The perfect girls trip – a bike trip in Tuscany with Fabrizio Giacomelli.
Every year my friends and I get together for a girls’ weekend. Last year we decided to extend our weekend to a week of biking in Italy. As the organizer, I knew exactly who to call as a guide. Five years previously I had been on a bike trip in Umbria with 3 other friends and had been so impressed with the gentle and amicable nature of our guide, Fabrizio Giacomelli. At the time I did not even realize he had been the national cycling champion for Italy and four time Tuscan champion – which in retrospect, was a good thing as I probably would have been intimidated to ask him to take 5 middle aged women on a bike trip to Tuscany!
From the moment I contacted him I knew we were in for a fabulous ride. My request for an authentic Italian experience was granted every step of the way.
I asked for a moderate challenge with good hills and that is exactly what we got.
After assessing our biking skills, we rode between 45-80 km per day through the beautiful Tuscan countryside. Our rides started along the beautifully preserved ancient walled city of Lucca and for the next few days we experienced the marvellous rolling hills of Lucca with the vineyards, olive groves and ever present cypress trees. The steep hill to the medieval village of Montecarlo was rewarded with an authentic Tuscan lunch and everyday saw a new experience, from lunch at an organic winery, a visit to Collodi, the birthplace of Pinocchio and a tour of the lovely renaissance Villa Torrigiani and its gardens.
My request for the authentic Italian was granted with a cooking lessons from Fabrizio’s mother and sister -in-law and a sit down dinner with his whole family- what a treat!
In Lucca, we stayed at the lovely Palazzo Alexander, a centrally located hotel with the most pleasant staff. In Lucca we attended an outdoor Pucini concert, visited the Puccini house, went to a cello recital in a beautiful garden, and of course, sampled a different gelato every night.
After Lucca we drove to the Etruscan coast and stayed at Tenuta La Bandita, a beautifully converted villa surrounded by olive groves and chestnut trees. From there we had the most amazing ride downhill through a forest to the vineyards that produce the famous Sassicaia wine. Our lunch at the Bolgheri winery was memorable for the food ,wine, and many laughs. The ride back to the hotel was steep and long but so beautiful we forgot to complain about it.
That night we enjoyed a seafood feast on the Mediterraean and saw the most gorgeous sunset. The following day was an early start to catch a ferry to the Island of Elba where we spent one of our best days biking along the beautiful coast and hills of this gorgeous island, eating fruit from local vendors, sipping an Aperol spritz and taking dip in the lovely Mediterranean ( all reluctant at first but so glad Fabrizio convinced us).
Our last two days were spent in and around Montaione- a lovely Italian village perched in the Tuscan Hills where locals congregate around the piazza every night to chat and have a gelato (hence so did we)J
We experienced some very good climbs to the fabulous UNESCO village of San Gimignano and the next day in the Florentine hills to San Mioniato.
After experiencing a week of 35-400C heat, we were caught in a torrential downpour in the middle of a lovely country road only to find tucked away a small local trattoria where we once again experienced delicious Tuscan food in the company of locals.
Our bike trip ended with a steep climb back to Montaione as Fabrizio cheered us to the finish of a spectacular week of biking, delicious food, fabulous wines and cherished memories. There was not a dry eye–in part from happiness at what we had just accomplished but mostly at the realization our marvelous adventure was over.
Our last evening was the most memorable with an elegant wine tasting and dinner in the private cellar of the Palazzo Mannaioni .
As far as the logistics of this trip, we could not have asked for more organization, variety and cultural experience or, for that matter, a nicer experienced guide who always made our safety and comfort his major concern. From arranging our transportation to and from Lucca, all was done for us. When our luggage was delayed 4 hours, our driver suggested a short trip to Florence which was fantastic. When it was time to go head to Florence at the end of our trip, we did not take the motorway but Fabrizio drove us through the most beautiful backroads so we could continue our experience a little longer.
We all rode hybrid bikes, which were of excellent quality. They were always ready for us each morning and Fabrizio was always on hand to make any adjustment that might be required. The accommodations as recommended by Claudia of Astroazzurro Viaggi were lovely and authentic Italian.
It was the most amazing experience , a trip of a lifetime, made all the more special by Fabrizio and his family.