Working as a Backroads Trip Leader in Tuscany certainly has its perks. Besides the great food and wine, there is a fabulous cycling culture supported by an excellent infrastructure of well-paved and well-marked roads. Over the years I've created a list of my favorite rides in the region, some featured on our Backroads trips and others a combination of local favorites. Here are my top five bike rides that showcase the best of the heart of Tuscany, the idyllic region between Florence, Arezzo and Siena.
From the mountains to the vineyards to the Mediterranean, Italy has everything a traveler could want. Home to one of history's greatest empires, birthplace of philosopher's musings and Renaissance art, and with a cuisine so intoxicating it's been adopted across the globe, there's just no place like Italy. To set foot here is to transport oneself to a world apart. While every Backroads hotel in Italy is easily worth a visit, these are six of our very favorites that exemplify the Italian experience - the charm, majesty, history and beauty of a country you'll be longing to return to even before you've left it behind.
Backroads has long embraced the philosophy that, after a day spent biking or hiking in off-the-beaten-path corners of a new and beautiful region of the world, an outstanding meal is the perfect way to immerse ourselves even further in the local cuisine and culture. For this reason, our guests in Europe and the United States enjoy exquisite meals at over 30 Michelin-starred restaurants, including California's Madrona Manor, Italy's Ristorante Villa Crespi, Spain's Marqués de Riscal and France's Auberge de l'Ill.
It isn’t just cool that we’re a group of chicks on bikes, it’s phenomenal that we’re a team of women riding vintage bicycles in a historically male-dominated Tuscan race. We’re five Backroads Trip Leaders who have each led trips in Tuscany, and we’ve been planning to partake in the famed L’Eroica vintage bicycling race together for almost a year. This is my second experience racing L’Eroica in Tuscany, and this time I feel like I belong.
In May, my wife and I traveled to Tuscany & Umbria with Backroads. It was our 23rd trip with our favorite active travel company. A question often asked by fellow travelers is, what keeps you coming back? Simply put, Backroads is special. Backroads is family. Anyone can place you on a nice bike, take you to beautiful places and feed you good food. Backroads is an immersion experience in the sights, sounds, tastes, history and culture of a region. They do impeccable research for their cycling and hiking routes and their support is exceptional. Not only are Backroads leaders accomplished at their jobs, they are delightful, wonderful humans whom we have befriended on many occasions. Like minds are drawn to like experiences, so it’s not surprising that we have found some of our best friends on Backroads trips. Friends we still travel with, commune with, do life with.
From Parma to Verona, passion is everywhere. In the air. In the water. In the art. Food is prepared with it. Wine is produced with it. The culture is steeped in it. Even the people themselves are famously passionate—look at Romeo and Juliet. And when you experience this place for yourself, you'll be passionate too.
Back in 1996, I was tasked with a dream research assignment at Backroads. The mission, which I gladly accepted, was to create an all-new luxury hiking itinerary in Italy’s prized Dolomite region. Stunning mountain peaks, fairy-tale valleys, an abundance of cozy accommodations and, best of all, the comfort of Italian cuisine made me an instant fan of this compact alpine playground.
Let Backroads be your guide on the Amalfi Coast, where the views are stunning, the seafood is fresh, and the fragrant aromas of lemon trees and wildflowers may send your senses into full alert. We’ll wind our way through the pastel-colored villages, along coastal trails, and on to the golden pebble beaches. The friendly faces, fresh seafood and legendary Italian cuisine, and enchanting activities make this hiking tour one for the memory books.
Cinque Terre is one of those rare places that leap from the pages of picture books simply because it seems too picturesque to be real. Do places like this really exist? A string of colorful centuries-old seaside villages perched on the rugged cliffs of the Italian Riviera, clinging to the rocks as if defying gravity. Small fishing boats ply the waters between the towns and happy locals enjoy lively conversations in the narrow winding streets that thread and climb steeply through these enchanting outposts overlooking the blue Mediterranean.
Put together everything you love about Italy: a warm climate, the rugged coastline, mountains, food, history, wine and rich cultural traditions. Lake Garda, at 31 miles long and touching three Italian provinces, manages to offer it all.