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How to pick the best bike tours in Florence

Ebike at Duomo in Florence Italy at night

A classic bike tour of Florence by day vs an electric bike tour of Florence at night

Before I tell you about the best bike tours in Florence I took on my visit to Italy and the fantastic times I had riding around this great city, I have a confession: this is not how I pictured myself cycling in Tuscany.

In my dreams I was grinding up and soaring down undulating hills in the countryside, putting my winter spin class training to use. But dreams don’t always come true. Because sometimes you arrive at your destination and find that there is a heat wave. That the “rolling” hills are a lot steeper than you imagined. And that, frankly, you’d rather see rural Tuscany from inside an air-conditioned Fiat.

Lucky for me, there are many easy and fun bike tours in Florence you can sign up for a few hours or a whole day. Here I’m reviewing two great tours to help you choose the right one for you, whether you’re looking for a classic daytime bike tour of Florence or considering an electric bike tour of Florence at night.

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Crowds on Ponte Vecchio in Florence Italy
Bike tours in Florence help you escape the crowds. Photo by Joshua Kettle on Unsplash

Why you should sign up for a bike tour in Florence

Bikes are such a great way to get around a new city. You can see way more in less time than on foot, get closer to the place than from a bus or cab, and of course the physical exercise is a healthy way to work off all that gelato and pizza. With a small group bike tour, you can also meet others staying in the same city at the same time, which is especially great when you are travelling solo.

In Florence, a bike tour is also one way to avoid the intense crowds on the sidewalks. (Sometimes, see below.) And a bike ride along the Arno River is one of life’s pleasures.

Most of the bike tours in Florence are between 2 and 3 hours long and follow a similar route around the city, taking you to the main sights — the piazzas, the bridges, e.g., but using hidden alleyways and stopping at unusual historical spots. Many include pitstops for gelato! The main difference between them is the time of day they are leaving, the type of bike and what’s included.

I took two different bike tours in Florence—one night tour on an ebike, and one day tour on a regular cruising bike. Here’s what I found and what I recommend!

Bike tours in Florence include an ebike tour to Piazzale Michelangelo at night

An ebike tour to Piazzale Michelangelo

The first reason I signed up for a bike tour in Florence was the heat. My girlfriend and I were finding it a challenge to see as much as we wanted with that August sun beating down on us during the day. So when browsing available bike tours in Florence I spotted a listing for “E-Bike Night Tour with stunning view from Piazzale Michelangelo” and knew that would a lot more comfortable!

Piazzale Michelangelo is a scenic lookout just south of the city centre on the south bank of the Arno River. It’s easy to spot from below—there’s a bronze copy of Michelangelo’s David you can see from afar, plus crowds of people enjoying the views. Most people drive up. Or hike up. But we biked up!

Our ebike tour of Florence started in the early evening in a cute alleyway in the heart of the city at a bike rental shop. This was actually my first time getting on an e-bike, so I was relieved that they gave us beginner instructions and time to try out the ebike and get used to it before taking off on the tour. Then zoom-zoom, away we went!

An e-bike tour of Florence is a great option for people travelling together with different physical abilities. Because each person controls the amount of electric “assist” on their own bike. And you can cover more ground — and more hills!

English 300*250

Following our guide along the river using bike paths, then crossing over the Ponte di San Niccolò, we arrived at the bottom of a long and winding tree-lined road. With the ebike, it was an easy climb to the Piazzale Michelangelo and quickly we were looking down at all of Florence.

What a scene! A live band played some Italian songs I do not know but the crowds certainly did—there was singing, and dancing, and such happy good vibes. Our tour stopped long enough to could grab a snack or drink from food trucks, or just stand at the edge of the plaza and enjoy the sweeping views.

Bike tours in Florence stop at the major historic sites.

It was just as fun to ride the ebike back down into the city. Our guide took us across a different bridge and through the narrow streets of Florence, which are quite flat. I turned off the electric assist and enjoyed the feeling of pedalling past such glorious sites as the Basilica of Santa Croce and the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, with its famous red duomo. Along the way, our guide shared vivid stories of the history of Florence, including its long-time rivalry with Siena.  

Photo by Vitaliy Burlaka via Unsplash

Taking a bike tour of Florence at night was a really special experience. This is an extremely popular and crowded city, but it didn’t feel that way at night. And doing it on an ebike meant I could save my stamina for the next day’s sightseeing and shopping.

This tour lasts about 2 hours and cost us 55Euro. They have bike helmets for adults and children. And it does include a gelato! It runs nightly from May to September. Check the dates and rates here.

I recommend this tour for anyone who: needs or wants a break from the summer heat, wants to try an ebike in a safe environment with an experienced bike guide, is with friends or family who can’t ride a traditional bike, wants to see a lot of Florence at night, or is too busy with activities during the day.

