Day 1: Rome – Fri 29 Jun
When in Rome, do as the Romans do and like most other travellers, visit St Peters Basilica, Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums, all part of this structural marvel, the dome beautified by Michaelangelo. The Colloseum is another Italian treasure, its size and history is fascinating, where you can sit down and try to imagine the scene of many deadly gladiatorial and wild animal duals to the death, amid the roar of the crowd. The Pantheon, built around AD118-125 and the Piazza is spectacular. The Roman Forum is a huge complex of ruined temples and is well worth a visit, plus a great view from Capitoline Hill, a two hour walk, where the oldest public museum sits. Piazza Navona, originally built as a stadium for chariot races, with its central fountain, is now lined with cafes and is the home of tartufo ice cream.
Day 2: Rome to Tuscania – Sat 30 Jun – 129km
Highlights: Ride along the Tiber River, Tuscania
Our ride out of Rome takes us on a 20km bike path along the Tiber River from the Vatican. Enjoy the views of this great city as we head north past fishing villages, quaint little cottages and lovely architecture, to Tuscania, on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Day 3: Tuscania to San Quirico d’Orcia – Sun 1 Jul, 108km
Highlights: Pedal the Val d’Orcia valley.
We pedal across the ‘Tuscia’ today, a remote part of Italy that formed the southern part of Etruria (the heartland of the native inhabitants of this region – the Etruscans). This is a horizontal landscape made up of layers of previously airborne volcanic ash. We pedal by and through several ancient, inactive volcanoes, specifically that of Lake Bolsena, today a popular summer destination for families seeking nice lake beaches. Our ride takes us along the ancient Roman road ‘Cassia’ as we wind our way into one of Italy’s most picturesque valleys, the Val d’Orcia, a UNESCO World Heritage site so named for the interaction between humans and landscape. Our destination is San Quirico d’Orcia, perched on the northern edge of the valley and so affording a fantastic view over the dry rolling hills lined with classic Tuscan cypress trees. Our hotel has a stunning swimming pool with a great view over the valley.
Day 4: San Quirico d’Orcia to San Giminiano – Mon 2 Jul – 102km
Highlights: San Gimignano and it’s medieval towers
We’ll pedal north toward Siena today, along the famous (or infamous!) Tuscan hills. Gear down and spin and you’ll be up and down these hills in no time! We’re skirting the big city of Siena to reach the smaller town of San Gimignano, picturesque for its historic towers that dot the horizon as we approach town. Our hotel is just 1km outside of town with a lovely swimming pool in which to relax after the day’s ride. There is a pathway for those who want to walk into town which is definitely worth it.
|Day 5: San Giminiano to Lucca – Tue 3 Jul – 102kmHighlights: Walled city of Lucca, vineyards of Tuscany. We continue north along the vineyards of Tuscany and wheat fields full of poppies. Our destination is Lucca, a wonderful medieval town that still retains an intact 17th century wall.
Day 6: Rest day in Lucca – Wed 4 Jul
Highlights: Enjoy Lucca, or take a side trip to Pisa, Home to Puccini
Lucca was a Roman town and one of medieval Italy’s most prosperous city-states. Today, Lucca retains its medieval charm with its small shops and sidewalk cafes. Take a day to relax, or if you feel the urge we can organize a trip to Pisa for a visit to the leaning tower. No cycling today.
| Day 7: Lucca to Equi Terme – Thu 5 Jul – 92kmHighlights: Pedal the foothills of the Appennines. We ride into the foothills of the Apennine Mountains. We’ll spend a good part of the day in the Garfagnana, a vast chestnut forest north of Lucca.
Day 8: Equi Terme to Salsomaggiore – Fri 6 Jul – 141km
Highlights: Cross into Italy’s culinary heartland, Emilia RomagnaWe have flirted with Italy’s Apennine Mountains for four days now without crossing them. Well, today we head up and over to the north side of the Apennines. We leave ‘Mediterranean Italy’ and head into the Po Valley which enjoys a more subcontinental climate.
Day 9: Salsomaggiore to Castello di San Gaudenzio – Sat 7 Jul – 127km
Highlights: Rolling hills and flat riding, beautiful restored castle hotel
Our ride today takes us through the foothills of the ‘Oltre Po Pavese’ south of the Po River through the foothills of the Apennine Mountains and out onto the flat Po Valley. Our hotel tonight is a restored castle.
Day 10: Castello di san Gaudenzio to Asti – Sun 8 Jul – 97km
Highlights: Enter Piemonte Region, bicycle through wine country
We follow the flat Po Valley for the most part today on our way to Asti, Piemonte. We end in one of Italy’s most up and coming wine regions where vineyards produce many of the famous Piemonte wines, including Barbera d’Asti and Asti Spumante.
Day 11: Asti to Torino – Mon 9 Jul – 72km
Highlights: arrive in Torino – home of the Savoy family
Our final ride is relatively short today and it takes us into Torino, the seat of the House of Savoy and the first capital of a unified Italy beginning in 1861.
Day 12 Torino – Tue 10 July
This is rest day in Torino after our Leg 22 from Rome to Torino.
Day 13: Torino (Turin) to Briancon – Wed 11 July – 124km
Highlights: Italian/French Alps, part stage of 2011 Tour de France, Bardonecchia snowfield region, Briancon.
