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Posts tagged ‘village’

l’ultimo giorno di bicycling

ancient archway; agritourismo outside of Castiglione della Pescaia

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.

 

 

Mark and Paolo on the road to the coast

 

a lighthouse, a fisherman, and his bicycle
the fisherman’s bicycle

 

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.

the cobble streets of Castiglione della Pescaia
daily life – by foot
I am convinced, without a doubt, that Italian people possess a far superior version of the “drive-thru”

 

 

chimney cat

 

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.

 

I decided to add a little "turbo" to my helmet 😉

 

 

the village of Caldana

 

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.

 

exploring the village of Caldana

 

 

rooftops of Caldana and the patchwork landscape of 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.

 

rainbow over the Montebelli oak tree

 

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”! 😀

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?

navigating

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