Cycle through the same landscapes that inspired some of Vincent van Gogh’s greatest masterpieces. Encounter rich Roman history and architecture in the historic towns of Arles and Orange. Stop in at famous vineyards outside Avignon and savour iconic French wines. Pass by fragrant fields en route to the spectacular three-tiered city of Pont du Gard
Enjoy the best of European cycling on this 15 day adventure in Europe’s premier cycling destinations – Provence and Tuscany. Wind your way past neat rows of vineyards, beneath towering aqueducts and through forests on this active cycling adventure through Provence. This journey through Southern France is an idyllic blend of scenic trail riding, historical sights and wine tasting. Visit the serene gardens of St Remy to see where Vincent van Gogh created his famous works. Savour regional red wines and walk the cobbled streets of Les Baux and marvel at the stunning views from atop its limestone cliffs. Encounter the picturesque hills and olive groves of Tuscany on this cycling adventure from Florence to Pisa. Be rewarded after a day of pedaling through quaint villages with a delicious slow-cooked Tuscan dinner in Barga. Explore the frenetic streets of Pisa before laying eyes on a legendary lopsided tower. Visit one of the oldest bakeries in Italy for a taste of their delicious biscotti. Walk near the walls of the imposing Verrucole Castle in Garfagnana.
Bonjour! Welcome to France and the first leg of your Provence and Tuscany cycling adventure. Today is arrival day and there are no activities planned for today except for a welcome meeting at 6pm.
We spend very little time in charming Avignon, the former seat of the Roman Catholic world, so if you want to experience more of this beautiful city we recommended arriving early to perhaps pay a visit to the historic Palais des Papes and the Pont d’Avignon, or simply take some time to explore the leafy streets of this French city. Your agent can arrange additional accommodation at the time of booking.
Riding distance: none
After breakfast there will be a bike fitting session for the group followed by a short test ride to ensure everyone's equipment has been set up properly. Depart Avignon and cycle approximately 32 kilometres on quiet and flat country roads en route to Orange. Along the way, pass through the famous wine region of Chateauneuf du Pape and stop to enjoy a vineyard visit. Sample (in moderation) some of the red wine the region is so famous for then continue on the road to Orange. Note that the terrain will become a little more hilly as you approach Orange. After checking in to the hotel in Orange and cleaning up, head out on an orientation walk of this compact town, visiting the Arc de Triomphe d'Orange and the outstanding Roman Theatre, one of the best preserved Roman theatres in Europe.
Ride distance: approx. 32 kms/20 miles, mostly flat with a 100m climb near the end, approx. 250m/820ft of elevation gain.
Leave Orange behind and ride the quiet roads south to the delightful walled Provencal commune of Caderousse. Here, cross the mighty Rhone river and pass the medieval village of Saint-Laurent-des-Arbres, cycling past the vineyards producing Lirac wines, the favourite wines of historic kings and the papal community in Avignon. Continue west through wine country and on to the legendary Pont du Gard, widely considered to be one of the world’s best preserved examples of a Roman Aqueduct. Towering high above the Gardon River, this three-tiered stone masterpiece never fails to impress. On a quiet day there may even be an opportunity to ride across it! After visiting the Pont du Gard we proceed west to the small town of Uzes with its graceful circuit of boulevards and cute cafes.
Ride distance: approx. 70 kms/44 miles, undulating with approx. 630m/2065ft of elevation gain
Today is a long day in the saddle that will be rewarded with impressive sights along the way. Hopefully the infamous mistral wind will be blowing from the northwest, providing a tailwind all the way to Saint Remy! Winding back across the Rhone, travel beneath the old city gate and into the small town of Tarascon. Take a short break from cycling to visit the imposing medieval castle, before sitting on the riverbank to learn about the legend of the Tarasque, the namesake of the town. After lunch, continue to the charming village of Saint-Remy-de-Provence. In distinct contrast to the surrounding larger cities and towns, Saint Remy displays a typically Provencal way of life. Visit the serene gardens of Saint-Paul Asylum where Vincent van Gogh was a self-admitted patient and where he painted many works of art, including ‘Irises’ and the famous ‘The Starry Night’.
Ride distance: approx. 68 kms/43 miles, undulating with approx. 400m/1315ft of elevation gain.
Saint Remy (& optional Mont Ventoux ride)
Today is a free day off the bike to explore charming Saint Remy and it's surrounds. Indulge your inner Van Gogh, chill out in a Provencal cafe or if you are still keen for a ride our crew can suggest a short ride around the local area. For those wanting a real cycling challenge we offer the option of tackling the legendary Mont Ventoux on a carbon road bike. Driving from Saint Remy to Bedoin early you will be riding on the mountain as the sun rises to beat the infamous Ventoux winds and summer heat. The unguided ride should take 3-4hrs, leaving enough time to grab a coffee and croissant before you rejoin your driver in Bedoin and then drive back in Saint Remy for a well-earned rest. This is at an additional cost - please book our 'Mont Ventoux Extension' by contacting your booking agent.
Ride distance: None
Les Baux & Arles
Hit the road again after breakfast. Today you start with a short 10 kilometre ride to the magical hilltop commune of Les Baux-de-Provence. Although the distance is short, it is also one of the more difficult rides. For those not wanting to ride uphill, your support vehicle is always available. The first climb through the forest is over quite quickly and is rewarded with a short but beautiful descent on possibly the smoothest road in all of France. Carry on through olive groves and vineyards before arriving at Les Baux, declared “one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France” thanks to its narrow cobbled streets and jaw dropping views of the surrounding countryside. Visit Chateau des Baux, which sits perched on a limestone cliff with magnificent 360 degree views.
