Today would be an easy day, kind of a rest day, before some bigger things to come. Our ride was a fairly flat 39 km (24 mi) loop to visit Fonte di Folana, a family-run olive oil mill, owned and operated by Di Gaetano Michele with his wife Bianchi Marina and their sons. It was a really beautiful place, with gorgeous views all the way out to the coast. The mill, however, was in the midst of an equipment upgrade project, which Michele explained was designed help preserve the polyphenols and vitamins during the pressing process, so I don’t have many photos from our visit – but the photos on their website are definitely worth looking at.
We did, however, have a spectacular lunch outside on their balcony … and I managed to bring home 3 litres (cans) of olive oil. I figured if I had to toss all of my clothes to bring this stuff home in my suitecase, it was well worth it!
Our guides Luca and Andrea offered up directions to allow Mark and I do to some additional riding upon leaving Fonte di Folano. So we headed out with a great guy we had made friends with from NY (“Paolo”) to ride an additional loop up to the village of Castagneto Carducci – which proved to be the highlight of our day. After all of the olive oil I consumed, I figured a bit of climbing was a probably good thing. 😉
We roamed the beautiful small streets of the village for a while, Paolo and Mark were very kind to indulge all of my stopping for photos. At one point when I was about to take a shot of some colorful laundry that was hanging in a little lane, a sweet old Italian woman popped her head out of her window above me and started laughing and giggling things in Italian … I simply knew she was saying, “Oh, you silly, silly American tourists – taking pictures of my laundry of all things?! Mama Mia!”. To this minute, I would have killed to have gotten a shot of her smiling, laughing face looking down at me. Live and learn (to react faster).
Since most shops and businesses are closed each day between 12:30 – 3:00 pm, we were somewhat hard-pressed to find a place to stop for a cappucino or a Coke. We finally found a place that was open, and stopped. To discover that sitting at a nearby table was a group of young Americans, who we came to learn were travelling around Tuscany by car. They asked me to snap their photo, and very kindly reciprocated.
We (reluctantly) left this beautiful little village to head back down to the coast. The ride back was an adventure in itself, more like mountain-biking than road riding. The road was winding, fairly steep in parts, and the pavement was largely broken and rocky. But it was a blast! (And I was mostly thankful we were heading down on this road, rather than coming up it).
Throughout Tuscany there are countless religious shrines built along the roadsides. I was fascinated by all of them, but this one in particular was pretty amazing, simply because of its size. I would have loved to know what all of the symbols on the cross represented. Upon returning home, I discovered that couple of books have been published about these shrines throughout Italy and Tuscany – Shrines: Images of Italian Worship and Scenes and Shrines in Tuscany. I may have to put these on my wish-list.
For a rest day, we had a wonderful day of riding (and food, and amazing villages). And when it was all over, I did get a little R&R, poolside. 🙂