Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Luxury Bike Trip: Tuscany and Umbria with Backroads

The reward after a day of biking; hotel view from our balcony in Umbria

Part of the fun of travel can be planning out a trip: researching the best restaurants and hotels, deciding on a route. But doing this for a bike trip can be overwhelming: arranging a rental, getting your bags transported from luxury villa to deluxe manor house, coordinating a group of freinds.

My husband and me getting drinks and snacks before biking
Backroads makes it simple. The have dozens of biking (and hiking, plus combination multi-sport) trips in Europe, with even more trips in the United States, Asia and South America. We recently took a six day biking trip through Umbria and Tuscany and despite drinking gallons of wine and consuming pounds of fresh pasta and tiramisu, we returned home no heavier.

The villa in Tuscany where we spent our last 2 nights of the bike trip
There was still plenty of planning. We appended a dew days beforehand in London and Pisa, and a couple of days in Florence after the bike trip. You want to make sure you are acclimated to the time change before setting off on a bicycle trip where you have to wake up early each day and bike about 50 miles.

Vacation or trip of a lifetime

According to my neighbor, the daily early wake up call made this 'not a vacation' but I disagree.  Or. rather, I call this a "trip of a lifetime." Of course, it's actually the third bike trip I've taken with Backroads, but still..If you like biking, food, wine, and being with a group, this is definitely the vacation for you.
2 person in room jacuzzi in our Tuscan abode

Family, couple or solo?

Riding one of the 'cycleways' with no car traffic

When we took out other bike trips, we brought our children on designated 'family trips'. The Umbria / Tuscany bike trip was a 'premiere trip' which meant stays at luxury hotels and impeccable service. We had a small group, with three couples, two single women and three women who left their husbands home. Our support consisted of two leaders; one rode with us and one drove a van that we could hop into during a challenging hill or sudden rainstorm. A third person drove another van with our luggage from hotel to hotel; we stayed at three different hotels over the five nights.
Umbria specialty; pasta with truffles 

View from Cortona, in Tuscany
Our bikes were provided, along with helmets, bike bags, snacks and water bottles. My bike had the requested toe clips; riders with bike shoes could bring their own pedals and have them attached and adjusted. We were also given paper route maps (and a plastic map holder on the front of each bike) along with a GPS with a pre-loaded route. And if you still couldn't follow instructions, the third support person stood at easy to miss turns, pointing in the correct direction. Really, the trip was a no-brainer.

In fact, the most difficult activity over the six days might have been remembering the instructions for the in room steam shower in our third hotel. We also had a 2 person jacuzzi, and we had ridden 55 miles in the rain. We soaked our aching muscles in the tub and warmed up in the steam shower.

Not just biking

We got off our bikes to explore small towns; this is Spoleto, where we had lunch
We took a cooking class at a vineyard, where we also learned about the wine and drank so much, most of us chose not to ride our bikes back to the hotel. We also toured an agritourismo, a farm and vineyard where we feasted on about 20 courses of rustic food. We had an entertaining tour guide lead us around Cortona, the setting of "Under the Tuscan Sun," and we walked around the religious mecca, Assisi.
Backroads prepared picnic lunches for us

Eating was also important

Cooking class; we made bruschetta and pici pasta. And drank wine
The hotels had robust buffet breakfasts to fuel us for the day, but we also had bags we could fill from a snack table: dried fruit, nuts, fresh fruit, bars. Then we had a couple of picnic lunches and two amazing restaurant lunches. Dinners were four courses and highlighted local specialties like truffles, artichokes and pasta. There were plenty of vegetarian choices and gluten free options for the one group member with celiac. There were also excellent local wines, though I only sipped a little at lunch since I wanted to bike more.

I still want to bike more; this trip just whetted my appetite for yet another bike trip.

Note: Backroads gave me discount in exchange for posting on Instagram. Opinions expressed are my own.

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