ChronoPlus Blog: for biking enthusiasts

Apuan Alps Virtual Bike Tour – What Our Guests Say

The Apuan Alps Virtual Bike Tour Route:

On the the 19th of June 2020, myself and other members of the Tri Club Doha took a virtual bike tour in Tuscany’s Apuan Alps aka Marble Mountains in the company of Chronoplus cycling guides.

The route which they selected for us, local to their base in Lucca, was one of those joyous climbs with the kind of 3-6% gradient that makes you feel like you can fly uphill, and long enough that it carries you from the lush greenery of the valleys in early summer, each bend in the road bringing a change in scenery and vegetation, until 29km and 100 minutes riding later, we emerged from a tunnel to a panoramic view over the mountains.

ChronoPlus’s Innovative Idea:

ChronoPlus have videoed their favourite rides and we met them at the base of the climb, virtually, on the Rouvy online cycling platform.

Even as lockdown restrictions ease in Italy, their customers still can’t travel, so Chronoplus have turned to delivering their real life bike tours in this very effective way. We had three guides with us on Zoom; together we shared cycling and lockdown stories as they described roadside attractions, local history and cuisine and where’s good to grab an espresso.

Our Experience:

Overall the effect was to strongly invoke memories of cycling holidays in the sun, one of us commenting:

It’s made me realise how much I miss just going out and exploring new roads!

Chronoplus successfully substitute there real life bike tours with their virtual guided tours. Although we were encouraged to approach the experience as a social ride rather than hard training, without strong visual cues of seeing others around you, the group did split. But with the social glue of Zoom keeping everyone on the same page, separation of riders over a few hundred metres didn’t seem to matter.

Chronoplus’s virtual bike tour got a big thumbs up, even from the die-hard Zwifters in our group.

Arrividerci amici miei.
Neil
If you would like to join us on occasion of a Virtual Bike Tour feel free to get in contact https://www.chronoplus.com/virtual-tours/

 

Featured Post

Women’s Only Lucca Hills Virtual Bike Tour

On Sunday 31 May we delivered the C+ Women’s Only Lucca Hills Virtual Bike Tour, an initiative of our “Cycling in Italy from Home” project that we started working on during the Covid-19 outbreak giving people the chance from all over the world to join us cycling virtually in some of the most beautiful destinations Italy has to offer.

On this occasion we planned a beautiful and relaxing virtual bike tour in the hills of Lucca, also known as the cycling paradise for many.

During this pleasant and relaxing virtual bike tour of one hour and fifteen minutes, we cycled together, starting from the centre of the beautiful city of Lucca (Tuscany – Italy), through one of the most beautiful hills that surrounds this hidden gem. We then reached the magical Pieve di S. Stefano pedalling along the Via delle Foreste, crossing the stunning Tenuta di Forci and then returned to Lucca cycling along the Freddana valley.

This virtual cycling experience was amazing. We had ladies join us from Italy, Australia, Singapore and Sweden.

How does a C+ Virtual Bike Tour work?

The ladies joined us in the C+ Zoom Room and cycled virtually with Gabriele, CEO & Co-Founder of ChronoPlus, while Max, Customer Engagement Manager and Paola, C+ Art & Culture Guide, shared insights about Lucca and the Lucchese cuisine.

We are really happy with the outcome of our Virtual Bike Tours as we feel they are a great way to enjoy cycling virtually in Italy and at the same time an opportunity  to learn more about the Italian Culture, Art & cusine.

Our virtual cycling experience:

It was amazing to have people join us from so many different countries and see them interacting and laughing during our virtual cycling experience.

This is a great way to bring forward our mission, that of delivering unique Italian Cycling experiences, combining cycling in Italy and the Italian culture.

What our guests say:

Grazie Mille Max, Gabriele and Paola for the fun tour today out of Lucca. Great to see tour countryside, find out some information about the sites and be tempted by the delicious food!” Megan from Singapore

Thank you for the tour of Lucca, beautiful part of the world.  Thank you to our Tour Guide for her insights, I didn’t think too much about the climbs!”  Anna from Singapore

Well done on a complete Italian Italian experience in Melbourne. Looking forward to seeing you all in 2021.”  Amanda from Australia

If you would like to join us on occasion of a Virtual Bike Tour feel free to get in contact https://www.chronoplus.com/virtual-tours/

Featured Post

ENDU ChronoPlus Granfondo XP

Following the success of the first initiative of our project “Cycling in Italy from Home” which was  to become part of the amazing Virtual Granfondo Circuit in Italy produced by ENDU and invited our friends from around the world to join us on these great Virtual races, we have now decided to partner up with ENDU once again.

We united our thoughts searching for a solution to assist the organizers of some of the best Granfondos in Italy that unfortunately this year have had to cancel their events because of the Covid-19 Pandemic.

This time the partnership will not be a virtual one, but a physical one. ENDU and ChronoPlus will team up to deliver  “ENDU ChronoPlus Granfondo XP”, an extraordinary exclusive experience for not more than 20 cyclists to ride on the routes of these unique Granfondos in some of the most breathtaking destinations in Italy.

What is ENDU ChronoPlus Granfondo XP?

Endu Chronoplus Granfondo XP, is the first Italian Cycling Circuit created by Endu and Chronoplus together with the patronage of the Granfondo partners of this initiative. It gives you the opportunity to participate in a private version of some of the most beautiful and iconic Granfondos of our country. During these exclusive long weekends, you will cycle with us in groups of no more than twenty people, in total safety, putting yourself to the test with the official routes of some of the most demanding Italian cycling races. Our team of experts will take care of you at all times of the day with a series of high-level services usually reserved for professional cyclists; our staff will always follow you by bike and with the ChronoPlus Support Car to give you all the support you will need during your rides. You will discover some of the most beautiful destinations in Italy, enjoying delicious typical local dishes, fine wines and fully enjoying a truly exclusive long weekend in the company of those who share your passion.

Take part in the first official private edition of your favourite Granfondo!

Which Granfondos will it include?

ENDU ChronoPlus Granfondo XP will include the following unique Granfondos:

Granfondo Marcialonga Craft XP

Have fun with us testing your cycling endurance on the four Dolomite passes, the theatre of the renowned Marcialonga Granfondo: Costalunga Pass, Pampeago Pass and continuing along the cross-country route, the San Pellegrino Pass and the Valles Pass. Amazing breathtaking descents at high speeds and evil but  totally alluring epic climbs, which still leave you the time to be enchanted by the beautiful Carezza lake or to linger on the wonderful Pale di San Martino, without losing the rhythm of your ride.

Learn more https://www.chronoplus.com/granfondoxp-en/marcialonga/

Granfondo Gavia and Mortirolo XP

We will cycle together with Damiano Cunego in the heart of the wonderful Italian Alps between Valtellina and the upper Valle Camonica along the roads of the Granfondo Gavia Mortirolo Damiano Cunego, where legendary moments of the Giro d’Italia have been written. We will put our cycling skills to the test by tackling the Gavia and Mortirolo, two of the most epic climbs in Italy, always included in the stages of the Rosa caravan.

Learn more https://www.chronoplus.com/granfondoxp-en/gaviamortirolo/

Granfondo Versilia XP

Let’s cycle together in the legendary Versilia along hidden roads between the wonderful Apuan Alps, home of the white Carrara marble  renowned all over the world, and the Tyrrhenian sea. We will test ourselves pedalling along the official routes of the historic Granfondo Versilia tackling climbs such as the Cipollaio, the Passo del Vestito, Pedona that will repay our efforts with breathtaking views of the Versilian coast and the Gulf of Spezia that separates Tuscany from Liguria. We will pedal amiably on the renowned rolling hills of this magnificent area of Tuscany surrounded by centuries-old olive groves and lush vineyards.

