Tuscany Gravel Explorer Overview
Where better to start than the home of the ‘Strade Bianche’ in Tuscany for our first gravel-specific tour? This unique tour embraces quintessential Tuscany but from a more off-the-beaten-track perspective and will appeal to any of you out there with a passion for finding the road less travelled. The full tour includes the option to finish with a chance to ride the famous Eroica Gaiole vintage bike race.
Our gateway for this tour is the beautiful city of Florence. From here we are able to explore many of the cycling routes of ‘La Bella Toscana’ that we have got to know so well over the years, including the Val d’Orcia, Chiantigiana, and the 7 bridges roads. Our route takes in the beguiling towns of Arezzo Siena and Loro Ciuffenna, as well as a plethora of enchanting hill towns along the way. Our refreshments will focus on the Sangiovese grape and general relaxation catered for by the numerous natural springs – ‘terme’ – that can be found en route.
What is gravel riding? A nicely presented video from Shimano that explores the essence of what they believe gravel riding to be all about. Try watching this without an urge to get out there and explore!
Turn your ride into one of historical proportions and take advantage of the chance to be part of one of the world’s greatest cycling events – L’Eroica (literally, ‘The Heroic’). Conceptualised in 1997, by the visionary Giancarlo Brocci, as a means of protecting Tuscany’s fabled ‘Strade Bianche’ from being paved, the ride can normally only be entered via a lottery system.
We have the good fortune of being able to acquire guaranteed entries as one of the official Eroica tour operators. We bypass the lottery system and therefore guarantee entry to all of our riders.
In terms of your steed you have 3 options: you can choose to bring your own, rent a ‘normal’ bike from us for the Tuscany Gravel Explorer stage, or spend the whole tour on a ‘vintage’ bike (either your own or rented from us).
For the Eroica the rules are that you must ride on a pre-1987 steel frame bike with ‘rat trap’ pedals, down tube shifters, and exposed cables, wearing woollen jerseys, and fuelled by decadent Italian food and wine! Vintage bikes are available to rent if you do not own one.
Join us on this cycling odyssey leading up to what is known as the ‘most handsome race in the world’.
Tuscany Gravel Explorer & Eroica 2024
|Stage||Start Date||End Date||Days||Cost (Euros)|
|Tuscany Gravel Explorer||25th Sept||4th Oct||10 Days (9 nights)||Sold Out|
|Eroica Gaiole||4th Oct||7th Oct||4 Days (3 nights)||Sold Out|
|The Full Tour||25th Sept||7th Oct||13 Days (12 nights)||Sold Out|
All tours and individual stages are available as a custom tour for your group – contact us for details.
- Accommodation in our carefully selected hotels
- Meals – hotel breakfasts, snacks en route and pre/post-ride nutrition, lunches including the famed Ride and Seek picnics, multi course group dinners with a focus on the local cuisine.*NB we include occasional independent lunches & dinners to break up the week
- Ride and Seek jersey
- Garmin 1030 use with all routes preloaded
- Ride and Seek water bottle
- Kit laundry service once a week
- Passionate, experienced and knowledgeable guides always on hand to help
- Alcoholic beverages
- Bike hire – if you do not have your own vintage bike for the Eroica, we can rent you one
- Pre & post tour accommodation
- Single supplement – Our prices are based on twin/double occupancy. If you wish to have your own room then a supplement is applicable.
- To reserve a place on a stage of this tour we ask for a deposit of €500 (or your local currency equivalent). We also accept payment in GB£ and AU$. The final invoice will include any applicable single supplements and bike hire costs.
Tuscany Gravel Explorer Food & Wine
Tuscan cuisine is characterised by its close association with the land. The unique language of the ancient Etruscans may have all but disappeared but their earthy cuisine lives on in Tuscany. Simplicity is the key to Tuscan cuisine that reflects the region’s peasant traditions and changing seasons. You’ll get plenty of chance to experience the essence of Tuscan gastronomy on the Eroica tour with the rest stops renowned for their novel approach to cycling nutrition. Where else on a cycling sportive would you be offered Ribollita, a hearty soup based primarily on stale bread, cabbage and cannelloni – Tuscan white beans – which is the essence of peasant fare? If you prefer something a little lighter you could always sample Panzanella – a unique a bread salad with tomato and basil. Our personal favourites on the ride though are the salami and bruschetta that are moreish in the extreme!
On the wine front again you won’t be disappointed when it comes to the Eroica rest stops – yes they serve wine! Home to many great wines, Tuscany is the great rival to Piedmont for the mantle of being Italy’s premier wine area. The Tuscans certainly believe that they are deserving of the honour and with Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and the ‘Super Tuscans’ all produced in the region they clearly have a strong case. In the lead up to the Eroica event we will visit our friend’s vineyard in Montalcino for a Brunello wine tasting, as well as exploring the Chiantigiana where a lunch time tipple is almost obligatory.
