The hills in Tuscany are absolutely stunning. Seriously, the paintings and pictures barely do them justice. But biking up them? Probably not my prettiest moment.
Let me backtrack. We left Florence yesterday afternoon after ducking into the Gallileo museum, windowshopping the Ponte Vecchio, and a quick stop at the leather market which included the pre-requisite being shuffled into a basement room in a back alley and thinking we were going to be abducted (but coming out with some sweet fall outerwear). Don’t worry, I’ve got a thorough photo diary in the works — including snapshots of my plate whenever I can stop falling in love with Italian food long enough to think of it.
We’re staying in this stunning little hotel in Pienza, one of the thousand beautiful, charming towns in Tuscany, which I’ve concluded is Vermont on steroids — terra-cotta, views-for-miles, cypress-tree-lined, oh-look-there’s-a-castle-no-big steroids. The pool and terasse of the restaurant both have a view that I have yet to be able to capture effectively on camera.
Last night we had an epic meal at the restaurant here – bruschetta, ravioli with pecorino and rosemary, and steak with cheese fondue and spinach. And of course, the now-usual post-meal gelato that will be responsible for my gaining 10 pounds and LOVING it. I’m still trying to narrow down my faovrite flavor — right now, caramel and lemon are pretty much tied. Oh, and don’t worry, because half of this town smells like awesome, fresh pecorino cheese (the local specialty). So I keep having to pinch myself so I don’t think I died and went to heaven.
Anyways, back to the ass-kicking I got today. The Ralphs (being the do-everything-together-all-the-time-especially-athletics type family that we are) rented bikes from this crazy, lean, tan Italian man who wears bike chains around his wrists and runs what seems to be the most legit biking company in Tuscany. We got outfitted there yesterday: Rob and my dad spent most of their time oogling his selection, and I made friends with his adorable mixed breed dog.
This morning, we woke up to an awesome continental breakfast and my mother hyperventilating. Of all of us, she’s probably the most nervous biker, especially when the roads are windy and shoulder-less a la Toscana. I probably should have been hyperventilating too, but I’m always up for a good workout…especially after eating everything I’ve laid eyes on so far.
We set out around 9 and promptly got lost, and then promptly reoriented ourselves to coast down one of said breathtakingly gorgeous hills for 25 minutes. But of course, what goes down must go up. And by up, I mean 2 hours later, 8 kilometers of a 10% grade incline up. To a fortress. So we’re talking really high up. Thank the biking gods for my slighly insane cyclist of a brother, who pushed a sweating, cursing-in-every-language-I-could-think-of me up a good 3k of it.
All to say that there was an awesome meal at a tiny cave of a restaurant called La Grotta and about 6 bottles of water waiting at the top, and mom, Mike and I promptly found a parkand took a nap while my crazy ridiculously fit brother and father went the last 30 kilometers back to our car to come get us. It was an adventure, to say the least.
I have decided I need to do about 50 laps in the pool tomorrow morning just to chill out my poor muscles, and maybe find a half-ironman to train for to get myself into hardcore physical condition — for when I live here and ride my bike to the market for fresh pecorino and tomatoes, of course.