l’ultimo giorno di bicycling
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”! 😀
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Once again I feel like I just took a quick trip through Italy…..and with a professional photographer accompanying me. So beautiful. You’ve got some amazing memories and photos to go along with them.
What stunning photos! I travelled through Italy, but not by bike. I hope to go back some time to do that, and your photos have cemented that idea further.
Thank you. 🙂 I hope you get to go again – and on your bike. It was such a wonderful way to explore.
Wonderful photos; wonderful stories. Definitely an inspiration to tour Tuscany. Thank you.
Thank you – appreciate you reading along, and hope you will get to ride there yourself. 🙂
It’s good that you said this was your last biking day, since I’m not sure how much more I can take of that gorgeous scenery! Can you imagine being able to live in a place like that and biking there every single day??! That black chimney cat is so cute!
I made the mistake of looking through your Flickriver photos and now I’m hungry again 🙂 What did you think of Rome? Seeing your photos of Florence I realize just how different they are!
LOL, Traci – thank you! It would definitely be a perfect place to live as a cyclist, because it seems like nearly everyone cycles!
I’ve been trying to recreate some of the food we so enjoyed, but while I have the olive oil, I just can’t get my hands on the amazing mushrooms they had as well as a few other things. Not to mention the gelato part, hah!
As for Rome, I was a bit conflicted. The pure history of the place was incredible, of course – the ruins, the classic sites, the Vatican … but I have to admit that I just didn’t love it as much as being in the small villages and countryside. Rome was packed with tourists, as well as too many Roman operators trying to take advantage of the situation. Where I found the people to be friendly and helpful throughout Tuscany (including Florence), we encountered a few Romans who were clearly trying to rip us off. And like you said, I thought Florence was much more charming and very different. It might be an unfair review of Rome, but I think I was truly spoiled by our days beforehand. I guess I can use this as my excuse to have to return to re-evaluate. 😉
Your pictures are fabulous. We did this same tour the week after you for our 30th anniversary. What an unbelievable time. Your pictures are the first I’ve seen that capture the feeling of what it was really like. Thank you.
Thank you so much, Michael … and congrats on 30 years! It was indeed an unforgettable experience, and I’m glad you understand – it is too hard to capture how amazing it really was. Great to hear from you. Happy holidays!