Sunday, March 23, 2014

Our Honeymoon: Bike Tour through Tuscany, Italy

After an early morning wake up call, we got dressed and had breakfast at our hotel.  We were pretty excited about our plans for today.  Some friends of ours had come to Italy last summer, and they told us the best day of their trip was the one they spent on a bike tour through Tuscany.  Not afraid to take them up on their recommendation, we looked into it and decided to book one ourselves.

We had a shirt walk to the bike tour office.

Once we were checked in, we had some time to kill while they waited on everyone else to show up. We got to chatting with another couple that was doing the vespa tour instead, and in no time the four of us were quietly making fun of these other two guys who were stretching and warming up like they were about to compete in the Olympics.  What made it even funnier was that we weren't going to actually be on the bicycles for another 2 hours!

Once everyone was checked in, we were loaded in vans to make the 45 minute drive to the countryside.  The drive was hilly and beautiful! Our tour guide/driver was a British guy, and he was hilarious and so much fun to chat with as we rode up into the mountains.

The morning started with a tour of a castle where both wine and olive oil are made to this day.  It was pretty cool seeing all of the old barrels along with the new ones and more modern equipment that they use today.

We also went up to the top and had beautiful views of both the vineyards and the olive trees.

After that part of the tour, we tasted the chianti and the olive oil that are made there.

Adam is not big on red wine, but even he said this chianti was quite tasty!

After the tasting, they got us situated on either bicycles or vespas, depending on which tour you were taking.  We even got water bottles - which was great since it was August and well over 90 degrees without a cloud in the sky!

For this part of the tour, we were with the Italian guy - who also was hilarious and so much fun.  I feel like tour guides can really make or break this kind of experience, and they did not disappoint!

We made several stops at places that he knew were good for photos, and he shared tidbits of information about the area with us.

It was amazing.  Words just can't even do it justice.  It was just so beautiful to be riding along the hills of Tuscany and taking in these incredible views.  For us, it was the perfect way to experience this part of the country.

Before long, it was time for lunch.  Both groups met up at this little ristorante where we had more chianti, salad, bread and oil, pasta, dessert and coffee.  We definitely did not go hungry with the included lunch!

After lunch, we still had to bike back to the castle.  They warned us there would be one large hill in particular where the vans would meet us with a trailer in case we wanted a ride up.  The first part after lunch was pretty flat, and we took it at an easy pace so that we did not see our lunch a second time. :)

When we arrived at the hill, Adam and I decided that even if we had to push the bikes up the thing we were going to at least attempt it. The hill had a 17% grade... and it was early afternoon on an italian August day.  You can imagine how this went.

We made it a little ways, but before long we were rotating between riding for a minute and then walking/pushing the bike for a minute.  I don't think I have ever felt my heart rate get up as high as it was when I was trying to pedal, and my quads really couldn't take it.

When we finally got to the top, it felt like a huge accomplishment even with the walking!  There was a place to sit and rest for a bit and refill water bottles, so we were thankful for that! (In case you're curious, the "serious bikers" who were stretching and everything that morning - who also turned out to bit know-it-alls about biking - did not make it up the hill any better than we did.)

We had a much easier ride the rest of the way back to the castle.  I am SO glad we spent the day and the funds doing this.  It really was such an amazing experience.

We rode in the vans back down to the city where we thanked our tour guides for a memorable day.

If you'll remember, we didn't get a lot of sleep the night before thanks to jet lag. Because of this, we decided to embrace the Italian concept of the afternoon nap.  We got a gelato (which really hit the spot in the heat and after the biking), and then we went back to the hotel and showered and took a much needed nap.

After our nap, we wandered around and explored the Piazza del Signoria and saw one of the Michelangelo statues that is on display.  You can sort of see it in this picture near the entrance of this building.

We started getting hungry, and we stumbled upon the Ristorante Buca Poldo down an alley off the square.  We chose to sit at an outdoor table since there wasn't anyone else around, and it ended up being sort of intimate.

We had a pretty amazing meal here... great house white wine, tasty cheese plate, and probably the best pesto sauce I have ever tasted.

Adam opted to get a pork chop that was also really good.  By the time we finished eating, some other folks started sitting down at other tables... which meant we were soon surrounded by cigarette smoke since EVERYONE in Italy smokes.

We asked our waiter if we could move around to sit on some steps in the alley to finish our wine so that we didn't have to smell it. It took a minute to get him to understand we didn't want to smoke ourselves (he kept saying it was ok to smoke) and that we just wanted to drink our wine smoke free.  Once he did, he apologized profusely and brought us some complimentary lemoncello.  It was our first time to try it - and boy was it strong! But we appreciated him being so nice.

We ended the evening getting some desserts and sitting on the square at Cafe Rivoire.  It was all so tasty and made for a lovely way to end a fabulous day.

We made our way back to our hotel and called it a night, excited for our last day in Florence.  We hadn't really had a chance yet to truly explore the city, and we had a whole list of things we wanted to see.

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