CUSTOM bike TOUR
Tuscan tour combo: Biking & wine in San Gimignano & Montalcino
- Bike in two regions of Tuscany: Chianti Classico and San Gimaigno
- Enjoy post-ride wine tastings at Castelo Brolio, Vecchie Terre di Montefili, Panizzi, and Cesani
- Refuel with gourmet wine dinners featuring Tuscany’s cucina rustica
- Visit Bocaccio’s birthplace in Certaldo & the Chianti wine villages of Gaiole and Radda
- See Italian Gothic masterpieces of art in San Gimignano and Siena
DAY 1 – ANCIENT ABBEYS
We meet in Florence, load up the van, and head to Radda in Chianti (approx. 1-1/4 hour drive). After arriving at our countryside hotel and doing a bike fit, we’ll tackle a challenging warm-up ride.
This takes us to a Chianti Classico landmark: Castello Volpaia, a medieval hamlet that tops a hill where fox (volpe) once roamed. (Being the highest village in this vicinity, we’re facing one of the tours’ longest climbs.) Today the entire village has been taken over and restored by the Castello Volpaia winery, which tucks its winemaking equipment discretely behind the ancient stone walls of this borgo. Those who wish can sample their first Chiantis and Super Tuscans at the winery’s drop-in tasting room. Then it’s a long descent all the way back to the hotel.
For dinner, we visit another medieval landmark: Badia a Coltibuono, an 11th century abbey where monks produced some of Chianti’s earliest wines and today Lorenza di Medici runs her cooking school. Dinner offers haute versions of Tuscany’s cucina rustica. [25 miles]
L, D • Le Noci
DAY 2 – CHIANTI’S IRON BARON AND BLACK ROOSTER
Today we do a loop ride through classic Chianti territory, accompanied by stone walls hedged with lavender and rosemary, rustic sharecropper farmhouses, stately villas, ancient olive groves, and signs of the Black Rooster everywhere. Just as in medieval times, patches of cultivated land alternate with dense forests that seem ready to burst with Renaissance falconers on horseback. We’ll bike through some of the towns that were members of the Chianti League (a military coalition before it had anything to do with wine), including Gaiole in Chianti, where we’ll stop for lunch.
For our post-ride winery visit, we can go to the family-run Vecchie Terre di Montefili, a gorgeous old property once farmed by local monks. Here we’ll delve deeper into the noble sangiovese grape and the concept of terroir.
If there’s time afterwards, we can stroll in Radda in Chianti, formerly the capital of the Chianti League, and hear how the black rooster came to be Chianti Classico’s symbol. Dinner is at the cozy Le Vigne restaurant, located smack in the middle of a vineyard. [25 miles]
B, D • Le Noci
DAY 3 – THE ART OF SIENA AND BIRTHPLACE OF CHIANTI
Today we take a break from biking and visit Siena. We'll start with a cappuccino at Nannini, Siena's most famous coffee bar, and sample their panforte, a dense cake laden with nuts, dried fruits, and spices (a medieval Power Bar, in effect).
We’ll then tour the Palazzo Pubblico, one of the most spectacular city halls in existence. Among its highlights are three masterpieces of Italian Gothic art: Simone Martini’s Maestá and Siege of Montemassi, and Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s Allegory of Good and Bad Government, the largest landscape since Roman times. We'll end up at Siena's striped cathedral, where you’ll have to option to visit artworks by Michelangelo, Pinturicchio, and Donatello.
Then you’re free for lunch, with time to shop or visit the Enoteca Nazionale, Italy's national wine museum/wine bar, located in a Medici fortress.
On our return to Radda in Chianti, we can stop for our afternoon tasting at Castello Brolio, the birthplace of Chianti. Owned by the Ricasoli family since 1141, this crenellated castle has seen its share of wars. You can visit its magnificent gardens and walk along the ramparts, then hear about Chianti’s creation by the “Iron Baron” Bettino Ricasoli, and finally taste their highly regarded Chianti Classicos and Super Tuscan, called Casalferro. Dinner offers scrumptious updates of Tuscany’s woodland cuisine, based on wild boar (cinghiale), guinea fowl, and other game.