Learn more https://www.chronoplus.com/granfondoxp-en/versilia/

For further info, please contact us chronoplus.com/granfondoxp-en/ 

Featured Post

Inside the tour: Strade Bianche 2020

Inside the tour:

Inside the tour is an initiative we came up with during the first weeks of lockdown in Italy. On the 8th of March we had just got back from what we thought was going to be the first bike tour of the 2020 season, the Strade Bianche Bike Tour to then find ourselves in lockdown for the next 3 months.

The main mission of the “Inside the tour” initiative is to delve deeper into the C+ Bike tours,  sharing our personal thoughts and experiences. Enjoy reading Gabriele Mirra’s, Co-Founder and CEO of ChronoPlus, personal experience during the Strade Bianche Bike Tour:

Sunday 1st  March

It is Sunday, 1st March 2020, and it’s the time of year to officially kick off our bike tour season. It is becoming customary that the tour is linked to the Granfondo Strade Bianche, a wonderful professional and amateur cycling event organized by RCS around Siena, now in its fifth edition, it is the first cycling tour of the year for us here at Chronoplus. I wake up early, feeling as thrilled as I always do at the beginning of our bike tours, charged up and excited to be spending a week with friends from different countries around the world who can’t wait to ride all together in some of the most beautiful areas of Italy.

This year we have designed a semi point to point bike tour that we particularly love. We will cycle until Wednesday around our splendid Lucca; Thursday we will test our stamina with a long ride from Lucca to Siena of 130 km. From Friday we will have plenty of time to get into the “gravel” mood by pedalling around Siena along some of the most beautiful Sienese gravel roads now famous all over the world.

After exchanging ideas, feelings, expectations, and various information for weeks in preparation for this cycling tour, the moment of departure is finally here. As always, for this occasion we create a Whatsapp group open to tour participants which, as usual, turns out to be not only an effective instant communication channel but immediately becomes very interactive, participatory and fun small digital community. From the message thread it is clear that we have all become friends and we can’t wait to start pedalling together.

The first to arrive in Italy at Pisa international airport this afternoon will be Andreas and Bard from Oslo; tomorrow Jan and Nick will arrive from Belgium who, just like us, have been training hard throughout the winter to get a good placement in the Granfondo next Sunday. They will race to record the best time possible: Last year Nick was ranked 100th out of over 5000 participants. Not bad, but this year he wants to do better. Jan, as a former professional cyclist, wants to do better than his son.

From Tuesday Florenc and Giuseppe will join us, they are two other very strong cyclists.

Paladino and I will guide them and take care of them during this week. It will be a great challenge. Max will accompany us with our beautiful and comfortable C+ support car ready to assist us with everything we need during the bike tour.

Everything is ready, so I have enough time to calmly enjoy my hearty Sunday breakfast before I get going. There is only a little worry about the information concerning our compatriots from northern Italy affected by the Coronavirus which reached the Bel Paese from China.

I turn on my phone and receive a message from Bard, who, being a doctor, tells me that he has decided not to leave Oslo. He is not worried about the risk of contagion, as to date there have been no positive cases in Tuscany, however it’s a fact that once he returns to Norway he may be forced to a 15-day quarantine by local authorities. It is a risk that he cannot afford to take, given his profession. He is sorry, I understand his concern, I tell him not to worry and that we will make up for it soon.

Immediately afterwards, Andreas communicates his intention to confirm his arrival in Italy. He is determined. The Italian authorities have so far reassured us to stay calm and to not worry. We decide to confirm the Strade Bianche bike tour.

Our friend arrives in Pisa at 5 pm after making a stopover in Munich; Paladino and I welcome him and after an espresso we head towards Lucca.  We leave him to settle in the hotel we have chosen for him in the heart of Lucca and we meet at 8:00 pm to go to dinner at the Orti where Samuele and his staff welcome us in a friendly way  serving us an aperitif. They make us feel instantly at home.

After spending a harmonious evening together, enjoying the delicious food and a few glasses of good red wine we finish off the dinner with a tasting of Biadina -a famous Italian liqueur-. We are ready to accompany Andreas to the hotel strolling through the historical centre of Lucca which this evening seems to be particularly fascinating. There is a scattering of people around, a  a light breeze and mist fills the air; the statues of piazza S. Salvatore, better known as piazza della “pupporona”, piazza Napoleone and piazza S. Michele seem to convey their thoughts to us. We are relaxed and in good company we say goodnight by scheduling the meeting time for tomorrow – first ride of the week. We can’t wait.

 

 

Monday 2nd March

This morning after receiving the news that Nick has decided not to come to Italy for fear of having to stay in quarantine, and that Giuseppe is bedridden by an influenza that will enforce  him to skip this bike tour. We met up at 11:00 am in Corso Garibaldi 101 at our new C+ headquarters for the bike fitting and the briefing of  the first ride of the Strade Bianche Bike Tour. We are positive and optimistic, this will be a great cycling adventure. The weather forecast is not particularly positive for these first days of the week, so we have to take advantage of the sunny hours until the early afternoon if we want to avoid riding in the rain. Paladino has designed a warm-up ride of about 40 km with a difference in altitude of 600m along some of the most incredible and hidden gravel roads in the Lucchesia area so that we can immediately enter the “white roads” mood. Taken in  by the fun and passion, we decide to add a few km to the planned ride. A short distance from the centre of Lucca, we are already on the wonderful hills, enjoying nature, silence, the total absence of traffic, we decide to confront this route with a nice cheerful rhythm that will prepare us well for the days around Siena. Firstly we skirt the Spanish garden and the lemon garden of the Villa Reale, then Villa Pecci to head towards Pieve di San Pancrazio along a hidden path before reaching Villa Bernardini. From here the route becomes more demanding and torturous along Via Tramonte which guides us up to the Brancoleria path that tests our cycling skills through the wonderful forest that reaches up to Deccio di Brancoli. Both Jan and Andreas appreciate it very much and are excited about this start; we are having a great time.

After three hours of hard work, sweat and a well-deserved “light” lunch, enjoying Lucca’s tortelli in one of our favorite places in the Pieve di Brancoli, we decide that for today that is enough. We return to the base for a well-deserved relaxation, while Max takes care of the cycling clothing , bringing it to the local launderette so it will be clean and fresh once again for tomorrow morning to face an even more intense ride.

We meet-up at 7:30 pm for a cold beer all together before heading towards il Giglio where we will enjoy our well-deserved dinner.

Tuesday 3rd  March

Paladino has planned a more intense day for us, our bike tour includes a ride of 75 km and 800m in altitude. We all agree to leave at 12:00 pm  because this morning the weather is crazy, but the forecast says it should improve in the afternoon. We decide to have a full breakfast so we can skip lunch. Florenc has joined us and is raring to go. We are all ready, our Pinarello bikes have been prepared, cleaned and lubricated to perfection by Pietro, our head mechanic, but before leaving we cannot miss passing by Ciro’s for the best Neapolitan espresso in the city accompanied by a small puff pastry. It’s like being in the middle of Naples 😊

From via Vittorio Veneto we circle the walls that surround the wonderful town of Lucca. Exiting from Porta Santa Maria, the north gateway, we cross the Serchio river from the San Quirico bridge and head towards Sant’Alessio, a small village on the outskirts of Lucca, pedalling through the beautiful Lucca countryside that is beginning to bloom with flowers, following the small road that runs along the river. Soon we are alone with our bikes, no cars and immersed in the beautiful hills that surround the Pieve di S. Stefano and part of the Tenuta di Forci. Perhaps my favourite place of all to ride around Lucca during our cycling tours. We are all smiling and enjoying the ride.

After just 45 minutes the clouds are becoming particularly threatening on the horizon. We hurry to take the beautiful descent towards forests that lead us to the Freddana passing from Mutigliano. Here the rain begins to pour hard but it does not take us by surprise as we decide to stop in one of the small bars along the ride.  March can be an unpredictable month of the year here in Italy, and after no more than 20 minutes, just enough time for a small snack, an energy bar and a hot tea, it’s spring once again;  we are ready to get back on the saddle heading towards Montemagno.

