If you love cycling as well as holidaying in Tuscany, we recommend this demanding route (272 km) for the fittest of you. It's a stunning bike route used for the World Championships
, which will be held in September in some of the loveliest corners of Tuscany, with the region's art, nature and history. You start in beautiful Lucca
, famous for its walls, which embrace and protect the city. Start cycling in Piazza Napoleone, historically the centre of the city's political power and nicknamed “Piazza Grande” by the locals. Here you'll find striking neoclassical Palazzo Ducale. Take Via Pesciatina, in San Vito, and continue cycling towards Porcari through the centre of the town.
There's a demanding uphill climb leading to Montecarlo
, with a maximum 9% gradient, putting the fittest cyclists to the test. Having reached the town, take a break and wander around the famous Tuscan village, famous for its wine of the same name and for its wonderful town walls and imperious
fortress: Rocca del Cerruglio, dating back to the 14th and 16th century. Visit the churches Chiesa Collegiata di Sant’Andrea and Pieve di San Piero in Campo as well as the small yet entertaining Teatro dei Rassicurati, a theatre once patronised by Giacomo Puccini
. Take in the nature surrounding Montecarlo, with expanses of olive groves and vineyards.
Let's get back in the saddle along the World Championship route
for at least another 10 km, from Montecarlo to Collodi
, cycling through San Martino, Gragnano and Capannori.
It's worth stopping in Collodi, for Pinocchio if nothing else, the world-famous puppet created by author Carlo Lorenzini. You can visit Collodi Park, a great place for young and old alike, recreating all the places in the fairytale. In addition to the old town centre (a veritable cascade of tiny houses clinging onto the side of a rocky hill), you can also check out the old stronghold and the magnificent Villa Garzoni, which stands on the remains of the old medieval castle.
Back on our bikes, take Via Francesca Vecchia e Borgo a Buggiano takes us to another tourist and historical gem: Montecatini Terme
, the undisputed capital of wellness, famous worldwide for the therapeutic properties of its waters, the grandeur of its buildings and its great architectural heritage.
Our bike ride will bring us to another relaxing destination, Monsummano Terme. Just 6 km from Montecatini, pedalling through Pieve a Nievole, we reach Monsummano
, famous for its age-old grotto, a natural paradise of stalagtites and stalagmites, affording crystal-clear spa waters, whose therapeutic steam greets visitors to a healthy sauna. Giuseppe Verdi called this grotto “the eighth wonder of the world”
and it's definitely worth a visit.
It's a good idea to relax for a bit because one of the most demanding parts of the route awaits you after Monsummano. After Larciano and Lamporecchio
, home of “brigidini" cookies, we come to the historical climb of San Baronto. The total climb is 277 m, at an average inclination of 6.8%, but the route also reaches a maximum level of nearly 11%. For 1.5 km the inclination is greater than 8%, which is the most demanding part also because there are many narrow hairpin bends and tough curves.
Technical difficulties aside, what is wonderful about San Baronto
is what awaits us at the top: the bucolic scenery of Montalbano
is simply sublime.
Carry on towards Casalguidi
, the organisers' way of paying tribute to Franco Ballerini, former racing cyclist and coach of the Italian national team, who died in a tragic rally accident.
Head towards Quarrata, the furniture town, in the direction of Poggio a Caiano
, home to the famous Medici villa, the summer residence of the magnificent Florentine family and designed by Giuliano da Sangallo according to the wishes of Lorenzo de' Medici. The villa is home to a masterpiece of the Mannerist maestro Jacopo Pontormo
, the fresco of Vertumnus and Pomona.
After Poggio a Caiano the route leads to Florence, skirting Indicatore, Via Pistoiese and Via Baracca, in the Novoli area, in the outskirts of the city. After a few hundred metres, you reach Florence's largest public green space, Cascine park. The route is shaded and continues in a straight line, a stone's throw from the river Arno, leading to Piazza Vittorio Veneto, then Ognissanti, along the lungarni with Piazza Cestello on the other side of the river.
The aim is to reach Florence's old city centre. Ride by the river Arno and enjoy the views of Forte Belvedere
and Piazzale Michelangelo
in the distance. Turn towards Via Tornabuoni, with its luxury fashion shops. Head for Piazza della Repubblica, followed by the loveliest spot along the route: Piazza Duomo, with Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore
, the baptistery and Giotto's bell tower. Head down Via dell'Oriuolo and Via de'Benci, then back to the river. Ride along Lungarno delle Grazie and Lungarno del Tempio, then head for Campo d'Arrigo and Viale del Mille.
After a while you'll start climbing again, up to one of the most panoramic and loveliest spots in the Florentine hills: the picturesque town of Fiesole. To get there you ride through San Domenico, one of the loveliest hamlets offering bends, age-old walls and plenty of greenery. In Fiesole you can visit the Archaeological Centre, with its Roman theatre and museum. Park your bike and take a stroll (up another hill - sorry!) to the monastery of San Francesco, a place that offers one of the most stunning views of Florence.
Go back to Fiesole's Piazza Mino and descend by bike towards Ponte alla Badia and Via Faentina, leading to Piazza delle Cure. A few hundred metres later, you've arrived at the finish line after more than 250 km of cycling. The finish is in Viale Paoli, at the Mandela Forum
, in Campo di Marte.
For all information on the official routes of the World Cycling Championships, click here