Headwater - Secrets of San Gimignano Self-Guided Cycling Trip Notes

Ways to Travel:
Self-Guided
Destinations:
Italy
Programmes:
Cycling
Trip Code:
C08TY
Activity Rating - Moderate
Moderate

You are moderately fit and possess a spirit of adventure. Some previous experience is required for most activity based trips.

9 Days Flight Inclusive
9 Days Land only
Min age: 8

Trip Overview

This holiday is, quite simply, outstanding in every way - think rich scenery, fantastically contrasting hotels, superb local cuisine and exceptional wines. 

 

RidePlus is available on this tour, meaning that on most days you have the option to do a more challenging RidePlus route. Each option comes with GPS navigation and route maps to ensure you get to your destination easily, and you’ll stay at the same hotel regardless of which route you take, although RidePlus cyclists will be provided with an upgraded lightweight road bike. If you’re travelling as a group you can split up for the day to ride independently – so everyone has their perfect day. Find out more about RidePlus here and more about the routes for this holiday in the Itinerary section.

At a Glance

  • 8 Nights, hotel-to-hotel
  • 4 Days cycling
  • All continental breakfasts and evening meals included
  • Headwater wine service 
  • GPS route navigation provided 
  • RideWithGPS navigation app
  • RidePlus route options
  • High quality bikes provided
  • Luggage transfers between hotels
  • Countries visited: Italy

Trip Highlights

  • Exhilarating cycling through open and totally unspoilt countryside
  • San Gimignano's soaring towers; Volterra's Etruscan treasures; great art cities of Florence, Pisa and Siena
  • Fabulous hotels all with stunning pools; superb cuisine and fine wines
  • Cypress-studded hills, sun-drenched olives, row upon row of sunflowers and world-famous vineyards
  • Pretty hamlets, hidden chapels, timeless vermilion villas

Is This Trip for You?

You'll start off in Volterra, a beautifully preserved hilltop gem whose eclectic mix of Etruscan, Roman and Renaissance art and architecture has inspired artists and writers for centuries. From here, you pedal north east along quiet, rolling country lanes as you coast towards honey-coloured Pancole, nestled in the Tuscan hills. The cycling is truly glorious as you continue, via fortified towns and hill villages, to medieval Colle, from where you can also head to Florence and Siena for day trips. Then it's on to Pescille, which is perfectly positioned overlooking San Gimignano. Your final stretch takes you through a timeless and kaleidoscopic landscape of ochre-coloured hills and verdant vineyards, giving you a real sense of achievement as you loop back to Volterra for your final night. 

This is a self-guided cycling trip for those who like to cycle independently, but with back up to take out the hard work and planning. We arrange your accommodations, provide you with a map and route notes so that you can cycle at your own pace, while your bags are transported from one hotel to the next.
Activity Level: 2 (Leisurely/Moderate)
Please see the introductory pages of the cycling holidays brochure or our website for more important information on classification and grading.
Av. daily ride: 38km (24miles).
No. of days cycling: 4
Terrain & route: The suggested cycling is along quiet, tarmac roads (mainly traffic-free). There are a few ascents and descents along the way.
Vehicle Support: A representative will be there to meet you, make sure the bikes are all set up and will be on call throughout the trip should you need.

It is important that you are happy reading maps and following route notes, we make these as accurate as possible and they are regularly checked. Where possible we stick to cycle tracks and quiet roads to make the journeys as pleasant as possible, however, on occasion we have to use busier routes.

As this is a self-guided holiday there is no group and no leader. There maybe others on the same departure date as you, but you will not be organised together. The route notes contain an emergency assistance telephone number should you need it and in emergencies, the local representative is normally able to dispatch a taxi or pick you up themselves. They may wish to charge for this service.

Group

As this is a self-guided holiday there is no group and no leader. A local representative is on hand to assist you and will meet you at the beginning of the week to go through the route notes and point out particular places of interest. Your luggage is transferred and route notes and maps are provided. Please note: the walking and luggage transfers included in this tour are subject to a minimum of 2 people (in total) booked on the departure. A supplement (payable in advance) to cover these transfers and sole occupancy of a room will apply if only 1 person travelling on a departure date.

