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built on a rock: Sassetta



the medieval town of Sassetta, built on a rock cliff


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.


between Castagneto Carducci and Sassetta - the vistas were stunning


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.

approaching Sassetta

cliffside, Sassetta

resting place, heavenly view

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.


Tuscan farm


I have never seen sheep with straight, silky fleece like this - wish I knew what breed?

I have never seen sheep with straight, silky fleece like this - wish I knew what breed?


evidence that I really do ride a bike (& not just take pictures)

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?).

lost in translation (?)

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!


dinner at Montebelli



Posted by savaconta on October 14, 2010
  1. 10/14/2010

    The sheep might be Lincoln, which is a very straight fleece. Apparently no fun at all to spin.

    But my goodness, what an amazing trip, I am living vicariously through your photos, and reminding myself how much Tuscany looks like the wine country in Northern, Ca.

    • 10/14/2010

      Thanks, R … I think biking in CA wine country is going to have to be on my list as well. I didn’t see much in the way of yarn shops, knitting – which kind of surprised me. Only one little shop in a village, selling some knit muffler kind of things, but rather outrageously priced, imo. Oh well.

  2. 10/14/2010

    Jealous. I don’t think there’s another word for it. Maybe “envy”? Yeah, that works too.

    • 10/14/2010

      Don’t be jealous … we have Red Clay. 😉 And, please forgive me – I am definitely posting that TDOT link soon (I did tweet it). Thanks for that! We have to arrange our long overdue bike picnic … I am so behind. {-P

  3. 10/18/2010

    Wow that is some serious riding! And so so beautiful. I want some of those sheep 🙂

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