After 15km, we leave Freddana, to climb towards Torre following the very old road which is now closed to traffic and has become one of the most beautiful and hidden gravel roads in the area. Not many locals know about this wonderful  off the beaten track.

It’s inspiring to hear the “Wows” of our friends as the km go by and the windy bends become more insistent. Once we arrive in Torre Max is ready to support Florenc with a spare wheel after a puncture, before starting to climb again, immersed in the olive groves, towards Lopeglia where we leave the main road to take another gravel road up to Valdottavo.

It’s 3 o’clock, and time to return to Lucca. Once in Lucca, Andreas’s Garmin marks 780m in altitude. We can’t go back to the base until it reaches 800m so we decide to go up and down the walls of Lucca until we reach the desired goal laughing amongst ourselves. After all, cycling takes you back to childhood even at age 50.

Wednesday 4th March

The sun is shining brightly and Corso Garibaldi this morning is truly gorgeous. There is a strong and clear light, the sky is blue with a few clouds that are not threatening on the horizon for now, the Japanese magnolias that adorn the road are now all in bloom and give off a beautiful scent. This is the last day of the bike trip in Lucca and we have planned a long 90km ride heading towards the sea; no big climbs are foreseen today, not least of all because tomorrow we have a really busy day cycling to Siena. Paladino takes care of the last checks on the bikes, Max as usual has put everything we could possibly need in the C+ car, including sandwiches. After the usual coffee briefing, we are ready to start pedalling towards Versilia. The atmosphere of the group is jovial and more and more positive as we share moments together. This morning, however, some more worries begin to creep in following the news that the coronavirus situation in Lombardy and other areas of Italy is getting worse. This could also put in doubt the Granfondo Strade Bianche bike event. Above all we are still optimistic. In the meantime, the cycling distracts us from our thoughts and we start enjoying the day.

After passing through Porta Sant’Anna, we reunite with Max who is waiting for us with the C + Support Car in front of the Opera ice cream shop. Some of us are tempted to stop for ice cream but we have just left, so we keep on cycling. Soon we take the old Pisana road that connects Lucca to Pisa, and Jan begins to sprint; he is in good form this morning, he is in shape and wants to shake off the cold and humidity of the Belgium weather he has left behind him! We let him lead the group, until we reach Balbano. From here Paladino guides us along the road that runs from Nozzano Castello along the railway to the first 3km soft climb of the day which we face with a  cheerful rhythm. We begin to descend downhill and after passing the second hairpin bend, a breathtaking view opens up over Lake Massaciuccoli and the entire Tuscan coast.

We stop to take some photos in this corner of paradise. We also take advantage of this moment to eat an energy bar. The views are outstanding.

On this bright morning you can clearly see Livorno, Viareggio, the entire Versilia and in the distance the faraway hills overlooking  the Gulf of La Spezia. Spectacular. After taking a few photos, we continue to descend towards Massaciuccoli, and along the road that runs past the lake, we head towards Massarosa where the second ascent of the day awaits us: Mount Pitoro, a place very popular with local cyclists and one that we know very well .

It is not a difficult climb but if tackled incorrectly it can create problems; we start to climb at the right speed, I decide to pace myself, after all this is a cycling tour not a race. We enjoy the beautiful view that hairpin after hairpin bend opens onto the coast that can be clearly seen through the green leaves of the olive trees that flutter in the fresh morning breeze. After 20 minutes we are at the top ready to go down towards Stiava in the direction of Viareggio which is reached after covering another beautiful stretch of plain. Entering the town we cycle towards the port, here we can glimpse internationally owned luxury boats and yachts amongst the shipyards famous all over the world. After passing the port, we take the cycle path that runs parallel to the famous promenade, which is still proudly overlooked by the many beautiful Art Nouveau buildings from that era. We continue pedalling onto the pier where a small detour is a must. Once we reach the end, we seem to be facing towards the Tyrrhenian Sea as if our bikes represented the bow of a huge cruise ship. There is a slight wind and the flag of Italy flutters proudly while several surfers enjoy the waves crashing against the pillars of the bridge. From here, in addition to breathing in the pleasant sea air, you can enjoy two views, on one side the whole coast and on the other the unique beauty of the Apuan Alps, famous all over the world for the white Carrara marble.

It’s time to leave and  we reach Piazza Mazzini in just a few minutes where we have planned to stop for a coffee break at Fappani, our favorite bar in Viareggio.

However, as it’s already time for lunch, we decide to have a quick snack instead before taking on the last  45km that await us to return to Lucca. We eagerly eat the omelette sandwiches that Max prepared for us this morning, and following a delicious rice cake and a good espresso, we are back on the saddle again, ready to continue today’s bike trip.  It’s our intention to head in the direction of Camaiore and then on to Montemagno. Once in Camaiore, the dark and threatening clouds gather over Montemagno and suggest that we must change the program. We decide to return to Lucca via Monte Quiesa.

Once in Lucca our computers register 93.4km. We are satisfied, it was a beautiful day, our legs are fatigued at just the right point and we are all ready for a hot shower before abandoning ourselves into the expert hands of Giacomo, our masseur, who is waiting to give us a welcome post-ride massage. Tonight I have organized a different evening for our guests: we will have dinner with Massimo, at my favourite fish restaurant outside Lucca, together with some other Italian friends who are not cyclists but great wine experts. Dinner is a success, Massimo pampers us for three hours with the best of his Tuscan seafood cuisine accompanied with several bottles of white wine expertly chosen by my friend Nicola. It is late, we are replete but tired, it is time to return to Lucca and go to sleep. Tomorrow a 130km bike trip to Siena awaits us.

Thursday 5th March

After three days of our Strade Bianche Bike Tour the time has come to leave Lucca and head for Siena. Max, Paladino and myself calmly meet at 9:15 am this morning, there is no need to rush as we prepared and loaded everything in the C+ Car last night. Given the cycling level of the group, we estimate covering the distance to Siena without problems in no more than 6 hours of pedalling. We have all the time we need.

The only thing that remains to be loaded are our guests bags when they arrive at 9:45 am. Still a little sleepy, perhaps also because of last nights “demanding” dinner, but  as punctual as a Swiss watch, here comes Andreas, Jan and Florenc who joins us for today’s planned briefing. While Max takes care of handling  the luggage at the hotel. Paladino and I invest some more time in telling the group the detailed program of today’s long bike trip. We focus mainly on the technical-cycling information of the route; as usual we do not want to reveal too many details about what awaits us from the landscape and historical-cultural point of view. We like the day’s journey, as it should be, to become, km after km, a progressive discovery along this special path. Today is a perfect example, to reach Siena, we will cycle along one of the most beautiful and interesting stretches of the Via Francigena, formerly known and used by pilgrims to reach Rome from different parts of western Europe.

It’s 10:30 am, everything is in order, let’s go. We leave Lucca through Porta San Pietro, the gateway that faces south, just a few  meters from our offices. The weather is a little grey but for now the forecasts do not mention rain. We head at a fast pace towards Capannori and Altopascio pedalling along secondary and hidden roads, we skirt the Cerbaie and Padule Reserve and we bypass Fucecchio, a place famous for cycling in Tuscany and often the scene of stages of the Giro d’Italia, before reaching the town of San Miniato which stands proudly at the top of the hill.

So far we have travelled about 40km across the plain. Now we begin to climb up the road that leads us to the centre of the city famous in Italy for its prized white truffle.

This fun 15-minute climb takes us to the heart of the ancient village; walking along the cobbled streets of the historic centre, we head towards the beautiful Piazza della Repubblica where it is mandatory to stop for a few minutes to photograph the wonderful facade of the Seminary palace of 1600. After a series of inevitable selfies, we leave the square behind us to head south.