Adult min age:
18
Child min age:
8

Child max age:

17

Itinerary

Land Only

Start City:
Volterra
End City:
Volterra

Flight Inclusive

Start City:
London
End City:
London

Land Only Itinerary

  • Day 1

    Arrive in Volterra

    Arrive in Volterra where you've time for a dip in the pool and a wander round its myriad of cobbled alleys and hidden squares before dinner. (Staying at Park Hotel Le Fonti)

    Meals included:
    Dinner
  • Day 2

    Volterra to Pancole

    Option: 1

    Today it's a downhill whizz out of hilltop Volterra and into the pretty Era Valley where spectacular views of the surrounding timeless Tuscan countryside open up as you pedal. After climbing out of the valley, you'll soon pass through the pretty hamlet of Castagno where we suggest a well-deserved coffee stop in the local bar. Your route continues on to Gambassi Terme, a well-preserved spa town with cobbled streets, 12th century church and lovely shaded gardens. Lunch here perhaps in one of the many trattorie then, soon after leaving the town, you'll pick up the famous Via Francigena for the gentle, mainly downhill stretch to mediaeval Certaldo where you can stop for a gelato before your final climb through olive groves and vineyards to the hamlet of Pancole. (Staying at Hotel Le Renaie)

     

    Option: 2

    Distance - 75.4km (elevation +1036m / -1238m)

    Leaving Volterra you drop down into the valley heading north passing the Theatre of Silence and the family home of Andrea Bocceli. Ride past rich green meadows, before climbing through the stunning countryside and on to the pretty spa town of Gambassi Terme. A long downhill ride lets you roll into Certaldo before a short climb to the peaceful Hotel Le Renaie for the next two nights.

     

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Dinner
    Distance covered: 41 km / 26 miles
  • Day 3

    At Pancole

    If you fancy a day off from cycling, the pool here is simply gorgeous and nice lunches are served on the geranium-scented terrace. There's also a small shop where you can buy olive oils, produced by the owners, and Tuscan wines. The more energetic might want to cycle past orchards and vines to visit Boccaccio's birthplace, stunning Certaldo. Take the funicular to its mediaeval centre for spectacular views across the Val d'Elsa. (Staying at Hotel Le Renaie)

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Dinner
  • Day 4

    Pancole to Colle Di Val D'Elsa

     

    Option: 1

    Today's route explores the panoramic wine country between Pancole and Colle di Val d'Elsa. You'll first retrace your route to Certaldo and then follow the official, mainly off-road, Chianti Wine Route where you'll find lots of tasting opportunities - don't forget, we can collect any purchases for you! It's then on to the old town of Poggibonsi, a perfect stop for lunch and to visit the ruins of its unfinished 15th century fortress. The day ends with gentle pedalling through tree-lined meadows and a valley of poppy and sunflower fields to Colle di Val d'Elsa. (Staying at Relais Della Rovere)

     

    Option: 2

    Distance - 91.9km, elevation: +1521m / -1616m

    Today you head into wine country on a beautiful ride with vines as far as the eye can see and passing through beautiful hamlets and interesting wine towns. With the climbing over you pass two of the famous Chianti towns, Castellina and Radda, both offering great wine tasting chances and good restaurants. Heading down to the valley you pass the stunning walled village of Monteriggioni before heading on to Colle Val d’Elsa for your next two nights.

