The Italian Etruscan coast is an undiscovered gem in the world of cycling, with rolling roads passing through the sea of Mediterranean blues and greens that form the outline of the region of Tuscany.
Extending from the city of Livorno to Piombino, the area offers a huge range of trails ranging from asphalt roads to pine forests and dirt tracks, each of which transports you from one gastronomical delight to the next with the Tyrrhenian Sea as a backdrop and cultural wealth to spare.
Here’s Mpora’s pick of the best things to do for a getaway filled with active delights and delicious sensations on the Etruscan Coast this summer.
1) Visit San Vincenzo and Ride to a Roman Fortress
Whether you choose to ride from North to South, South to North, or base yourself in the middle, we’d recommend a visit to San Vincenzo. The popular village boasts seductive sealines and is enriched by the greens and browns of the pine forest of Rimigliano Macchia, adding a whiff of natural romance to the air.
From here you can ride a short distance and climb the Gulf of Baratti, a stunning ride which will bring you to the Fortress of Populonia; one of the most important settlements in Etruscan and Roman history. From the top of the fortress, look out on the dark blue of the Tyrrhenian Sea, where one of the most stunning sunsets in the world awaits.
2) Follow in the Footsteps of Cycling Legends on the Tuscan Archipelago
The Tuscan Archipelago consists of seven islands that run along the coastline of Tuscany, the most famous of which are Elba and Montecristo.
The legendary Italian cyclist Fausto Coppi came to train on Elba towards the end of his career, and the island retains a formidable network of trails for road cyclists and mountain bikers looking to take on looping trails and technical challenges.
Monte Cristo, of course, was made famous by French author Alexandre Dumas’ famous adventure novel, plotted around the eponymous ‘Count’.
The islands are all part of the stunning Parco Nazionale dell’Arcipelago, a national park protecting a massive 17,887 hectares of island, the highest point of which is Mount Capanne at 1,109m on Elba.
Ferries depart to Elba throughout the day from Piombino, where you can easily ride to from the aforementioned Fortress of Populonia.
3) Mountain Biking through Parco Sterpaia
There’s a reason Parco Sterpaia is one of the most famous coastal parks in Italy; not only is the terrain packed with the dense greens and browns of the region; but the blues of the sea it passes are unbeatable.
You’ll travel on dirt roads and tracks through the park, nipping in and out of trees which provide regular views of the ocean, giving your suspension a bit of work, and if the heat gets too much you can stop at any moment to take the 30 second walk over to the water to cool down.
4) Sip Coffee Beneath the Ancient Walls of Suvereto
Ride the roads to the medieval hamlet of Suvereto; a gentle climb surrounded by Mediterranean bush full of cork, chestnut, oak trees and romance. The small town is full of charming alleyways and stone houses dating back as far as the 9th century. A coffee beneath the ancient walls is one you won’t be forgetting in a hurry.
When you eventually come to leave the hamlet behind, you can look forward to a beautiful climb around 18km long, sharing the road only with your riding partners. The landscape passes by everything from olive groves and cypress trees to flowers and shrubs.
5) Take in the Gastronomic Delights of the Region
The cuisine of Tuscany is famous around the world for very good reason. Gastronomy is much more than just an add-on on the Etruscan coast – it’s a culture and a lifestyle for many of the locals.
While you’re working your pedals on the roads of the region you’ll come across an array of colours on the trees and pass farms boasting ingredients as fresh and delicious as you get, so by the time you get off the saddle and sit down to sample them, you’ll have worked up an appetite.
Cycle to Monteverdi Marittimo and check out ‘Mucci e Staccoli’; a local food shop selling authentic cheese and wild-boar ham you can pack with you for the road to mix those blue skies with a tantalising treat for your taste buds.
Ride south meanwhile, towards Venturina and Campiglia Marittima, and you’ll pass cottages and farms along your route, with local fruits and ingredients providing the perfect palette for dinner. The local farmers will welcome you warmly, and you’ll be dining from a menu picked from the local fields.
6) Sample the Wine in Beautiful Bolgheri
No travel to Tuscany is complete without a comprehensive sampling of the wine in the region. But surely we don’t need to tell you that?
The Etruscan coast boasts 150km of Mediterranean fruits, vegetables, vineyards, pinewoods, olive groves and hayfields. This is where the wine revolution started in Tuscany, and this is where you will find some of the best wines in the world.
We’d recommend a stop in Bolgheri; a small town renowned for its wine, where you can find not only local labels but also the famous names of Sassicaia, Ornellaia and Masseto that have made Tuscan wine renowned around the world.
7) Cycle Down the Most Beautiful Street in Italy
Don’t despair once it’s time to leave Bolgheri; though the wines were undoubtedly beautiful, the scenery on the roads out of the town is arguably even more so.
The departure from Bolgheri takes you past a road lined with cypress trees on both sides for a stunning five kilometre stretch, connecting it with the next town along, San Guido.
The street was built in the 18th century and immortalised in the verses of poet Giosue Carducci, who lived in walking distance of the trees and wrote of them in verse now commemorated in a small obelisk at the start of the road.
8) Glimpse Venice on a Visit to Livorno
The perfect day break on your Italian getaway; the city of Livorno is Tuscany’s second largest and an artistic and historic treasure trove. The city is spread between the stunning Old Fortress, built for the defense and surveillance of the coast, and the New Fortress, where the city center is today.
Canals run through streets of certain quarters of the city, with one quarter even called Venezia and recalling the splendours of back alley Venice. The seafood has been called the best on the Etruscan coast, and the checkered stones of the Terrazza Mascagni make for the perfect carpet to wander across alongside the water.
9) Stroll Down the White Beaches of Vada
If you’re going for a cycle tour of Tuscany, we’d actually recommend avoiding June, July and August to stay out of the extreme heats, but as long as the sun is shining, it’d be rude not to mention the white beaches of Vada that run along the coastline.
The white paradise offers five kilometres of relatively secluded perfection. Views that have been compared to the Caribbean await, while the crowds are nowhere near as obstructive as you’d might imagine.
If you take a short stroll on from the beautiful beaches of Vada, you'll soon come to Cecina beach, another sandy paradise just 2km down the road with all the feel of a tropical heaven.
10) Roll along the Coast of Marina di Cecina
Take advantage of the scenic shade of the pine forests along the coast of Marina di Cecina as you mountain bike your way through root and rock trails which last for around five kilometres.
The beautiful forests will take you out of the sun and into the shadows, while the coastal wind will keep you fresh as you send it through the sensational surroundings; being welcomed by memorable views of the peaceful beaches every time you turn towards the water.
For more information on the Etruscan Coast: