Italy · 18 Days · 18 Moments · September 2016

Italy Bike and Hike

3 October 2016

Monday: Got up REAL early for a very early flight home. It was hard to leave beautiful Italy and Florence. Our first trip to Italy with our great friends Kitty and Bob comes to an end. It was our first trip to Italy but will not be our last!

1 October 2016

Sunday: More touring Florence – went a bit more on the outskirts of Florence. Went to the Boboli Gardens and then walked up to a fort overlooking Florence. The view of the city was really special. Walked down through some cool castle ruins. Dinner in Florence at our favorite place again!

30 September 2016

Saturday: After a breakfast all together, we left our beautiful Tuscan Villa for a train ride back to Florence. We end our trip with some extra time touring Florence. Susan’s back hurt the entire time in Tuscany but did not bother her on that great ebike. Lots of Advil also helped! In Florence, we did a small museum tour – even the small museums are great. Then back to dinner at the fantastic place Tim and Donna recommended.
Friday: After breakfast we depart by bike from the villa. First stop is San Quirico, an Etruscan origin village with a superb example of the Italian garden: the Horti Leonini. Then we pass through Asciano and Le crete area, with strange rock formations and lone farmhouse flanked by twin cypress tree. We cycle through vineyards and forest and stop just short of Siena. We take the vans into Siena due to heavy traffic areas. Enjoyed all the Siena sites to include the shell shape square where the Palio horserace is run. Had lunch in town on our own. We drove back to the villa and went out for our farewell dinner at restaurant at la bandita townhouse. Biked 30 miles.

29 September 2016

Thursday: We start again from villa to Radicofani, a medieval and enchanting village with a 1000 year Rocca, one of the most impressive fortresses in Tuscany. Then we enjoyed the downhill ride back to the valley: our destination is the Mulino Val d’Orcia! It rises along Francigena road near the old Spedaletto Castle, shelter for wayfarers which, in the Middle Ages, wanted to get to Rome from all over Europe in the XV century. Castle was readapted in a granary, a real fortified farm. We visited the stone mill and have a hands-on cooking lesson about hand rolled pasta of this region: the pici . We also learned the classic aglione sauce: tomato and spring garlic and after have the lunch under the pergola – short ride back to the villa. Shorter and only rolling hills with more beautiful views. Rode to Montepulciano and then went for a wine tour and tasting. Biked 24 miles.

28 September 2016

Wednesday: After breakfast, we left by bike from the villa and reached Montepulciano after a few uphills, once here the ride continued with a long nice downhill and was flat in “the Val di Chiana” once a swampy lowland, except for the final HUGE climb to reach the old town on the hill Cortona: one of Italy's oldest towns. The first set of city walls were built by the Etruscans in the 4th century BC. It became famous by Frances Mayes in her bestselling book “Under the Tuscan sun” also a movie!! Dinner at Dopolavoro della Foce. Very nice ride today to the wonderful city of Cortona and it was great to see some of the scenery from "Under the Tuscan Sun". Was a nice time to reflect on the great memories shared with our good friend Bill Keely. Biked 28 miles.

27 September 2016

Tuesday: Montalcino & Brunello First stop is the ancient Roman spa of Bagno Vignoni. Legend has it that Saint Catherine and Pope Pius II both bathed in the thermal waters here. You can take off your shoes and dip your toes in the rivulets that come warm from the earth. Also had a short visit to Romanesque abbey of Sant’Antimo that dates back to the time of Charlemagne. The hill town (aren’t they all hill towns – YES) is very famous for Brunello wine made with the Sangiovese Grosso grape and aged a minimum of four years. End of ride at Ciacci Piccolomini for a Wine tasting, savored brunello wine and learned about the aging. Another great day in Tuscany! A good ride followed by a tour and tasting at a cheese farm and then finishing the day with cooking lessons. Biked 36 miles.

26 September 2016

Monday : Pienza, Montepulciano First stage is Pienza, a pristine Renaissance jewel created in 1458 and of course, at the top of a hill. This comment will be found a lot in this narrative! So happy that Susan has an ebike and that Mark is on his own. Pope Pius II chose the famous Florentine architect Rossellino to transform his home village of Corsignano into one of the few examples left of 15th century architecture. The main product is pecorino, the delicious pungent cheese made using only sheep milk – continue to next village Montepulciano known as the Pearl of the Sixteenth Century, do not miss the visit at underground wine cellar and have a short taste “nobile” wine. Back in the saddle last stop in the village of Monticchiello, the quintessential Tuscan (big) hill town. Bold cypress trees line our route to the Orcia valley where you bike through the fields that inspired Renaissance painters. Learned to make pasta by hand. Biked 32 miles.

25 September 2016

Sunday: Welcome to Val d'Orcia We took the train out of Florence and a Private van transfer to the country house, 14 km from Pienza, in time for the welcome pool side aperitivo and bike fitting session. The house (really a villa) is gorgeous. The 4 of us are in the upstairs area with our own living space. It is very nice. We planned to ride our tandem, but were very happy to find out that the Cicloposse Bike company had an ebike for Susan and a road bike for Mark. We would quickly learn that these are much better options than the tandem would have been. Then we had a very nice welcome dinner at La Cantina della Porta. Seems like a great group – there are 12 of us with 4 guides.

