For the past few years, I have headed out on walking holidays, exploring and experiencing the beauty of Europe. This year, however, I wanted to try something different. Instead of hiking or walking, I wanted to do a cycling holiday. I chose to complete the Via Francigena Cycling in 9 Days, and it was one of the greatest decisions of my life.
Why the Via Francigena Cycling in 9 Days instead of walking?
For me, the choice was simple. I wanted to try something different, and cycling seemed more interactive and exciting than horseback riding. However, there are many things that I had to consider before booking the Via Francigena tour.
One of the first things I looked at was the terrain. I am not the most active biker, so I did not want a holiday that involved intense mountain biking. Instead, I opted for a more laid back, slightly challenging and extremely scenic trip.
I also had to figure out how long I wanted to be biking. As you can imagine, any amount of prolonged biking is strenuous, and leads to many sore body parts. For my cycling holiday, I wanted to book a tour that would allow ample time for resting, while also covering a fair amount of ground. I choose the 9-day tour, simply because I loved the idea of seeing all of the cities on the way to Rome. The 9-day tour also placed the daily breaks and nightly stops at the perfect intervals, so I was never worn out.
In the end, the Via Francigena cycling tour was perfect, because it had everything I wanted. For the most part, the daily amount of cycling was just enough. The scenery of the Italian countryside coupled with the various cities and towns made the journey very tolerable. Overall, the terrain stayed the same and so it was easy to adjust to the feeling of the bicycle.
What to expect of a cycling holiday
The 9-day Via Francigena cycling tour was exactly what I expected. While the first day was slightly different, I knew what to expect every day. I would be cycling approximately fifty kilometres, usually for about five and a half hours. There were at least two stops a day, and usually they were in towns. Needless to say, I was never hungry or thirsty, because I could easily find food or drinks at the towns.
If I had to give advice to fellow cyclists and travelers, I would remind you that you are cycling at your own pace. Since you only go a certain distance, and you have the entire day to do it, do not be afraid to stop and sight-see. One of my favourite parts of the cycling holiday was the opportunity I had to stop and simply bask in the surrounding Italian countryside.
My Via Francigena 9 Day Cycling Tour
Since I decided to complete the 9-day tour, I headed out to Lucca, where the tour starts. I arrived in the late afternoon, via bus, so I spent a little bit of my free time wandering around the city. After that, I knew I had to try the local wines, so I sat down for a wonderful, drawn-out dinner. Before heading to my hotel for the evening, I took one last stroll around the central piazza.
The first day of cycling went from Lucca to Gambassi Terme, and was the longest day of the entire trip. Because I was expected to cycle 65 km on the first day, I made sure to take plenty of breaks along the way. In particular, in Altopascio, I made sure I rested up and grabbed food for the day.
The rest of the first day went by rather quickly, even though the ride got a bit hillier. I took more on route breaks. Regardless of where I was, I was awe-struck by the Italian countryside and beauty around me. I made a pit-stop in San Miniato, before finishing the ride to Gambassi Terme! After the long day of cycling, I simply relaxed once reaching Gambassi Terme.
Just Getting Started
The second day was considerably easier, taking me from Gambassi Terme to Siena. I was particularly excited for this day, because visiting Siena has been on my bucket list for years. Because of this, I did not stop as much during my daily ride. Instead, I opted to spend more of my free time exploring Siena itself. I turned into a crazy photographer, wanting pictures of everything in Siena!
From Siena, on the third day of cycling, I travelled to San Quirico d’Orcia. In contrast to the previous day, the ride was a bit more hilly; however, nothing too unbearable. I stopped in Buonconvento for lunch, which was quintessentially Italian: pizza and wine. I finished out my day, by cycling the remainder of the trail to San Quirico d’Orcia.
Half Way Through
Once again, after breakfast, I headed out on my bicycle to explore the countryside. I was travelling from San Quirico d’Orcia to Acquapendente, so I soaked up the rural scenery along the way. For lunch, I stopped in Gallina, than continued on to the hilltop town of Radicofani. Overall the day consisted of easier cycling, with the main challenge coming from trying to reach Radicofani.
Going from Aquapendente to Viterbo was easier, simply because I was cycling mostly on grassy and gravel tracks, rather than up hills. I made pit stops in Bolsena and Montefisacone, taking in the local cuisine and wine. When I reached Viterbo, I intended to do more sight-seeing; however, the weather had a different plan. Instead of wandering the city, I met up with some fellow travellers and grabbed a late dinner.
The sixth day of cycling was interesting, because I was travelling through the ancient Etruscan area, so there was immense history. I also got to make a stop at the Monte Gelato waterfall, which was a welcome swimming spot. The majority of the day’s riding was easy-going.
Last Day & Departure
The last day of cycling took me from the Campagnano di Roma into the glorious Rome. The ride was very short, which was great since Rome was so inviting. I hurried along, until I reached the eternal city! While the cycling tour had officially ended, I booked a few extra days in the city. I wanted to soak up as much history and culture as possible.
Overall, my cycling trip along the Via Francigena was magnificent. I really enjoyed the layout, the tracks, and of course, the Italian countryside. The cycling was easy enough, although I was sore after each journey!
Discover the world by walking in 2021!
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Originally published on 1st April 2019