If you're planning or dreaming about cycling in Italy, my job is to make it happen for you.
Climbs around Lucca are like outfits: choose one based on your mood, your schedule, and the occasion. There truly is no hierarchy so take the numbers with a grain of salt. Here are ten (of many) to get your wheels turning:
5 km avg. 5.5%
A local treasure, Fiano is the good ol' faithful of cycling in Lucca. Only 12 km away and easily reached won't detract from its fascination. Similar to a charm bracelet, Fiano's only complete with accessories like Passo Lucchese, Passo Sella or Fondagno.
6.5 km, avg. 5.1%
The first climb I did in Italy that also happened to steal my heart. Like Fiano, it's a local climb that can be stacked with other climbs like you'd construct a lego castle. It's an essential that overlooks the Med within 30 minutes from Lucca. You'll have a Strava empire fuelled by stracciatella in no time.
8. Monte Serra
8.4km, avg. 7%
This mountain is Pisa's pride and joy. It's their only mountain, and with an ancient history of animosity, they'll never let you presume it belongs to the Lucchesi. It can be "mounted" as the Italians say three ways to the same summit: Buti, Calci, and Sant'Andrea di Compito. All three merit exploration but note that Sant'Andrea is the longest, hardest, and closest to Lucca. The view from Calci of Pisa's sprawl, the Med and on a clear day, the leaning tower should help transcend your suffering.
10.3 km, avg. 5.8%
Nestled in the Pistoian mountains, Vellano is an underutilized porthole to La Lima and the beautiful and elegant Sérchio Valley. There's a grand piazza in Pescia with a plethora of cafe's might you need to draw one final arrow from your quiver before entering the enchanting forest. Once beyond Pescia you're in the land where country folk are downing caffè corretti at lunch and retirees absorb the sun's rays from public benches hours on end.
6. San Baronto
3.9 km, avg. 7.2%
Consider San Baronto a stairway to heaven where bicycles coast on clouds and cars and motorcycles are prohibited. Where one can ride all day without any threat of crisi di fame or crisis of hunger. If not heaven then surely enlightenment. San Baronto raises you to the ridge where Leonardo da Vinci conceived the Mona Lisa. More accurately, where Leonardo was born on April 15, 1452. Don't forget to take a selfie in appreciation of cultural, societal and creative advancements during the Renaissance. Preferably with a stick.
4.7 km, avg. 6.5%
A stone’s throw from Lucca, Cappella is Via Michele Rosi on Friday and Saturday nights; that is, where the entire twenty-something population of Lucca gathers. If you haven’t already left it all out on the road, then Cappella is your final chance for redemption before your afternoon engagements. This is exactly the tactic of the Lucchesi cyclists between 11 am and 1 pm on weekends. A good final effort on Cappella will merit an entire afternoon lazing semi-conscious at the Versilian seaside.
4. Passo Sella
7.7 km, avg. 6%
Sella is saddle in Italian, and to me, it's the closest link from Lucca to Garfagnana Valley. The Lucchese side is steeper with a gradual descent through Fabbriche di Vergemoli (shown) where I heard they're selling houses for €1. At the top, there's an option to take a slightly longer route or a shortcut. Take the longer route, it's well worth it. Would also advise you spend your euro on a cappuccino instead of these houses.
5 km, avg. 6.6%
Growing up in North America watching TGIF programming while eating Doritos I believe to have understood the town of Pietrasanta is a highly cultured place. The home to painters and sculptors, Pietrasanta proudly displays the fruits of their labor, and the ring road with climbs, Capezzano and Caprilia is no exception. Take in the statues, the cathedral, and maybe also a panino from the piazza before zig-zagging up the hillside where you'll see all of Pietrasanta from above and the Mediterranean sea on the horizon.
2.9 km, avg. 6.8%
My newest discovery, this little piece of paradise is accessed through either Passo Sella or Garfagnana. The road takes you around the Pania della Croce, Panie being a series of peaks in the Apuane Alps and Croce trumps them all (see no. 1 why). It's a jewel; if you can dedicate a day to Vergemoli, don't pass it up. Oh, and stop for lunch in Barga and load up on pasta because you'll burn through kilojoules at the rate Juan Pelota did epo.
1. Passo Croce
6 km, avg. 8.7%
This one's my absolute fave, and I've only been up a few times. You'll literally and figuratively die on the Cross, but its beauty guarantees your resurrection. Only a 2-hour warm-up spin from Lucca, you'll ride most of Cipollaio, 10 km pedalabile, yes pedalable before taking a right up to Croce. Mount Cipollaio from Saravezza where you'd be wise consuming a gelato or espresso before steamrolling the next 16 km of asphalt tilted upwards. So about 10-12 km on Cipollaio before the final 6 km up to the mountaintop. Not a lazybones pursuit but a view of the Promised Land never is.
Is cycling in Lucca calling your name?
Sign up for a free 61 km (1300m) super-scenic Lucca hills ride. But before you click away, have you ridden any of these climbs? Tell me in the comments below. I’m at the edge of my seat dyin’ to know.