Thursday, October 09, 2014

The Week in TUSCANY

Can't believe that we are now in our second week of our 10 week sojourn in Italy and France. Much has happened and I've been a bit of a slack tart not posting. Although our wifi was rather dodgy in Gaiole, we were in such an enjoyment mode that blogging fell behind.

Scenes from Orvieto

We came to Italy for L'Eroica, in our case a 135 km ride (race???) in Chianti, the land of the black rooster. The ride took in about 30% of gravel roads in the theme of the riders of years gone by. They were the "heroes" of the white roads - we are soft, many parts of us were after the ride.

But, lets talk about the experiences prior to our big event (Oct 5). Our last post was on arriving at Orvieto, a hilltop village in Umbria. After leaving Umbria, we travelled to Gaiole via Chuisi and stopped for lunch to hopefully rediscover a cafe where we met an Australian couple who ran it. It seemed that it had closed down, however on leaving, we discovered that in fact it was 50 metres further on. Unfortunately we will never know if they still have the cafe.

Scenes from Gaiole

We arrived at Gaiole to meet our friends that we were to spend the week with in this modern "Medieval" village overlooking Gaiole. It really was quite spectacular. Being the Tuesday, the town was only just setting up for the big event. Store holders were erecting tents and barriers were being put in place for traffic control. In the days leading up to the event, we were able to enjoy some rides on the actual roads, take in some of the local wines and lovely food. Sight seeing with our ladies was also high on the list. Siena was top of the list.

Scenes from Siena

The Ride:
Leading up to the ride, us boys did the unusual - we went shopping!!!! Well for old bike stuff and riding gear. There was so much on offer and so well priced. We had never seen so much available in one place. But the day had come - the event that brought us to Italy - L'EROICA. The ride of heroes.

The event is split into four distances;
35/75/135/205 kms - we chose the 135 kms and pleased we did. Starting at 6.00 am, the sun was yet to rise and we travelled the first 10 kms in darkness and, as we hit our first section of unsealed road, we were greeted by many people along the candlelit gravel path to the top of a hill where there was a church. It was quite an experience.

Scenes from L'Eroica

We rode as a group of 10 Aussies to our first food stop where we had our card stamped and were given a choice of fruits, cheese, meats and sweet pastries.
The 135 km ride probably included about 30% of Strada Bianca (gravel) and they left the most brutal part toward the last 20% of the ride. Not only was it gravel but it was the steepest of inclines I've ever experienced. A combination of steepness and a lack of traction causing me to take a small tumble, encouraging me to walk the hill - and pleased that I did as it gave me some time to take in the magnificent view across the valley.

At the finish, we were greeted by the huge crowd awaiting the arrival of 5000 plus competitors. It was an amazing atmosphere. Would I do it again? Maybe, but I'm told there is another in Great Britain that might be enticing.

The Day After:
The Monday for Sue and I was a stroll down memory lane. Back in 2006, we thought we would take our "Once in a lifetime trip". Yeah right, this is our sixth trip.
That 2006 visit took us from Paris to the south, across France to Rome and then on to Tuscany.
One of the hilltop villages that we loved was Pienza in the Val d'Orcia. It has special memories for us.

Scenes from the Val D'Orcia - Pienza and Monticchiello

Monticchiello was our base where we had a wonderful landlady, Barbara whom we rented a gorgeous apartment from. We ate two nights at the local Bistro, La Porta. The lady who owns it is Daria, a friend of Barbara. We entered the bistro and had a glass of wine each and an espresso after and reintroduced ourselves to Daria. We had a long and personal chat - on leaving to pay our account, Daria said, "No, no, this is one me - it is lovely that you come back to share your memories here".
These memories will stay with us forever as well.

We arrived back late Monday and started packing to leave our good friends in our shared Villa - an experience that will be in our mind and hearts for ever.

Next post is of our two night stay in Bologna.


  1. Well done for riding l'eroica - on first reading I thought it said l'erotica!!

    Lots of lovely pics, but I think my favourite is the penultimate one.

    Enjoy the rest of your trip.

    1. The Val d'Orcia has special memories for us and is from our experience, the nicest part of Tuscany.

  2. Congrats on the ride, now you need to have a go at The Pick and Pay Argus cycle tour in Cape Twon :-) A bientot. Diane and Nigel.

    1. Diane, I know someone that's done that and I think maybe not! Have you?


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