GeoGravel Tuscany Zero Edition - on board diary

A day that began like any other and ended like an epic adventure on the Strade Grigie, where Nature has mastered time and adrenaline.

Words by Miriam | Photography by Miriam & Chiara | Styling by Beatrice

3 Ottobre 2022 

There are many clichés about gravel, we took a full day to debunk them all. Amidst pheasants and torrential rain, but also breathtaking views and enchanting roads unknown to most, we learnt one true lesson: never underestimate the bike – and not even your own perseverance. 

What from the outside looked like a stunt between friends – the kind you remember for years to come – was the number zero edition of GeoGravel Tuscany. A sort of suitability test for these routes characterised by clean geothermal energy and more. The exam passed with flying colours, everyone promoted to 2023. In the meantime, friends who were not there can always read about our adventures below, to breathe in the atmosphere of an authentic day in direct contact with Nature and its elements. 

Storm wind at Querceto Castle.

The day begins uphill, the roads here run downhill and uphill towards the villages that dominate the valley with their fascinating stories. Castello di Querceto is one of these, and it is here that the short and the long itineraries separate, one in the direction of the sea and the other towards the panoramic terrace of a place that you can walk through in two minutes, down a single lane, where a stormy wind blows. It is typical of this corner of Tuscany, where mystery merges with legends. The clouds gather in layers in the immense sky above the hills and it is impossible not to stop and think about where a bicycle can take you, even if only for a day. Perhaps we are reckless when we pedal, perhaps we can only think that our existence is a continuous search for wonder. 

The Val di Cecina and the scent of the hinterland just before the rain

There are places that are out of time. On these roads that cut the Mediterranean maquis in two, one cannot tell whether we are in the year 2000 or some other century where cars do not even exist in the innermost thoughts of inventors and yet, when it gets dark, candles are lit. In the distance the sky is grey, a few drops of rain escape and there is only the sound of bicycles on the gravel – just as grey. These woods are imbued with a fascination that has to do with the awareness of being far away from everything, from traffic, asphalt and human evidence. Isn’t that what cycling is all about? Reconnecting with yourself, without intermediaries. 

At the first refreshment stop a ray of sunshine comes out, beer trickles down the throat like a pure mountain waterfall.

That famous Tuscan sausage sandwich

Paolo Bettini is unquestionably the guru of these hills and one of the things he most recommends is the raw sausage sandwich from La Gabella. In other words, it is a typical ‘Italian bar’ on a national road where – as is often the case – you can taste the authentic authenticity of the region you are in. Here we talk about wild boar, of course, and other typical food that, sandwiched in two slices of Tuscan bread, make up the perfect lunch for those who have yet to venture out there for a few hours, amidst dirt roads and expected rainfall.  

Darkness all of a sudden

The cypress trees turn black and the blizzard hits the small roads in the middle of the woods. There is no choice but to keep going, stopping would be worse. One of the greatest metaphors of life that the bicycle offers is this: if you stop pedalling you are lost. You start to feel the cold, the damp, and maybe even that little bit of reason comes back to you that would make you pick up the phone and call someone, asking for help. But, even when it gets dark in your head, there is always that voice telling you to keep going, that everything will get better. Then, if that moment arrives after two hours it doesn’t matter, what matters is that you have gone through the crisis. The storm continues to haunt the hills outside while the water – from the shower, this time – washes away the cold and everything else.

Can you drink wine with pizza?

That’s exactly what we ask ourselves when two cultures, Belgian and Italian, clash – peacefully. In the end the beer wins, of course, but the real triumphants of the day are those who have finished the long itinerary and are here, sitting at this endless table on the terrace of the legendary Ganesh bar, laughing and joking about the storm that has literally hit them. Good food, wine and cycling are three things that bring everyone together and new friendships always arise.