Titlle1

We biked in the Marche, Umbria and Toscana.

 Siciclando scouted out new bike routes and hotels for us in Le Marche (and other places) because they’d never run tours there before.

 

We really enjoy touring with Siciclando: In 2013, we biked in Apulia, and then in 2014, we biked in Sicily.

In 2016, we now plan to bike in Piedmont, another tour being completely designed for us and our abilities, and most of all, for our interests.

 

All of our tours have been private, customized tours: the two of us, a bike guide and a van.

 

It’s easy to do repeat trips because Italy is one of our favorite countries. But these wonderful trips wouldn’t have happened without our getting to know the biking company Siciclando.  The owners Dario and Giuseppe are just wonderful in selecting routes and experiences tailored to our wishes. They also have the most interesting and competent guides AND one quickly becomes part of the very fun Siciclando family.

They refer to us as Giorgio and Ivona.      www.siciclando.com

 

The teal-color tracks below show what we drove and the red ones what we biked. Another 10 miles and we would have traveled coast to coast.

Italy-tracks-all-with-borders

 

The map below is enlarged and shows the places where we stayed and visited.

biking-tracks

 

P1080607

BOLOGNA

We flew into Bologna and spent three nights there before beginning our bike tour.

 

The first thing we did was climb the higher of the “Le Due Torri” (the two towers) which was built in 1109 and is 330’ high. There are 486 steps!

 

This photo and the next were taken from the top. Center right in the photo is the Piazza Maggiore where the highest building is the San Petronio Basilica. The arcaded building on the square is the City hall.

 

Bologna was an Etruscan settlement until the 4th c BCE. It has what is considered the world’s oldest university, which was founded in 1088.

 

Famous citizens:

 

Pope Gregory XIII who established our present Gregorian calendar in 1582.

 

Guglielmo Marconi (b.1874) who demonstrated wireless communications across the Atlantic in 1895 and won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1909.

 

Luigi Galvani (b.1737) experimented on frogs and published a paper on electrical properties of muscle and skin.

 

P1020179

 

P1000461

We took a very good city bus tour which also took us up on a nearby hill to give us another perspective on the city.

 

On the bus tour we were driven past block after block where the buildings (both commercial and residential) were fronted by arcades like these. This photo doesn’t really do the arcades justice. The arcades are sometimes a block long and in different styles. As it was rainy when we were there and they really provided shelter – as they would for the hot sun too. The arcades are on so many streets (it was required by law) that the more we walked in Bologna, the more we liked the city.

 

Bologna has one of the largest well-preserved historical centers in Italy thanks to a careful restoration and conservation policy that began in the 1970s.

 

Bologna was ranked 1st out of 107 Italian cities for quality of life due to the numerous institutions in the city.

 

This famous Neptune fountain by the Flemish sculptor Giambologna (b.1529) is in the central Piazza.

 

The female statues at the bottom of the fountain were still “lactating” in 2000 when we visited first (see this website for our visit to Italy in 2000, which is the first entry).

 

Now their plumbing is all clogged up and the city is looking for money for repairs. Maybe they have entered menopause? They are getting older, just like the rest of us.

P1080611

 

P1080609

These two towers are the symbol of the city.

 

The tallest tower is the one we climbed. Inside, the tower is mostly hollow so instead of climbing in a narrow circular stair, the stairs are along the four sides so it is easier. There are a few “floors” so you can’t see down more than five floors or so at a time – good for Yvonne’s height problem!

 

This street was undergoing major improvements when we were there.

 

Towers belonged to noble families and are symbols of the continual conflict between the rival families and political factions, the Guelphs and the Ghibellines in the middle ages (Romeo & Juliette, for example).

 

A struggle started in the 11th c. between the Roman Emperor and the Pope that persisted for centuries.

 

The Ghibellines supported the emperor and the Guelphs supported the Pope.

 

The shorter tower is 164 ft high and has a tilt of over 10 ft.

The shorter tower is 164 ft high and has a tilt of over 10 ft.

 

P1080622

 

P1000458

A very interesting place to visit is the Basilica di Santo Stefano which comprises a group of buildings which include several churches.

 

The 12th c Church of the Holy Sepulchre is very unusual and parts of it are from a 100 CE Temple of Isis recycled into a baptistery and later into this church.

