Our trip begins in Chiusi, Italy. Situated on the main line from either Florence or Rome, the Chiusi train station is a convenient place to meet your guide and fellow travelers for the group transfer to Pienza, a lovely renaissance town conceived by Pope Pius II. Our hotel occupies a 15th century convent located in the center of town. After checking into our rooms and changing into cycling clothes, our guides conduct a bike-fitting session. Time permitting, a warm up ride takes us to Bagno Vignoni, a thermal village located in the Val d'Orcia Artistic, Natural and Cultural Park. The village is famous for its thermal spa, which has been in use since Roman times. This evening we enjoy a welcome dinner in a local trattoria where we have the chance to taste homemade pici pasta. Dinner included.
Driving: 1 hour; Cycling: 18 miles; Terrain: Rolling hills; Cumulative elevation gain: 1,076'.
We begin our day with a loop ride into the rolling countryside of the Val d'Orcia, A UNESCO World Heritage Site. The distinctive landscape, with its flat chalk plains interspersed by conical hills topped by fortified settlements, inspired the Sienese artists Daccio and Lorenzetti. Their paintings illustrate the beauty of Renaissance agricultural landscapes where inhabitants are depicted as living in harmony with nature. The first several miles out of Pienza are mostly downhill with some gently rolling hills along quiet country roads. We then climb to reach Castiglione d'Orcian, an enchanting medieval commune with a landmark rocca (castle) dating back to 1250. It is one of the most impressive fortresses in Tuscany, with extraordinary views over the Val d'Orcia and the surrounding region. We descend to the Abbey of Sant'Antimo, a monastery originally constructed during the reign of Charlemagne; there may be an opportunity to hear the resident monks chanting. En route to the Etruscan village of Montalcino, we pass through magnificent vineyards that produce several of Italy?s most notable wines, including the world-renowned Brunello di Montalcino. This afternoon we have time to explore the narrow cobblestone streets of this medieval town before cycling back to our hotel in Pienza. Breakfast included.
Cycling: 42 miles; Terrain: Rolling hills; Cumulative elevation gain: 4,401'.
Our ride begins with a fun descent from Pienza. We pass through the villages of Castelmuzio and Trequanda. We enter a landscape rich with olive groves, geometrical vineyards and slender cypress trees. Cycling through the Crete Senesi area, the verdant hills give way to a lunar-like landscape of chalk cliffs and gullies. These Tuscan badlands consist of strange rock formations and lone farmhouses flanked by cypress trees. We arrive in Lucignano, a well preserved hill-top village that is a remarkable example of medieval urban planning. The village is known for its agricultural and artisan traditions. Its most well-known products include extra-virgin olive oil, honey, ceramics, and sandstone used in architecture and sculpting. Breakfast and dinner included.
Cycling: 36 miles; Terrain: Rolling hills; Cumulative elevation gain: 3,166'.
Pedaling north, we pass two charming southern Tuscan towns before making a stop at Castelnuovo Berardenga, the gateway to the Chianti Classico region. Continuing on, the vineyards of the acclaimed wineries Castello di Bossi and San Felice provide a rich landscape to our cycling route. The Castello di Brolio winery, one of the oldest wineries the world, is where Chianti wine was born. The Ricasoli family, owners of the Castello di Brolio since 1167, is responsible for the special blending of grapes we now consider Chianti Classico. We'll stop for lunch in Gaiole, a lively town located along the river Massellone and home to the annual l'Eroica vintage (pre-1987 steel frame) bicycle race. A few more miles bring us to Castellina in Chianti. Castellina's medieval street, the Via delle Volte, was originally open to the sky, but over the years houses and shops have encroached on the ancient city walls, covering the street and providing an intriguing underground home for shops and restaurants. This afternoon we taste the region's famed wine and learn about its production at a Chianti classic winery. Breakfast included.
Cycling: 39 miles; Terrain: Rolling hills, hilly; Cumulative elevation gain: 4,122.
A full day is spent further exploring the Tuscan countryside. This morning we pass Monteriggioni, a small hilltop town whose medieval towers inspired Dante. We continue cycling through a vibrant landscape of rolling hills, vineyards, and sunflower fields until reaching San Gimignano. This walled medieval hill town is famous for the fourteen medieval ?skyscrapers? that dominate its skyline. Affluent families erected these towers in the 12th-century to display their wealth and power. You?ll have time this afternoon to explore the town?s narrow cobblestone streets and wide piazzas before returning to Castellina in Chianti. This evening we dine at a tavern overlooking the endless vineyards in the valley below. Breakfast and dinner included.
Cycling: 36 miles; Terrain: Hilly; Cumulative elevation gain: 3,713'.
Optional return cycling to Castellina in Chianti: 19 miles; Cumulative elevation gain: 2,077'.
The previous days have prepped our legs for the famed hills of Chianti! The first stretch crosses an unbelievably scenic clutch of hills blanketed with vineyards and thick forests. It's breathtaking, and so is the ride. We bike along a winding panoramic road to Radda in Chianti, home to many important archaeological finds hinting at its ancient past. The gothic towers of Siena materialize on the horizon as we continue our ride towards this enchanting city. We pedal to the front door of our hotel, perfectly situated on the edge of Siena's historic center. Late afternoon will afford the opportunity to shop, wander the medieval backstreets or relax in the famous square and watch local residents stroll by. A farewell dinner provides the opportunity to enjoy the region's renowned cuisine and toast to a great cycling adventure. Breakfast and dinner included.
Cycling: 33 miles; Terrain: Hilly; Cumulative elevation gain: 2,930'.
Our adventure ends after breakfast at the hotel. Siena offers easy connections by train to Florence or Rome. Breakfast included.