The Tuscan coast line has it all: quiet and wild beaches, rocky ravines, elegant bathing resorts, parks, protected natural areas, hills, mountains, great artistic cities, small medieval towns, caves and archaeological sites. The ideal way to discover all of this is by bike, as cycling allows you the time and space to really get the most out of the area you are visiting.
The town of Massa Carrara has the sea on one side and beautiful, rolling countryside on the other. There is a stunning panoramic view of the whole coastline from the rugged peaks of the Apuan Alps, from Versilia to the gulf of La Spezia. The enormous white cliffs with the area’s marble caves are the result of hundreds of years of water erosion. The Lunigiana area, on the border of the Tuscan region, has many medieval castles worth visiting, such as the Malaspina di Fosdinovo Castle which sits at an altitude of 550m and from which there is a stunning view all the way to the coast. Not far from here is the Parco Nazionale dell’Appennino Tosco-Emiliano (Tuscan-Emilian Apennines National Park) which has many nature trails. The landscape here alternates between rocky slopes and grassy plains, such as the Prati di Logarghena.
Versilia is famous not only for its beautiful beaches, bathing resorts and fashionable nightclubs, but also for its many cycle paths. There are paths connecting the most important tourist spots which provide everyone, including families with small children, with an alternative to a day at the beach. If you follow the cycle path from Viareggio, along the avenues of the Parco di Migliarino, you will eventually get to Torre del Lago. This is the town where Giacomo Puccini built the house where he composed some of his most famous melodies such as ‘Manon Lescaut’, ‘La Boheme’, ‘Madame Butterfly’ and ‘La Fanciulla del West’. Today, the building houses a museum dedicated to the composer.
There are also many bike trails around the Pisa area, from the coast to the top of Mount Serra, through nature reserves, ancient Etruscan settlements and medieval forts. Amidst the silence of the Pisan hills, in the Cecina valley there are many interesting churches, ruined forts and fascinating small medieval towns to visit such as Montescudaio, Guardistallo and Casale Marittimo. Further inland, the town of Volterra sits perched at an altitude of 500 metres above sea level. From the fourth century onwards, Volterra was one of the most important Etruscan settlements. La Sassa, which is a small medieval town on the slopes of Poggio al Pruno, is also worth visiting. The famous Viale dei Cipressi (Cypress Tree Avenue), which was immortalised by Carducci in ‘Davanti San Guido’, rises up from the base of this hill and ends at Bolgheri, which was home to the poet from 1838 to 1848.
Over 20% of the Etruscan Coast area is covered by parkland and natural oases. Along the 90km of coast line there are several bathing resorts tucked behind the pine woods that skirt the beaches. The sea here is crystal clear. The road that leads inland is bordered by olive groves and vineyards. This is where the famous Bolgheri DOC wine is produced, as well as some of the ‘Super Tuscan’ wines such as Sassicaia and Ornellaia.
Elba is the largest of the seven islands in the Tuscan archipelago and is also the third largest of the Italian islands after Sicily and Sardinia. Bike trails and footpaths cross from one side to the other and are the perfect way to get to know the island. Elba has a varied landscape which includes beaches, hills and mountains in just a few square kilometres. The island also has a rich history. The other islands in the Tuscan archipelago are also natural havens and in fact, access to the islands of Montecristo and Pianosa is limited. Pianosa is the only island in the archipelago to be completely flat – the highest part of the island is only 29m above sea level. Montecristo is the most protected of all the islands in the Mediterranean and has been declared a biogenetic nature reserve by the EU. The island of Capraia is open to tourists but still has many wild, uncontaminated areas. Capraia is much loved by scuba diving enthusiasts for its magnificent seabed and rich marine life.
The landscape around Maremma is one of gentle hills, thick woodland and protected natural areas such as the Parco Regionale della Maremma (the Regional Park of the Maremma Area). There are also many archaeological sites, such as the ones at Pitigliano, Sovana and Sorano, which bear witness to the ancient civilisations which once made this part of Tuscany their home. There are monumental necropolis, medieval forts and underground tunnels. Not far from here are the sulphurous springs of the Saturnia Spa, an oasis of calm where visitors can relax and unwind. The sea is crystal clear here and the coastline alternates between sandy bays, rocky cliffs, wild open beaches and popular bathing resorts with views to the islands of Giglio and Giannutri.