A stopover in Florence as an additional cultural highlight
We started our journey with a night train from Salzburg to Florence. Shortly after 6am we entered Italian soil and enjoyed a rare sight. After handing our suitcases over at the hotel, we immediately checked out the famous Florence Cathedral. The place was asleep except for a few people and we could marvel at its beauty in complete tranquillity. For breakfast we followed the recommendation of the night porter and went to Caffè Scudieri with a view of the cathedral. We had, quite a classic for Italy, a cappuccino and a cornetto at the bar.
While we were heading towards Ponte Vecchio, we passed Uffizi Gallery. Since it was very early, the crowds were limited so we took the opportunity to look inside. Time went by and at noon we finally walked over Ponte Vecchio. Soon our stomachs started speaking and we rested comfortably in Trattoria Boboli, a typical Fiorentino restaurant. After a break in the hotel, we took an evening stroll through Via del Corso, past inviting restaurants and shops.
The journey to Pisa
Since we enjoyed Florence so much in the morning, we got up early for a morning walk. Again we headed over Ponte Vecchio and quickly reached our destination, Piazza Michel Angelo, with stunning views over the entire city. Unfortunately, thick clouds were already moving over the city, and it started to rain. We tried to get back to the hotel quickly and arrived there half dry to have breakfast. At 11 we boarded the train to Pisa. After about an hour’s journey we arrived to dry weather and walked to our hotel, which we reached in a few minutes. After handing over our luggage we got right back to sightseeing.
After a 10 minute walk we were already in Piazza dei Maracoli and admired the tower, which really ‘leans’ more than we expected. We had an espresso and watched the people passing by. We checked into our room in the afternoon and took a short nap. At 18.30 we had our briefing with Simone and Alex, who took us through the cycle route and handed over our bikes. Of course, they both had many interesting tips and pointers at hand, which, as it turned out, are really worth seeing. In the evening we enjoyed a delicious dinner of Minestrone, Zuppa Toscana and Arista with Contorini in ‘Osteria alla Goccia’ in the center.
The first day of cycling from Pisa to Viareggio
We could hardly wait for our first day of cycling and after the morning rush of energy at breakfast we packed up our saddlebags. The weather was, let’s say, mixed, but with the right equipment that’s no problem. We cycled past the Piazza dei Maracoli and through side streets to the countryside. We oriented ourselves with the Bikeline, but always paid attention to the Eurobike stickers, which are recognisable in all the right places. Only at the city exit did we resort to the GPS, since there were numerous branches. Driving through forests and small villages, time flew in.
We soon turned onto the stretch of beach just before Viareggio. Here you cycle for several kilometres between overgrown sand dunes, and are always accompanied by the sound of the waves breaking only a few metres away on the beach. Finally, via the port to Viareggio. You are immediately at the kilometre-long promenade with numerous shopping and rest stops. Since our stomachs were already growling, we stopped in a nice restaurant and tried piadina with stracchino, pomodori and rocket (thin, Italian flatbread). Then we took the train back to Pisa.
Second day of cycling from Pisa to Castiglioncello
This stage starts with a 15-minute train ride to Livorno and you can start with a small sightseeing tour straight away. We headed straight for the Fortezza Vecchia and started our way towards Castiglioncello. After cycling along the promenade, we headed inland after a few kilometres. First, we encountered a hill, where we were properly challenged, but rewarded with magnificent views over Livorno and the sea beyond. The route ran on low-traffic side roads through beautiful forests, always with a view over the Tuscan countryside.
We cycled past pomegranate and fig trees and though nice, small villages like Castelnuovo and Grabbo. Looking at the sea we cycled down to Castiglioncello. This place was special. Starting from the Hotel Maramare in the Baia del Porticciolo where Winston Churchill once spent the night, over the promenade though rocks and sea to the nice piazza with lovely cafes and restaurants. It was our absolute highlight on this tour. Of course, a jump into the cool water couldn’t be missed. At the Ristorante in Gargotta after eating spaghetti, we ended the evening in a comfortable way with all Vongole, Calamari fritti and Semifreddo al Cafè.
The third day of cycling from Castiglioncello to Marina di Castagneto
The next day we started the stage to Marina di Castagneto. Past the white beaches of Vada, the route ran through beautiful pine forests. In the first part we were accompanied by the pleasant sound of the sea. From Marina di Bobbona we headed further inland. Cycling through vineyards and olive groves, we enjoyed wonderful hours under the sun. During short breaks, we were able to watch workers on the grape harvest, which came slowly to an end.
About 15 kilometres before Marina di Castagneto we made a short detour to Bolgheri, the heart of Tuscan wine production. This very small village is definitely worth a visit. Many small details adorn the town, and lovely restaurants invite you to taste a few drops of wine. At the exit from Bolgheri we cycled through an impressive 3km long cypress alley. We finally arrived at our destination of Marina di Castagneto in the late afternoon, and enjoyed a spectacular sunset.
The fourth day of cycling from Marina di Castagneto to Piombino
The longest stage awaited us on this day – 60 kilometres. However, the route was really pleasant, so we arrived in our planned break location of Bratti surprisingly fast. Here we regretted not bringing our bathing suits, because the sandy beach and temperature would have been ideal for taking a dip in the sea. We made ourselves comfortable at the snack bar ‘Al Polpo Marino’ and allowed ourselves a portion of Baccalà and Acciughe fritte, while admiring the glittering water of the bay.
The zone on the Gulf of Baratti is also known for its Etruscan excavations, which we looked at on the way to Piombino, but only from a distance, since it was already the afternoon and we still had a bit to cycle. After the last hill at Fiorentina we cycled the last few kilometres with stunning views of the sea. We could also enjoy the views from our hotel in Poimbino. We had the opportunity to look over at our next destination, the island of Elba, and look forward to it.
The last day of cycling on the island of Elba
The last stage started with an approximately one-hour ferry ride. The port of Piombino can be reached by bike in a few minutes, and since the trips run every half hour, you can be flexible. The island of Elba impressed us immediately. We treated ourselves to an espresso in the piazza in Portoferraio, before we took off on our bikes to explore the island. We wanted to end the cycle comfortably, which is why we opted for the short version of about 15 kilometres. We had our bathing suits with us and made ourselves comfortable on the Enfola beach and enjoyed the pleasant temperatures and refreshing crystal clear water.
The route ran on side roads that were barely busy. In the afternoon we left again in the direction of Portoferraio, where we completed a leisurely circle of the harbour. Then we headed back on the ferry and in the evening strolled through the old town of Poimbino in search of a good restaurant. We immediately found one. With a glass of wine and a portion of risotto we talked about the tour and the many things we experienced.
With a heavy heart, we had to say goodbye the following morning. The train went directly to Florence, then to Salzburg.