Total tour distance: 300 miles
Daily tour distance: 55 miles
Difficulty: 69 / 100
An evocative bicycle tour in the Etruscan and Roman heartlands of Umbria and Tuscany. Water courses and magnificent scenery landmark these regions which have been shaped by the forces of nature and by human hand.
The tour starts from Assisi, the most atmospheric and mystical town of Umbria. From here, as you pedal you regenerate mind and body in a setting of palpable harmony, where each stretch of land and each citizen has an unmistakable identity: the fruit of millennia of civilisations which have left thick layers of memories and timeless masterpieces. Tuscany and Umbria are lands of magnificence, where a single fresco can capture a thousand different facets and moods: paths set between rolling hills rich with vineyards and olive groves; water courses immersed in greenery and big lakes of an intense shade of blue; medieval villages; necropolis and other Roman and Etruscan remains of incomparable value. By the end of the trip, having crossed these two regions, one thing is clear: that humankind and nature can achieve a balanced fusion.
Programme in short:
Day 1 Arrival in your hotel
On the first day you arrive in Assisi, a medieval town of global renown which is rich in both famous and lesser-known artistic treasures. Embraced within its old town walls on the slopes of Mount Subasio, Assisi is a magical place and the fact that it has hardly changed since ancient times has preserved its charm. You cannot miss the opportunity to admire the Basilica of St. Francis, an architectural masterpiece which consists of two churches, one above the other, and is brimming with frescos by great masters such as Giotto, Cimabue and Simone Martini.
To fully appreciate this historical town, however, it is also worth visiting historical sites dating back to the Roman period, such as the Roman Forum with its archaeological remains and the Temple of Minerva. Wander the narrow streets and allow yourself to be enchanted by the beauty of all the town's buildings, both sacred and secular.
Day 2 Assisi – Ponte San Giovanni
Following the paths and roads of a part of the 'Valle Umbra' valley, dominated by hills thick with vineyards and olive groves, you arrive at Ponte S. Giovanni. Here you can visit the Ipogeo dei Volumni, which is an Etruscan tomb site discovered in 1840 and now classified as one of the most important monuments of the Etruscan period. This site, along with many other findings, is part of the Palazzone Archaeological Park.
From Ponte San Giovanni you can also visit Perugia, taking the train for Sant'Anna station. In just a few minutes you are in the heart of Etrusca Perusia (Perugia) and you can appreciate the extraordinary Etruscan civilisation by visiting the Etruscan Well (Pozzo Etrusco) and the necropolis in the suburbs as well as stopping to admire the old town walls and arches.
Perugia is an eclectic and particularly beautiful city which is rich in culture, architectural monuments, events, shops and characteristic wine bars where you can taste the famous Umbrian wines.
Overnight stay at Ponte San Giovanni at a *** star hotel.
Distance: 33 km / 20,5 miles
Day 3 Ponte San Giovanni – Passignano
To reach Passignano you cycle along paths and roads which enjoy a panorama of the rolling green hills sloping down to the shores of Lake Trasimeno.
Passignano is on the gently sloping northern shores, where the lake meets the rocks. The town is often referred to as l'isola felice (“the happy island”) because it is a meeting place for nature and history, art and folklore, peace and vitality.
It was along these north shores, between Malpasso and Passignano, that the epic battle between the Carthaginians and the Romans took place; the battle which marked the beginning of the legendary 20 year war between Hannibal and the Romans.
Overnight stay in Passignano at a *** hotel (on request overnight stay at **** possible)
Distance: 65 km /40,3 miles
Day 4 Passignano – Castiglione del Lago
In the morning, you leave Passignano to head for Castiglione del Lago, a charming village between the lakes of Montepulciano and Chiusi. Your journey through Tuscany begins here, in the farmlands of the Val di Chiana, with the fragrance of its orchards.
Your route, in fact, crosses a number of 'food trails' - cheese, fruit, olive oil, wine and Chianina beef - adding flavour to the list of attractions alongside history, art, human resourcefulness and water. You pedal along the Sentiero della Bonifica ('the path of the reclaimed land') created after the completion of the Master Canal of the Chiana area, formed over millennia of drainage and land reclaiming projects which were initiated by none other than the illustrious Leonardo da Vinci himself.
Your Etruscan journey continues through legends and mysteries, ancient town walls and necropolis such as those of Cortona. This town is an important cultural and artistic centre for the valley, well worth exploring and enjoying in all of its aspects, and something of interest can be found here for everyone: enthusiasts of history and art, lovers of nature and adventure, those keen on sport and fitness, food and wine experts and those interested in fashion and shopping.
Your overnight stay in Castiglione at a Hotel or B&B di Charme.
Distance: 64 km / 39,7 miles
Day 5 Castiglione– Orvieto
The first part of this stretch offers you some wonderful atmospheric scenery. You pedal immersed in the green landscape of the surrounding areas and begin to catch a glimpse of Lake Chiusi, a reminder of the wetlands here in ancient times and site of the legendary escape of Saint Mustiola, persecuted and imprisoned by the vicar Turcio in the period of the Roman emperor Marco Aurelio Claudio (3rd century C.E.).