     

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Dinner
    Distance covered: 32 km / 20 miles
  • Day 5

    At Colle Di Val D'Elsa

    There's masses of choice today: explore the mediaeval old town which dates back to Etruscan times; take the bus to Siena (30 mins) or to Florence (60 mins); take in the mediaeval town of Monteriggioni, an easy cycle or short bus ride away; or simply laze by your hotel's sparkling swimming pool, surrounded by lovely gardens. (Staying at Relais Della Rovere)

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Dinner
  • Day 6

    Colle Di Val D'Elsa to Pescille

     

    Option: 1

    It's easy pedalling this morning as you head south past the old town of Colle di Val d'Elsa, gradually climbing up to Casole d'Elsa, a beautiful village characterised by ancient vermilion-hued buildings and blessed with stunning views from its hilltop position. Take time to explore its 12th century church (frescoes by Gano da Siena) and impressive fortress before an early lunch perhaps, in the lovely piazza. You then wind north, gently uphill, through wonderfully scenic countryside against the backdrop of the impressive medieval towers of San Gimignano as you pedal on to Pescille. (Staying at Hotel Pescille, Breakfast at the hotel)

     

    Option: 2

    Distance - 87.4km, elevation: +1693m / -1542m

    Heading to the south of the region today you are rewarded with beautiful scenery, quiet roads with vistas of mountains and hills as you pass pleasant meadows, small forests and lines of cyprus trees. You pass small villages and towns that are well off the beaten track. Maybe take a late lunch in walled Casole d’ Elsa, then pass Castel San Gimignano and finish through the vines to Hotel Pescille for the next two nights.

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Dinner
    Distance covered: 40 km / 25 miles
  • Day 7

    At Pescille

    San Gimignano is just a short cycle away; explore its myriad of narrow streets and many hidden cobbled squares before returning to your tranquil hotel for a refreshing dip in the sparkling swimming pool. (Staying at Hotel Pescille)

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Dinner
  • Day 8

    Pescille to Volterra

    Option: 1

    It's a short ride to San Gimignano today before a climb up through classic Tuscan landscapes of vines, olive groves and fields ablaze with sunflowers. Enjoy the 16km, mainly downhill run into the Era Valley. There's a real sense of achievement on your final climb through open countryside and you'll enjoy spectacular views before heading back to the ancient cobbled streets of Volterra. (Staying at Park Hotel Le Fonti)

     

    Option: 2

    Distance - 59.4km, elevation: +1078m / -943m

    From the hotel you head towards San Gimignano, circling the 'town of towers' for 360 degree views and passing through the surrounding wine country. Head uphill through the vineyards and then enjoy a long downhill route with views of Volterra. Finishing with a climb into Volterra, pass through the town and ride back to your hotel for the last night.

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Dinner
    Distance covered: 38 km / 24 miles
  • Day 9

    Leave Volterra

    Meals included:
    Breakfast

All ascents, descents and distances listed above have been measured by our local partners or tour leaders. Please note that different GPS measuring devices can give differing results dependent on the barometric pressures at the time. Measurements stated throughout these trips notes are given to help you understand the types of terrain and distances you will encounter.

Accommodation

Hotels

Superb 3-star and 4-star contrasting hotels, all with sparkling swimming pools, are an added highlight of this holiday. In Colle di Val d'Elsa, you stay in a fabulously restored 12th century Benedictine abbey, complete with original frescoes, whilst in Volterra, your 4-star hotel has a panoramic infinity pool, with stunning, sweeping views over the Tuscan countryside. 

Where a single supplement is available, paying for a single only guarantees a room for single use. It does not always mean a twin or double room will be provided for sole occupancy.

Single supplement from £328.00

Food & Transport

Eating & Drinking

All continental breakfasts and evening meals included

Italy’s most famous export is probably its cuisine and the traditional dishes of Tuscany are the most influential and revered. The region’s food is based on cucina povera, ‘poor/peasant cookery’, a rural cuisine based on available natural ingredients: olive oil, unsalted bread, pulses and vegetables, wild mushroom or porcini, and salt-cured meats such as salame and prosciutto. In particular, Tuscan olive oil is renowned for its quality and is the most important ingredient in the region’s cookery. You will find it in almost every dish - as a salad dressing, poured over vegetables and into soups and even as a replacement for butter on bread (very nice with a sprinkling of salt!).

