Given the length of the route on the first day, we decided to leave very early, and I personally recommend spring or autumn to ride these breathtaking roads. From Florence, you can take a direct train equipped with bike transport that arrives just below the historic center of Siena. When we leave, it's early, the air is fresh and clear, and we just have to head where the GPS directs us.
The Siena area, known as the "Terre di Siena", is dotted with hills and once you exit the centre, after just a few kilometers the road becomes narrower. The hills are peppered with centuries-old vineyards and farmhouses built with the light-coloured bricks particular to this area. As soon as we pass the village of Quercegrossa, the real reason for our early start is visible, the dirt road. Known as the white road, it's different from dirt roads in general as the earth is compact, often very light color. With a total absence of stones, it can get very dusty on hot days, but is incredibly compelling to cycle, especially in the early hours of the day.
This does not take away the difficulty of this type of road, which can and indeed does, climb up hills. Even if they are low, it can feel like a great difference in height. However, even though climbing is a therapy for me, we are happy to see the vineyards on the slopes of the hills, the manor houses overlooking the curves and embracing every breeze, finally feeling free. From this point on, we forget about civilisation. We come across very few cars and a small number of towns, travelling for many kilometers before reaching asphalt. I can see the happiness on my friends faces as they whizz through the vineyards and abandoned farmhouses. The route winds through a landscape of olive trees and lush forests, the wheels making a unique sound on this type of road.
A part of the Eroica route also weaves through this stretch. Every year, the professional cyclists of the Strade Bianche (White Roads) pass through. Our bikes aren't heavily loaded, but we did bring our lunch So, after passing Arbia and entering the heart of the Crete Senesi, we take a well-deserved stop for lunch. With the wonderful panorama stretching out in front of us, we can finally rest and savour nature's beauty.
If you happen to be cycling the stretch towards Arbia while it's raining, keep in mind that the clayey soil can be tricky, so I highly recommend knobby wheels and agile handling. From Arbia to Vescona, the itinerary continues along a stretch of the Via Lauretana, the historic pilgrimage path that connects Siena to Cortona through fields of wheat and the silvery landscapes created by the soil.
The simply stunning road continues. By now we are cycling in silence, all taken in by the beauty of the landscape and saving our breath for the climb to come. By the afternoon, we are looking forward to arriving at Radi, the historic stop that is part of the Eroica and our refuge for the night.