B, D • Le Noci
DAY 4 – FROM RADDA TO SAN GIMIGNANO
Today we do a point-to-point ride from Chianti Classico to our hotel in San Gimignano. After biking along a scenic mountain ridge, we’ll encounter Castellina in Chianti. Once a fortified town, it’s now a charming wine village with a well-preserved historical center. We then cross into the San Gimignano zone and eventually climb to our hotel, a restored farmstead three miles outside of town.
Still bristling with towers, San Gimignano is one of the most perfectly preserved medieval towns in Europe, earning it UNESCO World Heritage status. This region is also home to Vernaccia di San Gimignano, a white wine acclaimed ever since the 1200s. In 1643 Michelangelo Buonarotti the Younger wrote that it “kisses, licks, bites, slaps and stings.”
We’ll test out that theory before dinner, when we meet on the hotel patio for an informal tasting of Vernaccia in its various incarnations. Dinner is family-style at San Donato, a winery and agriturismo in a medieval borgo. Here the buffet table sags with a huge number of mouthwatering antipasti, followed by homemade pasta, then a Tuscan dessert staple: cantucci (almond biscotti) dipped in our vin santo made by our host. [37 miles]
B, D • Pescille
DAY 5 – THE WINE ROADS OF VERNACCIA
Today’s loop ride takes us on ancient roads that once hosted pilgrims on their journey to Rome. Nowadays you’re likely to see more pheasants than pilgrims. Our bike route traverses the countryside surrounding San Gimignano. We’ll pass by San Donato (last night’s dinner spot), then Castel San Gimginano as we move west, crossing the border into the province of Pisa. Again, pristine Vernaccia vineyards alternate with fields of wild flowers and woods thick with chestnut trees, porcini, and black truffles. The terrain is rolling and scenic.
In the late afternoon, we’ll head to Panizzi, a pioneering winery that produces six different kinds of Vernaccia. Here we’ll also get acquainted with this region’s Chianti, known as Chianti Colli Senesi.
We’ll then spend time in the city of towers, San Gimignano, visiting the magnificent Italian Gothic frescos in its cathedral. Those whose leg muscles aren’t spent can climb the tallest tower for an unbeatable view of the Tuscan countryside. Dinner is on your own in San Gimignano, where you can look for such classic Tuscan dishes as pappa pomodoro (tomato soup), panzanella (bread salad with tomatoes and basil), and cinghiale (wild boar). [25 miles]
B • Pescille
DAY 6 – BOCCACCIO’S BIRTHPLACE
This morning’s ride is a loop ride to Certaldo, the birthplace of Decameron author Boccaccio. We’ll again be treated to quiet roads surrounded by classic Tuscan landscapes, with cypress trees, vineyards, and olive groves lining the way.
In Certaldo, we’ll visit the impressive Palazzo Pubblico (Town Hall), then bike back to San Gimignano in time for lunch. In the afternoon, we’ll sample of variety of Vernaccia whites and Super Tuscans at Cesani, a small, family-run estate that produces a super Super Tuscan, as well as two excellent versions of Vernaccia. Our farewell dinner is in San Gimignano, allowing us to see the city in all its quiet magic at night. [25 miles]
B, D • Pescille
DAY 7 – ARRIVEDERCI!
A shuttle to Florence by noon and assistance with your travel plans. B
Biking level of difficulty
As Virgil said, “Bacchus love hills.” So it’s no surprise that Chianti and San Gimignano are full of hills. Rolling and gentle, short and abrupt, you’ll find all kinds. In general, they’re shorter, but steeper, than in Piedmont. But these are not mountains, so any seasoned biker should be able to tackle them with resolve, patience, and a good granny gear. As in Piedmont, the country roads are nicely paved and without much traffic, and drivers are respectful of bikers (having all biked themselves; it’s Italy’s main sport after soccer).
