A Bike Tour Review by James Pippin
A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of bicycling through Tuscany leading twenty other cyclists on an ExperiencePlus! Little Tour in Tuscany. I knew some folks beforehand, although most were complete strangers before the trip.
As a tour leader, I always find that there is a day or two of anticipation before a tour starts – moments of wondering what folks will be like? Whether or not they will be open to discovering an Italy they’ve never imagined, along with the Italy they might expect?
Ultimately, I believe, that’s how our Little Tour of Tuscany is different from most Tuscany tours. We visit the typical Tuscan sights (brown furrowed hillsides, olive trees, vineyards, hilltop medieval towns) but the tour also takes in the less stereotypical aspects of Tuscany. Many of the towns we pass through haven’t changed because of international fame, and the people seem to care more about baking good bread and serving good wine than selling their products to a larger customer market.
On my most recent tour, we began in Florence, city of art, city of the Medici’s, city of fantastic gelato. After a fantastic dinner of Tuscan soups, pastas, and the famous Florentine steak, we headed back to our hotel that looks over the Arno river. As we walked, I caught snippets of the thick Florentine dialect from passers-by and enjoyed the moon rising over the river.
Over the next several days, we immersed ourselves in Tuscany’s finest foods, panoramas, medieval cities, and bicycle rides. We saw models of Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions, wandered around a Medici palace, and bicycled around the city walls at Lucca. In Volterra, we found a homeless cat, and took "Freccia" (his name means "arrow" because he helped make the chalk dust arrows we use to guide cyclists from one city to the next) back to our European office. And in our hotel in San Gimignano, we tasted different wines after taking a dip in the hotel pool.
At the end of the trip, we were sorry that we had to head home. Along with several fantastic cyclists, we met some of the funniest, most interesting people around. One fellow on our trip fought in Italy during the Second World War, and was coming back for the first time with his brother and sister-in-law. One fellow and his wife run backcountry ski trips in Canada. And so on. I hope that I see these folks again on other adventures in the future, so that we can think back on our trip together and immerse ourselves in another region of Italy, or beyond.
And if you’re just thinking about pedaling through Tuscany, give me a call (800-685-4565), and I’ll be happy to chat with you about your travel plans. Or, I can put you in touch with one of my other traveling companions to hear their impressions of our trip. Whatever you choose, Buon Viaggio!