By Angela Karl
There’s no better way to travel than with your hair blowing in the wind and your muscles working as you pedal up a hill, with nature slowly revealing itself to you.
In beautiful Tuscany, cycling also removes the guilty feeling of all that pasta and gelato you’re eating and the carbon footprint driving leaves behind.
While biking is undoubtedly a great mode of travel, it can be a little daunting when you aren’t sure exactly where to go. Although some of the bike paths in Tuscany share the road with cars, there’s nothing to worry about. Cycling is a huge sport in Italy, and drivers are more than used to avoiding others on the road.
Before you set off through the hills of olive groves, you’ll likely need two wheels. A great bike rental company is Veloce; this company will pick up and drop off a bike of your choosing at a train station, airport, hotel, or other similar location. Additionally, they go to every city and town listed below.
So now, full speed ahead; here are some of the best routes for a bike tour throughout Tuscany.
On the Coast: Carrara to Viareggio to Pisa
Distance: 55 km, flat
Good for beginners
Pisa is famous for its leaning tower. Most tourists simply arrive by train, but coming into the city on two wheels is a much more immersive experience. This route begins in a small town called Marina di Carrara where the water is clean and the beaches are filled with a soft sand.
Once you’ve relaxed on the Ligurian Sea, you’re probably not in the mood to work too hard. Lucky for you, this bike tour is smooth sailing with almost no hills at all. And you’re certainly not deprived of great views. To your right, there’s the expansive sea; to your left, the stunning the Apuan Alps.
Unless you take this route in August, the cycling path is relatively quiet so you can easily cruise on to the next major beach town, Viareggio. This should take about 1 hour, 45 minutes at a leisurely pace.
Viareggio is popular in Europe for its carnival in February, but when it’s not filled with floats and visitors, it’s a slow-moving (and beautiful) sea town. Take a break from your bike ride, if only for a few hours, to lay on the beach with your feet in the water. They also have some amazing gelato if your blood sugar gets low. Laboratorio del Gelato, just one block off the coast, is a can’t-miss.
After this nice break, you’re off to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa and create your own photo version of yourself “holding” this icon. This section of your bike tour offers beautiful parks and much-needed shade, making the 90 minute cycle from Viareggio to Pisa quite enjoyable. Once you reach the small city of Pisa, head for Piazza dei Miracoli to see the beautiful duomo and tower.
You’ve now officially biked the Tuscan coast!
Florence to Panzano in Chianti
Distance: 33 km, hilly
If you’re up for a longer ride, this route can be continued by simply following the next route straight down to Siena. Otherwise, this ride is a hilly, 3 hours through beautiful scenery and Chianti wineries.
You’ll begin this route in Florence, predictably after you’ve finished exploring this Renaissance dream town. This ride can be somewhat difficult if you aren’t used to biking a lot of hills, but the incredible landscape the route overlooks is more than worth it.
Once you arrive in Chianti, what else should you do but drink the famous wines? The most recommended winery is Accademia del Buon Gusto. While I suggest booking a reservation, you can also simply show up for a tasting tour. For a delicious lunch or dinner to refuel after your bike ride, check out Cantinetta Sassolini, which just happens to be right next door to Accademia del Buon Gusto. It’s great authentic Tuscan food to finish the perfect Chianti day.
Panzano in Chianti to Siena
This ride can either be a continuation of the previous one, taking you the 70 km straight from Florence to Siena, or a shorter route between only Panzano in Chianti to Siena. The roads are very similar to the trip before—hilly, stunning scenery, and often shared with cars.
This route typically takes about 3 hours, but if it’s not enough to get your cycling fix, take the short detour to Monteriggioni. This tiny medieval town is completely encircled by a protective wall from thousands of years ago when Florence and Siena were at war. Piazza Roma is the main square in this town.
Whether or not you choose to take this detour, continue cycling through the winding hills to finally reach Siena. Its historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the city is full of historic and splendid palazzos. Don’t forget to visit Piazza del Duomo where you can find the city’s stunning cathedral. After you’ve explored the city, treat yourself to some famous farm to table Tuscan food and wine; you’ve earned it.
Angela Karl is a professional freelance writer currently living in Florence, Italy, with over six years of experience in the editorial world. When she's not writing articles, she can be found perfecting her programming language skills and seeing as much of the world as possible. For more information, check out her website, Instagram, and Twitter.