandro and Elisa at the Agriturismo Molinello - our base in the heart of the Crete Senese
> Explore the 'strade bianche' of Tuscany in the lead up to the big event
> Visit the atmospheric city of Siena and take an aperativo overlooking the campo
> Sample the wonder of Brunello wine at our friend's winery in the heart of Montalcino
> Pizza night at Molinello using the the agriturismo's wood fired oven
> Daily rides in around the Chianti, Crete Senese and Val d'Orcia - truly world class cycling
> Personalised vintage woolen jersey and access to a wide range of pre 1987 hire bikes
Strada bianca towards Siena - photo taken by Jenny Woodward
Eroica Bike Tour Dates & Prices
|Tour||Start Date 2017||End Date 2017||Days||Cost (Euros)|
|Tuscany - Eroica tour||28th September||3rd October||6 (5 nights)||€1875|
Eroica Bike Tour Food & Wine
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. You’ll get plenty of chance to experience the essence of Tuscan gastronomy on the Eroica tour with the rest stops renowned for their novel approach to cycling nutrition. Where else on a cycling sportive would you be offered Ribollita, a hearty soup based primarily on stale bread, cabbage and cannelloni – Tuscan white beans – which is the essence of peasant fare? If you prefer something a little lighter then you could always sample Panzanella - a unique a bread salad with tomato and basil. Our personal favourites on the ride though are the salami and bruschetta that are moreish in the extreme!
On the wine front again you won’t be disappointed when it comes to the Eroica rest stops – yes they serve 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. In the lead up to the Eroica event we will visit our friends vineyard in Montalcino for a Brunello wine tasting as well as exploring the Chiantigiana where a lunch time tipple is almost obligatory.
Molinello pizza - photo taken by Marco Pullia
Il Molinello - our Accommodation
Il Molinello is a family run agriturismo – ‘farm stay’- which is situated in the heart of the enchanting crete sensi. Our hosts, Sandro and Elisa, established the business back in 1996 and it has been a labour of love since then. With the help of their 3 kids – Emma, Guido and Bernardo – as well as Sandro’s parents –Mauro and Paola – they provide a wonderful cultural immersion into Tuscan life through their warm hospitality and dedication to the Slow Food movement.
This alignment to the Slow Food movement is encapsulated by their commitment to sustainable organic farming, bio-architecture, renewable energy – they are energy independent - and the local products that they have used to restore the apartments. On a practical level this is exemplified through Elisa’s cooking and Sandro’s qualifications as a sommelier and olive oil expert.
We look forward to introducing you to this wonderful place whose rustic character so effectively combines agriculture and tourism in a manner that the original ‘agriturismo’ philosophy always sought to achieve. With its Etruscan origins and world class cycling on the doorstep we think Il Molinello is the perfect centre based tour option for exploring the wonders of the region and living an authentic Tuscan experience.
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.
Sunset on Siena - photo taken by Antonio Cinotti
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
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: 6 Days / 5 Nights
Dates: September 28th - October 3rd
There are 4 different 'Eroica' distances to choose from at the event on the Sunday so we grade this tour
- Basic Ride Itinerary
Day 1 - Warm up ride around the Crete Senese
- Distance: 30km
- Day 2 - Montalcino loop
- Distance: 80km
With extra loop 120km
- Day 3 - Chiantigiana loop
- Distance: 51km
- With extra loop 95km
- Day 4 - The Eroica!
- Distance: 205km/135km/75km or 38km
Day 5 - Monte Oliveto spin
- Distance: 60km
- Day 6 - Arriverderci