If you're after a challenge without the arduous ascents of the Alps, culture that reaches back to the glory days of the Roman Empire, and food so delicious that it will have your mouth-watering before we can say Margherita, this is probably the ride for you.
For Beeline co-founder Mark it's undoubtedly one of Europe's best.
|Highlights||Beautiful rolling Tuscan countryside, Siena, Montepulciano|
|Terrain||Tarmac roads, Hilly|
|When to go||April- early June or September-October (beat the summer heat and tourists)|
|Why is it Europe's best?||
Breathtaking views, great food, rewarding climbs with glorious descents
It's no secret that Tuscany is a fantastic place to visit - its landscape, ancient hill towns, and (largely) blue skies make it a perennial European favourite. Countless visitors pass through each year, but few experience the magic of exploring it on two wheels.
Mark flew over to Pisa with his Italian Bianchi racing bike (when in Rome...) and he and his friends took it all in from the saddle, with a ride through Tuscany and Lazio stopping at the beautiful hilltop towns of Siena and Montepulciano. Tuscany's hills got their hearts pumping, but they were an achievable challenge and made the views from the top even sweeter.
With direct flights from all over Europe, Pisa is a great place to set off from...and there's plenty more to it than just the famous leaning tower. Mark, Luke and Moji spent a couple of days exploring Pisa's piazzas and pizzerias before setting off. They tackled the route over three days of cycling but it could, of course, be spread out over a longer trip. Mark also says that there is a clear deterioration in the quality of the roads as you leave Tuscany and enter Lazio towards the end of the ride - the traffic builds up too - so you may want to spend longer in Tuscany and hop on a train for the final leg.
Day 1: Pisa to Siena via San Gimignano
Heading out of Pisa, the ride started with the wonder of the changing landscape as they entered the Tuscan hills, and the bliss of smooth, quiet country lanes. The dream for a London cyclist! Before long, the hillside town of San Gimignano greeted them with its unique skyline of medieval towers. It was a long slog up to the top but Mark says that San Gimignano was one of the most beautiful places he had ever been.
With rucksacks loaded with food, the team had plenty to keep them going until an excellent lunch in San Gimignano and (naturally) an espresso and ice cream stop mid-afternoon.
Arriving in Siena just before sunset gave Mark and his teammates the opportunity to wander through the narrow labyrinth of streets. After the day's efforts, the gang only just made the climb up the 400 steps of Siena's iconic 'Torre del Mangia' to take in the view over the city. Back at street-level, they ate dinner overlooking it in the Piazza del Campo - another beautiful view that requires much less physical exertion if all the steps sound less than appealing.
Day 2: Siena to Montepulciano via Montelcino
Mark's key piece of advice to anyone thinking of taking on this route is "to bear in mind if cycling in Italy is that any village whose name begins with 'Mont' is on the top of a massive hill"! Mark, Luke and Moji learnt that the hard way as they headed up to Montelcino on their way to Montepulciano.
Once again, the reward was more than worth the effort, with yet more unforgettable views over the valley. It would, of course, be possible to cycle a similar route avoiding hills but it would missing out on "all of the beautiful villages are at the top".
This was another day of multiple lunches as, again, the food was too delectable to power on past. For their night in Montepulciano, the team found themselves at the home of a local self-proclaimed mafiosa - "if you have any trouble with police, tell them you know me". With the threat of police detention removed from their worry list, Mark, Luke and Moji spent a relaxing evening sampling local wines.
Day 3: Montepulciano to Rome
Sad to leave beautiful Tuscany and enter Lazio, but excited to reach the ancient city of Rome, the team set off from Montepulciano for the final leg. More hills, but at this stage you'll hopefully be used to spending some quality time in the lower gears. It all pays off when you lay eyes on Lago di Bolsena below you, and some speedy descents should put the wind back in your hair.
After one final day of stunning scenery as they skirted the shoreline of a couple more beautiful lakes, and passed through the Parco Naturale Regionale di Bracciano-Martigiano, the madness of the metropolis built and overwhelming traffic heralded their arrival in Italy's capital. The chaos of Rome's roads meant that it was time to swap the cycle for the colosseum, and Mark and the gang set out to explore the incredible remains of the centre of a tumbled empire that once spanned the European continent from Britannia to Babylonia.