Tuscany: hike or bike?

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

In Rome I bought Lonely Planet Hiking in Italy, difficult to find, actually.

(… later I wished I’d bought Lonely Planet Cycling in Italy, instead.)

Of the Tuscany hikes listed in LP, I chose the Tuscan Hill Crests out of gorgeous San Gimignano.

loop, 7hrs, easy, 20km (12.4mi)

the medieval Manhattan

Sounded great:

Low rolling hills, fields full of barley, elegant cypresses and silvery green olives, vines ripening in the late summer sun, an old ruined monastery, a priest careering downhill in a rusty Fiat 500, potted geraniums, cyclists in multi-coloured jerseys, a rustic farmhouse reborn as an agriturismo …

Not my usual wilderness adventure, … but any excuse to travel to Tuscany. Right?

Departing Porta San Giovanni:

hiking San Gimignano, Italy

This is a “hike”?

hiking San Gimignano, Italy

I love Lonely Planet trail descriptions: terse. But in a populated region like Tuscany, landmarks change often. By about half way round the circuit — entirely on roads — I was lost.

I relaxed snacking on both white and red grapes fresh off the vine …

hiking San Gimignano, Italy

October is grape harvest.

… I pondered my options. Should I backtrack?

Never.

Happily I stumbled upon this monk:

hiking San Gimignano, Italy

He’s the icon of the Via Francigena, a pilgrims path from Canterbury, UK to Rome.

… one of three great medieval pilgrims’ routes (the others were the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain and the long route East to Jerusalem) …

The good monk led me back to San Gimignano on small footpaths over private property. This is the kind of hiking I wanted in Tuscany.

hiking San Gimignano, Italy

I soothed my disappointment in not finishing my intended hike with a Gorgonzola gelato in the Piazza Duomo.

hiking San Gimignano, Italy

Next day I rented a bike (5EU cheap) and rode about 70km on mostly paved roads between Sienna and Gaiole in Chianti, a much better way to see the gorgeous countryside.

… But I’ll do a little more research on the Via Francigena. Sections of that might certainly be one of the best hikes in Europe.

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One thought on “Tuscany: hike or bike?

  1. Pingback: cycling Chianti, Italy « RickMcCharles.com

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