Goodbye Firenze, hello Backroads. After once again accidentally sleeping in until 8:30 and after another great meal with Alex and Tracy and a fair amount of insomnia by both Cindy and me (more Cindy than me) we woke to the loud clamoring of mopeds and the hustle of city life outside our windows. Alex and I ran a quick 5 miles about the river Arno before a quick pack, snack and short trek to the Florence train station where we met the Backroads group. Our leads, Chris (Australian), Eddo (Italian) and Kate are all awesome and highly experienced guides. The group is also filled with nice folks with a variety of backgrounds. Most seem to be about 10-15 years older and only a few seem to be cyclists as their primary sport. We even have a few first-time riders in the group. It is a good group but the decision to take this trip with Alex and Tracy was a great one. Chalk that up to smart wives.
The first day was awesome. We are in the region of Leonardo Di Vinci, Galileo Galilei and other amazing humans. It is also the Chianti Classico region which apparently is the real and better Chianti. Our ride started without a ride, but with a huge picnic spread for lunch. This followed our first rendezvous at the train station and a short 45 minute bus ride into the country. The picnic had cheeses, meats, roasted veggies, cherry mozzarella, some local cake pastry made of pine nuts, but the biggest hits were 2 new dishes to me: One was a very rich mozzarella cream spread (amazing!), and the other was a bread, tomato and basil dish that was to die for. The only problem I see with food on this trip is not gaining weight!
The ride was a short one to start today but breathtaking and not a gimme. Views of vineyards and olive trees as far as the eye can see. Rolling hills with castles and homesteads everywhere. The roads are small, narrow and at times incredibly steep. In 34k, we probably passed through 10 very small towns/villages. So quaint. Bikes are everywhere on the roads and all of the cars seem super respectful and versed on how to ride/share with bikes. Take a lesson from Italy here America!
A moment on Cindy (she would hate that I am writing this)…she was quite nervous about riding these roads, especially the downhills. In the first 5k this nervousness seemed to worsen. I started having flashbacks to our early days do skiing. Not great memories to say the least. Let me just say there were multiple times where she walked down the slope or road down the chair lift! As the ride progressed she got more and more confident. She's very strong up all of the hills. Hills that I'd easily put in my top 5 steepest, and she's finishing near the front. The downhills still scare her a bit but I noticed she used far less brakes towards the end than she did earlier in the ride. I'm always so impressed by her strength. There's a good shot she's up for 50 miles tomorrow. I hope I am! 🙂
A brief note about where we are staying tonight and tomorrow night. Castello Del Nero. A structure built in the 1200s (!?!?!?) and home to some of the finest hotel accommodations I have ever stayed. It overlooks the Tuscan countryside and serves food that is out of this world! Tonight we had a 6 course meal where each course outdid the prior.
More to come tomorrow with a tour of an olive oil maker's operation and the potential for 55-56 miles if we want it. Until then, there's a slideshow of our day today below. Ciao!