The guide book I’ve been using called today’s ride THE cycling route in Tuscany (one of the reasons I came this way). It also in a sort of an off handed way mentiond it probably wouldn’t be enjoyable for the ‘out of shape rider’. I was feeling pretty good so…
It started off as the most perfect day of riding so far. I was glad to be away from the rather snooty and ridiculously overpriced Albergo Ristorante Giglio and was up and away nice and early. The sun was out, it was an ideal 75degrees and I started off with 15 kilometers of lovely downhill away from Montalcino. I might have enjoyed the downhill even more had I not stopped even kilometer or so to take yet another photo. The 1300 year old Sant Antimo Abbey at the bottom was particularly photo worthy.
From there the scenery over the endless wine fields was even better, but it was up, and up. Good thing I’m (sort of) in shape. After nearly a kilometer of ascent I reached the top of what turned out to be the first hill of the day where I found yet another lovely family run trattoria. As I have come to expect, once again the further away from the tourist towns the better the food. Here they even had spaghetti with ragu, which I’ve learned means tomato sauce. A fact I did not share with the American couple in Siena. I opted instead for the ‘regional sauce’ and spent quite some time looking out across the remarkable vistas from this quaint little roadside caffe.
It was getting a bit overcast, and the weather report called for rain later in the day, so I managd to rouse myself and get back on the road, for one more very nice steep but all too brief downhill.
After crossing a broad agricultural valley festooned with wild roses I came to an intersection: I could continue on the flat plain, or turn left for a ‘scenic detour’. I of course chose the later and began to climb. Had I realized at the time I would be going to the top of the mountain in the distance I might have stayed in the valley. By the time I reached the lovely town on Monticchielo it was raining. And the rain was somewhat obscuring what my guide book called the ‘postcard photo spot in Tuscany’. I snapped a quick postcard worthy photo, decided I’d come too far to give up and after getting out the raincoat continued up, and up. To be sure the view once at top was quite impressive. Far down in the valley I could see the alternate route, lazily making its way along the river. But there I was way up above what also looked to be an adequately scenic road.
The forest preserve, way up on the mountain was lovely, but I was getting tired and hungry. A few kilometers later I came to a fork in the road. Up two kilometers or down (presumably) ten to Chianciano Terme. Up lead to Montalpulciano. I’d started my tour of Tuscany there two weeks ago and, given that it was getting rather late on a Saturday night there was a good chance I wouldn’t find a room in such a popular tourist destination. My guide book claimed that Chianciano had ‘dozens of hotels’ so down it was.
And it actually was down. I stopped at th first sign of an Albergo, shut down the cycle computer and started thinking about a hot shower and dinner, only to be informed ther was no garage for biccecleta, hmmm. Looked a bit too expensive anyway so, with little choice I got back on the bike and continued some distance to the next Albergo sign only to find there was no room at the inn. Hmmm… Somewhat alarmed I continued on only to find myself back in the wilderness. Consulting my new, very detailed map I found I’d taken a bit of a wrong turn. Of course the route to Chianciano was back and up.
Eventual as the sun was beginning to set I saw Chianciano. Of course perched way up high on its hill. Grumbling the whole way up I finally passed through the gates of yet another lovely medieval hilltop town to find…not one Albergo.
Zero is quite a great deal less than ‘dozens’.
Looking out over the high walls, back down to where I’d started the latest climb I could see the big round about I’d passed through. I had been following th signs to the ‘storico centre’ and could clearly see that exit from the roundabout I’d not taken leading to a well developed, modern town down in the valley that, as it turned out really does have dozens upon dozens of hotels. Some sort of Italian Las Vegas apparently.
After a final push (downhill thank god), but a push nonetheless I stopped at the very first Albergo-Ristorante sign, checked in, ate whatever and went to bed.
Here’s where I went before prematurely shutting down the gps computer thinking I was done for the day: