After our stay at Rome, the southernmost point on our trip, we took the train up to Florence in Tuscany. Florence is nestled in a beautiful part of the country, surrounded by rolling green hills filled with family farms, vineyards and ancient villas. We stayed at Hotel Giada, just a few blocks away from Duomo di Firenze, near the town’s center. Attractive as it is, I found Florence to be a bit cramped and even in February it was packed with tourists and exchange students. Nevertheless, the scenery was stunning, the food is fantastic and the gelato was even better.
In an effort to break away from the city and view some of the countryside, we decided to take a bike tour through the hills surrounding Florence. We quickly found i Bike Italy online and decided to show up for the morning pickup for a 14 mile bike ride around Tuscany. As we arrived at our meeting point just downstream from the Ponte Vecchio, I realized that I forgot the camera, so the image from this post is actually from Tripadvisor.
After a short van ride to a garage on the outskirts of Florence, our guide Bill fitted us with our bikes and helmets. Having grown up biking to school everyday, I felt that I had a pretty good handle on things seeing as the ride was advertised as fairly “easy” for the average person. The ride turned out to be MUCH more difficult than we had anticipated and my little thighs were not up to the challenge. As we rode the 7 miles uphill through the Tuscan countryside, I was forced to get off my bike and walk it due to the steepness of the hills. Eventually, we made it up the hill to were treated to great views of Florence below us as well as a traditional Italian meal, complete with Chianti, the regional red wine.
After lunch, we hopped back on our bikes and I realized that a very, ahem . . . “specific”, part of me was particularly sore from riding (I won’t get into the details of the subsequent bruising). I spent the next 7 miles biking without my butt on the seat, and with our tour guide we stopped off at a private villa, vineyard and olive oil maker. The villa and vineyard were very rustic and very much how I assumed the Italian countryside would be like.
The way back down the hill was a little on the harrowing side since the force of gravity appeared to be pulling us down at uncomfortable speeds. With my teeth grit and my hands placed squarely on the brakes I ended up at the bottom of the hill in one piece. The tour ended up being what we wanted – a break fromt he city. I didn’t realize it would render me unable to sit properly for the next few days, but it was a small price to pay. Tuscany was definitely my favorite part of Italy and I hope to get a chance to explore its countryside again one day. (Except maybe this time I’ll take a vespa instead)