Of course the Chianti region is best known for its regional wine (the very best ones are Chianti Classico and have a black cockerel stamped on the label). Chianti is produced in the vineyards dotted around the Tuscan hills; we actually visit the hills to the north of Siena, where the Chianti Colli Senesi wine is produced. Made from the Sangiovese grape, this is an excellent light, fruity red. Although best known for its red wine, a good white wine is also produced in the Chianti region. Made from the Vernaccia grape, the Vernaccia di San Gimignano is a crisp dry white which has greatly improved over recent years. It is best drunk young.

Weather & Seasonality

Weather Information

April and May departures can expect warm days and although rain is possible, it seldom lasts long. Nights may still be rather cool. We strongly recommend a fleece-lined jacket or warm sweater in these months. June sees the start of summer and July and August can become quite hot by mid afternoon, so this time is kept free for lunch. Although rain is unusual, torrential cloudbursts are not unknown. September and October are cooler and wetter, yet visibility is often better. Swimming is usually still possible at this time.

Weather Charts

Joining Instructions

The tour itself normally begins at the start hotel in Volterra on the afternoon of Day 1 of the itinerary. Arrival and departure transfers from Pisa airport are included. 

Flights:
We can also book flights for you. The standard flights we usually use are with British Airways Heathrow to Pisa 08:25/11:35 transfer to hotel 75 minutes. Return: Transfer to airport 75 minutes British Airways Pisa to Heathrow 12:35/14:00 Business/club/first class seats are available on request.Please note that the standard flights/trains may occasionally change throughout the season so please enquire for up-to-date details.

Full joining instructions including local emergency numbers will be sent to you as part of our Final Joining Instructions. If you do not receive these at least a week before departure, or require them earlier please contact our office or your travel agent.

Transfers Details

Standard transfers
Transfers included from Pisa airport at 11:35, and back to Pisa airport at 09:00.

Alternative transfers
If you require alternative transfers (because you will be arriving at a different time to our standard flights), then we can usually arrange these for you (there may be an additional charge).

Location start:
Volterra
Location end:
Volterra

What to Take

Essential Equipment

Waterproofs

Warm jumper/fleece

Suncream

Water bottle (1 litre) you will be able to refill each day at the accommodation.

Optional Equipment

Torch (useful for walking to the village in the evening)

Swimwear

Local Bike Details

A quality local hire bike is included in the overall price of our cycling holidays. At the time of booking we will take your height in order to reserve equipment. There may on occasions be insufficient bikes available in the correct size; we will endeavour to find suitable alternative equipment but this cannot be guaranteed. We will tell you before you book whether suitably sized bikes are available.

Conditions 

1. The equipment remains the property of the supplier and you may not sell, hire out or part possession with the equipment.
2. You must not misuse the equipment and must return it in the same condition as when received (ordinary wear and tear excepted). The supplier is entitled to charge for any damage caused to the equipment during the period of hire.
3. You must ensure that the equipment is adequately secured when not in use. In the event of the equipment being lost or stolen, you may be liable for the replacement value of the equipment
4. You must not use the equipment whilst under the influence of drink or drugs and should immediately notify the Supplier in the event of breakdown or loss.

Bringing Your Own Bike

If you prefer the familiarity of your own bike, you may of course bring it along. Please advise us at the time of booking and you will receive a discount off the price of the holiday, as specified above. You will be responsible for any extra baggage charges, please speak to our Sales team for individual airline fees. Any clients bringing their own bike should ensure they have adequate cover for loss, damage or theft under their travel, home contents or a specialist insurance policy. If Exodus is confident that we have taken all reasonable care to ensure the safety of your bike, in the rare event of loss, damage or theft you will need to claim under your own insurance policy.

Extra Bike Bits

You may like to bring your own pedals and saddle (excluding the seat post) or gel saddle cover to fit to the hire bikes. We encourage this, if it is your preference. However, please note that you are responsible for your own equipment, and removing your saddle/pedals at the end of the trip. We cannot guarantee the return of any bike parts left behind.

Exodus Policy on Cycling Helmets

Wearing a helmet is mandatory for anyone taking part in any guided Exodus cycling holiday. Group members must bring their own helmets, as they are not available for hire, even if they are hiring a bike from Exodus.

