Category Archives: tuscany

Day 8: Montalcino

The two day stay in Siena was just enough time to tour the local sites and take a bit of a break to recharge for our next cycling ride to Montalcino. 

Looking over our off-line digital map and planning the cycling route with its elevation profile in advance of the trip made us a little nervous; we would be setting new personal records with our climbs.  Again being mentally prepared for the trip helped.  The ride turned out to be not as difficult as we had anticipated –  even though we ultimately climbed to an altitude of 610 meters by the time we arrived in the town of Montalcino itself, we managed to avoid steep inclines for the most part.

We had a very steady climb on the way out of Siena for about an hour and a half.  We then took a break at the crest of the climb to nourish ourselves with a nice lunch that we had purchased and packed from an alimenteria before leaving Siena – fresh pane ronde con sale, local Italian pomodoros, soft formaggio and some proscuitto.  For desert we had lots of fruit – pechi novi and apricots.

After lunch and a couple more hours of riding, we arrived at the base of Montalcino.  When we saw the road that we had originally selected for our ride up into town, we quickly decided to remap our route.  The road was gravel with an incline of between 15 and 20%; too difficult and treacherous to try to climb with loaded bikes. We weren’t really up to walking our loaded bikes a kilometre up a steep hill, especially not after having had a taste of doing that up a similar grade for 200 meters at Monteriggioni.  We decided instead to ride the extra 5 kilometres up the main road which gradually wound its way around the hill up and into town.  Slow and steady gets the job done.

We were still hot, sweaty and dirty by the time we arrived in the town proper, and so we followed our ritual of quickly checking-in to our hotel, rejuvenating ourselves with hot showers and changing into some clean clothes before doing a quick tour of the town and seeking out a place to enjoy dinner. 

The hotel room


Since it wasn’t quite dinner and the restaurants weren’t serving yet, we enjoyed some aperativi in a patio on town square. The “Tuscan Rewind” car race was under-way as we enjoyed our drinks, and the cars were revving and preparing to start their race in the square. An hour later, we began walking the town in search of a restaurant, and got to see a little more of the beautiful town and the race cars as we searched.After passing down a few side streets, we settled upon the relatively innocuous-looking Albergo Il Giglio restaurant for dinner. 

Tuscan Rewind racer, rolling into the town square
Another Racer


What a treat that was! By all measures the Albergo was a fantastic dining experience, with a really nice atmosphere and run by a wonderful family. We had veal served with vegetables in brunello wine sauce, with a decanter of brunello on the side – the bread plate that came with the meal was so fresh that it almost outshone then entrée itself. The best meal of the trip — if you ever visit Montalcino, we wholly recommend you have a meal at Albergo Il Giglio.

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The following day, we woke up early and prepared to finish sight-seeing, and do some wine-tasting; this *was* the location of the famous Brunello di Montalcino, after all. 


A very large number of wines ready to taste, in Montalcino!
The town’s fort/castle of Montalcino stands out prominently on the edge of the town, overlooking the fields below the hilltop. We visited the fort, and deciding that we couldn’t pass up the tower-top view, paid the 5 euro fee and walked up the keep’s staircase to the top of the walls, where we were able to see the entire valley and a few distant towns.

Inside the fort

On the fort walls

Valley View
Road into town, view from fort walls
Part of the town, from fort walls
Located inside the keep was a wine shop, which we visited on the way back down. Steve and I (Ryan) had a few samples of the varieties of Nobile and Brunello, and bargaining for a good price, ordered a few to be sent home. 

Not too tipsy to ride, we returned to the hotel and packed up for our ride out. Against our better judgement, we decided to try the gravel hill out of town, only to find it washed out near the bottom, and being so steep that Steve had a wipe-out – ouch (he was OK, though)! We begrudgingly walked the bikes back to the city gate, and began to follow the road out of town and onward to Montepulciano.


Just outside town gate, ready to roll down gravel road
Onwards!