I have no negatives to this tour but if you’re looking for more of a physical challenge or want to visit sites outside the city centre, this might not be the best one for you.

Green Bike in an alleyway in Florence Italy
Photo by Bianca Bauza via Unsplash

A classic bike tour of Florence

I still wanted to experience one of the classic bike tours of Florence so the next day I also signed up with Florencetown’s I Bike Florence Original Bike Tour.

This time, I’d be going out during the day on a cruiser bike. These comfortable upright rides sometimes called Dutch Bikes have just one gear, and are meant for leisurely cycling on mostly flat terrain. They also have a cute vintage style, with a front basket.

Because of the heat situation, I chose the earliest tour, leaving at 10am. I joined a group of several couples from different European countries. We were all cycling enthusiasts, but you don’t need a lot of experience you just need the basics to enjoy this tour—be comfortable riding a bicycle slowly, and near city traffic.

This bike tour passes many of the most important sites in central Florence, so requires a bit more patience with crowds. Florence has many useful bike lanes along the river, and across the bridges, but in the narrow streets of the core, I was thankful for our tour guide, to navigate us safely using less busy areas.

Bicycle in Florence Italy

Once again, we had a guide with great storytelling abilities. Even though we passed by monuments I’d already visited on the ebike tour, or with my friend, I enjoyed learning new details from this guide, and seeing things from a different perspective.

This bike tour of Florence also took us to the south side of the Arno, into Oltrarno. This neighbourhood has its own historic sites, like Palazzo Pitti, but is best known today as the “cool” part of the city, with small boutiques and bohemian bars. We stopped here for one of the best features of this tour: gelato! This sweet treat is included in the price, and the guide helped us choose from the many traditional flavours. So good!

Gelato in Italy

Unfortunately for me, the icy gelato was not enough to combat the sickness I was feeling from what was already by noon a punishing heat. I had to cut my ride short. They were kind and supportive of my situation. Because I was confident in the route back to the tour operator’s shop I took my leave and quickly returned the bike before retreating indoors to my hotel. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit, considering how easy this ride is, but I mention it to explain that Florencetown (and most tour operators) do have procedures and options if for any reason you can’t continue with your bike ride.

This tour lasts 2.5 hours and costs 45Euros. They run up to three times per day in high season, but also offer tours all year-round.

I recommend this tour for anyone who: just arrived in Florence and wants a good orientation of the major areas and sites, loves riding a cruiser bike, is visiting in the off season, or travelling with children (they provide child seats for kids up to 3 for free, and provide discounts for kids aged 4 to 12).

One caveat to my high recommendation is that we did encounter some crowded areas, including crossing the famous Ponte Vecchio and a few of the side streets. I ride in Toronto traffic regularly so this didn’t bother me but if you are uncomfortable riding a bike through crowds, consider if that’s right for you.

Florence Italy

Some general tips for bike tours

Small group guided bike tours are a fun and convenient way to see great cities. But there are some things to look out for to make sure you pick a good one.

  • You want the right bike, and a good quality bike. Look for tour operators that specify what kind of bike you’ll be riding.
  • If you’re going to be out for any length of time they should also ask you for your height, to make sure they have the right size set aside for you.
  • Arrive on time, or even early, to test out the bike they give you before taking off on the ride. Just a few seconds ride will tell you that the brakes are working, the seat is properly adjusted, the tires are pumped, etc. Do not be shy to ask for these things to be fixed. The guides can do this quickly.
  • One reality of the business is that they get new bikes at the start of the season. So the further away you are from that, the more likely the bikes may be a bit beat up. I took a city bike tour once in November and we left 15 minutes late because it took a while to locate functioning bikes for everyone. It wasn’t the worst problem, but be aware.
  • Your guide should be carrying basic repair supplies. I took a tour once where two different bikes got flat tires, while we were away from the city centre in a park. Our guide was carrying replacement tubes and and a repair kit, so we weren’t delayed too badly. That said…
  • Don’t book something immediately after your bike tour. Delays like those mentioned above can happen and you may find yourself running short. If you do have a reservation or ticket for something, do let the guide know at the start of the tour.
Endless Possibilities
Photo by Josh Clemono via Unsplash

Personally, I book these at the last minute, so that I can pick the right day and time based on the weather. In a big city, there are many bike tour options so the risk of not finding one is low, especially if you’re travelling alone.

Finally, be aware that these city sightseeing bike tours do not enter any of the sights. And that they don’t involve a lot of actual cycling. Ha. These are more like a walking tour—you bike from one stop to another, take some pictures, hear some stories, have a snack, then bike to the next one. If that sounds like a very nice time, be sure to book a bike tour on your next city adventure!  

Happy riding!

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