For self-guided cycling holidays wearing a helmet is highly recommended. Customers who choose to ignore our advice do so entirely at their own risk and on the understanding that it may affect the validity of their travel insurance. It should also be noted that in some countries we travel to wearing a helmet is already a legal requirement.

Cycling of all kinds has its dangers and accidents can happen from time to time. Please ensure that you are properly prepared for the riding you are going to undertake.

Recommended Cycling Clothing

Padded cycling shorts (with loose 'over-shorts' where recommended), breathable clothing, and a lightweight waterproof/windproof top. Shoes with relatively stiff soles are better for biking, but are not essential unless you are cycling long distances. Most people want to carry certain items with them during the day while cycling, for this we recommend a large bum-bag or small close-fitting daysack.

GPS Route Navigation

Ride with GPS logo

We've teamed up with RideWithGPS to provide our carefully researched and checked itineraries in a convenient format, similar to a car satnav, with turn-by-turn instructions all along your route.

Before you travel we'll send you everything you need to download your route notes and the free RideWithGPS app. It's available for iPhone and Android and the routes can also be used on any regular GPS device such as the Garmin Edge bike computers or Forerunner fitness devices. 

 For more details and to watch the demonstration video, please visit our GPS Route Navigation page.

Reading List

  • The Rough Guide to Tuscany and Umbria
  • Lonely Planet Tuscany and Umbria
  • DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Florence and Tuscany
  • Time Out Florence: And the Best of Tuscany

 

Practical Information

Passport

Italy

All nationalities require a full passport that must be valid beyond the intended length of stay. It is your responsibility to have the correct personal documents and to obtain your own visa, if one is necessary, in accordance with the regulations of the country you are to visit. The information offered below is to help you with that process. We are not responsible for the actions of local immigration and customs officials, whether at points of entry or otherwise, and any subsequent effects.

Visa

Italy

Visa regulations can change without notice: please check the current regulations in good time to obtain a visa if one is required.

Vaccination

Italy

There are no specific health risks.

Travel health can often be something people forget about before going away, but a little preparation and knowledge can go a long way to help you stay fit and healthy while abroad.

The above information can change at short notice; as we are not qualified to answer all your questions about travel health we strongly recommend you contact your Medical Professional or a Travel Health Clinic at least 8 weeks prior to departure for up-to-date information. Please note: vaccinations that are routinely recommended to residents of the UK, North America or Australasia are not considered to form part of the travel health advice, and you should ensure these are kept up to date where necessary.

For additional information please visit: https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/countries

Insurance - are you adequately covered?

It is a condition of joining any of our holidays that you must be fully insured against medical and personal accident risks (to include repatriation costs and air ambulance or helicopter rescue services where appropriate). On arrival in destination for your trip, you will be asked to present details to your leader or local representative of your policy.

If you are resident in the UK we strongly recommend the Exodus travel insurance policy, this is specifically designed to cover all activities on your trip. If arranging your own policy please ensure that you are covered for all activities that are part of the trip, optional activities that you intend to take part in and/or on high altitude itineraries, that you are covered up to the maximum altitude of the trip.

Local Time

Italy's Timezone:
Europe/Rome CEST (GMT +02:00)

Electricity

Italy's Electricity:

European plug ‐ 2 round pins.

Money

Italy's Currency

The national currency of Italy is the Euro (EUR), with an exchange rate at the time of publication of approximately 1.2 to the UK£ and 0.9 to the US$.

Exchange rates are correct at the time of publication.

 

ATM Availability

ATMs are widely available and usually the most convenient way of obtaining Euros. Travellers cheques are accepted in banks. Credit cards are widely used.

Extra Expenses & Spending Money

Lunch is not included in the itinerary and some dinners are left open where there are good restaurant choices, please allow some spending money for this. We recommend approximately €5-15 (US$4.50-13) per lunch and €20-30 (US$18-27) for dinner.