 

The 13th c Chiesa di San Francesco is one of the first examples of Gothic architecture in Italy.

P1020181

 

P1080627

GRADARA

 

Ilaria, our Siciclando Tour guide, picked us up in Bologna and we transferred (drove) to Gradara, a small hilltop town with a perfectly restored castle and encircling walls.

 

This is one of the gates to this fairytale village.

 

Italy has so many major sites that Siciclando could have us stay in amazing places that had few tourists. And, even more amazing, when the Italians we’d meet asked us where we’d been biking through, they’d never heard of Gradara and San Leo, for example.

 

Siciclando had previously no tours in the Marche region;  we were the first one experience the new routes and places to stay.

 

 

This is the outside of the nice wall of Gradara showing another of the entrances.

P1080633

 

 

While we were walking around, a tour group of road bikers came into town, had soft drinks, and moved on.

 

This is a view from the center of the “main street” to the entry gate and the lovely lush countryside in the distance.

 

This area is full of wildlife: Ilaria spotted an eagle.

P1080630

 

P1080635

This is a view up the street to the castle.

 

This is one end of the castle in Gradara with the drawbridge entry and a bit of the city wall with one of its towers.

 

The first construction here was in 1150.

P1080652

 

P1080636

We walked the wall up to the castle for a tour. This wall is about 2400’ long.

 

Here we introduce Ilaria, our guide. At home, she relaxes by participating in Enduro mountain biking races.

 

After working with her on GPSs and Spot location finders, we referred to her as “Queen of the GPSs.” She’s also an excellent photographer and took all the pictures showing both of us.

 

This year Siciclando replaced the paper instructions for the rides (with instructions like after 300’ turn left, turn right at the four-way intersection, etc.) with GPS tracks. Ilaria had driven our entire tour and created these tracks so they were ready for us.

 

Is that slick!

 

We like getting into the history of places we visit. Italy is, of course very special.

 

We enjoy running into our three friends Dante, Boccacio and Petrarca who are the key figures in the beginning of the renaissance In literature. 

 

In Gradara we encountered Dante again. In the Inferno part of his Divine Comedy, he reports of

the affair of Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta, her husband’s brother. Her husband, Gianciotto Malatesta, discovered them together and killed them both.

P1080647

 

P1080651

Above is Francesca’s room in the castle which has been refurbished to look like it did at that time, around 1200. The castle’s 2nd floor is very secure – there are even draw bridges between some rooms (!) so Francesca’s husband surely felt she was safely locked up.

 

Paolo had access to the guard’s room – which was directly under Francesca’s – the only entry was via a trap door, shown in the lower left of the photo above.

 

This is the guard’s room and a ladder has been placed there to show how Paolo got to the trap door!

 

This photo is taken over the city wall to show the village and the countryside on the other side of the city wall where we biked.

 

We biked a loop ride to the Adriatic Sea from here; a gorgeous ride.

P1080637

 

Our first day of biking was the only day where we had to wear rain gear.

 

After waiting it out for about 20 minutes, we were on our way again.

P1000472

 

P1000463

Part of our loop ride was on a high cliff above the Adriatic Sea. The city of Rimini is in the distance.

 

 

 

P1080662LighterFort

SAN LEO

 

This magical place was our “home” for the next two nights as we did a loop ride from there the day after we arrived. We had views of San Leo like this one for some of our ride.

 

The fortress at the top is completely restored, as is the village (with the tower) in the middle of the photo. The road we biked into San Leo is shown as it goes up diagonally to the city gate.

 

The setting of San Leo inspired Dante for the description of Purgatory in the “Divine Comedy.“ So we can say we’ve spent two nights in Purgatory!

 

It was WONDERFUL riding into San Leo! The entrance gate is barely visible. It was like biking into a dream!

 

Our B&B was near the gate and we just got in before the rain started.

 

The B&B is run by a young couple who bought the old building and fixed it up. Under the plaster, they discovered one of the most famous palindromes, found first in Pompeii. Their copy probably dates from the 18th c when the colorful character Cagliostro was imprisoned and died in San Leo. Note it reads the same left, right, up and down:

 

SATOR

AREPO

TENET

OPERA

ROTAS

 

(translated it roughly says: The farmer Arepo uses his plough as his form of work).

 

Magic in purgatory!

