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Self-guided cycling in Italy - Pisa to Florence

Explore's Office Manager Anna Sheldon and her daughter had the chance to try out our Self-Guided Cycling Pisa to Florence trip last year – and now they’re planning their next one! Read on to find out how they got on and what they’re looking to do next. 

Self-Guided Cycling Pisa to Florence – also known to me as ‘hopefully I’ll make it back to the office….eventually!’

When I was asked if I would like to cycle with my 11-year-old daughter, unguided between Pisa and Florence, my initial thoughts were ‘you must be mad’! I don’t own a bike, I’m notorious for getting lost and I’m not that great at map reading – hmmm! Luckily I have several amazing colleagues on hand who have ventured out on Explore self-guided trips to put my fears to rest, advising me that they were the best trips they had ever done and that I absolutely, positively could not get lost. Still slightly hmmm, but less so!

I consulted with my daughter and we decided that apart from anything else, it would be a huge adventure and something we could do together that we would never forget, so with zero training under our belts (I don’t own a bike remember) we headed off, maps in hand, to the ancient and fascinating city of Pisa.

My plan for the eight-day trip was simple – don’t get too lost, eat loads of ice cream and have a picnic under an olive tree. So on our first day in Pisa, when we’d had a lovely cycle through some stunning countryside, we stopped for lunch in an olive grove and then treated ourselves to an ice-cream when we made it back to the hotel; I was feeling pretty smug!

Our maps and route notes were fantastic. The couple of slightly wrong turns we took were down to my complete incompetence at map-reading, however we easily got ourselves back on track after we had cycled boldly into villages that weren't technically on our route. We also used our unplanned diversions as additional opportunities to console ourselves with more ice cream (tiramisu ice cream in Italy has ACTUAL cake in it!)

As we wobbled our way across the absolutely beautiful countryside, the bikes enabled us to fully appreciate the landscapes that we were passing through in a way that a car or minibus would not have provided. The breeze kept us cool and the sights and smells brought the vistas and villages to life. In fact when we left the bikes at our agriturismo in Vinci and headed by train into Florence, both myself and my daughter wished we still had them with us, which was a surprise to us both!

Although everyone I had spoken to before my trip had told me how much I was going to love Florence, my personal highlight was the walled city of Lucca. It had a wonderfully laid back and unpretentious charm to it and we must have cycled around the wall about four or five times in the end, which was mostly at the request of my daughter, but I was more than happy to oblige. 

So my concerns of getting lost were all part of our adventure, cycling has turned out to be our new favourite activity and the maps and route notes were so good that they got even me through to our daily destinations! This trip gave us the opportunity to spend some real and precious quality time together, which is often difficult to achieve in our busy family lives. We would do it again in a heartbeat and can’t wait to work our way through other countries with our maps and our bikes and our sense of adventure!

So where next?

As we had such an amazing time cycling self-guided from Pisa to Florence, myself and my daughter cannot wait to get back on our bikes again to do some more exploring! This time, we are intending to visit the ‘garden of France’, the Loire Valley and this time my daughter will be a teenager – eek!

Luckily, I now know how the self-guided trips work and that we will be able to adapt our days according to moods and whims. That is the absolute beauty of these trips – we can go at a pace that suits us and hop off the bikes when things grab our interest. My daughter still refers to our Tuscan trip as her favourite holiday ever, so let’s see if the lure of the Loire can beat it!

Anna travelled on Self-Guided Cycling Pisa to Florence.

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