When seen on bike, this land that has inspired poets, writers and artists is a hillside landscape where harmony reigns. Cypress trees fan towards the sky and accompany the country roads. In the first light of dawn or the suffused twilight, the cypress are paintbrushes that paint the horizon. Riding in the valley created by the Orcia River’s imagination is a cyclist’s dream. The kilometers, the difficulty, the uphill climbs and the wind are nothing compared to the ecstasy of the rider. Only a bike allows for the perfect integration with this unique landscape. If you add the stimulating technical challenges, it truly becomes a special place to pedal slowly with your head high.
City and hybrid bikes are the best bets for the gravel and asphalt roads in the area. The Val d’Orcia is famously unpopulated and one can ride for miles in sweet solitude. This means a certain amount of self-sufficiency is needed both for repairs and proper nutrition (sandwiches, energy bars, water and dietary minerals). Though there are no big changes in slope, all of the itineraries have uphill portions. Uphill portions of the trails are never too difficult, but should not be underestimated. It is best to take them slowly, as a cycling tourist. More technically advanced cyclists looking for fertile training ground should look no further than the Val d’Orcia, which, like most of the Sienese countryside, is a great place to work on quality training. The only road not advisable for bikes is the Via Cassia, which can be narrow and heavily trafficked. The area is quite large and includes some incredible points of interest such as the wine road which traces the essence of the legendary Brunello di Montalcino.
Vines are plentiful, as are portions of wild brush and fields cultivated with geometric perfection. The Val d’Orcia is a trip that requires a number of stops so you can marvel at the views and exceptional Renaissance architecture in towns like Pienza; enjoy the mystical Sant’Antimo Abbey; check out the “piazza d’acqua” in Bagno Vignoni; or taste wines in the cellars of Montalcino.
The itineraries are as follows:
From Pienza to Montepulciano Departure and arrival point: Pienza Length: 30 km Height difference: 500 m Type of road: asphalt Type of bike: city, hybrid Difficulty: Easy
In addition to Pienza, which is a splendid example of a Renaissance city, check out Montepulciano and see the Duomo, the tower of Palazzo del Comune and the barrels housed in ancient underground cellars where you can taste the area’s excellent Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
La pace di Sant’Antimo Departure and arrival point: Castelnuovo dell’Abate Length: 27 km Height difference: 500 m Type of road: asphalt and dirt Type of bike: MTB, hybrid Difficulty: Medium
Beautiful trail in the heart of the region best known for its Brunello. The trail runs through the Val d’Orcia; following an initial dirt road trail (7 km), the ascent from Sant’Angelo in Colle to the Passo del Lume Spento begins. Pleasant trip for rider with average training.
Il fascino di Bagno Vignoni e Pienza Departure and arrival point: San Quirico d’Orcia Length: 29 km Height difference: 360 m Type of road: asphalt and dirt Type of bike: MTB, hybrid Difficulty: Medium-easy
The itinerary includes an initial portion (5 km) on a dirt road and continues through the heart of the Val d’Orcia connecting the three points of a triangle: San Quirico d’Orcia, Bagno Vignoni and Pienza. The trail is not particularly difficult and the only relative difficulty is the uphill climb towards Pienza.
Traversata della Val d’Orcia Departure and arrival point: Castiglione d’Orcia Length: 80 km Height difference: 1,400 m Type of road: asphalt Type of bike: city, hybrid Difficulty: Difficult
Trail for the well-trained. Breathtaking panoramas boast gorgeous views of the Val d’Orcia. Points of interest include Bagno Vignoni, Radicofani and Castiglione d’Orcia.