June 27, 2014
Before we arrived in Italy, Heidi and I requested bikes because we had always heard of amazing bike tours in Tuscany. After driving around for a day on the narrow and busy roads, we had second thoughts about riding them and had considered different plans for the day but forgot to tell Gianluca.
Gianluca has gone out of his way to give us suggestions and get us what we have needed at all times, so we felt at least obligated to ride down the street and back. We told the family we’d be back in 5 minutes and told Gianluca we were going to Betolle. “That’s only 700 meters”, he responded.
So we strapped on our helmets. Lunch boxes were attached to the handle bars held spares tubes, air cartridges, and tire irons. We were set for our adventure, with the first stop being the grocery store for Heidi’s much needed Diet Coke. Of course, we couldn’t find it…a common occurrence. We rode up and down the hills around the three streets and finally settled for water which turned out to be a smart purchase on this warm, sunny day.
From Betolle, we intended on riding to Sinalunga, however, we missed the turn and pedaled down the hill on a busy road. Most drivers were friendly, though one passenger yelled “boo” out the window which was quite a startle. Still in one piece, we decided to pull off the road and map out a different route back to the house.
We turned through a neighborhood and then on to a back country road. Within minutes we were riding along what appeared to be a gravel driveway, but it just kept going. We passed by fields, gated houses, a few signs we didn’t understand, vineyards, roses, and poppies as we admired towns perched on the hills in the distance. As we pedaled along, suddenly a DHL truck was coming toward us, ah…there was an exit!
It returned us back to the busy road only a few hundred meters from Betolle. Sometimes mistakes are the best! We had so much fun riding through the country side. From Betolle, and after an hour or so of riding, we thought we’d return to the house, but we missed the turn just as we were heading down another hill, this time in the direction of Sinalunga, so we just kept going. The hills proved challenging as we pedaled as hard as possible. We stopped for more water from the public fountain in Guazzino before riding a few more miles and crossing bridge where we could see Sinalunga perched on a giant hill in the distance! Just the sight of the town on the hill ended our desire and attempt to visit it. The grades for some of the town roads were like mountain passes.
We turned right through the round-about and looked for another way home that might not require us to climb the hill we just road down as Heidi astutely noticed, “There is not a shoulder where I can walk the bike up the hill.” We were headed toward the A1, the main highway with a 130 km speed limit.
“Perhaps it has a side road,” Heidi said to me.
“Would you want to ride on the side road to LBJ?” I responded.
Miraculously, there was another two lane road to follow (Heidi is an excellent navigator), but we certainly didn’t avoid any hills. We rode past old houses, grazing horses, and eventually topped out with a lovely view of Sinalunga.
Two and a half hours later though probably only 10 miles, it was well past lunch-time, so we stopped at the meat market picked up Salami, cheese, bread, soda, water, and a bottle of wine for only 13 Euro! We were proud of our ordering skills…knowing no Italian, we survived.
Lunch by the beautiful pool back at the house, Il Casale del Marchese, was in order. The rectangular pool was flanked by trees and flower gardens with a spectacular bath area. On one end stood the pizza oven and the other end a huge cabana with pool chairs, a ping pong table and a foosball table. We snacked on our tasty purchases as we shaded our arms, legs, and face which were null of sunscreen during the whole ride while worked on tanning our midsection.
Happy hour time soon rolled around and the rest of the family joined us after a day in Cortona. We moved from the pool chairs to the shaded table and chairs by the enormous pizza oven. Gianluca and his mom made us at least ten pizzas with sausage, ham, tomato, olive, mushroom, artichoke, arugula and more. The final one was Nutella! The wine poured all night while Clarke played the guitar which Gianluca secured from a friend. What a great way to spend our last night in Tuscany!
We’ll do some more exploring tomorrow before finding our way to Cinque Terre…ETB