Marco Guizzardi's Cycling Page-Italy-Part I header
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1. Tuscany, Umbria, The Marches. Part I
(Click here to go to Part II)

Florence-Siena-Montepulciano-Assisi-Gubbio- Urbino-Rimini. Km.: 550 - Days: 6 - Month: May MAP

2. Cycling Around Home

Day 1: Florence to Siena - 60 km.
The title to this paragraph should read more accurately: Prato to Siena. Prato being the most convenient spot to begin my tour from that I can actually reach by train from the city where I live -Bologna- without having to get up at some ungodly hour. Expecially considering that in fact I live some 30 km. away from Bologna. These, and another 12 km. or so that I have to ride to get from Prato to Florence, explain why when I finally reach my destination the odometer of my cyclocomputer reads over 100 km. for the day (by the way, the distances for each single day have been measured from the map, while the total at the top of the page is what my computer, which has proved accurate in all the other circumstances, read after I completed the tour: you will remark the discrepancy). When I start off from Prato, I am looking forward first of all to putting the crossing of the Florence urban area behind me as soon as I can. As I have anticipated, it's far from easy. Luckily, an obliging fellow cyclist helps me find my way through the worst part, the industrial belt that links Prato to Florence. Without him, I would probably have gotten lost. Reaching the banks of the river Arno, I can't resist making a detour on the Lungarno, instead of taking right away the direction of Porta Romana, after which the via Senese starts. The traffic along this road is very heavy, despite the fact that it's only half past two in the afternoon. When I find myself finally riding at the foot of the hill on which the imposing Certosa del Galluzzo is built, I know that I have put the worst part of the ride behind me. Emerging from the underpass that crosses the A-1 motorway, I meet the roundabout where, opposite from the motorway tollbooths, the Chianti Road to Siena begins. A couple of km. further, after reaching the village of Tavarnuzze, I take a left turn to begin the climb to Impruneta. It's the first serious climb, which the heat of the early afternoon makes harder. But I don't want to miss the spectacular views of Florence lying at the foot of the hills. After Impruneta, I take the Passo dei Pecorai road to Greve, which isn't exactly easy to find. Riding on straight through Impruneta will more easily take you to Strada, while the road to Passo dei Pecorai is both flatter and shadier. The road stretches on flat terrain until well past Greve, where a second scenic climb of a couple of km. leads to the hilltop town of Panzano. After an equally scenic, and a lot more relaxing descent I reach a crossroad, where I take the Castellina (as opposed to Radda) direction. I find the climb to Castellina particularly strenuous (maybe the third one always is, I don't know). After Castellina, however, the road to Siena is mostly downhill, and incredibly scenic with views over the Chianti hills on the left, the river Elsa valley on the right, and, finally, right in front, the profile of Siena with its medieval towers, churches and palaces.

Day 2: Siena to Montepulciano - 65 km.
Again, this chapter should read: Siena to Chianciano, but of that, more later. Siena has its own Porta Romana, and, as it was the case in Florence, the route for my second day of riding goes through it. I leave the town by the Roman via Cassia, descending into the valley of the river Arbia (in the Middle Ages a favourite battlefield of the belligerent Senesi). I follow the river until Buonconvento, and the Cassia as far as S. Quirico d' Orcia, the first stretch being, as it may be expected, flat, while the second ascends the hilltop upon which S. Quirico is built. Visiting the Romanic Church with its cool (as referred to the temperature) interior provides a welcome rest. From S. Quirico the road unfolds among some particularly scenic hills until it reaches Pienza, the Renaissance model city built by the Pope Pio II Piccolomini. I leave Pienza in the early afternoon and head to Montepulciano. The road rolls on the gentle ondulations of the plateau that separates the Orcia from the Chiana valleys. I don't have to wait very long to see the town perched on a hill across a deep escarpment. A short sprint up the first ramp leading to the town centre is enough to persuade me to continue my visit on foot. Mostly for logistic reasons I decide to continue to the next town, Chianciano Terme, which, as the name implies, is a spa town where accomodation is easy to find, particularly because May doesn't seem to be peak season for spas around here. The ride is a breeze anyway as the road is mostly downhill.

Day 3: Montepulciano to Assisi - 90 km.
The next day the first stretch of the road is again downhill until Chiusi, an exceedingly ancient town of Etruscan origins; the traffic intensifies as the town approaches, since the road leads to an intersection with the A-1 motorway. Leaving Chiusi I turn on the left following the signs that say Perugia. The road runs straight and flat to the shores of Lake Trasimeno, among some pleasant countryside. Despite being a rather important road, it has very little traffic. The roadway is wide and the maintenance is excellent. Ideal conditions for making good time. Just before reaching the lake , I leave the main road and turn right to circle the lake from the south-east. The reward for a very short and easy climb is a remarkable view of the lake, whose reed-covered shores are a sanctuary for numerous species of water birds. The road is easy to follow until just before Magione. After that it gets rather confusing. The road signs are no help as they lead invariably to the four-lane toll-free motorway to Perugia and Assisi. I follow a road that skirts the motorway closely, and finally I enter the outskirts of Perugia, where I discover that my troubles have only just begun. Perugia is a cyclists' nightmare. Its streets are steep, its traffic heavy, and the directions simply don't exist. It is a very beautiful town though, so getting lost in it may provide some consolations to those that have never seen it. Which is not my case. Instead, I take advantage of some rough knowledge of its general layout to manage finally to find a way through, which entails climbing practically to the top of the hill just outside the city centre, an arduous climb broken by numerous stops at the traffic lights (which obviously only make the going worse). The plunge into the Valle Spoletana is equally steep. The south industrial belt doesn't offer any easy way through either. I feel safe only when I reach Ospedalicchio, where I know that by turning left away from the Foligno motorway, I'll find myself on a comparatively quiet road that after a 5 km. long straight will take me under the walls of Assisi

Go to Part 2

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Click on photos to zoom

Via dell' amore is Pienza's
stroll with a view

A view of Pienza's main square
with the well and Town Hall...

...and another with the famous
facade of the Parish
Church by Rossellino

The town of Montepulciano
overlooks Tuscany's
Val di Chiana

Two pictures of romantic
Lake Trasimeno at sunset

To see some other pics
Go to Part 2

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