Responsible Tourism

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 

Exodus Community

Join the Exodus online community

Don't forget to visit the Community area on our website. You can view the range of Exodus videos and podcasts, read trip write-ups which have featured in the national media and take advantage of some special deals on travel gear and equipment.

In the Community Travel Forum you'll find the Departure Lounge where you can discuss your trip with fellow travellers before you depart. When you get back from your holiday remember to upload your images to the relevant trip page on our website. This helps other people see what our holidays are really like and you'll be entered automatically into our monthly photo competition.

To make full use of the Community you'll need to join My Exodus. It's free, registration is simple and easy, so what are you waiting for?

Important Information

On all guided trips

Although our leaders are well trained to deal with different capabilities, if they have any concerns about someone’s ability to safely partake in an activity, or their impact on other people’s enjoyment, we authorise them to take necessary action which, in some circumstances, may involve asking someone to miss that activity.

Although rarely enforced, by booking this trip you agree to section 14 of our Booking Conditions which clearly states that our leaders have the authority to do this. In these circumstances we will ensure anyone sitting out is safely provided for and offered alternative options where possible. Refunds will not be provided for activities missed and customers may be liable for additional costs incurred.

On all trips

In booking this trip you should be confident in your ability to participate in all activities described in these Trip Notes. If you have any doubt about your suitability you should call the Exodus office and ask to speak to one of the experts on this itinerary.

In an emergency, please contact our 24 hour out of hours service on +44 (0) 844 326 7041.

Every time that you travel abroad you should take the time to read the warnings in the essential information in the brochure.

Full joining instructions including local emergency numbers, and details of how to reach the start point, will be sent to you approximately 2 to 3 weeks prior to departure. If you do not receive these at least a week before departure, or require them earlier please contact our office or your travel agent.

The information in these Trip Notes is given in good faith. Where differences exist between the Trip Notes and our current brochure or website, the Trip Notes supersede the brochure and website. All holidays can be subject to unexpected changes; in order to enjoy them you should be prepared to be flexible where necessary. Occasionally, as stated in our brochure, it may not be possible to follow the itinerary as planned. This may be for a variety of reasons - climatic, political, physical or other. In these circumstances we will make the best possible alternative arrangements that maintain the integrity of the original itinerary.

As fuel prices, airport taxes and exchange rates fluctuate, and airlines manage their rates to match demand, it is proving harder than ever to guarantee our Flight Inclusive prices. Although we endeavour to keep our website as accurate as possible, daily fluctuations mean that our Flight Inclusive price may be out of date. For accurate prices we recommend that you contact one of our Travel Experts, or your Travel Agent.

TRAVEL AWARE –STAY SAFE & HEALTHY ABROAD

 

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the NHS have up-to-date advice on staying safe and healthy abroad. For more on security, local laws, plus passport and visa information, see https://travelaware.campaign.gov.uk/

Keep informed of current travel health news by visiting https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/

Advice can change so check regularly for updates.

For all latest travel information about your holiday, please visit our Travel Safety Advice page.

How to Book

1. Check availability

Go online to check availability, or contact us by phone or email.

2. Secure your place

You can provisionally hold a place on this trip, usually for between three and seven days.

3. Complete your booking and payment

When you're ready to book, go to www.exodus.co.uk for online booking, book over the phone or you can complete a booking form (available online or on request by calling us). We accept all major credit and debit cards, or you can pay be cheque. Book with confidence: Exodus is fully licensed and bonded as a tour operator. We hold Air Traffic Organisers Licence (ATOL) number 2582 issued and bonded with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). We are also bonded to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and we are members of the Federation of Tour Operators (FTO) and ABTA ‐ The Travel Association. This means you can book your Exodus holiday with confidence, as all monies paid to us for your trip are fully protected.

TRIP NOTE VALIDITY

These Trip Notes are valid from the "Current as" date on page one. They will occasionally be updated post booking and pre-departure; if there are any updates that significantly impact the inclusions or itinerary bookers will be written to separately. All customers will also receive a link to the most up-to-date version of the Trip Notes with their Final Joining Instructions pre-travel.