For the next 6 km the road is a succession of short, gentle and fun ascents and descents that create a plateau amongst the vineyards that offers us breathtaking views of the Val d’Elsa Fiorentina directly in front of us.

We pass through many villages in the beautiful Tuscan countryside before reaching Castelfiorentino where we decide that it is time for the first coffee break. We enjoy the buns with jam, banana and dried fruit that Max prepared this morning. The others don’t miss the opportunity to drink another coffee, I prefer a coca-cola that gives me some caffeine and sugar. Unfortunately I have just received by email the communication that RCS has officially decided to cancel and postpone the Granfondo Strade Bianche to a future date. I share the news with the group, we are disappointed but absolutely determined not to let it spoil our bike tour. I begin to think about how to adapt the program in the absence of the Granfondo. We have two contingency plans to choose from, but we’ll start talking about this once we reach Siena. After 20 minutes we leave for San Gimignano. The Via Francigena is now flat again for a few km before Gambassi Terme, then it becomes steep and puts us to the test with stretches that reach climbs of up to 15% without ever falling below 7/8%. While we sweat happily, Max is laughing in the car and tries to give us stamina by raising the volume of the music that clearly reaches our ears.

We reach the crossroads outside Gambassi and, once we turn left, we find ourselves pedalling along another wonderful plateau 500 meters above sea level from where you can easily recognize the Apuan Alps in the north, the Apennines and Mount Amiata towards the south. We continue for a few km and soon enough the road enters the middle of a lush and pleasant wooded area between Poggio Pitte and Larniano which drastically restricts the view of the horizon. We leave the wooded area and begin to descend along the stretch of the Via Francigena which begins to enter the beautiful Valdelsa Senese.

We have fun, we are alone surrounded by uncontaminated nature, the ups and downs are exciting and lead us to the next knoll that opens the doors to San Gimignano.

Some of us stop for a few photos, and then it’s all downhill  along the descent to the foot of the hill on which this world renowned medieval wonder awaits us. It is time for the lunch break, we stop as arranged at Mrs. Sabatini’s who is waiting to delight us with the first pici dish of our cycling tour. Before having lunch we take a ride around the medieval village, while Max parks the C+ car outside the walls. We have already covered 80km and now we are hungry, we devour the pici  as soon as it hits the table, delicious. We decide to not drink wine but only water and a few glasses of beer, but we can’t just close lunch with a plate of pici. We order a nice slice of homemade jam tart for everyone, which sets us up nicely for the next 50 km that separate us from Siena.

We get back on the bike and, fortunately, the first 5 km stretch towards Siena along via del Mattone is completely downhill. After 10 minutes we leave the main road and, at the Poggio Alloro farm, we take the first gravel road of the day. We cycle it for about ten km between stone farmhouses, farms and cypresses, up to Poggibonsi which we leave on our left to reach Colle Val D’Elsa following the beautiful cycle path that runs along the Elsa river.

After passing the very crowded urban center of Colle Val D’Elsa, it starts to rain. But we don’t let that put us off. Once we cross the river, we dive down towards Ponelle in the most beautiful and suggestive stretch of gravel road of the day. The Via Francigena passes through the middle of the most spectacular Val d’Elsa between perfectly manicured fields of red clay and wonderful cypresses. The light rain makes everything even more unique, magical and fascinating than usual. After 5 km we leave the gravel road to enter Via Cassia, which quickly leads us to another medieval jewel of this area: Monteriggioni. The rain continues to fall, we make a very short stop to admire the beauty of the central square before continuing onto Siena. The landscape is fantastic, the fatigue begins to set in after 120 km in the rain which is now more and more intense as we pedal through the middle of the Sienese countryside.

But we are near the end of today’s bike trip, we are almost in Siena, just over 10 km away. We quickly pass Fornacelle, San Martino and other neighborhoods on the outskirts of Siena. From here you can see in the distance Porta Camollia from which we pass to cross the heart of Siena skirting Piazza del Campo before reaching our hotel. It was a very nice experience for everyone, we are all happy but tired. We need a hot shower before a hearty Sienese dinner.

Friday 6th March

The staff at Palazzo Ravizza pamper us more than usual this morning. They are always kind, but today, despite there being a very low presence of guests due to the Coronavirus whose impact is beginning to be felt with lots of cancellations in the last few days, we are treated like kings. We leave the group plenty of time to enjoy their full breakfast while we prepare the Pinarello bikes. The departure is scheduled for 11:00 am. We will take advantage of the hottest hours of the day. The sun is shining but partially hiding behind the clouds, the weather conditions are ideal for our first 85km bike trip around Siena, which is famous for its white gravel roads.

We start from the Palazzo in perfect time, take via S. Marco and leave the wonderful historical centre behind us, passing through Porta S. Marco which is like a window opening on the to  the wonderful hills that surround the city. In a few minutes we are out of Siena and after less than ten km, following the peaceful Strada di Fogliano passing Tuscan villas and farmhouses, we head towards Mugnano. Along this quiet road, we stop various times to take photos of the wonderful views.

Everyone wants to seize the moment as if we had arrived at the most beautiful destination of the day. In fact, the light is very inviting. But they don’t know that the best beauty is yet to come. I smile to myself. Today will be an escalation of spectacular landscapes to admire and unique places to cycle. As we proceed at a slow pace we meet a guy on a horse who is travelling on the same road as us and is preparing for the next Palio of Siena. We chat as we all head the same way until our paths separate. After a double bend, we begin to climb towards the lush hill in the direction of Ville di Corsano passing in front of the beautiful church of San Giacomo. Now we have entered the “real” Sienese Tuscany. Compared to Lucca, this part of the region is more open and airy, and the view is less crowded. From these highlands, you can admire rolling hills dotted with rows of cypresses reaching up to the horizon as far as the eye can see. It is really worth stopping for some photos. The light is clear, the colours are bright and we can fully appreciate the crystalline beauty of this area. After about ten km of continuous and demanding ups and downs, alternating asphalted stretches and stretches of gravel roads, we reach Ville di Corsano where we stop in one of the small bars of the village for the first espresso of the day.

We have a quick chat with the locals who are enjoying the sun and playing cards, before jumping back on the saddle; we pass the small inhabited centre, we turn left towards Corsano. Now we are going through some of the segments of the Granfondo Strade Bianche course and the professional races that are held here every year. The first asphalted stretch although short, alternates between fun steep ups and downs through Poggio al Grillo and Poggio Bosco Tondo up to the junction for Radi; this is one of the ideal places where we stop to watch the professionals go by because it is at the end of one of the uphill sections. We keep to the right to take the wonderful white road that continues towards Murlo through a dozen km of unspoiled nature before connecting with the provincial road that leads to Buonconvento. Today it is very pleasant to ride along these gravel roads under the beautiful sunshine. On joining the SP34 it occurs to me that this is one of the stretches where I had the most fun during last years Strade Bianche Bike Tour. I remember finding myself pedaling right here with a group of a hundred participants cycling at a fast pace. Even today’s pace is not bad, as Paladino and Florenc begin in the same stretch with a sprint dragging others who do not want to be left behind, including myself. After 5 km we encounter the Eroica sign. We stop for a few minutes to catch our breath, I take the opportunity to eat an energy bar that Max promptly offers me before tackling the 15 km of gravel roads that the Granfondo Strade Bianche and Eroica share up to Buonconvento , a small town with three thousand inhabitants. The welcome sign reminds us that we are in one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, but we do not stop, as we will be back tomorrow.

We continue towards Siena along the flat asphalted stretch that crosses the Ombrone valley, we pass the inhabited centre of Ponte d’Arbia and continuing north, we arrive in Monteroni d’Arbia by passing Lucignano. It’s time for lunch. We have in mind a nice little place where we usually stop for lunch on the occasion of our cycling tours in this area. Once reached, we discover with great disappointment that it is closed for holidays. Paladino decides to stop to talk to a local gentleman to ask him for advise on where to eat.

