built on a rock: Sassetta
First let me say – rest assured, the Italy stuff is nearly over, I promise. But thank you for hanging in there, as this has really been the easiest way for me to share with my boys at school, some family and friends.
So … today would be the best cycling day of the trip – if there really could be such a thing? And I mean that by the cycling; the ride was spectacular. Today’s route would be roughly 75 km (46 mi) with some cycle-perfect climbing. We were leaving coastal Marina di Castagneto and heading to our next agrihotel, the beautiful Montebelli, in Caldana. More on that later.
Our ride took us up once again through the village of Castagneto Carducci (where we had taken a detour to see yesterday afternoon), and then up into the hills to the village of Sassetta – the name stemming from the Italian word sasso, meaning for “stone” or “rock”.
Although I am typically not much of a climber, this was a climb I absolutely loved. An scenic 8-10 km uphill with that perfect cycling grade … just find that comfortable gear, get into a rhythm, and enjoy the view!
You may wonder: why were all of these small villages built high up (and rather precariously) on the hill/mountain tops? We were told that long ago, the low-lying regions of Tuscany we fairly inhospitable; largely marshlands, malarial, not “healthy”. So to escape the unhealthy air, villages were built high in the hills, where the air was fresh, leaving the mosquitos and pests down below. It wasn’t until centuries later that the lowlands were drained, and the agriculture that we know today was introduced.
If I had thought the ride up was fun, let’s just say the descent was even more so. Long sweeping turns, the perfect grade, stunning views – and basically too much fun to stop, even for photos. Along the way we saw a number of people heading into the mountain woods with baskets. We guessed that they were mushroom hunting, as it was peak season for porcinis. (It almost made me stop …).
Once again, down from the hills, it was pleasant cycling through more small towns, vineyards and local agriculture. And, of course, the afternoon stop for gelatto.
Somewhere around the town of Bagno di Gavorrano, we came across this billboard. I figured you all could use a laugh by now … And let me say that Mark did not put me up to this. (No wisecracks from the peanut gallery, ok?).
A last little bit of uphill before arriving at the beautiful inn of Montebelli. And what is the end to a perfect day of Tuscan cycling? You probably guessed by now – a spectacular local, organic, delectable dinner. Buon appetito!