The Story of our Trip to the Tuscany Region of Italy
We began our first Italian trip just south of Pisa, and a little east of Livorno in the town of Lorenzana. We quickly learned what the topography of Tuscany held in store for us. As we departed town on our bicycles we were immediately presented with a gentle downhill grade which allowed us to relax and enjoy the multicolored countryside and quaint villas.
The Tuscan landscape is quite interesting. The towns are all built on the tops of hills, while the valleys and plains are used for farming. So when you journey from town to town, you are naturally traveling from hilltop to hilltop.
The larger hills usually support more than one town (or even city). Today we biked up to Casciana, Terricciola, Peccioli, Castelfalfi, San Vivaldo, and a final 1500 foot climb to our destination city of Volterra. It's impossible to ascend these picturesque hills without stopping to enjoy the grand vistas. We have only a sampling of the numerous photo slides we snapped available on this website. We hope to scan more of them someday.
Volterra is typical of the larger towns in this region. Built on a mountaintop of jagged cliffs, the city is a walled-in fortress, complete with a castle, Cathedral, and amphitheater. A stroll around town is a venture through time. We tried to imagine what it must be like for the families that have lived in such a historic and unique place for hundreds of years, and enjoy surroundings and customs that are still quite unchanged.
We stayed overnight in a villa just outside of the main gate to the medieval fort city. We walked into town to eat dinner in a wonderful restaurant just off the main piazza. We're both vegetarians, but we've never eaten as well as we feasted in Italy. There are five to seven courses served during the meals, and we simply skip the meat course.
On the second day, we headed south to the fascinating walled city of Massa Marittima. In addition to the hills encountered which held the towns aloft, the little known backroads we rambled today were forever rolling. The routes were sparsely traveled and the ride was exhilarating.
We arrived in Massa Marittima early enough to enjoy a hike through this walled city with its beautiful Cathedral (Duomo). We spent hours exploring the quaint shops and cobblestone alleyways. That evening we again enjoyed a multi-course meal with all of the seconds and thirds we could eat. We just can't say enough about the great food.
On the third day, we cycled through vineyards to the famous wine town of Montalcino for lunch. The city sits atop a hill about 1600 feet above the surrounding area. You can see it from miles away, and we had to stop many times to take photos as we approached. The final objective for the day was San Quirico D'Orcia where we stayed in a great hotel just outside of town. Actually it was more like a resort, with an immense terrace and swimming pool.
On the fourth day we did a loop of the area, spending most of the afternoon in the ancient village of Pienza. Many of the Tuscany slides (on this website) were taken in Pienza. We probably shot three rolls of slide film in this charming artistic town. Unusual door coverings, a maze of stone walls, decorated balconies, colorful gardens, and multitudes of flowers captivated us. We could easily put a couple dozen pictures here for viewing.
The elevation chart for day five looked like a profile of teeth on a saw blade, with more than one 15% grade. But we still arrived in Siena early enough to explore the art treasures, visit the magnificent Cathedral, and climb the 400+ steps to the top of the campanile for a breathtaking view of the city of orange tiled rooftops as far as the eye can see.
The Duomo is simply overwhelming. The interior and exterior are black and white marble arranged in layers to form striped patterns. The floors inside are masterpieces of marbled art combined with an incredible display of sculptures and monumental ceilings. We wish we could have stayed much longer to examine the art and architecture.
What can we say about day six? We couldn't wait to get to Florence, our final Tuscan experience. We covered 100+ kilometers in about four hours, snapping numerous photos of the famous Chianti region, and trying not to lose pacelines. We spent two very full days in Florence (Firenze) and it wasn't near enough. The cathedral and surrounding area alone can easily consume a full day. Yes, it's even more spectacular than Siena.
This city is abundantly rich in art treasures. As an artist (my occupation) it was very hard to leave this city, but I brought home a stunning work of art done in semi-precious stones to forever remind me to return again someday. The entire city of Florence is a work of art. Don't miss it if you get a chance.