Packing List – Italy 2012

This is the [very long] packing list of all the items that we are going to be bringing with us to Italy for our trip (other than our two bicycles, of course). All the items on the list are the totals for both of us combined, unless otherwise noted as per person (p.p.). Extra heavy or bulky equipment like the chain to lock up our bikes, will be bought in Italy once we arrive.
  • Clothing (p.p.)
    • 1 pair light cotton trousers
    • 1 pair cotton shorts
    • 2 pairs cycling shorts
    • 3 pairs underwear
    • 2 cycling jerseys
    • 2 T-shirts
    • 3 pairs socks
    • 1 botton-up/nice long sleeved shirt
    • 1 waterproof riding jacket
    • 1 cycling cap
    • 1 helmet
    • 1 pair cycling gloves – only for Dad
    • 1 pair light pajamas
    • 1 pair running shoes
    • 1 pair walking shoes – Dad buying his overseas
  • Personals/Toiletries
    • Toothbrushes
    • 1 tube toothpaste
    • Contact lenses
    • Lens cases and solution
    • 2 pairs sunglasses – and regular glasses
    • 1 bottle sunscreen
    • 1 small bottle shampoo
    • Razors and shaving cream
    • 1 Comb
    • Deodorant
    • Facecloth and towel – will be bought overseas
  • Electronics
    • 1 unlocked Galaxy Nexus smartphone
    • 1 rooted Nook tablet
    • 1 power adaptor & plug divider
    • 1 compact Canon camera
  • Miscellaneous Goodies
    • 1 small first aid kit
    • Keys on keychains
    • 1 Snow Peak butane stove
    • 1 butane refill adaptor
    • 2 Guyot squishy cup/bowl sets
    • 2 GSI utensil sets
    • 1 small Sigg Inoxal cookset – w/ two pot lids as plates
    • 1 salt + pepper shaker
    • 1 small cooking knife
    • 5 650mL Filzer Stainless water bottles
    • 2 1L Filzer Stainless water bottles
    • 1 swiss army knife
    • 1 camera monopod
  • Tools & Bike Parts
    • 2 cable bike locks – will be buying lock-up chain in Italy
    • 2 pad locks
    • 2 bicycle multi-tools
    • 2 sets flat repair kit
    • 2 sets tire levers
    • 1 spare chain
    • 2 spare inner tubes + 1 extra to cover lock-up chain
    • 2 bicycle-mounted pumps
    • 1 small adjustable spanner
    • 1 set pliers
    • 1 small bottle oil/lube – will be bought overseas
    • Zip ties – to repair anything
    • Duct tape – also for repairs
  • Packing and Bags
    • 2 large MEC duffel bags
    • 2 sets 56L MEC “World Tour” panniers
    • 1 set 20L MEC panniers
    • 1 set 40L MEC “World Tour” panniers
    • 2 MEC Bull Deluxe handlebar bags
    • 2 Micro Wedgie seat bags
    • 1 Eddie Bauer sling bay (daypack/carry on)
    • 1 Hip pouch (camera/phone/wallet daypack)

More Trip Deliberations

It looks as if the entire itinerary  of the Italy Trip may be changed. I’m one who loves the countryside, but a trip with few sights won’t be that exciting. The cycling portion of the trip I had planned skirts the seaside of Tuscany and a bit of Lazio, hitting the small towns and countryside. No big sights to see, aside from San Gimignano, and Pisa, in the first 150km of the trip. It would have been primarily about enjoying the Italian countryside – which is admittedly far more beautiful, hilly and varied than most of Southern Ontario.

My fears of less-than-optimal trip planning were confirmed when I pulled some Rick Steves guidebooks off the shelves of my local library.

I was expecting the small towns to at least have a few sights, but apart from 2 or 3 Etruscan tomb museums, there aren`t too many impressive sights to see. I’m sad at learning that my many hours of meticulous kilometer-by-kilometer trip planning hadn’t taken into account the other sights of Tuscany; Hill towns of Tuscany are apparently overlooked often enough, but are beautiful, and seem to have more than enough enchanting history and architecture to be great places to visit. The only hill town currently on the itinerary is the medieval fortified settlement of San Gimignano. Maybe a few more towns will make their way on to the trip list, as I re-route the planned trip. But although I may be making changes, it all comes down to elevation – if the hills are too steep, the route may remain the same, and skip over these areas (sadly). 

Italy Trip: Itinerary in Brief

The planning continues, and now I’ve managed to figure out all the stops, the route and where we will camp on our journey from Florence to Rome, Naples, Pompeii and the Amalfi coast. The aeroplane has been booked – leaving May 31 from Toronto Pearson, to arrive June 1 in Florence. We will be returning almost 3 weeks later, flying out on June 18th with 2 layovers (Frankfurt, Germany, and Washington, D.C.) before we arrive back in Toronto.