We find that locals advice is better than Trip Advisor. We decide to follow his advice, while Max parks the C+ car, we choose a table in a fairly anonymous bar-restaurant where we would have never stopped to eat without the “locals review”. Lunch is a riot of flavours and typically local homemade dishes by the chef who has been managing this place for 40 years; it will undoubtedly be the best lunch of the week. It is nice to be taken by surprise even if we know this area very well. At this point the bar-restaurant Il Gusto becomes our favourite place to stop in the area for a very simple but delicious and genuine lunch.

After about 45 minutes,  we are back on the saddle to immerse ourselves in the heart of the “Crete” , an incredible place in this part of Italy. If I have to imagine one place on our planet that could resemble Mars, the Crete Senesi certainly comes to mind. Here the vegetation is not luxuriant, and the clay and reddish soil really takes me back to documentaries about Mars. We are 370 metres above sea level and 25 km from Siena which can be seen in the distance on our left as we begin to descend to Taverne D’arbia, a small hamlet in the municipality of Siena. Here we meet a group of 20 Danish cyclists who tell us that they are lost. They have to go back to Siena but they don’t know how to do so without avoiding the busy main road. We invite them to join us, we accompany them pedalling together along the last 10 km of hidden country roads before reaching Porta Romana. Upon our arrival, they thank us by offering us a beer that we gladly accept and drink together in a small bar not far from both our hotel and theirs. After 15 minutes, we bid them farewell  by making an appointment for the 2021 edition of the Granfondo Strade Bianche. Now we need a hot shower and some rest before meeting at 8:30 pm for dinner. Tonight we have booked a table at the Quattro Venti, which again does not disappoint us. After enjoying the first course, we begin to discuss the plan for Sunday. At the end of the dinner we all agree to replace the Granfondo with a long bike trip from Siena to Lucca passing through Volterra. They won’t regret it!

Saturday 7th March

The original cycling tour program for today included a quiet ‘sgambatella’ of about 30 km with the main objective of following the professional races. Since the Strade Bianche 2020 cycling event was cancelled  yesterday evening we designed a very nice alternative program, a ring of about 60 km. Paladino and I know this area very well, so it was not particularly difficult for us to adapt a new itinerary. We have decided not to overdo it, both because the weather for today is expected to be unstable and we do not want to go too far, as tomorrow we have a long bike trip back to Lucca. We would also like to give our guests some free time to visit the wonderful centre of Siena. While Max reaches Porta Romana following the only road permitted for cars to leave the city from our hotel, we start from Pian dei Mantellini, it is 10:45 am, we cross the Piazza del Campo by bike which this morning is almost deserted. I have never seen this place so empty in my life except in the middle of the night. This morning, pedalling through the narrow streets of the centre, we begin to become aware, perhaps for the first time during this bike tour, of the real impact that this pandemic will have on our lives. The streets are basically empty. Once in Porta Romana, we reunite with Max and after a few hundred metres we take the stretch of via Francigena that brings us to San Quirico d’Orcia following a southerly direction towards Rome. I had forgotten how beautiful the Strada di Certosa was, bordered by the red brick walls from which the large pine forest flourishes.

Today I notice many details that I had missed during  past cycling tours.  After the pine forest, the road crosses a beautiful olive grove that unfolds onto  the slope of the hill on our right. We are pedalling over a plateau about 400 meters above sea level from where we can admire the beauty of the hills which stretch for km south of Siena towards the Val d’Orcia. As we proceed, wonderful memories come flooding back related to our Francigena bike tour from Lucca to Rome that we organized last year in May with Steve, Brian and Greg. I share them with Paladino who shares his own with me. We still have the active Whatsapp group, I take a couple of photos on a particular point of this path and I share them with our American friends. They will reply later, amused and happy to see us cycle again in the places where we cycled carefree together a few months ago. In the meantime, almost without realizing it, we are already travelling on the road that runs alongside the Arbia stream to the urban centre of Isola d’Arbia.

I am leading the group, we cycle for a few more km to the gates of Ponte a Tressa; just after the level crossing, I take the right turn, we leave the provincial road to enter the heart of the Sienese hilly countryside along the truly breathtaking white roads around Borgo di Cuna.

The light is incredible today, and facing this uphill peak, short but with a 15% gradient, it seems like I can touch the sky and the clouds in front of me at the top of the climb.

 

Other memories of our Via Francigena Bike Tour come back to me. In the same place we experienced truly exhilarating moments with Greg who was determined at all costs, to mount the GoPro on his helmet  right in front of the iron crucifix now on our right. What a laugh. We pass Cuna, entering Cassia to head south towards Buonconvento at a rapid pace, also because now the sky is really threatening. By the time we get to the gates of Buonconvento  it starts to rain heavily. Even if we have been cycling for less than two hours, it is the right time to stop for lunch and protect us from the rain. It gives us time to dry ourselves, change into the spare clothes that Max brought us, eat a plate of Pici pasta with cheese and pepper and drink an inevitable glass of red wine, and the sun is back again.

We recover the bikes that Giulio has kindly put in his private garage, and we are ready to start our bike trip from Buonconvento northwards towards Siena. Just outside the town, we turn right and continue to follow the Francigena north, we begin to climb the hill along the gravel road bordered by these wonderful rows of cypress trees that accompany us for several km. Max delights us with his latest playlist of pop music. This is the last climb of the day, once at the top, the Francigena turns from gravel road to a cobbled road that runs through the wonderful Sienese countryside to Borgo Vecchio. We do not meet anyone for miles, a flock of birds flies proudly ahead of us .

We have cycled fifty km so far. We are just over 10 km from Siena. It is 2:30 pm, we take the asphalt road and in twenty minutes we are back at Porta Romana where, amongst a small group of people, I recognize an ex-colleague of mine whom I haven’t seen for 5 years and who is in Siena for a long weekend with family and some friends.

I make myself recognizable removing my helmet and sunglasses, we enthusiastically greet each other happily surprised by our chance meeting. The world really is a small place. We return to the hotel where we all stop together to drink a beer that Andreas offers us welcomingly. Francesca, in charge of the reception, prepares us some Tuscan focaccia topped with drizzle of delicious olive oil. Very tasty. After our snack, we have the whole afternoon ahead of us to relax and enjoy Siena and its wonders before dinner tonight.

Sunday 8th March

The last day of this exciting bike tour has arrived. Today we will close in style with the last long bike trip from Siena to Lucca. We have been fortunate because for now the virus situation has not yet reached Tuscany, the worst hit regions seem to be those in the north.  Lombardy has been in lockdown since this morning, luckily things in Tuscany still seem to be under control. We meet for breakfast at 8:00 am, aiming to leave the hotel at 9:30 am but something is wrong as it is 9:00 am and Andreas hasn’t shown up yet. I decide to call him. He replies saying that he’s sorry, but he has had a problem: his flight from Pisa has been cancelled. He has had to find another one.

He will have to leave from Rome tomorrow morning, and he thinks that perhaps it is better to give up pedalling today and reach the capital by train from Siena. I tell him not to worry. I think about it for a moment and then make a suggestion to him. Why not enjoy the bike trip with us and then once in Lucca while he has a nice hot shower, we will organize a private transfer for him to take him to Florence. From there at 8:00 pm he could take the train that would take him to Rome for dinner. He ponders about it  and then agrees it is a good idea. We decide to postpone our departure of today’s bike trip by one hour so he can enjoy his breakfast.

We are outside Siena, we begin to pedal, aware of the 140 km that awaits us, at an “endurance” pace towards Sovicille which we cross after having skirted a wonderful row of Maritime pines on our left. After a few km, after passing the Etruscan necropolis of Malignano, recorded for the first time in the 18th century, the road becomes a gentle uphill slope that crosses the beautiful Mediterranean scrub up to Poggio alla Pigna before starting to decend towards Molino D’Elsa . Just after passing the small block of flats, we leave the SP541 turning left towards Casole d’Elsa, we are in Paradise!

