Strade Bianche Overview
Following on from our successful tours in Puglia and Friuli this tour is another PLUS collaboration between Tourissimo and Ride and Seek. Beppe Salerno and Dylan Reynolds (owners of Tourissimo and Ride and Seek respectively) first worked together back in 2001 when they were both guiding in Italy. Since then they have both built up their own businesses with a similar ethos of immersing guests in the places they visit. The PLUS Tours are week long adventures that focus on cycling, history and culture with the + element aimed at offering more to our clientele through collaboration. They include guides from either company who are experts in the areas where the tours are focused.
The Strade Bianche tour is our first foray into the world of gravel as we continue to seek out the road less travelled. The hallowed strade bianche (white roads) of Tuscany have featured on our Eroica tours but this is the first time we’ve designed a regular tour around them. We worked with your input to design an itinerary filled with ‘white roads’, interesting stops, and authentic beauty. This tour can be enjoyed on regular road bikes with wider profile tires or, if you’re keen to embrace the the strade bianche in all their glory, you could try a specific gravel bike. Rental wise we can provide on both fronts. While Tuscany does not need any presentation, it never disappoints. The area south of Florence, around Siena and in the Val d’Orcia, will set the stage for the first part of our exploration by bike. You will visit medieval hilltop towns, abbeys, and wineries. We finish on the Tyrrhenian seacoast in the Maremma region (a natural reserve). We start in the countryside in the village of Radda in the Chianti area. From there, we will explore part of the Chianti and Montalcino production area with visits to some of our favourite wineries.
A big part of the appeal of this tour for us is the sense of adventure that comes from being able to get off the beaten track. Gravel bikes are also known as ‘Adventure’ bikes and this is a word that very much fits with the ethos of what we do. To give you a better sense of what this genre of cycling actually entails this overview in Cycling Weekly does a great job of setting the scene.
It is not just about the strade bianche though, the towns we visit are highlights in themselves. Siena is the embodiment of a medieval city and it will be our stay for one night. We will take part in a walking tour to fully appreciate this UNESCO site. Together we’ll immerse ourselves in the spirit of L’Eroica, a special “race” from every point of view, with surroundings and scenes from the “heroic” time of cycling: sections on dirt roads, vintage refreshments, wonderful and demanding roads. We should mention that this area has been known since Roman times for its thermal springs. We will pay a visit to the quaint village of Bagno Vignoni, and the lesser-known thermal water site of Petriolo with its unique water pools. Remember that you can ride as little or as much as you want, or take a day off altogether. Non riding companions are also welcome as there is a plethora of off the bike activities to partake in.
Strade Bianche Highlights
• Sample the delights of our favourite wine – Brunello di Montalcino. The Chiantis aren’t bad either!
• Explore the picture postcard Val d’Orcia — UNESCO heritage site and the backdrop to a multitude of Hollywood films
• Wander the secret alleys of the enchanting villages of Montepulciano and Montalcino
• Stunning cycling along rolling hills covered with vineyards and quaint medieval villages
• Ride the mythical Strade Bianche & enter into the spirit of the Eroica in Gaiole
• Discover Siena in more depth with our walking guide
• Marvel at the the lunar landscape of Crete Senesi
• Cycle on the the historical Via Francigena – one of the great pilgrimage routes
• Earthy food and uplifting wines in one of Italy’s finest culinary regions
• Kick back with espresso and cappuccino stops in charming medieval villages
• Luxuriate in the thermal waters of Bagno Vignoni and Petriolo
• Hit the road less travelled in the enchanting Maremma Natural Reserve
Strade Bianche Bike Tour Dates 2019
|Stage||Start Date||End Date||Days/Nights||Distance||Cost (Euros)|
|Tuscany – Strade Bianche||Sept 27||Oct 4||8 (7 nights)||507km (315miles)||€3495|
|Eroica Weekend||Oct 4||Oct 7||4 (3 nights)||Choice of routes||€1395|
(For the Eroica inclusions consult the Eroica Tour Page)
• 7 nights of accommodation at handpicked hotels.
• Bike hire – road bikes, hybrids or gravel.
• Experienced guides to provide local knowledge, support, and camaraderie.
• Van support throughout the day.
• Daily breakfast, 4 lunches and 6 dinners
• Picnic lunch at our favourite Brunello di Montalcino winery.
• 2 wine tastings – Brunello and Chianti.
• 2 evening aperitivi (drinks and antipasti).
• Expert mechanical support throughout the tour.
• Pick up and drop off from Firenze airport or nearest mainline station.
• Daily extra loop options for those wanting extra riding.
• Snacks and drinks for each day’s ride.
• Custom bike kit from MEM.
• Water bottles to keep.
