I have the opportunity to attend a conference in Montecatini-Terme, Italy this upcoming June. I'll be flying into Florence. I want to stay an extra day or two after the conference ends to do a bike tour (possibly the Chianti area?).
I won't be able to travel with my bike. Also, "Non parlo italiano" is the only Italian phrase I know.
Can anyone recommend an English-speaking guided tour of the Tuscany area? I probably will only be able to do a one day tour due to budget and time constraints. However, I really want to get out on a bike in the countryside while I am there. I've found some possible tours using Google, but I really don't know anything about the companies offering them.
Even on a one day tour, why do you need a tour guide? Get a TCI map of Tuscany, rent a bike in Lucca, and go for a day trip north of Lucca. Use a train to get yourself and your bike to the starting point, then ride back, or ride to a town with a railway station and take the train back. TCI (Touring Club Italiano) regional maps are great for planning cycle tours, get them here: www.trektools.com
Rough Guide does excellent travel guides, they're not cycling specific but the authors understand about low-budget, active travelers. The current Rough Guide to Tuscany would be a good source for ideas of where to go.
Seriously, forget the tour guide, get a phrase book and some maps and strike out on your own. Once you get away from the standard tourist areas, Italians are very gracious about helping lost foreigners, especially if you make a minimal effort to speak Italian (even if it's just "parla Inglese, per favore?").
I found that a full day bike rental in Florence is about 30 euros. The outfit in the link above offers full day tours for about 100 euros. I'm thinking it may be worth the extra money to have some companionship and guidance, since I'm traveling alone. I'm not sure though. Still need to check out that book and learn more about the area. I have traveled alone in Europe on multiple occasions, but never been in Italy.
Reviving this thread just in case anyone else searches for the same information. I just got back from my trip to Tuscany. I ended up doing a 1 day bike tour through Florencetown. The cost was 80 euros, which included bike and helmet rental, english speaking guide, sag wagon, and lunch at a beautiful winery and farm. They provided transportation to and from the Florencetown offices in central Florence. I think it was 80 euros well spent.
The bikes were Bianchi mountain bikes. The pace was set by the group's slowest rider, but I was in no hurry. We were free to ride ahead and take pictures, as there were meeting spots along the way to re-group. The total length of the ride was 15-20 miles I guess.
If I were to go back on a vacation trip with more time, I'd probably look into renting a bike and creating my own tour. However, for someone like me visiting alone with little free time, the guided tour is a good way to get a taste of riding in the Tuscan countryside.