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Tuscany (Italy)

date: November 2002

Sharon and visited Tuscany for about a week in early November and rode single-day loops in several places -- see photos.

The island of Elba was a big favorite for us. For part of the time we were based near Donoratico, and part of the time near Radda-in-Chianti.

Some of the things we did:

  • island of Elba western part

  • Donoratico to Follonica loop

  • Donoratico to Volterra loop

  • Radda in Chianti to Siena loop

  • Radda in Chianti to Mercatale + Greve loop

  • walked around the city of Florence

detailed reports on the riding here . . .

island of Elba

We started in Procchio and rode around the western third of the island -- see photos.

A truly great day of bicycling: rather hilly, with great views of the sea and cliffs and villages

What we did: 

  • Chose a non-weekend day in off-season.  Not too warm -- since the island is warmer.  (November -- or even December?)

  • We took our car with our bike in it onto the ferry boat from Piombino.  No need to use the advance ticket offices at this time of year.  (To navigate thru Piombino to the ferries, we followed signs for "porto".)

  • Ferry arrived on Elba island into Portoferraio.  

  • We drove our car with bike in it to Procchio.  Lots of traffic, curves, on significant uphill climb, though it didn't look real steep. 

  • Difficult to find parking on the island.  Saw some in San Ilario.  (One way to solve this would be to spend a night at a hotel on the island.)

  • We rode the loop Clockwise around the West one-third of the island.  

  • We avoided some traffic in Procchio by first going West past the main N-S road and past the Hotel Golfo, then turning South to climb on a quieter road, then turned right onto the main N-S road. 

  • Took a side trip to San Ilario (and San Piero?) -- and thus bypassed Marina di Campo.  Steep climb, but little traffic.  Decent views, but not as wonderful as later.  Perhaps would have been better to save our legs. 

  • lots of picnic tables along the way

  • Pomonte village -- all food places closed for the season. 

  • Chiessi village -- food places seemed closed, so we ate the food we had brought with us on some rocks with waves crashing around us. 

  • climbs keep getting longer and more spectacular as we continue clock-wise

  • biggest climb is the one up to Marciana. 

  • long steep-ish curvy descent to Marciana Marina.  Glad we had our third brake.   Glad we did not have to climb up that.  (it seemed like the climb we did from the west was less steep and less curvy.) 

  • short steep-ish climb east from Marciana Marina with one or two sharp curves, then a pleasant moderate run to . . . 

  • finished our riding in Procchio

future -- things to consider if we get the chance to ride it again (but we didn't check them):

  • which is better:  Clockwise or Counter-clockwise?  for avoiding car traffic?  We certainly liked the views well enough clockwise. 

  • Could it make any sense to try to avoid some traffic by going high thru Poggio by Monte Perone?  Would that avoid some of the tourists going between Procchio and the lift near Marciana?  

  • How to avoid the busy road between Portoferraia and Procchio? 

Some ideas to consider: (a) Get a bus ride from the ferry to Marciana, then ride the western loop Counter-clockwise? (b) Take the alternate eastern rode to Marina di Campo? (c) Or perhaps the Procchio/Portoferraia road is easier East-bound -- so save it for the return to the ferry. (d) Or take a very early ferry to Elba, and ride this section early while traffic is light? 

Donoratico to Follonica loop

Donoratico is in the west of Tuscany not far from the sea, somewhere in the middle between Elba and La Spezia. [ bike shop in Donoratico ]

Overview:  rode from Donoratico south to Follonica, with a visit to a hill city and a sandy beach along the way, return through the hills and another ancient hill city .  Amazingly gentle climbs, with big views from the sides of hills.  Finish with a some long fun downhills. A nice day, considering it was cloudy and we started late.

We rode it Counter-clockwise:  

  • Donoratico

  • San Vincenzo

  • at roundabouts, follow signs for Grosseto, not Piombino. 

  • Campiglia Marittima (old hill city) 

  • beautiful descent to Venturina (an alternative would be to descend directly to Cafaggio, to avoid the road East from Venturina). 

  • Venturina

  • Cafaggio

  • Riotorto

  • South on main road parallel to SS#1, then cross over SS#1

  • Torre Mozza -- sand beach at center of Golfo di Follonica

  • Follonica (we only passed thru the outskirts)

  • East toward Massa Marittima (reasonable width/shoulders to SS#1, then a short narrow section before next turn, which comes before Cura Nuova)

  • Montioni

  • Suvereto 

  • turn Right, climb up steep hill to old hill city.  Explore on foot. 