P1000471

 

P1080681

The 15TH c fortress at the top of the mountain is a lot larger than it appears in the distance.

 

It has been completely restored and contains a museum.

 

This is a view down to the village of San Leo taken from the fortress at the top of the hill. Our room in the B&B had such a view of the countryside as this and was in the rear left of this photo.

 

There is a road up to San Leo from the other side that leads to the parking lot shown at the right. These tourists can walk up to the fort without interfering in the village.

 

About a hundred people live here.

 

The Romans built the first fortification.

P1080675

 

P1080691

This is a view from the village church up to the fortress. The climb up is mostly on rock stairs and is much steeper than it looks here.

 

At the right behind the tree is the restored pre-Romanesque parish church.

 

The interior of the parish church.

P1080684

 

P1080697

The cathedral is in Lombard-Romanesque style of 1173.

 

P1080729

URBINO

 

The walled city of Urbino is built on two hills; this photo was taken from the top of one of them.

 

Urbino was ruled by the Montefeltro family from the 12th c onwards with its peak under the wise reign of the Duke da Montefeltro who attracted top talent to his court.

 

The university was founded in 1506.

 

We didn’t see one level street in Urbino! Mostly they are long blocks of stairs like this one.

 

The Palazzo Ducale (Duke’s palace) is in the background.

P1080709

 

P1080735

One of the towers of the Duke’s palace.

 

This is the main square, with “our room” indicated in the old 17th c house.

 

The car at left is right up against the cathedral steps.

P1080736

 

P1020197

This photo of the Urbino Cathedral was taken from our room’s window in the B&B!

 

Originally the cathedral was further back, perpendicular to the direction it is today. It was damaged in an earthquake in 1789 so they changed the orientation of the cathedral – taking up half of the main square. They also changed the style to neoclassical style.

 

There are many stairs approaching the cathedral, so our 2nd floor windows looked directly into the doors.

 

Siciclando really outdid themselves this time (in putting us in the center of old towns) and we really enjoyed the location.

 

P1080712

The interior of the Oratorio di San Giovanni Battista is absolutely wonderful. Every inch is covered by colorful frescoes like these. Two brothers, Lorenzo and Jacopo Salimbeni created this room in two years, 1415 and 1416.

 

P1080733

The first few days we were traveling, Dario and Ilaria were finishing up their design of a self-guided tour for 3 Canadian guys who wanted to bike something like 80 miles a day with lots of steep climbs.

 

Ilaria is from the Piedmont region in Italy, and this is the first year Siciclando has tours in Piedmont.

 

As the tour was self-guided, Siciclando had to determine all sorts of ways to solve problems for them if they got lost, broke down or whatever. All the guides were in other parts of Italy at the time.

 

As Ilaria has done much of the work on the Piedmont tours Dario was often calling her to help. Here, they’re in such a deep conversation she didn’t realize we took her photo.

 

We were just walking to dinner, this wasn’t part of our tour.

 

We stayed two nights in Urbino.

 

On the 2nd day we biked to Acqualanga for a truffle experience.

 

We later transferred back to Urbino.

P1080745

 

P1000475

We love those hill towns!

 

The orange item on top of Juergen’s bike pack is the Spot tracker that lets Ilaria know where we are. A wonderful addition Siciclando did in addition to providing the tracks for the GPSs. We called the tracker the “leash” Ilaria keeps us on. It really works!

 

ACQUALANGA

 

This day was our truffle experience: first we had a light lunch (that’s what Ilaria called it! but just look at the picture with all the ham!) There were shaved truffles on each dish.

 

Then we went to Giorgio’s “forest” where we went with him and his niece to hunt for truffles. He has about a dozen truffle-trained dogs and they all yelped and jumped to be chosen for our walk! They acted just like the sled dogs did in Alaska last March. 

 

Manuela Borghese runs the Antica Macelleria Salumeria in Acqualanga and much of the truffle processing facility. They buy from Giorgio.

P1080749

 

P1080758

Light lunch?????

 

Scrambled eggs with truffles were served first along with the big tray of different local hams.

 

The ceiling of the room was full of hams being aged.

P1080770

 

P1080813

Giorgio and Chicca, the lucky dog chosen for the day.

 

Look at the size of the truffle in her mouth. She’s reluctant to give it up.

