ChronoPlus Blog: for biking enthusiasts

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, … Read More

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The True Italian Cycling Experience – What Our Guests Say

The True Italian Cycling Experience – ChronoPlus Jonathan Chow, an anesthesiologist from California, comes to Italy every year and has been doing so for 9 years! He has just participated in The Strade Bianche Bike Tour 2019 and will be … Read More

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Ready, Set, Go! – Strade Bianche Bike Tour 2019

The build up to our cycling tour, the Strade Bianche Bike Tour was so exciting, finding the right words to describe just how amazing this Italian experience was, is not easy. Guest arrival in Lucca: After the various pick-ups at … Read More

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Pedaling gets minds moving – Strade Bianche Bike Tour

Pedaling gets minds moving – Strade Bianche Bike Tour: This Bike Tour in Tuscany was not planned for this 2019, until one sunny winter day, when pedaling towards the Cappella, Gabriele and Paladino, co-founders of ChronoPlus, minds got moving.Once they … Read More

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Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer

What an adventure! We were so delighted to go on a cycling tour with our new stunning friends from Dublin. There is something bonding about sharing time on a cycling holiday. After a nourishing breakfast we hopped on our bikes heading to S. … Read More

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Cycling tours in Italy 2019

Full Italian cycling tours

2019 is a new year with new places to explore, new things to experience and new people to meet. So where will you go?

We have designed some truly mind-blowing cycling tours in the most beautiful parts of Italy.

We also have a lot of surprises in store for you in fact we have created the ultimate blend of cycling, art, culture, and fine dining which perfectly represents our idea of full Italian cycling tours.

For a perfect cycling holiday, you definitely need a perfect accommodation and for this reason we have thoughtfully selected the best B&Bs, three star hotels, four star superior hotels, and villas to meet anyone’s expectations.

We are able to accommodate almost anything our guests desire such as a yoga session, a cooking class, a private in-house chef or a masseur.

Our cycling tours focus on exceptional culinary experience, notable wines, high-end Pinarello bikes and full van support. The price of our bike tours is inclusive so our guests feel supported and looked after to the full. We’ll pedal across a stunning landscape full of ancient villages that still mantain their feeling of remote authenticity and we’ll experience endless combinations of untouched natural beauties. Our guests will have the chance to have professional post- ride massages and go behind the scenes at a winery.

We are fascinated by local character and we have set ourselves the goal for every itinerary to always show our guests how much authentic character you can find if you are told where to look.

We owe a lot of our success to the expertise of our cycling guides in fact they have found the best roads, and musts to see and do in the area to offer our guests the top in ameneties and services. Our helpful and knowledgeable tour guides are locals and nobody knows the area and the best routes better than they do. When you ride with them you’ll discover enchanting getaways and recharge in stunning settings that you wouldn’t have found by yourselves. They will always put your safety and needs first and ensure that your cycling holiday experience is stress-free. They’ll introduce you to lifelong friends in their hometowns and will bring you into their kitchen to make pasta or local dishes. Living life like the locals will enhance your cycling holidays in fact not only you’ll get a unique insight into a culture different from your own, but you’ll get to meet interesting people as well. You’ll get to see a side of Italy not everyone travelling from another country will have the chance to see. Travelling is undoubtly one of life’s greatest pleasures, learning about foreign cultures and pushing the boundaries of our personal comfort zone are things that will make the effort rewarding and your cycling holiday in Italy one of the best ones in your life.

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