Trek Travel president Tania Burke recently explained why she thinks Tuscany is the best place to take an Italy bike tour. I couldn’t agree more. Tuscany combines amazing scenery, outstanding food and wine, and some of the world’s friendliest people. One can tour Tuscany by bus, or see it in a car, but the only way to really experience it is on a bike.

Let’s start with scenery. On a bike, you don’t just view the landscape, you feel it. In your calves and thighs, of course, but you also become aware of the breezes, can savor the aromas of flowers in bloom or bread just coming out of the oven in the village paneterria, and can hear the laughter of children kicking a soccer ball or the peal of a church bell in the distance. You aren’t just an observer of the landscape, you are connected to it in a way that the typical tourist never is.

Maybe it’s the effort that cycling takes that makes the food and wine taste so much better. Or maybe it’s the guilt-free knowledge that you are burning off the calories just as fast as you are taking them on. How wonderful it is to indulge in pasta and wine for a week and not put on any weight!

Traveling by bike is a great way to connect with people, too. On a 2009 trip with Trek Travel our group started the day at Lido di Camaiore on the coast just north of Pisa. We climbed up a series of hills as we headed east and were rewarded by ever more dramatic views of the Ligurian Sea. We stopped in a little village at the crest of a ridge to check our maps and regroup. I noticed that the older gentleman sitting on a stone bench seemed to be eyeing us curiously. He motioned for me to join him, but as I did he saw the sweat pouring off my body and made a big deal about shifting to the far end of the bench, clearly conveying the notion that I was untouchable. On impulse, I slid right next to him. His reaction was captured in this photo. Despite the differences in culture, age, and language, we made a human connection that afternoon. It was just another Trek Travel moment, but the memory will last a lifetime.