Published on: 2 February 2014 | Last updated: 11 March 2018
A relaxed 317-kilometre tour along the coast of Toscana using a combination of quiet roads and cycleways. Very little climbing. A good way to start if you need a bit of a warm-up before tackling the more hillier terrain of inland Toscana and Lazio. Or you might use it as a chance to get some time at the beach - possibly on the island of Elba - before returning home. There's also a more challenging option taking in the hilltop towns a little way inland.
This is an enjoyable and varied route. There are some pretty decent stretches of traffic-free cycleway along the way - holiday like to ride their bike to the beach so local authorities have been more willing to invest in cycleways. However, there are a couple of shortish stretches where, while the road isn’t very busy, the traffic is pretty fast moving, but in both cases the scenery makes up for the cars speeding by. The first part of the main route is mainly flat, but later on it gets a more hilly, although there are no big climbs.
Although this route hugs the coast, you won’t actually see much of the sea (unless you specifically detour to the beach). The reasons for this are mainly positive as long stretches of the coast, are now nature reserves with the coastal pine woodland (pinetas) protecting the sand dunes from erosion. The pinetas themselves with their magnificent pini marittime are glorious.
What to see
- the stylish resort of Viareggio with its Liberty (Art Nouveau) architecture.
- Pisa - Campo dei Miracoli (field of miracles) World Heritage site.
- Populonia - another evocative Etruscan necropolis
- Monte Argentario
- Bolgheri - a 5-kilometre road lined with cypress trees leading to the Bolgheri where they produce some very good wine - there’s more to Tuscan wines than Chianti
As well as the coast, with its cliffs and beaches and mountainous headlands, the tour also takes you to Populonia, and one of the most evocative Etruscan sites in all of Italy. If you take to the hills for at least part of the way you will be rewarded with hilltop towns that are every bit as attractive and interesting as anything you'll find in inland Toscana.
Note that this area is a major tourist destination both for Italians and tourists from northern Europe drawn by the combination of Tuscany and the sea. Personally, I would avoid it in August.
A note on the Via Aurelia (SS1)
The Via Aurelia is one of the ancient vie consulare along which Rome established its domination over the Italian peninsula. These roads still form a key part of the Italian road system. Long stretches of the SS1 have been upgraded to motorway status - the only difference between this and the autostrade is that motorists don’t have to pay tolls to use it. These stretches are of course off-limits to bikes. There are some stretches where you can use the strada statale but the route avoids it unless the alternative would be a long detour.
The positive aspect of the upgrading of the SS1 is that long sections of the old road have been left in place. As most traffic now opts for the faster road this means that the old road is a generally a quiet alternative.
Map showing main tour and suggested options
|Bolgheri-San Vicenzo||30 kms|
|San Vicenzo-Follonica||35 kms|
|Follonica-Marina di Grosseto||32 kms|
|Grosseto-Magliano in Toscana||26 km|
|Magliano in Toscana-Capalbio||24 kms|
|Capalbio-Chiarone Scalo (end)||13 kms|
The route here follows stretches of the Ciclovia Tirrenica (Bicitalia 16) cycle route. This route continues north-east to Parma and then to Verona (from where you can connect with the ciclopista del Sole (eurovelo 7) as it heads along the Adige river towards the border with Austria. Heading south the intention is that the route will continue on to Rome, but this section has still to be mapped.
I would highly recommend a side-trip to the island of Elba. I missed out the Monte Argentario, but if you have time this would also a be a very scenic detour.
You could head southwards towards the Lago di Bolsena and the Lago di Bracciano and from there to Rome. Or you could explore southern Toscana, the Val d’Orcia and on towards Siena and Firenze.
Heading north you can continue on along the coast following the Greenway del Arco Ligure towards the Cinque Terre, Genova and the border with France or the Moncenisio variant of the Ciclovia Francigena (until recently called the Ciclovia dei Pellegrini) as it heads northwest into Piemonte.
Maps to print out or view offline
About the maps
Links open in new windows unless you ‘save as’ etc.
The maps are in two versions: A4 portrait format - for printing and maybe also for viewing on an iPad, and A5 for smaller tablets and smartphones. As far as eReaders are concerned so far I’ve not managed to get them to work on a Nook - but you may have more success with other devices.
Tuscan Coast gps files
(.zip file containing 3 gpx track files)
Elba Tour gps files
(.zip file containing 4 gpx track files)
Italy Points of Interest
POIs are like waypoints, but while you can usually only store a limited number of waypoints on a device, you can store thousands of POIs. These files include information about campsites and hostels, bike shops, train stations, drinking water sources as well as warnings for tunnels and roads where bikes are banned. Please check the ReadMe file for instructions. Updated April 2018. The file format is only compatible with Garmin GPSes .
Places to stay
Hotels and B&Bs etc
There are plenty of hotels along the route.
Find and book places to stay with Booking.com
Booking.com area pages for the route:
There are a number of hostels in Pisa and several along the way.
Transport and services
The route passes close to Pisa’s Galileo airport, and Roma’s Fiumicino (Leonardo da Vinci) airport is a day’s ride away south along the Lazio coast. It follows the main train line that links Roma with Pisa and there are regular bike-friendly trains along the route - it would be easily possible to do the route in one direction and return by train (or visa-versa).
General tourism information websites for the areas on the route:
covers Isa and the surrounding area; and turismoinmaremma.it - covers the coast south of Grosseto.
This part of the region is one of Toscana and Italy's most up-and-coming wine areas and there are a couple of websites devoted to turismo enogastronomico, as well as information about wine and vineyards, these sites are also a source of useful information about places to sleep and places to eat.
Articles in this series
- The Tuscan coast: overview
- The Tuscan coast – Part 1: from the border with Liguria to Viareggio and Pisa
- The Tuscan coast – option: taking the high road
- The Tuscan coast Part 2: Pisa to Livorno and Populonia
- The Tuscan coast – Part 3: from Populonia to Marina di Grosseto
- The Tuscan coast – Part 4: through the Maremma to Capalbio
- The Tuscan coast – option: a tour of Elba