  • just before old city, turn Left on Via G. Marconi (to bypass some unnecessary climbing)

  • Sassetta

  • Castegneto Carducci

  • just before bottom of hill, turn Left on road for "La Torre" (just before the right turn for Bolgheri / Bibbona

  • Donoratico

future -- things to consider if we rode it again (but we didn't check them):

  • shortcut:  after Cafaggio, wander a little on the flat farm roads, and then go directly to Suvereto -- skipping Riotorto and the beach and Follonica. 

  • go in to the town of Follonica

  • visit Massa Marittima

  • for a long day, continue South to the south end of Golfo di Follonica at Punta Hidalgo and Punta Ana.  Or perhaps South into Castiglione della Pescaia and return inland thru Tirli -- but perhaps those are a whole other route for another day.

Donoratico to Volterra loop

a rather fine day, lots of pretty views, and some long downhill runs -- see photos.

We rode it clockwise:

  • Donoratico area

  • for less traffic at the start, there is a road from the south end of Donoratico thru "La Torre".  At the end of this, turn Left onto the Castegneto Carducci road.  Then soon the next Right onto the Bolgheri / Bibbona road

  • Bolgheri

  • Bibbona

  • go Northeast:  avoid Casale and Guardistallo, and instead follow the signs for Volterra

  • straight across the Canneto valley road

  • Ponteginori

  • #68 East

  • Saline di Volterra

  • North (? #439 ?), follow signs for Pontedera -- up long gentle hill. 

  • East (at top of hill, turn Right) toward Volterra.  Long climb, gentle with big views -- but then get steeper closer to Volterra.  

  • #68 East-bound -- up the hill, now with more vehicle traffic

  • Volterra old city -- explore on foot

  • Back down #68 West-bound, but keep going all the way down it, 

  • Saline di Volterra, thru Ponteginori, and continue on #68 West-bound to the Left turn for Monteverdi and Canneto

  • Canneto (climb starts long and very gentle, then gets steep at the end)

  • Monteverdi Marittima

  • Castegneto Carducci

  • Donoratico area

future -- things to consider if we rode it again (but we didn't check them):

  • on the way out, visit the hill towns of Casale Maritimma or Gaurdistallo.  But perhaps it's better to save our legs for the big long climb up to Volterra. 

  • less time on #68 East-bound by climbing up to Montecatini -- but that's a steep climb, then a steep descent. 

  • on the way back, from Saline di Volterra turn South to Pomerance and Lardarello, then West to Monteverdi and Castegneto Carducci.  (Lots more hill-climbing:  Perhaps it is best to do this instead of Volterra rather than in addition to it).  (or for a real long day, could continue South to Monterotondo and return thru Suvereto and Sassetta.)

  • big short-cut:  Turn South onto the Canneto valley road the first time meeting it. 

Radda in Chianti to Siena loop

Overall pleasant ride, visiting a famous old city. 

Note:  lots of distance on packed-dirt roads.  Getting in and out of Siena took some tricky navigation and vehicle-traffic-interaction, and an extremely steep hill. 

We rode a loop Counter-clockwise:

  • Radda in Chianti

  • Castellina in Chianti (a pleasant road early in the morning)

  • #222 South, big views, then a long descent, then a steep climb up to . . . 

  • Quercegrossa

  • (we missed a critical right turn, ended up taking Viale Delle Regioni and Via Liguria

  • Siena train station (lots of construction)

  • Viale Sardegna (SouthWest) 

  • Via Simone Martini (South)

  • thru Porta Ovile

  • walked bike up an extremely steep hill, locked bike

  • explored Siena on foot, ate panini and gelato

  • walked bike down extremely steep hill

  • thru Porta Ovile

  • Via Simone Martini (North) 

  • South on Sardegna (?) to roundabout

  • West a short ways

  • Northeast on #408 (sign for Pontignano? -- other signs to watch for might be Gaiole or Montevarchi)

  • Ponte a Bozzone

  • side trip to Pontignano (rather steep hill) -- but that turned into a dirt road

  • back down to Ponte a Bozzone and #408

  • tried the next Right turn

  • Pieve Asciata

  • Vagliagli

  • dirt -- some steep downhills thru Aiole.  Greater erosion on these tends to produce larger explosed of loose rocks.  Hitting these at any speed can cause "snake-bite" punctures in inner tubes. 