• Garmin Touring Plus computers for navigation.
• Detailed daily map sheets.
• All gratuities for drivers, local experts and hospitality staff.
• All luggage transfers and transportation during your trip.
• Entrance fees for all activities, private tours and events.
Strade Bianche 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.
* Bistecca alla Fiorentina -This thick premium cut of Chianina beef is cooked over coals and flavoured only with olive oil, salt and pepper and is worth the journey to Tuscany alone.
* Panzanella -Preferring something lighter you could sample this unique Tuscan salad which is a bread salad with tomato and basil – a fantastic summer dish.
* Ribollita – Perhaps the signature dish of the region this hearty soup is peasant fare at its finest. Based primarily on stale bread, cabbage and cannelloni – Tuscan white beans.
* Pici pasta – Typical of Tuscany these ‘fat’ spaghetti are perfect with a wild boar ragu or, when in season, the delicious porcini mushrooms that are among the world’s most sought after mushrooms.
* Fagioli al fiasco – Beans are a staple in Tuscan cuisine and this method of simmering them in an empty Chianti bottle over charcoal works a treat.
* Tuscan Oil – A central theme of Tuscan cuisine is the generous use of its prized olive oils for cooking, dressing salads, flavouring soups and dipping bread. Indeed, grilled bruschetta rubbed with garlic and olive oil is a tasty start to any meal.
* Cantucci – Our personal favourite way to end a Tuscan meal involves dipping ‘cantucci’ –biscotti- into the Tuscan sweet wine which is aptly named vin santo – holy 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.
* Chintigiana – We cycle through the heart of the Chianti region and visit two of the jewels of the area – Castellina in Chianti and Radda in Chianti.
* Montepulciano – We cycle up to this stunning hilltop town and visit a small cantina within the town walls where we can sample some exceptional Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
* Brunello di Montalcino – Brunello is the local term for the Sangiovese grape and unlike Chianti, must contain 100%. Rich in black fruits and spices the best of these wines are to die for.
* Vin Santo – This ‘heavenly’ sweet wine is produced by drying Malvasia and Trebbiano grapes before fermenting them. Tuscans traditionally dunk Cantuccini biscuits in their vin santo after dinner and we look forward to introducing you to the tradition. We’ll also introduce you to some of the finer stuff which should be enjoyed on its own.
Strade Bianche Accommodation
Our choice of accommodations for this tour are aimed at providing you with the best of Tuscan hospitality and an authentic feel of the places we travel through. We stay in the heart of Chianti before heading into the stunning city of Siena. From here we head down to the UNESCO listed Val d’Orcia and then onward through Montalcino – home of the eponymous Brunello. Our final destination is the Tuscan coast which we reach by riding through the ruggedly beautiful Maremma area. Our accommodation en-route ranges from a rustic agriturismo to a boutique seaside resort.
Capo D’Uomo Hotel (Talamone) Overlooking the bay of Talamone this hotel commands a stunning view over Argentario and the Tuscan Archipelago. Its circular shape ensure that the rooms are blessed with great views and its friendly staff really make you feel at home.
Albergo Giovanni da Verrazzano (Greve in Chianti) Situated in the main piazza of Greve in Chianti, which itself is in the heart of the Chianti Classico wine area, we could not be better positioned! This hotel/restaurant has been welcoming guests since the middle ages and is very much famed for its longevity. The tradition of hospitality and fine food is pretty much set in stone.
Borgo Grondaie (Siena) Situated just outside the walls of Siena this Tuscan farmhouse is surrounded by 4 hectares of olive groves and lawns. The charming rustic decor and the great swimming pool provide a wonderful haven after a day of exploring Siena.
The Tuscan Year – Life & Food in an Italian Valley – Elisabeth Romer.
Romner approaches Tuscan cuisine month by month and succeeds in presenting a delightfully written book which is more than just a recipe book. The writing is perhaps a little flat at times but as an overview of the traditonal Tuscan kitchen it works very well.
War in Val D’Orcia – An Italian War Diary 1943-44 – Iris Origo.
This 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.
The Mystery of the Tuscan Hills – Morris M. Weiss.
In light of our tour visiting a number of sites rich in Etruscan history we felt it important to include a book that attempts to unravel their mystery. Weiss has written a book that attempts to understand the Etruscan mind. Highly subjective it may be but it achieves its aim.
Blue Guide – Tuscany – Alta Macadam.
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.
Vanilla Beans & Brodo – Isabelle Dusi.
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.
Strade Bianche 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.
Tour at a Glance
Length: 8 days / 7 nights
Distance: 507km I 315 miles
Elevation: 5045m I 16551ft
Dates: Sept 27- Oct 4aa
Length: 8 days / 7 nights