The road is now a continuous climb of 4/5% and allows us to enjoy the breathtaking view over the entire Val d’Elsa which opens up on our right and left as the altitude increases. Casole d’Elsa is on the top of the hill right in front of us, at 400 metres above sea level.  We continue happily and enthusiastically, and once we have passed the beautiful village on our right, we follow the road which now runs on the slopes of the beautiful plain opening over the entire Elsa valley.

We do not encounter any cars for many km up to Montemiccioli, we can admire the Mediterranean scrub two metres away from us becoming greener and more luxuriant, rich in holm oaks, strawberry plants, hawthorns, myrtles, heather and junipers. Wonderful and lush growth in this period.

Max, in addition to supporting us as always by constantly providing us with all the food and drinks we need as the hours go by, is taking spectacular photos. After the plateau and  the province of Siena behind us, we enter the province of Pisa and begin to face the last long constant climb of the day up to Volterra at 600 metres above sea level.

We have travelled so far just under 70 km from Siena, we decide to make a quick pit stop in the historic center of Volterra  and we eat a sandwich in Piazza dei Priori while I explain to our friends that the Palazzo dei Priori illuminated by the warm sun of this beautiful day is the oldest municipal building in Tuscany. Time to have a coffee and put our wind-jackets on, and we’re back on the saddle, cycling towards Lucca. We enjoy the fun descent for about ten km before tackling the last 60, completely on the plain towards Lucca led by the majestic Monte Serra which we use as our compass.  Once in Buti, Florenc proposes we tackle Monte Serra, we laugh and reject his proposal. After an intense week we are tired and satisfied with the kilometres we have cycled, but above all we must hurry to get to Lucca as Andreas must be in Florence by 8 pm. We cycle on and in twenty minutes we are in S. Andrea di Compito. We turn right and pedal the last 6 km through the countryside near Lucca. We start feeling like we’re back home. We reach Corso Garibaldi entering from Porta S. Pietro. It’s 5:30 pm. What an extraordinary ride. We say our goodbyes to Andreas and Florenc, wishing them both a safe trip home. The Strade Bianche 2020 bike tour is over, everything went well in spite of unforeseen circumstances and we are very happy. It was a beautiful experience. Even if the granfondo was cancelled, we managed not to let it affect our amazing bike tour, we rode in some of the most beautiful areas of Tuscany, created new beautiful memories, a stronger bond between true friends and enjoyed the excellent Tuscan food and wine.

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Virtual Tours in Italy

Virtual Bike Tours in Italy

For Italy, like the rest of the world, the Covid-19 outbreak was unexpected. Nobody could have planned for such a situation. We understood the impact of this pandemic  as soon as we got back from what was supposed to be the launch of the 2020 bike tour season, the amazing Strade Bianche Bike Tour.

Once the whole of Italy was put in lockdown, we fastened our seatbelts and put our thinking caps on.

Firstly, we started by implementing “Smart Working” from home, guaranteeing the safety of the C+ Team. Secondly, we got together virtually and started sharing ideas on how to keep the ChronoPlus wheels spinning.

Many interesting ideas flew from one skype call to the next. It was great to see everybody’s minds working for the future of ChronoPlus.

By combining creativity and research, the light bulb moment came to us.

We decided to go right back to the beginning  by asking ourselves:

‘”Why do we do what we do and how can we bring our philosophy forward during Covid-19?”

Finally we asked ourselves what the future product will look like.

Why do we do what we do?

We are enthusiastic about cycling and we love the precious sensations it can give us. The feeling of fresh air on our faces, the warmth of the sun on our skin, the myriad of colours our eyes will encounter.  Our heart beating as the road climbs higher up, the soul hungry to know what’s behind the next curve. We know the value of these emotions and how pleasant it is to share them with others; this is why we design and organize authentic “Made in Italycycling experiences.

How to continue doing what we love during Convid-19?

Just like when you get lost on a bike ride and then you suddenly recognize a land mark and realize just where you are, likewise we felt a light bulb moment, and could clearly envisage the path ahead. We began making contact with other businesses in the cycling industry, sharing our thoughts and listening to their comments. We told ourselves:

“We will not let this situation stop us from doing what we love. If people cannot come to Italy, then we will bring Italy to them.”

In which ways? Virtual Bike Tours in Italy

We are happy to announce that during this difficult  period, we have also become a Virtual Cycling Touring Company designing unique Virtual Bike Tours of the best rides in the spectacular surroundings Italy has to offer.

Covid 19 was just the spark to enable us to develop this exciting project which from now on will enrich our strategic positioning, making us become a digital company in all aspects.

As the great Einstein said:

“It’s in crisis that inventiveness is born, as well as discoveries made and big strategies. He who overcomes crisis, overcomes himself, without getting overcome.”

The first initiative..

The first initiative of this project was becoming a part of the amazing Virtual Granfondo Circuit in Italy produced by ENDU. Thanks to our partnership with ENDU we have had the chance to invite our friends from around the world to join us on these great Virtual races. It was an excellent way to stay in contact and have fun.

What’s next…

After the great success of the “ENDU Virtual Granfondo Spring Edition” we are now ready to begin the next initiative of this project.

That is by giving people from all corners of the globe the opportunity to cycle from the comfort of their own home in unique Italian locations such as Lucca, Chianti, 5 Terre, Dolomites and many more.

In line with our vision, our plan is to offer not only exhilarating virtual rides in amazing destinations but also to create complete “Made in Italy” virtual cycling experiences by combining virtual cycling in Italy with the Italian culture; this is the reason that led us to create some new formats, including:

Virtual Bike Tour in Italy + Wine Tasting

If you love cycling in Italy and the amazing culture that is behind the fabulous taste of Italian wine then this is the Virtual Bike Tour for you. Thanks to our partnership with some of the best wine producers in the country you will have the chance to enjoy cycling in some of Italy’s best destinations, learning about and tasting the best wines from that region.

Virtual Bike Tour in Italy + Italian lessons

Passionate about cycling in Italy and learning the mother tongue language? During these virtual bike tours we will give you the chance to ride and learn all the phrases and so much more you’ll need to converse with the locals during your future bike tour in Italy.

Virtual Bike Tour in Italy + Cooking lessons

Love cycling in Italy and the Italian Food culture? This is the Virtual bike Tour for you. We will combine riding and learning to cook the best Italian dishes from the comfort of your own home. Bringing those classic Italian aromas to your kitchen.

Beginning of a long journey…

 

This, for us is only the beginning of a long journey. In the coming weeks and months we will announce other innovative authentic virtual cycling experiences ‘Made in Italy’.

It will be great to share these unique cycling experiences with people from all over the world, even if it is at a distance, anticipating the pleasure of meeting and riding together in the future, along the most beautiful and hidden roads of our wonderful country.

For further info, please contact us https://www.chronoplus.com/virtual-tours/contacts/

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Lucca, the Hidden Gem of Tuscany

Close your eyes and set yourself in an old medieval town protected by its 4,2 km long  walls, the only way in is  through the six main entrance gates that allow you to enter its cobbled labyrinth and magical architecture, a real pleasure to get lost in.

Lucca’s Culture & Art:

Lucca, Tuscany was founded by the Etruscans and became a Roman colony in 180 BC. Throughout the years many inspirational people have walked down its small narrow streets, many great talents have breathed its magical atmosphere. Illustrious names such as Elisa Bonaparte, Giuseppe Ungaretti, Giacomo Puccini, just to name a few and there are many more to be discovered.