  • follow signs for Radda

  • Radda in Chianti

future -- things to consider if we rode it again (but we didn't check them):  

  • find a better turn off #222 when coming into Siena.  I might consicer this.  At the top of a climb, just as the road curves Right to begin a downhill, instead turn Left:  look for signs for Vico Alto and Madonnina Rossa, and try taking that road to Via Simone Martini and Porta Ovile. 

  • or just skip going into Siena, and take that Vico Alto / Madonnina Rossa road directly to #408.

  • avoid some of the dirt roads by continuing past Porte a Bozzone on #408, thru Pianella, then turn off for Lecchi and San Sano, possible visit to Castello di Monteluco.  Then thru Ama and San Giusto in Salcio to rejoin the given route. 

Radda in Chianti to Mercatale + Greve loop

Pleasant riding, nice downhills, big views.  Good food stop in Greve.

Here's how we rode it:

  • Radda in Chianti

  • Castellina in Chianti (a pleasant road early in the morning)

  • San Donato 

  • Sambuca

  • North -- follow sign for San Casciano

  • Fabbrica

  • at the T intersection, we turned left and went thru Montefiridolfi, which led to  

  • a steep downhill, followed by a long steep uphill. 

  • Mercatale (we had a snack here -- several choices)

  • exited town by continuing straight (SouthEast?) on a narrow road -- pretty

  • rejoin main road to Greve, goes down hill

  • turn SouthEast, long moderate climb toward Greve

  • #222 South-bound

  • Greve in Chianti (several food options)

  • #222 South-bound (long climb)

  • Penzano

  • #222 South-bound (downhill)

  • follow signs for Radda (pleasant gentle riding, then climbs gently and moderately) -- ends by going under #429, then looping back to join it. 

  • #429 West-bound

  • Radda in Chianti

future -- things to consider if we rode it again (but we didn't check them):   

  • at the T-intersection by Fabbrica, try turning Right -- try staying higher up the end of the valley to avoid so much down and up

Parma and around Monte Caio

I visited the city of Parma because I heard that (unlike most Italian cities) lots of the residents go out and ride their bicycles on the streets at night. I was scared of the idea of riding at night, but like they say, "When in Parma, do as the . . . " -- so I tried it. And it was fun, and it changed my feelings about night riding in cities -- and eventually night skating in big cities.

In the daytime I drove south from Parma into the foothills of the Apennines, and rode a loop . . .

around Monte Ciao

Tizzano to Monchio to Corniglio and back to Tizzano. An interesting hilly route, with big views from many points all along the way.

I rode a loop clockwise like this:

  • Tizzano

  • pass by Schia 

  • down the hill into Capriglio

  • turn Right to La Latte del Cardinale (beautiful long descent, but some rough sections)

  • Pratopiano (descent continues, some steeper sections)

  • turn Right, descend to Selvanizza

  • climb to Palanzano

  • down, then up to Monchio

  • more climbing to Passo di Ticchiano

  • down to Casarola (starts steep)

  • Riana / Grammatica / Sivizzo (mostly down)

  • Corniglia

  • more down, turn turn right and climb to Caróbbio

  • at T-intersection, turn Left (not toward Schia)

  • Tizzano

future -- things to perhaps consider if I rode it again:

  • Perhaps do it in reverse, to do the long descent south from Passo di Ticchiano on nice roads.  

  • Perhaps start from Pastorello, since its nice as both climb to Tizzano and descent.

Cinque Terre (Italy)

date: November 2002

On a rainy day I drove my rental car in a loop on roads of the Cinque Terre area. The route had great views of sea and mountains, and went by the access roads to each of the five villages -- but avoided the city of La Spezia, and spent little time on the SS#1 highway.

The Cinque Terre are a famous tourist area in the Liguria province of Italy, northwest from the city of La Spezia. 

characteristics of the route

Distance about 75 km (46 miles).  Rather hilly. Additional distance, and additional hill-climbing, for each visit to one of the villages. Much distance on one-lane roads (all paved).  Lots of curves, some with questionable visibility. Several tunnels, but they had reasonable lane width, lights as needed, and a sidewalk on which a bicycle could be walked.  It was a rainy day, so I did not actually ride it, but I checked out every meter, driving in our car.

summary of route

I'm not sure which direction is better to do this loop, or where to start riding it.  