The beauty of the Italian & French Alps is with us today in all its glory as we cycle up the Dora Riparia – the magnificent valley taking us to Susa and the snowfield region of Bardonecchia, a popular holiday resort in the heart of the Alps and our last town before crossing the border and dropping down into Briancon. This tour and roads are often included in the Tour de France routes. A tough first day, however our support vehicle is always close-by. Mileage today: 124km
Day 14: Briancon to Alpes d’Huez – Thu 12 July – 80km
Highlights: Col du Lautaret, la Meije, Massif des Ecrins, l’Alpe-d’Huez, Col du Galibier (optional), part stage of 2011 Tour de France.
We cycle through the valley alongside beautiful river systems, before climbing Col du Lautaret 2058mt then on to La Meije, Massif des Ecrins. For those who want the ultimate Tour de France cycling experience you have the opportunity to ride up and down Col du Galibier (another 600 mts) before we all climb the world famous Alpe d’Huez. Stand on the podium at the top for a great picture opportunity before retiring to our accommodation right here at the top of Alpe-d’Huez for our overnight stay (unless you want to go down and do Alpe-d’Huez again!).
Don’t worry if you do not want to tackle all of the hills today. Our support vehicle will be there to help you along where required (and remember that tomorrow is pretty much all downhill, followed by a rest day).
Day 15 : Alpe d’Huez to Aix Les Bains – Fri 13 July – 143km
Highlights: Cross paths with the 2012 Tour de France, Gorges de la Romanche, Chaine de la Belledonne, Massif de la Chartreuse, Aix-les-Bains, part stage of 2011 Tour de France.
Today we cross the route of Le Tour de France so we start off early in the morning and by lunchtime we will be spectators as the most famous of bike tours passes by. What an exciting opportunity to get the best of both worlds as we cycle the famous French Alps and see the best riders in the world. The route takes us down from Alpe d’Huez to Le Bourg d’Oisans along the valley through the Gorges de la Romanche, bypassing Grenoble through la chaine de Belledonne and Massif de la Chartreuse to Aix les Bains. Today is mostly downhill after your big day of climbs yesterday as we head into our rest day tomorrow at Aix les Bains.
Day 16: Aix les Bains (rest day) – Sat 14 July – 41km optional ride
Highlights: Lac du Bourget, Hot water springs, Independence Day fireworks on the lake.
Today is a great day for a rest day in such a beautiful location as the country celebrates French National Day, the anniversary of the storming of Bastille fortress prison. A beautiful area to rejoice, with hot water springs and fireworks on the Lac du Bourget.
Day 17: Macon – Sun 15 July – 151km
Highlights: Bugey, Jura, La Dombes, Macon wines.
Highlights are Bugey, Jura, La Dombes, Macon and Beaujoulais vineyards. The cycling to Paris now is a lot less hills, however vineyards are the beauty of this area. We head away after our rest day rejuvenated and ready to take in the wonderful scenery and atmosphere of the french countryside and villages. Mileage today: 151km
Day 18: Macon to Beaune – Mon 16 July – 135km
Highlights: Cluny Abbey, Burgundy vineyards- Mercurey, Montrachet, Meursault, Volnay, Pommard (Optional: Cormatin Castle, Brancion village).
Highlights today are many as we cycle through Saone et Loir to Cluny Abby, Burgundy Vineyards, Mercurey, Montrachet, Meursault Volnay, Pommand with optional extras Cormatin Castle, Brancion village Tournieres.
Day 19: Beaune to Semur en Auxois – Tue 17 July – 104km
Highlights: More Burgundy vineyards (Aloxe-Corton), Small, traffic free country roads, Fortified town of Semur-en-Auxois.
Burgundy Vineyards beautify this area, which has many quiet back roads through medieval villages built on a pink granite bluff. Semur en Auxois is near surrounded by River Armancon, also the start of 2007 Tour de France.
Day 20: Semur en Auxois to Sancerre – Wed 18 July – 154km
Highlights: Parc Regional Naturel du Morvan, Pouilly Vineyards.
Crossing the Canal du Nivernais in the Bourgogne area, we visit Parc Regional Naturel du Morvan, the Pouilly vineyards and Canal a la Loire.
Day 21: Sancerre to Montargis – Thu 19 July – 97km
Highlights: Sancerre wines, Canal de Briare.
Along the Loire Canal to Val de Orleans to Loiret, we visit Sancerre wines, Canal de Briare, the buildings have not changed in centuries, the village green where activities are held, history has stood still as it seems, with very little signage and cute little shops, chalets and villages.
Day 22: Montargis to Fountainebleau – Fri 20 July – 67km
Highlights: Seine River, Noing river, Fontainebleau.
We follow the Canal de Briare, then into the Seine River area and Champagne sur Seine, Noing River then on to Forest of Fontainebleu, with historical chateau. This area is popular for Parisiens to getaway in the forest and a lovely way to appreciate where the kings of France once lived.
Day 23: Fountainebleau to Paris – Sat 21 July – 89km
Highlights: Pedaling into Paris, Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte, Moulin de Senlis
It will be hard to leave the Fontainebleau and all its beauty, however we have a rendezvous with family and friends under the Eiffel Tower at 2pm. Pedalling into Paris, the scenery, vineyards, villages, churches, magnificent architecture and finally, the destination of tomorrow’s last day of the famous Tour de France, hopefully with Cadel Evans or a GreenEdge rider wearing the yellow jersey. Drinks all round, lunch then to our hotel for a celebratory dinner and party atmosphere.
Day 24: Paris – Sun 22 July – arrivee of le tour on Champs d’Elysees
Today … well unbelievable … viva le tour, viva la France, and well … c’est la vie!