Hello again 🙂
Alright, so trip to Venice is behind us, the Monday immediately following started up our first blown-out crazy-busy week of classes, Wednesday night we had the concert, and now we’ve hit the weekend and the first day of October.
Which is glorious.
By this point I’ve had standing reservations for a week to meet up with Katie, Leah, Kari and Willi to go on a 13-mile bike tour through Chianti, so it’s out the door fairly early on this Saturday morning and a nice leisurely walk down to the office of Tuscany Bike Tours. Ours is one of several groups that are going, so we’re all separated into 3 clusters for the vans and off we go.
It’s a 40-minute drive out of the city to the start point of the tour, and we are reminded along the way that the Chianti area is…hilly. Very seriously swoopy, swervy, up-down etc.
(Just so you know, that’s a drop-off past those bushes. In Chianti, everything is a drop-off past the bushes.)
So, driving out, first thought is that the hills make for ridiculously stunning scenery. Second thought is that I really hope I’m not in over my head here; I’ve been on a bike, yes, and I love bike riding, but I live in Iowa. The roads are, by and large, flatter than a crushed crepe, I have never really had to bother with gears at all, and I probably don’t have the right muscles in place for this.
…Oh well, excited anyway : )
After a while our attention is directed to a castle on top of a hill. This hill, and that castle:
This would be the starting point.
It’s a 12th century castle (the Castello di Poppiano), and it’s been in the count’s family for generations. Because yes, apparently a count and countess still live there.
…Life must be magnificent for some people.
Anyway, the castle is now home to the estate’s wine and olive oil business, and we got a tour of this before heading out on the bikes. (And btw, there are several bike tour organizations that go through Chianti and include wine tastings, but this is the only one that does theirs in a castle. Just saying.)
Further by the way, that guy in the right-hand pic would be Andy, one of the two people (the other being Keith) who run Tuscany Bike Tours. Andy is Scottish, Keith is Irish, both are very nice, very funny and all-around excellent tour guides that now receive the official Thumbs-Up Seal of Approval : )
Up to the top of the castle for a look at that-there view —
— and back down to the courtyard for a tasting of one of the Chianti wines and a sampling of olive oil on bread. The olive oil is the best I’ve tasted, and everybody praised the Chianti, but all the latter did for me was give me more confirmation that I just don’t care for wine myself. *sigh,* guess I will have to become some other type of alcoholic.
Those who wanted to buy souvenirs were taken through the shop, and then we all met at the back door of the castle (man, the things this trip makes me say), where we were introduced to our bikes.
The bikes were labeled. I got Batman.*
A quick run-down of safety stuff, they explain gears to a simpleton in a sentence and a half, we are given helmets and water bottles, and they show us the bag/baskets on the back of the bikes. And we’re off! With a little moment of dread as we huff and puff our way up the driveway!
–But it’s all good! The first 40 minutes or so are pretty much all down-hill, flying through little towns and around bends and OMG IT’S AWESOME.
And just like that, first x-number of miles is over and it’s lunchtime.
Over the 10 years they’ve been doing this, Keith and Andy have built up a relationship with the family who runs the restaurant they take us to, just as they’ve built up a relationship with the count’s family. It’s a restaurant well out in the country, the atmosphere is very comfortable, we get lots of options for food, and everything is, as per usual, delicious.
On we go again, now influenced by both the wine from earlier (of which some had more than others) and very full stomachs. Which are actually not a problem — another group of American girls on this bike ride was just picking at their food, worrying aloud about the calories, but our group just got down to business, put it all away like nothing, and walked out good to go. As somebody said, we’ll need to enter some eating contests after this.**
And now we’re up against the scary uphill part — which is not bad at all. We are led around the bottom of the hill, up a gentle incline that we’ve got a half hour to do, and then there’s one very steep section of road that is, as it turns out, optional. Anyone who doesn’t want to to do it can take the van up, and we absolutely went with ‘smart’ instead of ‘brave.’ (All of us, that is, except Katie, but she’s just a badass and doesn’t count ; )
We ride for another half hour or so, and then it’s over — one of the very best days I’ve had here. The ride felt great, the weather was perfect (and seriously, if you end up in a position to do something like this, do not go while it is still hot), and we give our profuse thanks to Keith as he drops us back off in Florence.
Just a note, though: if you come here and do end up able and willing to do this (and you should absolutely do this if you can budget it in), I’d suggest you go with Tuscany Bike Tours and NOT with I Bike Italy. They are not the same, no matter how much I.B.I. wants to make it seem otherwise.
And again, that’s Tuscany Bike Tours.
So! There’s last Saturday, and I still want to throw out a little about this past week, so we’ll see if I can get that in tonight or tomorrow. But dinner and emails first, so in case I don’t get the chance to say it later, have a good Friday : D
*Other bike names included Marilyn Monroe, Tarzan, and Yo Mama. Yes, the jokes were made.
**Btw, as far as the food, just thought I’d mention that across the ACM group as a whole, any weight gain has been completely negligible. If you doubt this, please go back through these posts and add up all the times I say we’re walking. And then add in all those times I don’t bother to mention it because it’s just a fact of life.