Written by Australian expat Isabelle Dusi, this book is slightly different from most of its genre in that the author had already been in Montalcino for a number of years before she wrote it. Slow in parts this book nonetheless provides a charming account of Tuscan village life.
Isabella Dusi, Vanilla Beans & Brodo
Written by tour guide Dario Castagno this book provides a humourous insight into some of the extreme situations he has found himself in. Heavy on anecdotes about tourists you hope you’ll never encounter, this book, whilst slightly shallow, is still a good read.
Dario Castagno, Too Much Tuscan Sun -Confessions of a Chianti Tour Guide
Finding a book that focuses on Tuscany and the Romans is hard given the all encompassing nature of their empire. As an overview of Roman influence in Tuscany though the Blue Guide does a great job. Be warned it contains over 500 pages but as a definitive guide of the region it is hard to beat.
Alta Macadam, Blue Guide – Tuscany
Iris Origo’s book is a classic that is written in diary form. With an immediacy that only a diary can give, this chronicle of daily life during the Second World War is powerful in its simplicity. In light of the affluence of the area today this book presents an insight into an altogether less fortunate era.
Iris Origo, War in Val D’Orcia – An Italian War Diary 1943-44
Tuscany Gravel Explorer History
Named after the Etruscans, one of its original inhabitants, Tuscany or Toscana in Italian corresponds closely geographically to ancient Etruria. The Etruscans, known mostly nowadays for their impressive tomb sites, withstood the inevitable Roman expansion for a century or two until succumbing in the mid 4th century B.C.
Roman rule lasted close to 8 centuries and besides a few minor hiccups (such as Hannibal!) the region flourished. Road networks throughout Tuscany facilitated transport and trade and settlements on the sites of modern Florence, Lucca, Arezzo, Pisa and Pistoia prospered.
After the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century BC, and brief occupations by the Byzantines and Ostrogoths, Tuscany became a Lombard duchy (6th-8th cent. A.D.), with Lucca as its capital. Charlemagne destroyed the Lombard kingdom and the Frankish Empire ruled from the 8th to the 12th century. Castles, Monasteries and Abbeys were built, many surviving today, and many of the towns developed into communes independent of the Holy Roman Empire.
The rivalry between these communes in Trade and war was intense and after a period of Pisan dominance in the 11th to 13th centuries Florence became the foremost city in Tuscany. The relative peace that followed, initially ruled over by the Medici, was the catalyst for the prolific artistic style that identifies the area today and is known as the Renaissance period. This period marked great cultural change and achievement in Europe that spanned from the end of the 13th century to about 1600, marking the transition between Medieval and Early Modern Europe.
After the Medici, Tuscany was ruled by the Austrian Dukes of Lorraine. The Dukes of Lorraine modernized and developed the area but in 1861 Tuscany voted in favour of annexation to a united Italy. Florence was briefly, prior to Rome, capital of the kingdom of Italy from 1865 to 1871.
Sunset on Siena – photo taken by Antonio Cinotti
A once in a lifetime experience. It was challenging, but fun, a great festival and full of nostalgia and atmosphere. James our guide on the day was incredible and the food and wine were superb along with Ride and Seek’s knowledge of all things Italian. My biggest worry was Anne-Maree as a non rider, in terms of what would she would do whilst I was riding. The way she was included in the group made the trip an unforgettable experience for us both. Thanks again Dylan to you and your colleagues, it was a special ride.
Dave – L’Erocia & Tuscany
I didn’t fully understand what I was in for, but the tour far surpassed my expectations. The rides leading up to the event, visiting Nostra Vita, the vintage bike preparations, the vintage shopping in Gaiole, our top-notch accommodation at Agriturismo Molinello, and the professionalism of the Ride and Seek crew, made this week one of my all-time favorites. I’ll be coming back next year!
Sarah R – L’Erocia & Tuscany
Tour at a Glance
Tuscany Gravel Explorer & Eroica Dates: 25th Sept to 7th Oct 2024
Number of days: 13 days
Price: Sold Out
Tuscany Gravel Explorer & Eroica
Dates: 25th Sept to 7th Oct 2024
Tuscany Gravel Explorer Dates: 25th Sept to 4th Oct 2024
Number of days: 10 days
Price: Sold Out
Tuscany Gravel Explorer
Dates: 25th Sept to 4th Oct 2024
Eroica Gaiole Dates: 4th to 7th Oct 2024
Number of days: 4 days
Price: Sold Out
Dates: 4th to 7th Oct 2024