The last day of cycling – l’ultimo giorno. We had seen so much, yet at the same time, we had barely scratched the surface of the beauty and the adventures of cycling through Tuscany. Today, we would have an easy (50 km) ride down to the coastal town of Castiglione della Pescaia – a charming fishing village dating back to medieval times. As a defense against pirate attacks, the oldest parts of the village were built within a stone fortress, high upon the coastal hillside. Yeah, it was amazing.
The skies were clouding over, and we would have a bit of rain later in the day, but the riding weather was comfortably cool and the scenery was beautiful – as always, rain or shine.
We arrived at Castiglione della Pescaia and had been advised to park the bikes and walk the village by foot. Which proved to be very good advice, as the streets were very narrow and very steep.
After lunch, we (reluctantly) left the village and headed back toward Caldana and agrihotel Montebelli. We got rained on (a little bit), but had much fun – and a few laughs – along the way, riding with our friend Paolo.
Arriving back at the agrihotel with a little extra time, Mark and I decided to take a hike up into the Montbelli olive groves and up to their family oak tree that sits high on a hilltop and offers a beautiful view of the surrounding valleys, their organic orchards and gardens, and the nearby village of Caldana.
The oak tree has a very special meaning to the Montebelli family. Allesandro Montebelli and his family shared with us some of the stories about their decisions to care for and develop their land in a sustainable manner, their commitment to organics and solar, and the spiritual connection they feel with their homeplace and the great old oak tree at the top of the hill. As Giulio Montebelli told me, “The oak tree is a sacred place for us, we all go there for the great views and, more importantly, to find an intimate space for connection with the world and the ones we care for.”
Montebelli became a very special place to us as well, a beautiful and inspiring part of Tuscany that we will never forget and hope to return to someday.
After visiting the oak tree, we walked up to the village of Caldana – in the rain. I think that somehow, with the low clouds and wet cobbles, it may have been more beautiful in the rain than in the sunshine? We made our way through the labyrinth of streets, trying to absorb our last moments in this small and beautiful village – the atmosphere that we had come to love throughout our time in Tuscany.
As we left Caldana to walk back to Montebelli in a light rain, the most amazing thing happened. The sun very briefly appeared, creating a rainbow – a rainbow that just happened to “land” upon the sacred oak tree on the Montebelli hilltop. I think that both Mark and I were speechless for that moment. Could it be a sign? I can’t say.
We began our days of cycling in Tuscany by riding under a rainbow, and ended our trip with the rainbow at Montebelli. We didn’t really need a sign to know that our experience in Tuscany – from the places we visited to the people met – was a gift to be cherished.
We would spend a day in Rome before returning home, but at this point I think I will spare everyone any more photo essays since there wasn’t any biking involved. If you are at all interested, the “final cut” of Italy photos can be viewed on FlickrRiver – which is the easiest way to scroll through them, and on a beautiful black background. The Rome photos should be up within the next few days. (Personally, I recommend viewing them on FlickrRiver in the large size for the best resolution and detail.) Whatever.
Coming soon … an overdue update on #330daysofbiking and some other local bicycling stuff. Meanwhile, thanks to friends and family who have been patient with me through all of the Italy adventures; I am grateful for your comments and putting up with the “vacation photos”! 😀