Pedalling on, you pass the town of Chiusi. Servio, a writer in the Roman era, described Chiusi as one of the oldest and most powerful Etruscan towns, and wrote that it was founded by Cluso, son of Tirreno. Testimony to this extraordinary civilisation is found in the many Etruscan necropoleis and tombs (the necropolis of Poggio Renzo and Poggio Gaiella, the tombs of Colle, Gran Duca, Tassinaia, Vigna Grande, etc...). Of particular interest is the tour of the 'Labirinto di Porsenna', which is a series of underground passages beneath the Piazza del Duomo, the Cathedral and the surrounding buildings. Access is from the cathedral museum, with a single ticket for the museum and the labyrinth.
The last stop in this day of cycle touring is Orvieto, which was known by the Romans as 'Volsinii'. The only easily visible Etruscan temple remaining in Orvieto today is the 'Tempio del Belvedere', next to the famous 'Pozzo di San Patrizio' (St. Patrick's Well).
Your overnight stay is in the historical centre of Orvieto at a *** star hotel (on request also possible a overnight stay at a **** star)
Distance: 70,1 km / 43,4 miles
Day 6 Orvieto –Todi
Before leaving the splendid Umbrian town of Orvieto, don't forget to visit the Duomo, a masterpiece of Italian Gothic architecture. Its façade is decorated with magnificent bas-reliefs and sculptures designed by the Sienese architect Lorenzo Maitani. Also not to be missed are the Pozzo di San Patrizio, a great work of hydro engineering built by request of Pope Clement VII to ensure a water supply to the town in the case of a siege. He had taken refuge in Orvieto during the Sack of Rome in 1527.
In the saddle once more, you leave Orvieto to reach a panoramic road by Lake Corbara. Pedal slowly, enjoy all the shades of colour nature offers you, and stop to breathe the fresh air. Today's ride finishes in Todi, which in 1992 Prof. Richard S. Levine of U.S. Kentucky University defined as “the most livable town in the world”. Todi is another Etruscan town, but was founded between the 8th and 7th centuries BCE by the Umbri (whose settlements were on the other side of the Tiber from the Etruscans) and named Tutere, which means 'boundary town'. In 340 BCE the town developed significantly when it was conquered by the Romans.
Overnight stay in Todi at a *** star hotel (on request upgrade to **** possible)
Distance: 45 km / 27,9 miles
Day 7 Todi – Bevagna – Cannara - Assisi
In the morning you leave Todi and pedal through a hilly landscape of farmed fields and vineyards to get to Bevagna.
This charming medieval village, listed as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, is rich in art, history, and cultural events that celebrate folklore and traditions (such as the 'Mercato delle Gaite'). If you visit the village starting from the upper part you find some important Roman monuments dating back to the 1st -2nd century C.E.
You can see the remains of the Roman Forum and of a Roman temple with half columns and pilasters. Not far from this is the site of the Roman baths, of which the frigidarium remains. This is decorated with a very fine mosaic in black and white tiles with designs inspired by the sea. The other buildings are of medieval and Renaissance origin and demonstrate a perfect example of architectural harmony between the forces of municipal hegemony and ecclesiastical power.
Leaving Bevagna you pass through lush, fertile land which belongs to the Sagrantino DOCG area. This is a wine with a definite character and intense flavour, which is famous worldwide. Your route takes you to Cannara, which rises on the left bank of the Topino River and is situated almost at the centre of the Valle Umbra in an area that in ancient times was a wetland (known to the Romans as Lacus Umber).
You are now coming to the end of this evocative journey through the art, history, and nature of the two unique and uncontaminated regions of Umbria and Tuscany. The last stretch of your trip brings you to Assisi. Embraced within its old town walls, Assisi is a serene and atmospheric town that is a symbol of peace and harmony. It is a place of saints, churches, monasteries, and convents; buildings in which devotion and art live together in a symbiosis that few places have ever equaled. A grand example of this is the Basilica of St. Francis.
Nevertheless, in Assisi the secular buildings in the town also blend in perfectly with the religious architecture. Crossing the main square, Piazza del Comune, you can admire secular medieval buildings such as the Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo along with the Roman temple of Minerva, which has now become the Church of Saint Mary above Minerva. At the end of the town square, if you go into the Museo del Foro Romano, you are effectively turning back to pass under the present-day square. In the vaults here you can admire the original paving and the remains of impressive masonry and sculptures.
The magic of this town can also be felt in the evening, sipping a glass of wine in one of the characteristic local wine bars, or at night when you wander the tastefully lit streets and alleys.
Overnight stay in Assisi at a *** star hotel (on request it is possible to have an overnight stay in **** star hotel)
Distance: 54,4 km /33, 7 miles
Day 8 Departure after breakfast