Tuscany…just the thought evokes a feeling of romance, tranquility and good wine.
This year, I was lucky enough to have spent my birthday there exploring this beautiful region with Marc! I have a soft spot for gorgeous landscapes and Tuscany certainly has no shortage of them. The dark green cypress trees, cream coloured stone villas and perfectly straight formations of grape vines on soft rolling hillsides gave us postcard-like views everywhere we turned. The tasty wine and simple yet delicious food was icing on the cake.
Two of the best ways to enjoy the Tuscany region are with a bike or a car, each offering a different but memorable experience. Marc and I loved the region so much that we did both!
Chianti is a beautiful region between Florence and Siena and is considered Tuscany’s wine making powerhouse. Since it was our first visit in the region, we chose to bike through the Chianti region with a tour group. The tour consisted of a 25km of cycling with pasta tasting, wine tasting and olive oil tasting. It’s a lot of eating, but don’t worry, you get to exercise plenty!
Cycling through the rolling hills was really enjoyable. I found especially exhilarating going down hill at super speed passing by olive groves and vineyards of all sizes. The region was calm and beautiful with very few cars.
Around lunchtime, our group stopped at a family run restaurant for some pasta tasting which included spicy spaghetti, pasta with pesto and spaghetti Bolognese; followed by yummy gelato and panna cotta. The dishes were simple and delicious, definitely the fuel that we needed as we headed out for more biking.
In the afternoon, we biked to the Guicciardini Estate castle, a 12th century medieval castle with a beautiful romantic setting in the background. The ride to the castle was a lot of fun until we hit “The Hill”…a hill with a painful 12% slope gradient! Never had I suffered so much and had so much trouble on a bike.
Luckily, to finish off the tour (and forget this painful hill), we did some Chianti wine tasting at the castle. Chianti wine is a dry red made from Sangiovese grapes – very earthy with black cherry and plum aromas.
We also sampled some of the castle’s high-end extra virgin olive oil. In order to make this, the olives are picked, pressed and bottled within 24 hours. This top notch, bright green and forbidden-to-cook-with olive oil tasted a lot stronger and was much more flavourful than your average extra-virgin olive oil. It was like eating fresh olives from the tree.
In the end, we had a good experience with the tour group. They were very well organized, full of energy and humour, not to mention they had the coolest slogan!
The next day, our rear ends were sore from the odd potholes and unpaved roads, but it was so worth it!
The Scenic Route (via SR222)
The biking tour left us craving for more, so we rented a car to do more exploring.
Driving through Tuscany was a different experience compared to cycling. It’s more intimate and relaxed (i.e. no burning sensations of leg muscles). You can cover more areas but stopping is not always possible given the narrow and winding country roads. From Florence, we drove to explore the small villages of Greve, Castellina, Radda and Giaole, making tons of stops in between to take in the view. Time stopped when we strolled down narrow sandy roads bounded by cypress trees and small castles. Some of which made me think of the scenes from the movie Gladiator.
We stopped in Radda for lunch and ate at La Botte di Bocca. The chef makes everything homemade and the food was delicious! The pasta was almost at the same level as the legendary Rome fettuccine (…I said almost).
As the sun started to set, we slowly headed back.
Tuscany had left its mark on us.
Thanks for reading et à la prochaine!