The beautiful Val di Merse forms a natural bridge between Amiata and the Metalliferous Hills between the sea and Siena. Medieval villages and towns that were not made for tourists, but for the people who live their daily lives in a beautiful corner still undiscovered by mass tourism. One of the most intriguing spots is easily reached on bike—the San Galgano Abbey (13th century) and the nearby Montesiepi retreat. The Abbey’s roof has been open since 1700 and forms a perfect union with the environment.
Sovicille, immersed in woods and history is the natural bridge between the Sienese hills and the Montagnola. Chiusidino and Monticiano are the “capitals” of the naturalistic presidio that lies halfway between Siena and the sea. Going inland, before reaching Siena, we cross the Montagnola, another ideal spot for bike tourists. The heart of the Montagnola is the Sovicille area, rich in historic testimony from the days when Florence and Siena were embroiled in bitter battles during the Middle Ages.
The Val di Merse boasts numerous biking trails. Rolling hills make for pleasant rides both on city and mountain bikes. The biking association, Gruppo Ciclistico Val di Merse, is active in the area and are happy to assist tourists with biking contacts and information.
The area’s best itinerary is the Grand Tour della Val di Merse, a 170 km trail to be explored over three or four days.
Itineraries are as follows:
Chiusidino and the Upper Val di Merse Departure and arrival point: Chiusidino Length: 38 km Height difference: 730 m Type of road: asphalt and dirt Type of bike: MTB, hybrid Difficulty: medium
Itinerary filled with art and history. Unfolds near the San Galgano Abbey and the Romanesque Montesiepi church where Galgano Guidotti’s famous Sword in the Rock is housed. Also boasts fresco cycle by Ambrogio Lorenzetti.
Ring a ring o’roses in Sovicille Departure and arrival point: Sovicille Length: 29 km Height difference: 300 m Type of road: asphalt Type of bike: city, hybrid Difficulty: easy
Easy trail around the city of Sovicille. Perfect for families given the flatness of the trails and possibility of riding on secondary roads. Cloister of the Torri Abbey is particularly interesting from an art-history perspective.
The Romanesque in the Montagnola Departure and arrival point: Sovicille Length: 35 km Height difference: 680m Type of road: asphalt and dirt Type of bike: MTB, hybrid Difficulty: medium
Interesting from landscape, historic and artistic perspective. Route runs through the heart of the Montagnola and offers interesting panoramic views on the city of Siena and Upper Val di Merse. The area was important during the Middle Ages as it connected Siena and the via Francigena to the Tyrrhenian coast. It boasts numerous castles and fortified Romanesque churches.
Between Val di Merse and Crete Departure and arrival point: Murlo Length: 26 km Height difference: 460 m Type of road: asphalt Type of bike: city, hybrid Difficulty: medium
Mostly paved, with only 4 km of a compact dirt road that is easily ridden with a city bike. To the east are the sinuous Crete hills while to the west are the luxuriant woods of the Val di Merse.
Contacts Gruppo Ciclistico Val di Merse Via Massetana 52, Rosia, cell. 335 1726486, www.rosiabike.it Guided trails for groups and individuals, information on the area and biking tourism information.
Bike shop Due Ruote - Via Massetana 193, Rosia, Sovicille, tel. 0577 345407