 

Divine….

P1080812

 

P1080893

Today’s “catch” while he was with us:

Note the weight on the scale: 1.236 kg (2.74 lb).

 

These were black truffles; the more costly white truffles only grow in winter.

 

These photos show different landscapes we biked through as well as the fields of poppies.

 

Unfortunately for us, the famous sunflowers (on our shirts) bloom in August.

P1080898

 

P1080902

Juergen is thinking of the special craft beers Ilaria has in her van.

 

This photo was taken in the parking lot for the FRASASSI CAVES, Italy’s best, which were discovered in 1971. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed in the cave.

 

Ilaria’s uncle owns an acclaimed craft brewery in Pinerolo, Piedmont called 57 Birrificio Pinerolese. It is considered one of the best in northern Italy. The logo is the interlocking 57 on the boxes.

 

Ilaria brought two cases of his very special beer for us. Ilaria and Yvonne are drinking the Xanthe, we had another case of dark beer.

 

Those beers were very special and we enjoyed them as long as they lasted…

P1080905

 

P1080932

CASTELLUCCIO

 

We transferred up to Castelluccio, which is 20 miles from Norcia. At 4400’ elevation, this village of 150 is the highest settlement in the Apennine Mountains.

 

Our hotel shown here was on a neighboring hill so we had great views to the hill town and the mountains behind it.

 

It was interesting to see a group of a dozen “senior” Italian men on a bike tour too (they biked up here). They were all on mountain bikes and were biking across Italy in FOUR days!

 

During the afternoon and the next morning the view to Castelluccio continually changed. The morning fog was fun to watch as it came and went.

P1080927

 

This large area is well known in Italy for wild flowers; we were a little early for the maximum, but we saw plenty.

 

Behind Juergen is Castelluccio. To the back left of the photo is where we’d spent the night.

P1080946

 

P1000485

Beautiful little gentians.

 

 

P1000488

 

We had just biked across that large meadow.

 

This was our last look back at the High Plains of Castelluccio from the top of the pass.

 

Our hotel’s area and the hill town are visible in the background.

P1080947

 

 

P1080952

This is the top of the pass after Castelluccio as we start “swooping” down into Norcia, miles away.

 

The area in the background was a rich green color that didn’t turn out in the photo. As we biked down we always had a view in this direction.

 

It was about the maximum steepness we would go without braking all the time.

 

 

P1080968

NORCIA

 

 

While Ilaria put the bikes in the van we had lunch in the square.

 

St. Benedict was born in Norcia in 480. The town is known for pork butchers and salamis.

 

Check out Juergen’s trout!

P1080969

 

P1020220

Several specialty shops offering the famous pork and boar products in Norcia have stuffed boar heads at their entrances.

 

This one is typical.

 

 

TREVI

 

We spent a night in Trevi and enjoyed incredible views from there.

P1020227

 

BEVAGNA

 

We stopped in Bevagna for a very nice look-around. It is a tiny ancient town of twisty short blocks and great views. There is part of a Roman theater that is now built into modern houses that was used as a dwelling in the middle ages. This is the part of the area that would encircle the stage; the seats would have been above it.

 

This part has been refurbished as it might have been and is a little museum.

 

The photo at right shows a wine press

P1080983

 

P1080986

This photo shows how they put a floor that cut the height in half, and used the top half of the “tunnel” as a living space.

 

This is as close to Assisi as we got on this trip.

P1080990

 

P1020232

TORGIANO

 

Our shirts dried very quickly here! We loved our room’s view.

 

 

P1080993

 

Torgiano is a very small old village whose medieval aspect has been maintained. There are few signs and the streets seem filled of empty stone houses.

 

It has a fantastic museum, the Museo del Vino, that is a world class museum.

 

It contains samples of wine-growing traditions from the days of the Etruscans. Every object is nearly flawless and the variety of entries is amazing.

 

There are a few wine presses from the 16th c, this being the largest.

 

There is a wooden screw behind and to Yvonne’s right. It is taller than she is; the horizontal plank is used to turn the screw which squeezes the grapes in the barrel.

 

The museum shop sold T-shirts with a beautiful and sensually suggestive picture by Picasso: a kneeling person making music, a dancer and a goat – symbolizing a satyr and the associated drinking of wine. The background of this website shows that image and there are several photos later with Juergen wearing the T-shirt.