The Itinerary in Brief:


5/31 –  18:40 departure from Toronto
6/1 – 14:00 arrival in Florence! —-> Rest-up day.
6/2 – Touring Florence, seeing the sights.
6/3 – Florence to San Gimignano: 74km
       – 8:00 departure by bike
       – ETA 17:00
       – 17:00 – 20:00; dinner + evening in town
       – 21:00; Lodging – arrival @ Camping Baschetto di Piemma
6/4 – San Gimignano to Colleoli: 53km
       – 8:00 -13:00; breakfast/tour/lunch
       – 13:00 Depart
       – ETA 19:30 Colleoli
       – Lodging: Local Agriturismo
6/5 – Colleoli to Pisa: 43km
       – 8:00 Depart
       – ETA 13:00 Pisa
       – 13:00-17:00; Visit Leaning tour + duomo, museums, and explore town + got to market for food
       – 17:00; Lodging @ Camping Torre Pendente + Dinner
6/6 – Pisa to Orciano Pisano: 43km
       – 8:00-11:00; breakfast, early morning exploring town
       – 11:30 Depart, after lunch
       – ETA 17:30 Orciano
       – Lodging @ Camping Elena Country House
6/7 –  Orciano Pisano to Castagneto Carducci: 49km
       – 9:00 Depart
       – 13:00-14:30 Stop @ Rosignano Marittimo for sights, lunch
       – ETA 18:00 Castagneto
       – Lodging @ Camping Belmare
6/8 – Castagneto Carducci to Scarlino: 57km
       – 9:00 Depart
       – ETA 17:00
       – Lodging @  Camping Baia dei Gabbiani
6/9 – Scarlino to Grossetto: 40km
       -8:00 Depart
       – ETA 16:00
       – Lodging @ Agriturismo Il Querciolo
       – 16:30–21:00 Ride into town, Dinner, explore sights.
6/10 – Grossetto to Montalto di Castro: 73km

       -8:00 Depart
       – ETA 18:00
       – Lodging @ Camping Pionier Etrusco

6/11 – Montalto di Castro to Civitavecchia: 43km
       – 9:00 Depart
       – ETA 14:00 Civitavecchia
       – 15:30; FR5 Commuter ‘Ferrovie Regionale’ into Rome
       – ETA 16:00 Roma
       – Lodging @ Cheap B&B near Termini Station
6/12-13 – ROMA!
       – Two full days of exploration, sights, rome.
       – Lodging @ Cheap B&B near Termini Station
6/14 – Rome to Amalfi (by Train)
       – 8:00 Breakfast/ Packup
       -9:40 Train form Termini Stn. to Vietri-Amalfi
       – ETA 13:10 Amalfi
       – 13:30; Hotel check-in/drop off bikes, lunch
       – 14:30-21:00; Explore area/sights + market for groceries
       – Lodging @ Hotel
6/15 – Amalfi Coast!
       – More exploration & sight-seeing
6/16 – Amalfi to Pompei (by Train)
       – 8:00-12:00; Morning in Amalfi, breakfast
       – 12:00 Hotel checkout/ pack-up + lunch
       – 13:15; Depart from Vietri-Amalfi Stn.
       – ETA 14:05 Pompei Stn.
       – Explore the scenery/countryside by bicycle until evening
       – Lodging @ Hotel
6/17 – Pompei to Napoli (by Train)
        – 7:30; Early breakfast
        – 9:00-15:00 Explore Pompeii Ruins + On-The-Go lunch
        – 16:00; Depart Pompei Stn.
        – ETA 16:30 Napoli Centrale Stn.
        – 16:50; hotel check in, lock up bikes in room
        – Dinner, Exploration & Night on the Town
6/18 – Napoli/ Last-day Packup + Flight
        – 9:00 wakeup + breakfast
        – 10:30 Head to Naples Airport
        – 13:10 Departing flight
        – ETA 23:10 Toronto Pearson

Most of the beginning of the jorney is by bicycle, is the far-less-crowded Tuscant leg of the journey. Shortly after Civitavecchia, the only direct-route roads become crowded, fast-traffic Via Regionale (Regional Highways) – not nice for cycling. Therefore, for the rest of the trip, we will be bring our bicycles on the train with us as we travel which adds ~5.00 to each train ticket), and use them for sight-seeing and local rides in town. The economic and short 30 minute and 1hr Ferrovie Regionale (Regional Train) rides will allow us to see the Bay of Naples, Pompei and the Amalfi Coast without taking a longer trip, and without risking our necks on the hillier/more crowded roadways of south-western Italy.