Piazza dell’Anfiteatro

A small Tuscan city rich in culture and art, the magic Lucca has to offer is everywhere. Walking through  Piazza Napoleone, Piazzale Verdi, Piazza San Michele and then Piazza Anfiteatro – one of the most notable,the site of an ancient Roman amphitheatre – you will be amazed by the architecture that surrounds you.

Lucca, is also known as the city of a “hundred churches” because of the large number of religious buildings in the town centre that date back to various different eras. Lucca has a very strong catholic past, and you will soon notice this when you set out to discover Lucca. Your eyes will encounter some truly beautiful churches, such as the Cattedrale di San Martino, Chiesa di San Michele, Basilica di San Frediano and Chiesa di San Paolino.

Torre Guinigi

One experience  you mustn’t miss out on is walking up the 232 steps up the 45 metres tower known as Torre Guinigi. The tower dates back to the 1300s, famous for its tall trees growing at the top,  when you reach the top it will give you the chance to admire Lucca from high above. The picturesque views of the terracotta roof tops of Lucca and the Tuscan mountains are well worth the climb and will get you day dreaming of cycling along those characteristic windy roads hidden under the green cloak of the beautiful mountains.

Cycling in Lucca:

Lucca is the perfect location for a cycling holiday, just 30 km from the sea and 30 km from some great climbs, it has more than 50 different routes for all kinds of different cycling levels. A cycling trip in Lucca is the perfect combination between relaxing rides and challenging adrenaline rides. Some days you can head towards the sea breathing in the refreshing sea air cycling along serene and picturesque roads and on other days you can aim for the Lucca hills cycling through vineyards and olive groves,  the views from the top are worth the climbs. A must to ride in this area is Monteserra.

Some of Lucca’s best dishes:

One of the most memorable  highlights during  your bike tour in Lucca will undoubtably  be the amazing authentic food after your great rides.

As we all know well Italian cuisine is one of the best, and  Lucchese recipes are a must to take home.

Here are a few of our favourites:

These are just a few, but there are many more to be discovered, so be sure that you sample and enjoy tasting the various dishes.

Just imagine yourself sitting outside on one of these medieval streets enjoying the aroma and flavour of  Tordelli al Ragu while sipping on a glass of local red wine.

Lucca truly is a hidden gem of Tuscany, a destination that gives you the chance to combine some of the most delightful things in life to create the perfect cycling tour in Italy.

 

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5 Best cycling destinations in Tuscany

Ever found yourself staring out of the window at the cold drizzly weather dreaming of the perfect cycling holiday? Well how does this sound…?
Cycling surrounded by oceans of olive trees, vineyards, oak and cypress groves, rolling hills, enjoying fresh pasta and great wine. –  many define this as a “cycling paradise”.
Tuscany offers an ideal location for cycling enthusiasts of all levels. From flat roads to great climbs, from asphalt roads to gravel roads, Tuscany has it all.
You will be able to push yourself to the limits on the same roads that many cycling legends trained along, such as Bartali, Coppi, Bettini and the most recent Cipollini.
In this region you breath cycling.

Here are the 5 best cycling destinations as to why you should choose Tuscany for your next bike tour:

Lucca

A medieval city rich in art, culture and food. Protected by its ancient walls, Lucca is truly a hidden gem of Tuscany.  A cyclist’s paradise for many, as there are more than 50 different routes satisfying every kind of cycling level.
Many Pros have and still do choose Lucca as their training retreat, cycling in the hills around Lucca, surrounded by olive trees and vineyards, helping them prepare for the races ahead.
ChronoPlus’ headquarters are based in Lucca and the whole team lives and cycles here. As locals we would like to suggest to whoever has the chance to cycle in this magnificent area not to miss out on one of the best climbs,  Monteserra. This is a serious climb, about 8km long with an average gradient of 6%, Tackled at the right pace you will be able to enjoy the wonderful landscapes that you pass through. During our Lucca bike Tour we will tackle this climb on Day 2.
Lucca is also an amazing destination  for after-cycling activites such as wine tasting, Italian lessons, Gelato and much more. Its position is fabulous, it’s just a couple of hours away from other beautiful cities such as Florence and Pisa.

Siena

Just recently mentioned by Lonely Planet in the article “10 best places for a cycling holiday in 2020”  Siena is a true treat for your eyes. With views like these no wonder it attracts so much attention.
Its beauty has brought it to be inserted in the UNESCO World Heritage site.
Home of the world renowned Eroica and Granfondo Strade Bianche races, Siena is a gravel heaven.
Its dusty, gorgeous pathways are what make our Strade Bianche bike tour truly unique. During this bike tour you will discover the Siena area during the first 5 days, then enjoy the Strade Bianche event during the weekend (pros race + competing in the amateur race).
The fact that cycling heroes  such as Bartali and Coppi have cycled along these gravel roads makes it even more special.
While cycling in this area you will soon understand why Siena is well known for its “Vino Rosso” , as you will find yourself surrounded by gorgeous Tuscan farmhouses and vineyards.
Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti Classico, Chianti colli senesi. These are just some of the unique wines you can find tasting while relaxing enjoying home made Pici with an enchanting sauce.

 Volterra

Maybe the less well known out of the 5 destinations we have chosen. The charming town of Volterra is situated in a very interesting point not too far from Pisa, Florence, Siena and the coast.
While walking down its cobbled streets you will come across the presence of Roman, Etruscan and medieval structures.
Cycling up and down the twisty roads of this area you will discover its true beauty. The landscapes that surround it are breathtaking: wheat fields, green hills, rows of vineyards, silver olive groves and some hints of bushes – this area has it all.
A cycling trip is absolutely the best way to truly get to know this part of Tuscany, catching a glimpse of an area known only to locals.

San Gimignano

Another UNESCO World Heritage Site is the stunning  town of San Gimignano. Aka “Manhattan of Tuscany”, town Famous for its numerous medieval towers, is another great area for cycling. Very much like the Siena area it offers a variety of gravel and non gravel itineraries cycling through breathtaking views surrounded by vineyards and golden rolling hills.
San Gimignano is one of our favourite stops during our Via Francigena bike Tour, a unique point to point bike tour that sees us cycle from Lucca to Rome along the ancient road and pilgrim route.
Once in San Gimignano we always invite our guests for an aperitivo and to enjoy a platter of cheese and cured meats while sipping from a glass of San Gimignano’s well known “Vernaccia” white wine.

San Quirico d’Orcia

Once identified by the Dutchmen Van Der Meer, an archeologist who specialized in Etruscology, as the oldest book in Western Europe, San Quirico d’Orcia is an ancient Etruscan Village rich in art and culture. Famous for its churches and gardens, whilst walking around this mesmerizing town, you may well find that you are asking yourself  if you have somehow gone back in time.
San Quirico d’Orcia is another destination that many discover due to the fact that it is located along the Via Francigena.
While cycling in this area you will find yourself taking a few minutes to stop as the views just take your breath away, especially the skyline of Siena looming on the hills.
Everytime we find ourselves near this area during one of our Bike Tours we make sure we include San Quirico d’Orcia as a destination on our itinerary.

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Tour de Lucca 2019 – What Our Guests Say

How I discovered LuccaSmiles all round

Lucca had always been on my cycling and travel bucket list since my wife, Jo had visited a couple of times as part of a cycling / yoga trip. She had enjoyed some daily bike tours in Tuscany with Paladino and the professionals at ChronoPlus and thought it would be right up my alley.
As an avid amateur cyclist based in Brooklyn, New York where the roads are like pancakes the thought of climbing some challenging Tuscan hills definitely had wet my appetite.
I booked with ChronoPlus for the last tour of the 2019 season in late October for the Lucca Bike Tour.
Then the countdown and my serious training began with most weekends spent in upstate New York getting my legs in climbing gear.