After visiting Les Baux it’s time to hop back on the bikes for a short ride through the Val d’Enfer (Valley of Hell) and its beautiful white limestone rock formations. From here, it is a pleasant downhill and flat ride to Fontvieille then follow the peaceful Canal d'Arles alonside the Rhone River all the way into Arles (approximately 40 kilometres). Park the bikes and enjoy an orientation walk of this popular Roman town, passing by many famous sites such as the Place de la République, Van Gogh’s Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum and the UNESCO World Heritage listed Roman Amphitheatre. For those wanting to explore further there are countless museums, Roman buildings and reminders of Vincent Van Gogh’s glorious paintings on every street.
Ride distance: approx. 50 kms/31 miles, hilly for the first 20kms then mostly flat with approx. 425m/1395ft of elevation gain.
Swap vineyards for waves on a ride south to the capital of the Camargue, Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea (approximately 41 kilometres). Set on the Rhône River delta, the lakes of Camargue are a bird spotters paradise and home to more than 400 species of birds. The area is also known for its famous white Camarguais horse, often seen running free around Camargue. The ride one way form Arles to the Med is approx. 41kms.
After lunch we return to Arles by vehicle. If you are feeling fit you may choose to ride back to Arles but please note that this is optional and will not be supported by either the leader or our vehicle as that is driving back to Arles.
Tonight the group will enjoy a final dinner together.
Ride distance: approx. 41 kms/26 miles, completely flat with approx. 25m/80ft of elevation gain.
Please note due to the myriad of transport options (bus, train, flight) and to give you the best choice that suits your budget the transfer between Arles and Florence is not included in the cost of the trip and needs to be organised separately. See the 'Transport' section for further information.
When organising your transport please arrange to arrive at the Florence hotel by 6pm at the very latest as we will be having an important Welcome Meeting where you will meet the new arrivals for the Tuscany section of the trip. If you're going to be late, please inform your group leader.
The tour will spend very little time in Florence so we suggest you arrive early if you want to visit this stunning city's classic icons, with the historic Florence cathedral, Uffizi gallery, Ponte Vechio, and the Piazzale Michelangelo being just a few.
Cycling distance: none
After breakfast there will be another bike fitting and then a short test ride. After everyone has been fitted there will be a private transfer by to nearby Signa to begin this Tuscan cycling adventure (approx. 1 hour). Follow the Arno River out of Florence and ride the mostly flat small roads and trails to Empoli. Pass by the Church of Sant'Andrea before turning north towards the Tuscan hills and the delightful town of Vinci, birthplace of legendary Leonardo da Vinci. Surrounded by vineyards and olive groves, the climbs are relatively gentle and can be enjoyed by everyone (approximately 35 kilometres). Once in Vinci, we take a short ride past Casa Natale di Leonardo then return to the village to check into our hotel. The afternoon is free to enjoy, perhaps visit Museo Leonardiano, home to a collection of machines and models devoted to Leonardo da Vinci, or simply enjoy a gelato on the main street.
Cycling distance: approx. 35kms/22 miles, mostly flat with approx. 140m/460ft of elevation gain.
After breakfast, take a transfer by private transport to the Provence of Lucca (approximately 1 hour). From here, begin cycling to the medieval hilltop town of Barga, climbing gradually along the banks of the Serchio River and up the valley to Borgo a Mozzano, where your leader will reveal the legend of the beautiful Devil’s Bridge. From here, continue the gentle climb upwards until the last two kilometres, when the road towards Barga becomes steep. For those not wanting to do the last climb, the support vehicle is always there to assist you. Those willing to conquer the hill will be rewarded with incredible views of the imposing Pania della Croce mountain towering above the landscape. Why not relax after a big day's ride (approximately 37 kilometres) with a delicious (optional) traditionally Tuscan dinner.
Cycling distance: approx. 37kms/23 miles, mostly flat for the first 30kms then climbing the last 5kms, with approx. 460m/1510ft of elevation gain.
Start the day with a pleasant three kilometre downhill ride to the valley floor, following the winding road through countless small villages to the imposing Verrucole Castle in San Romano, a medieval fortress with spectacular views over Garfagnana. Along the way, stop for a picnic lunch in one of the villages to sample the authentic Italian food this region is famous for. After lunch, descend back down the valley to the 13th century town of Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, situated at the confluence of the Serchio and the Turrite Secca rivers (approximately 40 kilometres). After a long and hilly ride this is a great place to sit back and enjoy a gelato or pay a visit to the famous Fronte della Rocca, the historic cake shop and chocolate-maker since 1885 – they do an excellent coffee as well!
Cycling distance - Ride 1 - approx. 20kms/12 miles, hilly with frequent climbs and descents, with approx. 450m/1480ft of elevation gain.
Cycling Distance - Ride 2 - approx. 20kms/12 miles, hilly with 10km gentle climb followed by 12km descent, with approx. 520m/1710ft of elevation gain.
Today there will be a change of pace, starting with a 60 kilometre climb over the Apuan Alps in the support vehicle. Once at the top, mount up and start the ride downhill to the popular seaside resort of Viareggio before heading to the famous city of Lucca. On arrival in Lucca, circle the ancient city ramparts by bike and stop to enjoy an afternoon picnic on the walls.
You'll ride a total of approximately 85 kilometres today. Afterwards, enjoy an evening to explore the city. Perhaps end the day at a local bar with a refreshing Prosecco.
Cycling distance: approx. 84kms/52 miles, downhill for 20km, flat then very gradual uphill to Lucca, with approx. 600m/1970ft of elevation gain.