Biking in Northern Italy


Tuscany, more than any other part of Italy, sends people's thoughts into a rapturous never-nether land of fresh pasta, light and fruity wines, medieval towers, thick-stoned palazzi, Renaissance art and philosophy, patchwork hills jigsawed into baths of green, pink, orange, and brown, views out over weather-beaten terra-cotta roof tiles, and so much more.

Fortunately for all, much of this is founded on truth, on a long history of people rooted to the ground and thoughts reaching into the limitlessness of imagination. A short list of great Tuscan cities large and small like Florence, Siena, Pisa, Arezzo, and San Gimignano dredges up memories of your first glance at a syllabus for a course in Western civilization. But being in Tuscany is a far cry from the stilted atmosphere of a college lecture hall. Tuscany itself is about your senses: tasting the sauces, smelling the flowers, touching the mortar of ancient buildings . . .

Biking in Tuscany is both a dream and a reality. The dream: rolling hills with mind-altering views, quiet country roads, a sense of being off the beaten path as soon as you leave a village and even sometimes when you are right in the middle of one. The reality: many tough hills, some unpaved stretches on those back roads, and poor signage the deeper you get into the middle of what may really be nowhere.

Whether you are living the dream or caught in a bout of reality, the kindness of Tuscan strangers abounds. You may not speak the local twang, but the power of Italian gesticulation will reassure you and get you where you need to go. When you get there, you will realize that the reality of getting there is all just part of the dream.


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