24 September 2016

Started our day with a full day guided tour of Florence. Our guide was a Florence native with an art history background – pretty good qualification for a Florence guide! We started the tour at the gallery academia where we were the first group in to the museum. Among other things, this museum houses the David which is what we saw first – absolutely huge and magnificent. It was so cool to see it from all sides without crowds. There were many other Michaelaglo sculptures there as well. We then went into the Duomo. Funny, it seems much smaller inside than it appears on the outside. After walking around the city our next stop was the Ponte Vecchio. It was interesting with lots of shops and many, many people. Next to the Uffizi Gallery – another great museum where we saw several Michaelanglo paintings as well as other great artists. Finished off the afternoon with a glass of wine in the shadow of the Duomo (again). What a great place to sit and sip wine!

23 September 2016

Day 7 | Arrivederci to Cinque Terre! After breakfast, we took the train to La Spezia for a ride back to Florence. Hurt my back in the shower. Funny story – sat next to a guy at the train station whose first comment to me was “Hurt your back, huh?”. Guess I had too much Ben Gay on my back… Had a free day in Florence – we walked around the magnificent Duomo, had wine while watching the people walk by, and enjoyed the day. Florence is a beautiful city!

22 September 2016

Day 6 | Hike the Monte Capri 4.5 Hours After breakfast, we went out for a final hike in the Cinque Terre! From Manarola, we start this walk up (but of course) to Monte Capri. Along the walk we saw a fallen menhir almost 4 meters high. We continue the hike up to the top of Monte Capri, and then started the decent towards Groppo, where we enjoyed a visit to a wine cellar complete with a wine tasting. Then, we walked all the way down to Manarola. Stayed again in the same lodging. We also hiked around the beautiful little island of Palmaria. Distance: 7.5 miles; 4.5 hours hiking, elev change: 2323 ft.

21 September 2016

Day 5 | Hike Manarola to Portovenere After breakfast, we took a train to Riomaggiore (2 minutes train ride) After passing through the narrow street of Riomaggiore, the last village of the Cinque Terre, we started climbing toward the “Madonna di Montenero Sanctuary. Between the colors and the perfume of the rosemary, the myrtle and the arbutus, we reached the mountain village of Campiglia. The walk ended in Portovenere, one of the most fascinating village of the Ligurian coastline. We took a boat trip back to Manarola with a splendid view of the coast from the sea (50 minutes). We got our daily dose of great views and pictures of Susan’s slow climbing. Beautiful trail from Manarola to Porto Venere. Confession: today we didn't earn our hiking merit badge - we took a bus part way up the morning climb. We still got our money's worth and no complaints! Distance: 8.7 miles; 5 hours hiking, elev change:2133 ft.

20 September 2016

Day 4 | Hike Vernazza to Manarola. After breakfast, we took a private transfer to Vernazza. (40 minutes). Vernazza is a tiny coastal village where the muletrack starts in the direction of the terraced vineyards. Initially passing through the olive trees and lush oak forest, we finally reached the perched village of Corniglia. After visiting its historical center, we kept following the stairs and the cobblestone path until Volastra. After that we hiked to the charming seaside town of Manarola, the fourth of the Cinque Terre via a walk among the agave and lemon trees. This night, we stayed in Manarola. This was a very scenic and challenging hike today from Vernazza to Manarola(so far, they all are)! Steep climb at the start rewarded with great views and a nice, scary stretch along the ridgeline. Once again, we earned our pasta, wine and gelato rewards! Distance: 6.2 miles 4+ hours hiking, elev change: 1148 ft

19 September 2016

Day 3 | Hike Portofino Natural Park and S. Fruttuoso Abbey. After breakfast, we took the train to Camogli. (40 minutes) . Camogli, the land of the Thousand White Sailing Ships, still retains its old and strong maritime tradition linked to the nearby town of Genoa during the Maritime Republics. Let the hiking begin! We hiked to the beautiful Abbey of San Fruttuoso that appears like a mirage in the wonderful tiny bay and continued into the forest of oaks, Mediterranean flowers and the terraces of olive trees in the direction of the village of Portofino, one of the most charming seaside villages of Italy. We took the ferry to Santa Margherita (20 minutes) and the train back to Levanto. (35 minutes). Stayed overnight again in Levanto. Again, the hike was hilly and steep - distance:8.4 miles; about 5.5 hours of hiking, elevation change: 2133 ft

18 September 2016

Day 2 | Hike across the Punta Mesco Cape. After breakfast, we started our first walk across the Punta Mesco Cape. Starting from the Levanto historical centre, passing the ancient medieval defensive walls, the mule track led us into the pine forest with a beautiful viewpoint on the sea. We arrived in Monterosso, the first village of the “Cinque Terre National Park”. Did some touring of the elegant historical centre, the “Capuchin Monastery”, the narrow typical Ligurian street. Then we took the train back to Levanto (5 minutes). The hike was very scenic (and hilly) along the coastline from Levanto to Monterosso. We dodged a big storm that started right as we got inside for lunch – great timing. I think we earned the pizza and beer! Distance: 3 hours hiking, elev gain: +1033 ft –distance: 4.7 miles

17 September 2016

Day 1 | Arrival in Levanto After a short train ride from Pisa, we arrived at Levanto train station for the start of our hike in Cinque Terre. The village of Levanto was a lovely place to walk and explore; The church (XIII century), the castle, the lovely hills and the beautiful beach are all worth visiting. A bit of fun on the train where we were thrown out of four seats before we finally found out where we were supposed to sit. Crazy Americans! Really enjoying Italian wine and food! Tomorrow we start hiking.

16 September 2016

Our Italy trip began with a flight to Florence and then a train ride to our first stop in Pisa. Not a lot to see, but glad we stopped there long enough to see the leaning tower before heading off to begin our hikes in Cinque Terre. Kind of a rainy day but the last rain we would have that impacted us at all.