Words by Hannah Reynolds on Twitter and Instagram

Lucca is the cyclist’s dream of Tuscany; compact hills and mountains laced with narrow strips of Tarmac, perennial sunshine, delicious pasta and great coffee.

Here you will find cyclists from all over the world who have come to train, absorb the heritage of cycling and feed their motivation to excel. There are no #ProKitWankers - if you see someone head to toe in team kit they are the real deal. You can tell by the carefully honed leg muscles and the suntan.

The embodiment of Italian cycling glamour, the Lion King himself, Mario Cipollini, is a long time resident of Lucca. As the town legend, it’s not unusual to spot him cruising the town by bike or training on the surrounding roads, almost as if he’s employed to give visiting cyclists a little frisson of excitement.

Aside from the cycling, Lucca is a truly lovely place to visit, within its 5km of renaissance walls you will find many narrow cobblestone streets, and open piazzas to sit and watch the world go by in. The well-preserved 16th-century walls themselves are one of the biggest attractions, topped by a broad tree-lined path which can be cycled or walked. Here you can join the throng of locals and visitors for a stroll and a gelato in one of the cafes dotting the base of the walls.

How to get there

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Lucca is just 30 minutes’ drive from Pisa International Airport but in the heart of Tuscany. RyanAir, EasyJet and BA all fly to Pisa and flights are generally very reasonable all year round.

Pisa is a smallish airport so you can easily walk to the car hire area next to the airport. A bus journey to Lucca takes an hour, bus tickets are around €5 and can be bought from the information desk inside the arrivals hall. The bus stop is immediately outside the arrivals terminal.

Bike Hire

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There is really only one person to see about bike hire in Lucca, Paladino at Chrono Bikes. It’s not just the hire bikes, beautifully maintained Pinarello Gan with Ultegra, but the wealth of knowledge and passion for cycling in Italy. Along with your bike, you will be given maps with marked routes and advice on the best ones to follow. Your bike will be fitted to you with such expertise that it may feel even better than your own bike at home. It’s a beautiful shop to just spend time in, with a constant flow of cyclists, both locals and visitors to talk bikes with.

Accommodation

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Within the walls, accommodation ranges from 4-star Palazzo to smaller bed and breakfasts. A Palazzo Busdraghi is a boutique hotel which also offers apartments in the heart of the old town. Outside of the walls, an easy 4km roll from Lucca itself, is Villa Marta. Once a hunting lodge it is now an elegant and intriguing hotel, with lots of character and luxurious surroundings to relax in. Get a post-ride massage or just chill in the Jacuzzi.

Where to ride

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Monte Serra sits above Lucca, it is legendary as the testing ground for every pro and aspiring amateur in the area. Dense chestnut woods at the bottom open out into a rocky landscape at the top with views of Tuscany and on a clear day as far as Corsica. There are three ways to climb it but from Lucca, the most enjoyable route is to ride out to Pieve di Compito for a 20km flat warm-up before ascending a little over 800m on a narrow road, with occasional steep hairpin bends. The ‘official’ test route is the side from Buti, there is a very well-worn Strava segment there that you may want to have a crack at.

For a flatter ride head out towards Stabbiano and Camaiore, it's not totally without climbing as there are two small climbs around Piazzemano and Montemagno - which is a pretty mountain in miniature form. From here there are the options of heading for a flatter coastal ride or tackling some more hills, intricately woven with narrow roads.

Café stop

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Lucca has many fantastic pasticceria pastry shops where you can grab a couple of small bite-sized cakes and an espresso while stood out the counter (the cheaper option) or outside watching the world go by. A good bet for pre-ride is The Old City Bar on Corso Garibaldi just down from Chrono Bikes. Here you can watch the super slick riders astride their gleaming steeds arriving for the 10 am ride out.

Post-Ride hang out

You are in the right place for satisfying your post-ride hunger. Often in tourist destinations the better the view from the restaurant the worse the service and the higher the price, but not always. For a good combination of people watching, ambience and of course satisfying, delicious traditional food try La Tana del Boia in Piazza San Michele.

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