I give it here in the Clockwise direction, since that's how I'd do it with if I were to start in La Spezia (which I do not recommend).  And I give it starting from Beverino, because in the clockwise direction that provides a gentle warm-up before the first big climb over the Parodi / Biassa hill. 

  • Beverino

  • Val Graveglia (gentle uphill South-bound) 

  • SS#1 (uphill South-bound, 1-2 km)

  • Parodi (turn off from SS#1 is at some high stone walls just over top of hill, nearly opposite from Left turn for Stra / Sarbia, and South after Right turn for Cartena / Casta / Porcale)

  • top of climb which is not real steep from either side

  • Biassa

  • SS#370 (main road from La Spezia to Riomaggiore) -- two tunnels, both with lights and sidewalks on which a bicycle could be walked. 

  • access to village Riomaggiore

  • access to village Manarola

  • steep climb North-bound, road narrows

  • access to village Corniglia

  • access to village Vernazza

  • access to village Monterosso al Mare

  • Pignone

  • Bracelli (pass by approach to Memola)

  • T-intersection at SS#1, turn Left, quick Right

  • Padivarma

  • Beverino (do not go under the Autostrada to Ceperana)

Which of the five villages to visit?  I don't know, but every one of the access roads requires a steep climb to get back up to the loop route.


When to do it:  Prefer not doing this on a weekend, and definitely not in high tourist season.  Ideal would be a mid-week day in October or November. 

which direction to ride?

Reasons to do it Clockwise:

  • not get morning sun in eyes

  • descending to Biassa and SS#370 is smoother than descending to Parodi and SS#1

  • avoid climbing steeper from SS#1 up to Bracelli

  • if starting in La Spezia, SS#370 is a nicer hill-climb than  SS#1

Reasons to do it Counter-clockwise

  • ride the section on SS#1 in the downhill direction

  • avoid climbing steeply up from the Manarola village access

more . . .

  • Hiking:  An easier way to visit all five villages is to do it on foot, like from Riomaggiore to Monterosso.  It would be possible to set up a car-bike "shuttle" for this, but the car-parking and bike-leaving could be a pain.  Since all five villages are served by train from La Spezia, it seems simpler to do a "train-shuttle". 

  • Is there a way to ride a bike between a couple of the villages on one of the sections of the hiking trail? 


Dordogne - Lot - Perigord - Quercy (France)

Our first bicycling trip in Europe. Lots of experienced cycle tourers had recommended the Dordogne area. We liked it -- see photos.

Here's some of the riding we did:

  • Souillac to Sarlat-le-Caneda loop

  • River Celle + River Lot loop

  • Coux-et-Bigaroque to Les-Eyzies-de-Tayac loop

Souillac to Sarlat-le-Caneda loop

route went thru Souillac : Salignac : Sarlat-le-Caneda : Souillac

A rather fine day -- see photos.

Some of the specifics of what we rode:

  • Start in Souillac 

  • D15 -- D62 -- quiet and pretty

  • D60 -- some traffic -- hill climb, but felt comfortable -- to Salignac-Eyviques

  • D60 West -- D56 South -- quiet, interesting, a hidden valleys -- some extra hill work -- T - D47 Southwest into Sarlat

  • Sarlat-le-Caneda (excellent -- patesserie, walk closed narrow streets, grocery, lunch sitting by cathedral)

  • followed Lonely Planet route:  D46 South -- D46E2 -- climb not so steep

  • Domme -- nice views 

  • -- St Cybranet -- D57 -- Castelnaud -- cross Dordogne R 

  • D703 -- la Roque Gageac (pretty between river and cliffs, caramel shop) 

  • cross D to D50 East -- cross D to Vitrac -- Cingle de Montfort (pretty castle) -- D703 

  • just after Carsac-Alliac: rail trail -- cross D to near Veyrignac 

  • D50 East -- D205 back to Souillac 

future -- things to consider if we rode it again (but we didn't check them):  

  • We already like it fine the way we rode it, but . . . possibly . . .

  • could consider ? . . . after Salignac, instead of D56, could just continue on D60, continue West across D704, join D48 South (see Lonely Planet Cycling France guidebook's Montignac - Sarlat route) ?