The bike routes are around 50 km/35 miles per day, but since this is a customizable itinerary, we can add or subtract miles. Keep in mind that these are hilly miles, so 35 miles might seem longer in the saddle than on the page—or on your club rides, if you live on the flatlands. As in Piedmont, this is not the place to begin a biking hobby. If you’re not already a biker, we suggest our walking tours as a better alternative for an active vacation.
Florence or Pisa (continental), or Rome (intercontinental nonstop). To land in Florence or Pisa, you’ll need to connect somewhere in Europe. From the Florence airport to the city center, it’s a 20-minute taxi ride. If arriving in Pisa, the airport has its own train stop and is only an hour from Florence. Rome is the closest intercontinental airport, with direct flights to the US. If arriving in Rome, you’ll need to take a train from the airport to town (30 min.). Then from Rome’s main train station, it’s only 95 minutes to Florence on the fast train (EuroStar); the latter requires reservations.
Italian train schedule
Here's the English-language version of TrenItalia. Be aware that the schedule is posted only several months in advance, so if you're looking for long-range dates, try something sooner, just to get an idea of departure frequency and trip length.
Plan to land in Italy at least a day before the tour begins; that’s necessary to be at our starting point on time. Most people spend the preceding night in Florence. For hotel suggestions, email us or consult a good hotel search engine, such as TripAdvisor or Venere. If you’re spending just one night, we recommend staying near the main train station, Stazione Santa Maria Novella, since that is our meeting point. Otherwise, take your pick of neighborhoods. Florence is not a huge city, and it’s very walkable. In fact, we encourage you to get out and walk around; the streets are a living museum!
Our meeting point is Florence, at the main train station, Santa Maria Novella (details will be indicated in your information packet). From here, we shuttle to Chianti (about 1 hour), where the tour gets underway. (We cannot pick up from individual hotels because only taxis and permanent residents are allowed in Florence's city center.)
On our final day, we’ll have you back at the Florence train station by noon.
Because this tour does not include any time in Florence, we recommend spending a few days in this fabulous art city, either before or after our tour. Florence is easy to navigate on your own. But there are also excellent thematic walking tours offered by our friends at ContextTravel. If you’d like to explore other small-sized cities in Tuscany, Florence is well connected with Lucca (1 hr, 20 min) and Arezzo (1 hr) by train. And it’s just a hop and a skip to Rome on the EuroStar express train (1 hr 35 min).
This is recommended to protect you from needless loss caused by last-minute cancellations, lost luggage, and more. Three sources are Travelex Insurance, (800) 228-9792; CSA Travel Protection, (800) 348-9505; and Travel Guard, (800) 826-1300.
When packing, check www.weather.com. Go to “Radda in Chianti, Italy” and “San Gimignano, Italy” to get a general idea of temperatures and forecast.
For cancellation policy & more, see our General Information page.
For private, custom groups only
Minimum group size: 4
Contact us to pick dates
Single supplement: $400
Bike rental: $300 (for 7 days)
Price based on the accompanying 7-day itinerary for 4 pax; discounts for larger groups. Modifications are possible, including length of tour, daily mileage, level of accommodations, amount of wine tastings, and inclusion of meals.
Meet & depart
Florence train station
- 6 nights accommodations (double room) in two 3-star hotels, with breakfast buffet
- 5 gourmet dinners (three courses with wine)
- Bike maps/route notes; saddle bag; cage pedals
- Van support during bike rides
What's not included
- Air travel
- 1 dinner on your own & all lunches
- After-dinner drinks, or special wines at tastings that are not part of what is provided to the group
- Bike and helmet rental
- Items of a personal nature
- Anything not specified as included