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Tuscany, Italy Bike Tour – Long, 56k Beware

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Tuscany, Italy Bike Tour – Long, 56k Beware

Old 09-25-06, 07:29 PM
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Tuscany, Italy Bike Tour – Long, 56k Beware

We spent the second week in September in Southern Tuscany. We flew in to Florence, Italy for our tour with Trek Travel. Of the 400+ pics we took I selected a few that might be of more interest to bikers and give a general feel of the region. Tuscany is AWESOME, and Trek Travel does a fantastic job, we enjoyed every minute of the tour, and would happily go again.

We rode Trek Madones, although a few in the tour group opted for hybrids. The bikes were in excellent condition and well tuned and ready to roll, they had about 100 stems to accommodate fitting each bike. Rides varied from about 15 miles on the first and last days to a long of about 45 miles. Mileage could vary depending on what the rider wanted to do. Some tours include more mileage, and extra loops were always available. The most I climbed was about 3,200 ft; most days were around 2,000 ft. We would basically ride from resort to resort, although a couple nights we were able to stay in the same place. Hotels and resorts were outstanding. In the morning you would simply leave you stuff out by your door after breakfast, ride your bike to lunch, and when you arrived at the next hotel it was in your new room.

The trip also consisted of various wine tasting, cheese tasting, pizza and pasta making, as well as a couple 4 –course dinners. The Italians know how to eat. Our guides prepared a couple lunch picnics that were outstanding. Trek Travel really takes care of all the details, we were able to relax enjoy the biking and sites, and just have a great time.

Italy is awesome. We arrived in Florence and it’s a busy city, with scooters, bikes, mini-cars, and people everywhere. There are many beautiful sites to see, we spent most of our time (before and after the tour) just walking around. I did find one nice bike shop that specializes in offering tours themselves. The shop had lots of Bianchis and plenty or Campagnolo stuff and well as Italian clothing. We also took the train to Pisa, a very nice city and of course saw the leaning tower.

What I liked the best were the people, very weathered and friendly, most everyone returned a greeting when spoken to. One pic is my wife passing a local rider. They use bikes everywhere – it’s the culture. Didn’t really see any fat Italians, people enjoy wine and food, but also work very hard. The one pic shows a Lamborghini tractor. The grape harvest was just beginning while we were there.

The landscape is spectacular, it had been very dry (should be a good year for wine). Shades of brown, tan, were awesome. Speaking of wine, they take it very serious. I’m not much of a wine drinker, but appreciate the passion for it. The small villages on the hills were wonderful. The one thing you realize is everything is so old. The land has been used for centuries and all the nutrients drawn out, they use what they can and make to with what they have. It was amazing how many linens, etc… were made in Italy, no large mass market importer selling cheap stuff. Italians produce all sorts of goods, most seem to be of high quality. Hard to really describe being there; it’s beautiful and inviting, everything you think it would be.

Biking along the quiet county roads was a real pleasure, drivers seemed to look for bikes, and I felt safer on the roads (no shoulders) in Italy then back home. Not once did I get yelled out or have a near death experience. Often passing a local on bike, or another tourist, it’s a wonderful place to bike.

I would love to go again, we enjoyed the tour and group much more then we thought we would have. Also taking care of many of the day decisions made it that much easier to take in the people and landscape. We were there 10 days, biked 6, and spent about 3 traveling, a long time to be away from our young children, but it was a wonder place to spend our 10th anniversary.

Thanks for looking – Pictures in no particular order…

Picnic Lunch...



Me with my Bianchi cap on...



Lamborghini tractor...



Hows this for a bike Rack...



The Arno River in Florence...



Leaning Tower...



Bikes everywhere in Florence...



Countryside...





This was a fast downhill...

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Old 09-25-06, 07:32 PM
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More Pics

Hard to believe I was there about 10 days ago, you'll note my wife droping a local biker...

Italy is simply beautiful.











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Old 09-25-06, 07:37 PM
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What the he((...
Italy trip & a Madone?!!?!
I hate you

Thanks for the pics
-simplyred
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Old 09-25-06, 07:39 PM
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Great post and fabulous pictures. Sounds like a dream vacation. I hope you didn't have to climb that 12° grade before descending.
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Old 09-25-06, 07:40 PM
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Absolutely gorgeous!

Do you have to have a Trek to go on one of their tours?
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Old 09-25-06, 07:44 PM
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Simplyred - Well it's been an usual year, we've had the trip planned for almost a year, 3rd time away since our honeymoon, first time I've ever been overseas.

Blandin - No, I didn't have to climb that grade, but did have a couple of short 17 percent sections on a series of switchbacks one day - ouch!

Voltman - No, Trek is happy to take your money if you have a Trek or not.
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Old 09-25-06, 07:48 PM
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I picked up a brochure the other day from my new bike shop. If I had the funds I'd go and I'd love every second of it, but alas I'm just a (now) poor highschooler with no job to speak of and a knee problem. Did you go with the provided airfare or your own? How was everything?
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Old 09-25-06, 07:52 PM
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Man, this makes me wanna take a tour of Tuscany. I didn't know Trek offered these tours. Great report and pictures.
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Old 09-25-06, 07:54 PM
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Actually, I think I might be able to go in 2008. Does anybody want to get together in two years?
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Old 09-25-06, 08:08 PM
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Great pictorial!

I plan on visiting Italy in the near future, sadly not on a cycling vaction though.

