San Gimignano to Marina di Bibonna to Biodola–Cycling Day 3&4

15 09 2017

I am convinced that “moderate” means something different in Italian than in English.  The trip from San Gimignano to Marina di Bibbona is labelled as moderate, I’d call it difficult. I don’t think there was a flat spot in the entire day, we were either climbing,  or pushing the bike up a hill, or totally praying for a safe descent!

In our entire trip across Canada,  we only had 2 hills that defeated us and had us walking up a hill,  yesterday there were 4! in one day!

And for the first time we went down a hill lined with stuffed bags to cushion any falls that might happen.

I have a new appreciation for European bike races like the “tour de france”.

But the views!  Absolutely spectacular and can not be captured by a camera,  especially not a cell phone.

If you look closely, you can see a city on top of the hill, we came from there!

I am pleased to say we only got slightly lost once and got excellent directions from a very helpful, young Italian man.

When we finally got to our destination,  the room was ready, the ocean was close and we finished the day,  sipping wine,  watching the sun go down at the beach, while eating supper.

The next day,  Friday,  was easier riding and rated “easy”. Most of it was flat as we’re down by the coast. The highlight of the day was the bicycle shop! Somehow, we messed up the gearing on the bike and it was not shifting well. It was also making the most annoying “click, click” noise.  The bicycle mechanic assured us it was not a big problem and sent us off to a coffee shop.  An hour and 5€ later,  it was fixed!

Is it sad that the highlight of the day is a bicycle shop? We are so grateful for good bike mechanics!

Our next stop was the ferry terminal! We thought we did everything right, the ticket seller spoke English, the pier # was very clear on the display board, we showed our ticket to several people, all of whom waved us on. But I really began to worry about whether or not we were going to the right place when the boat left 23 minutes early! Turns out we were, but who leaves 23 minutes early!

Travelling with our tandem, crew never seems to know whether we are pedestrians or a vehicle.

We reached the Isle of Elba with only 7.5 km of riding, it should have been easy,  it wasn’t.  First we had to navigate a city,  then a 4 km long hill, finally the steepest downhill we’ve ever attempted. Full credit to Ken for managing to brake enough that we made it and didn’t even crash into the foyer of the hotel!
The plan for tomorrow is a loop ride of the island, but I think we’ll make it a beach day instead.  We’re also hoping to find a taxi to get us to the top of the hill when we’re ready to leave on Sunday!

Dinner at the hotel, topped off by a lovely piece of pie. I’ve never seen currants offered as part of dessert in a restaurant!


Siena to San Gimignano, Day 2

13 09 2017

We made it through our first day of cycling!

According to the plan,  we thought it would be an easy day,  after all 40 km is not far,  we’ve done much further distances.  Both of us are grateful we chose the easiest option available to us.

First,  we got lost in the city of Siena, it probably took us 30 minutes to go the 2.5 km to the edge of the city.  Add to that, our first time packing the bike in awhile, difficulty sleeping at times our bodies don’t recognize as night time and getting up at what feels like the middle of the night,  we did not have a great start.

We were grateful to find the city gate of Siena!

Our next challenge was figuring out the route notes,  we never did make a wrong turn but stopped several times to make sure we were heading in the right direction.

A certain amount of gobbledygook.

We were warned before we left, this is not a flat country.  I think we used every one of the gears on the bike, all 30 of them. Oh, I lied, there was one easy gear left! I’m not sure whether the biggest issue is lack of training or advancing age, but I think we’ll go with lack of training,  there was a local man who passed us going up a hill and he was obviously much older than we are!

The last hill getting to San Gimignano was really tough,  we stopped twice on our way up to catch our breath,  the gate of the city was a welcome sight!

San Gimignano is a UNESCO site,  a well preserved medieval city.  From what I can gather,  1/2 of the population died during the black plague.  The city lost its oomph and nothing changed for 500 years. The result is a beautiful place,  but crawling with tourists.

The communal city well in days gone by. Now it is blocked off and people throw coins and bits of garbage in it.

We have found an oasis. The balcony off our room has a fantastic view, it’s  so nice, we’ve decided a supper of bread, olive oil, cheese, sausage and local wine would be perfect.

The view from our balcony!

Travelling Again

12 09 2017

Ken and I are travelling again,  this time to Italy and yes, we have our tandem with us! 

After finishing our cross country bicycle tour last year,  both of us felt more than a little lost,  wondering if we had reached the pinnacle of our lives.  Would everything,  truly,  be all down hill from there? To overcome that rather depressing thought,  we decided we needed to do something!  The something we decided on was a cycling trip to the Tuscany area of Italy and here we are! 

Packed and ready to go.

We left Canada Sunday evening for an overnight flight to Rome. Checking in with our large,  heavy bicycle case is always a bit tense.  How much will it cost us,  overweight and oversized,  would they insist it be weighed and then refuse to take it at all because it weighs 2 lbs over the max? This time we won!  A bicycle?  Flat rate of $50! We were prepared for anything up to $300!

Sleeping while sitting up in a cramped airplane seat is not a great way to start an adventure but I can not bring myself to pay for first class,  so,  suck it up and don’t complain. Managing to navigate your way through a foreign country and arriving at your hotel is both a relief and an accomplishment.  All of it went relatively smoothly and is too boring to write about,  just the way you want it to be. 

A simple supper of pizza and wine.

We have spent the day in Siena, about a 3 1/2 hour bus ride from Rome.  We had a long sleep,  put our bike together,  and had an interesting walking tour of this city.  We arrived back at the hotel just in time to meet with our tour representative and get our maps and other helpful bits of information. 

Success! None of the pieces were left behind!

A gorgeous city, but very tourist-y!

Ken and I are now lounging on our bed,  papers spread out,  anticipating our first day of cycling, a little anxious but eager to begin. 

The fun and challenge of travelling. This is tomato bread soup. I thought the English part of the menu was a poor translation of bread and soup, I was wrong. The soup is made very thick with bread, it tasted good, but not what I was expecting!