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Together at Tuscany Camp

Discover the hidden gem of Tuscany Camp, where world-class runners train and live, creating a running family led by Giuseppe Giambrone.

foggy morning tuscan countryside
A foggy morning in the Tuscan countryside.

“Oscar sleeps here. You two guys sleep upstairs.” Oscar is Oscar Chelimo fresh winner of the 5,000 meters bronze medal at the World Championships in Budapest this summer and this is Giuseppe Giambrone talking. For him, living with Olympians and World Champions is normal. For us, it is not. Over the next two days, we will get used to it.

We first heard about Tuscany Camp two years ago when we saw the Italian trail running team having a week-long training camp there. As athletics neophytes, we asked ourselves what exactly Tuscany Camp was and why trail runners had a camp in Tuscany and not in the Alps. Fast forward to October 2023, we have been invited by On, which now supports the Camp, to discover what Giuseppe Giambrone created in San Rocco A Pilli.

Olympic Road Tuscany Camp
View of the Olympic Road deep in the wood.

2,579 people live in San Rocco A Pilli, a hamlet of Sovicille just 5 minutes away from Siena, of which 25 of them are world-class runners, regularly competing in the World Championships and Olympics. “This is the home of the champions. It has always been, but now with the Camp we are bringing it to another level.” This is one of the mantras that Giuseppe Giambrone repeats to anyone asking him: why here? When he was a teenager, he visited his brother who lived here at the time and he had his epiphany about running. He saw how everyone was tuned in with the sport while racing at a local Festa dello Sport. If many know this area of Tuscany for the white roads, the cypresses, the wine, and the villas, few know that world-class runners trained and lived here for the past 30 years. The area breaths running everywhere. We were among the many before meeting Giuseppe.

Old and new coexist at the Camp. The athletes live in an eighteenth-century villa overseeing the countryside and arranged to serve their needs. The hi-tech gym is located in the old wine cellar. The trophy room is the stalls. “This is because I want my athletes to remain humble” jokes Giuseppe while he shows what he built during the last 10 years. He had been through a lot before seeing his idea coming together like it is now. While driving past Hotel Castello just outside town, he slows the vans down to point out the first location of Tuscany Camp: a big room in an anonymous hotel in the Italian province. “That’s the room where Jacob Kiplimo slept when he moved here”. Medals and records were built from that room as they are today from the beautiful villa. Giuseppe reinforces that the strength is in living and training together without worrying about anything else.

oscar chelimo runners
The athletes before the run.

Sundays are rest days usually, but this week Giuseppe accommodates the schedule for us. While sitting in the van through the morning fog, we get one fact after the other about the area: the best training routes, the car maker who shot its TV ad here or there along the road, who is the next big star at the Camp, the locations of famous movies produced here and more. If we do not interrupt him with our questions, we feel he could go on forever. This is what happens when you talk about something you love, right? Giuseppe tirelessly answers our questions while keeping everyone on track for the upcoming training session. If someone has a problem and doesn’t know what to do or how to do it, he calls him. He is the Coach after all. “Hey, Coach. Coach!. Yes, Coach”

The Olympic Road is a 7.5-kilometer straight dirt road crossing coasting Riserva Naturale Alto Merse a few kilometers south of San Rocco A Pilli. This is the area where L'Eroica, the iconic dirt road cycling race takes place, an ideal paradise for cyclists from around the world. Today, the workout is easy pace for everyone. “Run as much as you want, if you are tired we’ll pick you up with the van. Enjoy!” We think that the “as much as you want” only applies to us, not to his athletes. Giuseppe leads the pre-run drills making sure we are all set. Then, we find ourselves sharing the road with world-class athletes. Oscar Chelimo. Yohanes Chiappinelli. Francine Niyomukunzi. Mohamed Amine Jhinaoui. Olivier Irabaruta. Just to name a few. But how did these athletes arrive in the middle of Tuscany?

Mileage mark Olympic Road
Giuseppe places marks every 500 meters along the Olympic Road to facilitate training.

The 25 athletes currently at Tuscany Camp live here full-time and they are supported in all the aspects of their training. Since 2022, On supported the Camp, enabling Giuseppe to fully develop his venture how he always envisioned it. Athletes have full support from the brand and, a selected group has a direct partnership with the Swiss brand. They have access to two gyms, a swimming pool, a medical lab, travel and accommodation to races, a dedicated manager, and anything else they need. The mantra Run-Rest-Repeat becomes reality here. While we wander around the villa in between workouts, small talks, and interviews, we notice how athletes hang out and chill looking for the most relaxed people on earth. This is what professional athletes do: train and rest. Tuscany Camp brings this mantra to its highest. Here, you find the same environment and atmosphere you see when European or American athletes train in Kenya. You are cut off from anything that is not running. Athletes confirm it too. “The hills, the trees, the weather are very similar to where I am from. We cook our food. The Camp is not that different from where we come from”

runners drills tuscany camp
Athletes getting ready for a track session.

Indeed, most of the athletes come from Uganda and Burundi, two countries with barely any presence in athletics 10 years ago while now they are at the top of the sport. Tuscany Camp is a great part of both successful stories. “I decided to focus on these two countries because I felt they had a huge potential. These guys come from villages without running water and electricity. Here they find a new home where they can work on their talent”. In 2014, Uganda was the first country in which Giuseppe put his effort into embarking on a journey from village to village in search of the best runners to bring to Tuscany. Then, Burundi and, in the end, Italy. Yes, Italy. Giuseppe’s latest challenge is proving that Italians can run fast like the Africans. “The problem with Italians is that they don’t believe they can run fast. In reality, nothing suggests they can’t do it.”

In these words, there is a lot of Giuseppe’s approach to training. As he confesses while eating pici al ragù at La Piazzetta Bar Osteria Pizzeria, there is no secret formula. No secret workout. No secret lactate measurement. His athletes are all extraordinary humans to which standard rules do not apply. “You have to understand the person: how he reacts to the workout, what he likes and doesn’t like, how you can stimulate him. He can look dead after the workout, but you know that tomorrow he will be ready to push hard again. Then there is someone else who is not like this." If you are at Tuscany Camp, Giuseppe saw something in you. It is not just running fast - “everyone has two legs and can run fast” - it is a special talent that motivates you to go faster and further.

Francine Niyomukunzi running tuscany
Francine Niyomukunzi on the dirt track.

While observing Giuseppe’s daily routine, we realize that he masters bringing people together. He has a close relationship with everyone, from the athletes to his collaborators. Everyone trusts him and he trusts everyone to be fully dedicated to the cause. “Here I built a big family. Everyone does something. It doesn’t matter if you won a medal last weekend. If you have to clean the bathroom, you have to do it. You can’t let others down.” Runners benefit from running together, living together, and sharing their journey made of highs and lows. You are not alone in your bad days. Everyone cheers for you on your good days. This is what Tuscany Camp means.

As we get together for a final dinner, Giuseppe becomes emotional talking about how his partnership with On came together. Everyone in the room is looking at him with sparkles in their eyes. Everyone is here because of him. “I finally found someone who trusts me after all these years. I found a lot of closed doors. Now, I found a partner and a family, like mine.” Giuseppe and the brand’s philosophies when it comes to athletes have always been the same: don't go for the big stars, but develop young athletes. Don’t go with the numbers but with the people. As Simon Rugut, the first athlete who traveled from Uganda put it “When I moved here, I changed my life completely and now I feel I am somewhere.” In the end, Giuseppe’s secret might not be that hidden.


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