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Photo ©Grand Tour della Val di Merse
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Cycling in Val di Merse: Tuscany at its most intimate and unknown
“Slow” itineraries and routes for bike lovers

No-one can be disappointed by the beauty of the Val di Merse. The Val di Merse is a green stretch of land between the Mediterranean essences that cover Maremma and the wide-open expanses of land and sky that open out towards the Crete Senesi and the Val d’Orcia. It is a natural bridge between Amiata and the Metalliferous Hills, between the sea and Siena. A land characterised by fusion and nature, this is how the manifold character of the Val di Merse can be described: impenetrable, savage, harsh like Maremma, harmonious, relaxed and glistening like Siena.

Medieval villages and hamlets are not just tourist attractions, but home to people who live their everyday life in perfect, harmonious isolation in an atmosphere that conserves something from the olden days when mass tourism was yet to arrive. One of the most charming places that is easily reached by bicycle is the Cistercian Abbey of San Galgano (13th century) near the hermitage of Montesiepi. From 1700 the roof of the abbey has been the open air, architectural structure that blends perfectly with the outside environment, exalting the mysticism of this place.

The thousand-year-old Sovicille, is as immersed in the forest as it is in history and is the natural bridge between Montagnola and the Sienese hills. Chiusdino and Monticiano are the “capitals” of the natural defences that can be seen in the Val di Merse halfway along the road between Siena and the sea. Further inland, before reaching Siena, you cross Montagnola, another ideal target for lovers of bicycle tourism. The heart of Montagnola that announces that you are nearing Siena is the area of Sovicille, rich in historical evidence and testimony to the hard fight that the Sienese fought against the Florentines during the turbulent Middle Ages.

From the point of view of cycling, the Val di Merse offers a wide variety of trails. Undulating landscape without excessive difficulty allows you to travel around easily, looking for charming places, with a road or mountain bike. The presence of the Val di Merse Cycling Group in the area is notable and they take great care of cycle-tourists who are looking for contacts and information.

As well as daily trails, do a summary of the whole region with the beautiful 170m-long trail, the Grand Tour of the Val di Merse, which depending on how quick you are, can be completed in 3 or 4 days. It offers the perfect insight into these Sienese lands that are intimate, secret and exciting.

Here are some itineraries:

Chiusdino and the Upper Val di Merse
San Galgano Abbey- Credit:  Steven dosRemedios

Departure and arrival point: Chiusdino
Length: 38 km
Height difference: 730 m
Type of road: asphalt and dirt
Type of bike: MTB, hybrid
Difficulty: medium
Itinerary filled with art and history. Unfolds near the San Galgano Abbey and the Romanesque Montesiepi church where Galgano Guidotti’s famous Sword in the Rock is housed. Also boasts a loop round frescoes by Ambrogio Lorenzetti.

Ring a ring o’roses in Sovicille

Departure and arrival point: Sovicille
Length: 29 km
Height difference: 300 m
Type of road: asphalt
Type of bike: city, hybrid
Difficulty: easy
An easy trail around the city of Sovicille. Perfect for families given the flatness of the trails and possibility of riding on quieter roads. The cloister of the Torri Abbey is particularly interesting from an art-history perspective.

The Romanesque in the Montagnola

Departure and arrival point: Sovicille
Length: 35 km
Height difference: 680m
Type of road: asphalt and dirt
Type of bike: MTB, hybrid
Difficulty: medium
Interesting from a landscape, historic and artistic perspective. This route runs through the heart of the Montagnola and offers interesting panoramic views of the city of Siena and Upper Val di Merse. The area was important during the Middle Ages as it connected Siena and the via Francigena to the Tyrrhenian coast. It boasts numerous castles and fortified Romanesque churches.

Between Val di Merse and the Crete
- Credit:  mikeccross

Departure and arrival point: Murlo
Length: 26 km
Height difference: 460 m
Type of road: asphalt
Type of bike: city, hybrid
Difficulty: medium
Mostly paved, with only 4 km of a compact dirt road that is easily ridden with a road bike. To the east are the rolling Crete hills while to the west are the sprawling woods of the Val di Merse.

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