River Celle + River Lot loop

route went thru Bouzies : Cele River : Figeac : Lot River : St-Cyrq-Lapopie -- a rather fine day.

We rode this Counter-clockwise loop:

  • Start in Vers 

  • D662 to Bouzies

  • D41 North -- very quiet along Cele River -- underneath cliffs -- but totally flat, gets boring. 

  • then East to D802 to Figeac 

  • Figeac -- afternoon snack in the only bar open on a Sunday afternoon. 

  • followed Cahors - Cajarc signs, but that took us back to D802.  D93 South across Cele River, D19 East, D662 Southwest -- Faycelles -- Frontenac -- Cajarc -- beautiful riding above on N side of valley, a bit rolling (not as flat as Cele River road). 

  • D662 West to Tour-de-Faure -- cross Lot -- climb to St-Cyrq-Lapopie (long climb continues past St-Cyrq to viewpoint. 

  • beautiful riding on ledge with cliffs below -- to Bouzies 

  • D662 back to Vers.

future -- things to consider if we rode it again (but we didn't check them):  

  • Consider starting near Bouzies:  Vers added lots of extra miles.  Could have saved that for an extra loop to the West if had time, instead of being rushed.

  • Could see some of the sites along the Cele River -- break up the boredom of the flat (but pleasant) road. 

  • Could have gotten off D41 before end, taken D662 into Figeac.  

  • If only doing it one-way, Lot River is more interesting riding, but must climb over hill from Figeac. 

Coux-et-Bigaroque to Les-Eyzies-de-Tayac loop

We rode thru: Coux-et-Bigaroque : St Cyprien : Les-Eyzies-de-Tayac : le Bugue : Trany : Cadouin : Coux-et-Bigaroque

A rather fine day -- mostly followed Lonely Planet guidebook route, but with a different start point. 

Some of the specifics of what we rode:

  • Start in Coux-et-Bigaroque 

  • D703 to St Cyprien was good. 

  • D48 had nice scenery. 

  • Les-Eyzies (patisserie) 

  • some steep-ish climbs going West. 

  • D28 long gentle climb to Cadouin (ice cream at bar)

  • velocipede museum at Cadouin was interesting. 

  • D25 descent, cross D

  • D51 East pleasant finish to Coux-et-Bigaroque.

Afterward we couldn't think of anything we'd want to change about it.

Loire valley (France)

We also spent two or three days around the Loire valley, and that was fun riding too -- see photos.

Here's one of the rides we did . . .

Azay-le-Rideau - Chinon loop - Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine loop

Our route went thru Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine : Azay-le-Rideau : Villandry : Chinon : Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine

A wonderful day.

Some of the specifics of what we rode:

  • Start in Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine 

  • started up hill on N10 to L turn on N side of town.  Could have avoided N10 by starting W on finish road, then NE before railroad tracks. 

  • back roads W + N to Villepurdue:  roads not on the local Michelin map -- including paved service road on W side of railroad tracks.   

  • D19 to Sache.  D84 (R bank of Indre R) (by way of troglodyte houses) to Azay.  

  • Back street on E side of Azay to road to Valleres.  easy-to-miss R turn early in town to Villandry (patisserie). 

  • one-lane path on L bank of Loire -- farm animals -- birds -- becomes D116 -- picnic at Brehemont -- continue W past Usse to Huismes.  

  • D16 south to Chinon, finished down hill past chateau.  nice patisserie in Chinon.  Climb up long extremely steep hill up to D21 -- we walked a lot of it.  (Could have avoided by staying high, not going down to Chinon -- perhaps visit Chateau only, for less climbing).  

  • off-route from D21 because took L fork early -- should have followed signs to Les Loges. 

  • D21 was wonderful -- all the way to St Epain.  R turn onto D57, then one-lane R turn in middle of town before crossing twin creek bridges. 

  • Finish in Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine 

future -- things to consider if we rode it again (but we didn't check them):   

  • Could avoid going all the way down into Chinon.  Or perhaps there's some reasonable way to go down, but then head back East without an enormous climb? 

  • Could visit more chateaux. 

  • Could visit vineyards along D21 -- if had that sort of partners. 

  • Could make extra trip to Montsoreau and Candes-St-Martin and back thru Fontevraud-l'Abbaye and Chavigny. 

more . . .

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