My bike tour in Lucca with ChronoPlus

Enjoying the group rideOn arrival I was greeted at the airport by Gabriele and Max and instantly felt in the company of old friends as we made the short car ride into town discussing cycling and coffee – my two passions.
The bike fit out was perfect and the Pinarello felt like an armchair that needed some tiny adjustments.
Monday was a nice short warm up ride to allow us to make these adjustments.
Tuesday was the first serious test of the week with a ride up Monte Serra. My climbing style on a bike can be described as a turtle and I maintained a slow and steady pace following Paladino, Gabriele and Giacomo up the switchbacks before enjoying the thrilling descent towards the outskirts of Pisa and back to Lucca.
The cycling vacation just got better as the week progressed.
Wednesday was a private ride up the royal summit of Pizzorne with Paladino.
Thursday a wet, windy but enjoyable gravel ride we dubbed the “Strade Bianche of Lucca”.
Friday we were joined by our U.S friend Ryan and former Pro cycllist Jan Wynants for a seaside ride to Viareggio.
Saturday was an epic grand finale ride in the Apuane Alps.
Afternoons and nights were spent walking and photographing beautiful Lucca.
Meals were at traditional trattorias and it was a privilege to spend time with Gabriele, Paladino, Max, partners and friends.

Let the countdown begin…

Great memoriesIt has been some weeks since I settled back into NYC life after a wonderful time in Lucca.
Now the countdown begins to 2020 and which ChronoPlus cycling tour I will book myself on.
The options sound interesting they meniotned bike tours such as:  Strade Bianche bike tour, Via Francigena Bike Tour, Dolomites bike tour, Lucca & 5 Terre Bike Tour and many others.
I look forward to riding with you guys in the near future.
Arrividerci amici miei.
Dan
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Lucca, a cycling mecca – What Our Guests Say

How we discovered Lucca

Last year I had a cycling holiday in Spain with some members of my local cycling club.  We stayed in four towns for a week each and it was a fantastic experience.  A few of them had done a

similar cycling holiday to Italy a few years back and had visited Lucca.  I was told that I ‘must visit Lucca’ and when there I ‘must go to Chrono Bikes’ –  I was assured that I ‘would love it’.  When I returned home to Melbourne I got in touch with ChronoPlus and started planning my bike tour in Italy for myself, my husband and fellow cycling friends.  First stop Lucca.

Our bike tour with ChronoPlus

Monday morning  we met up with Gabriele and Paladino from ChronoPlus.  Our near new Pinarello bikes were ready for us and were fantastic bikes to ride.  I had travelled with my own bike on previous bike holidays but for this trip I decided to try hiring a bike. I was very pleased with the convenience of hiring and the quality and fit of the bike. We had sent our measurements ahead so the bikes were fitted very quickly and we were off.

ChronoPlus provided us with custom made riding experiences every day.  They knew we were coming from winter in Australia and continuing onto The Dolomites so they started us with a comfortable easy ride and increased the elevation each day.  We had beautiful rides through the country-side, tiny little villages and a good number of 5-10 km climbs to strengthen our legs. Every aspect of the ride had been considered and incorporated into the day in a very subtle way.  The routes were quiet and extremely picturesque.  Cool water fountains were found whenever our bottles were running low and the breaks to catch our breath coincided with spectacular views or tiny villages for coffee and gelato stops.  We always felt safe and confident with our guides, they seamlessly lead us through round-a-bouts and in and out of towns while we adjusted to our new bikes and riding on the opposite side of the road.  Gabriele and Paladino were constantly sharing their local knowledge with us, pointing out Puccini’s house on the far bank of Lake Massaciuccoli, riding us through Collodi, the town of Pinocchio and riding under an intact Roman aqueduct.  On the last day when Gabriele and Paladino had to leave for a cycling tour in The Dolomites we were treated to being guided by five times Woman’s Giro winner Fabiana Luperini she who showed us her favourite roads and pointed out where her mentor Mario Cipollini lived!  The rides were beautiful and as a bonus, Gabriele had taken photos and videos galore which he shared with us.  I have since looked back through the photos and watched the video and the warm, relaxing vibe is tangible.

ChronoPlus  not only provided excellent rental bike service and guided rides but they also provided us with a full Lucca experience by going the extra mile every day.  They gave us advice for places to visit on our rest day and local restaurants even inviting us to dinner with their family and friends including six-times Tour de France rider Jan Wynants,  who joined us for a ride the next day.  Giacomo who works with ChronoPlus  as a masseur was racing one evening in a local bike race and Gabriele, Paladino and their wives kindly drove us an hour to Livorno to have dinner and watch the race.  It was a great experience.

ChronoPlus is…

ChronoPlus is an excellent company that provides a high quality product for cyclists. Our visit was easy to arrange from Australia and exceeded our expectations.  Not only is the ChronoPlus store situated within the walled town, with a bar for pre ride expresso on one side and post ride gelato shop on the other, but it is owned and managed by an excellent team of genuine, caring, engaged and generous cyclists.

We were sad to say goodbye to Lucca, to the warm weather, pretty countryside, spectacular riding and the ancient local architecture.

We were also sad to say goodbye to Gabriele, Paladino, their staff and family.  They had taken us under their wing for a week and made us feel at home in Lucca, a cycling and historical mecca.

For sure we will be back.

Megan

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Bartali 180 – Cycling Event

Bartali 180 – The hero’s Path

Bartali 180 is a unique cycling event created in memory of the great Gino Bartali.

Celebrating his life and heroic act during the Second World War.

Conceived by the creative mind of Ran Margaliot, Co-founder of the Israel Cycling Academy Team, and supported by the Co-founders of ChronoPlus, Gabriele Mirra and Paladino Meschi.

The event, sponsored by Comune di Firenze, Comune di Assisi, Save the City and Israel Cycling Academy, have got together to support the

Gino Bartali Youth Leadership School.

The Bartali 180 Cycling Event

Bartali 180 – is a non-competitive ride that will take place in Italy on Semptember 8th, starting from Florence and ending in Assisi. The event will see a group of cyclists gather from all over the  world, cycling together along the mythical path that Bartali used during his “secret journeys” on behalf of the “Assisi underground”, while smuggling fake documents hidden inside his bicycle frame.In this one-of-a-kind event, you will live and experience the incredible journey that Gino rode as part of his role in saving hundreds from the grasp of the Nazi’s.

Along the participants, you will also find special guests of honour: Gioia Bartali – the grand-daughter of the legendary Bartali -, Paul Minikes Alexander – one of the youngest Kindertransport refugees -, Aili McConnon – author of the book “Road to Valour: Gino Bartali” -. There will also be young Students from the “Gino Bartali Youth Leadership School”.

Participation in the first edition of the event is open to a maximum of 150 keen cyclists. The aim of this event, besides providing the opportunity to practise the sport we love so much, is to create a festive and memorable occasion so that one of the darkest periods in the history of humankind may not be forgotten, and to acknowledge and bring to light the feats and heroic exploits of one of the greatest cyclists of all time to as many people as possible, from far and wide.

Bartali’s Heroic Gesture

While Italy was on the verge of defeat being invaded in the south by the Allies and in the north by the Nazis, people were living in such unsettled times. Immense cruel atrocities were being committed in front of people filled with disbelief, sadness, and helplessness.

In dark moments like these the only possible light can come from inside of us.

Bartali was one of the shining stars, whose act of kindness,

courage and altruism brought hope and love.

This humble man when asked if he knew he was a hero, would answer with the following words:

” Real heroes are others, those who have suffering in their soul, in their heart, in their loved ones.

Those are real heroes.

I’m just a cyclist.”

This cyclist was and will continue to be a living legend, that shined not only during races but also as a human being.

ChronoPlus feels…

ChronoPlus feels honoured to be celebrating Gino Bartali‘s life, as for us, he is not just a champion and a hero, but also a teacher of life, from whom we all could learn.

” Good is something you do, not something you talk about. Some medals are pinned to your soul, not to your jacket.”

Gino Bartali

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