Thanks for sharing!
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Old 09-25-06, 08:09 PM
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Yes, you provide your own airfare, and a person could travel around Italy for a lot less money, but for the time we had and quality of the hotels, food, guides, we were very pleased. The killer job was the guides, if I was a younger person just out of school, working for a bike tour company would be a great way to see Europe.

Trek has been doing tours for about 4 years, both stateside and overseas. They do a super job. Another big tour company is Backroads, (they road AL Specialized bikes), we cross paths several times with one of thier groups. I'm sure they are many small tour companies, Trek worked for us.

I think they can handle up to 20 at a time. We had 18 in our group and had met all but 3 before the trip. Our group was excellent and varied in age from late 20's to mid 50's.
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Old 09-25-06, 08:34 PM
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Wow John, what a fantastic trip and photos! You have been living the life LARGE

Wow!
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Old 09-25-06, 09:24 PM
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Originally Posted by voltman
Absolutely gorgeous!

Do you have to have a Trek to go on one of their tours?
www.trektravel.com. Price of the southern Tuscany tour is $3800 for 5 nights, not including air fare. That is a little on the pricey side, but you probably got 5 star hotels and restaurants.
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Old 09-25-06, 09:27 PM
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By the way, if you're interested in this kind of trip, try doing a google search for "Tuscany bicycle tour". You'll find dozens of companies offering tours, as well as detailed trip reports from tour participants and people touring on their own.

Tuscany is one of the best places on earth for bicycling (solo or on a tour). It has great scenery, great history, great culture, great food, great people, and great cycling roads with little traffic. The only down sides are a hot summer and snowy winter.
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Old 09-26-06, 05:54 AM
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I agree the price was a little steep, although since we went through our Trek dealer we saved 10%, and I think the price increased for '07. I think most any cycling in Tuscany would be excellent. Trek Travel just makes everything else top shelf.

John

P.S. Yes, living very large right know. Next year back to working on the house and less exciting activites...
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Old 09-26-06, 05:57 AM
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Those are some awesome pics R900, please post more if you get the chance!
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Old 09-26-06, 06:54 AM
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Hey, you can climb the stairs to the top of the Leaning Tower again! I've got good memories of that but thought they closed it down. I guess the stabilization project went well.
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Old 09-26-06, 07:49 AM
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Awesome pics. I just want to know if your wife dialed it up to 400w to pass that guy?


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Old 09-26-06, 08:18 AM
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sigh.....
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Old 09-26-06, 08:52 AM
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I've ridden there too! Did a London-to-Rome trip as a Graduation Present from my Parents from HS. You might have ridden on some of the same roads we did, esp if you road up to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I was actually disappointed with it - its a lot smaller then pics make it seem. Even in your picture of it, it seems pretty big. It prob. doesnt help that theres a Cathedral next to it.

But yes, some very FAST hills in Italy! I recall one that gave us a great view of some vineyards...except you had to concerntrate on the road since you were easily going between 40 - 50 MPH downhill on it!
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Old 09-26-06, 09:03 AM
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Thanks for sharing the great pictures! The Italians know how to live life, don't they? We could learn a thing or two from them....

Did you get to Sienna also?
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Old 09-26-06, 09:06 AM
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Hey, wait just a freakin' minute here. You're the same guy who just posted that your wife gave you a new Madone!!!

Now I really really hate you
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Old 09-26-06, 09:24 AM
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As a wine nut (no, really!) and a fanatical cyclist, I am absolutely green with envy.

I was wondering what wine producers you may have visited.

Also-- did all that eating and drinking compromise your daily rides much? I went on a wine tour of Germany (the Mosel River valley), and throughout the week I was there, all I could think about was how much I would have loved to have my bike there. But we were drinking so much that none of the rides would have been very good (save for the wonderful views). Granted, I was there on business with a bunch of other wine distributors so it was our "job" to consume large amounts of wine, but it was so good that I have a hard time imagining it in any other way!

Tuscany... now from what I understand, the food there has few if any rivals (Piedmont, maybe? Alsace?)... I salivate just thinking about it.

You say that you were riding Madones... your own, or were you provided one? Could you bring your own if you wanted? I have an '06 5.2 that I have fantasized about riding in Europe since I got it. I was just wondering about the extent to which the folks with Trek went to setting you up with the proper fit etc., etc...

Congrats on a great time!
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Old 09-26-06, 09:44 AM
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Nice!

I'm heading to Florence and Rome for 10 days in October.
The fiancee (who will then be my wife) and I plan on doing a bit of cycling in and out of Florence.
Daytrips - for sure.

Was there a language barrier? (neither my fiancee nor I speak Italian - we're hoping to navigate and eat by pointing and using some English)


Wonderful pictures. Can't wait to be there!
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Old 09-26-06, 10:18 AM
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Yes, the tower is open again, although we didn't go up (I guess we should have).

I'll need to double check with my wife on the local wines we sampled. No, the eating and drinking blended very well, I even lost about pound or two. Yes, the Madone 5.2s were provided, although you can bring your own if you want. A couple guys brought seats and even seatpost. They have enough stems to dial you in if you have a decent idea of your basic fit.

You will love Italy, Florence by Bike rents decent road bikes for 35 euro a day, they also have maps and I think tours. Getting out of Florence on bike is the only tricky part. Might be worth taking a cab out before you start to ride. The language is not problem, for instance at the bike shop they spead excellent english. It takes about a day to figure our road signs, etc... Most people involved with tourist have the basics down. Have some change for the pay restrooms. Use a debit card for cash withdrawals, most places take visa/MC. You will have a great time. Try to spend at least one day on a couple small villages.

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