P1080998

 

P1090007

There is a very complete collection of majolica pottery from all ages. The designs were unique.

 

Torgiano is a town that has been “owned” by one family, the Lungarotti family, for a very long time. They are the major vintners in the area. The father is “one of the great names of Italian winemaking” and has received national awards.

 

The current mother of the family was instrumental in starting the Wine Museum in the 1970s. She obtained a degree in Literature and Art History in the 1950s. She is well-known throughout Italy in recognition for her activity in the arts as well as wine.

 

This is the world’s largest collection of wafer irons.

 

They started out being used to make wafers for the Mass.

 

Eventually they were made with coats of arms or designs or slogans and used for weddings, baptisms and festivals, especially the Sunday before Lent.

 

This is a tiny sampling of what is presented in the museum. We enjoyed it very much.

P1090019

 

P1000491

 

 

LAKE TRASIMENO

 

Lake Trasimeno’s only water source is rain or snow; no rivers empty into it. There are three islands.

 

It’s best known for the battle in 217 BCE when Hannibal destroyed the Roman army.

 

The Carthaginians ambushed the Romans, catching them in a column along the lake so they were unable to deploy.

 

After several hours of fighting, 15,000 Romans died, including their leader. 10,000 were taken prisoner.

 

P1000498

 

P1000502

Anybody who had Latin in school will remember endless accounts of how Hannibal beat up the Romans on Lago Trasimeno.

 

Juergen reminiscing…

 

Biking a country road away from the lake.

P1090040

 

P1090038

A distant shot of the lake with ripe grain in the foreground.

 

We never tire of fields of poppies!

P1090037

 

P1090043

PANICALE

 

This photo was taken immediately after a difficult climb up into the hill town Panicale.

 

Lake Trasimeno is still in the background.

 

P1020240

Ilaria loaded our bikes and waited with the van (that’s the bummer about being a guide) while we had one of our best lunches of the trip in Panicale.

From here we transferred to Orvieto.

 

The old walled town is only about twice as large as this area. This was taken standing in the old gate; Yvonne is at our lunch table under the first umbrella at the right.

 

We walked up to the right and took the following photo. It was very picturesque in all directions.

P1090049

 

P1090061

A view in Panicale.

 

Yvonne had her best caprese (buffala mozzarella and tomatoes) in this restaurant.

P1090054

 

P1020243

Juergen had his best spaghetti in this restaurant!

 

Always hill towns in view. It’s a wonderful place to bike!

P1090032

 

P1020257

ORVIETO

 

We spent two nights in Orvieto and got some laundry done!

 

We climbed the highest tower in town, the Moorish Tower. This is the view down into the little square. Our hotel is behind the white building, so it’s right where we love to be.

 

Views from the tower over lush Orvieto.

P1020255

 

P1020268

At the left is the Duomo (Cathedral).

 

The cathedral, begun in 1290, is built of alternating black (green basalt) and white (travertine) stone. It was completed in 1600.

 

The façade is considered the boldest in structure and richest in color among Italian-Gothic buildings.

P1090097

 

P1090094

The Town Hall is the Palazzo del Popolo, a Romanesque-Gothic    red tufa and basalt building featuring a first floor gallery of three-arch headed windows and a flat roof topped with a battlemented parapet.

 

Orvieto is surrounded by vertical cliffs of tuff; it is a wonderful site.

 

This is the Piazza della Repubblica, once the ancient forum.

 

The church is Sant’Andrea.

P1090145

 

 

P1090068

Palazzo del Popolo taken at ground level.

 

Today it hosts temporary exhibitions.

 

P1090077

The beautiful cathedral façade with its intricate mosaics and a rose window.

 

This is a close up of the bottom left mosaic showing the baptism of John the Baptist.

 

 

P1090076

 

P1090079

This detail of the bas-relief on one of the pillars (at the bottom of the façade) shows the beautiful stonework; here depicting the last judgment.

 

In one of the chapels is this painting of Dante.

 

 It was fitting after we’ve been meeting the characters in his book on this trip!

P1090086

 

P1090087

Maitani painted this Last Judgment and our guide told us it is believed that Michelangelo got his idea for the Sistine Chapel from it.

 

Across from our hotel, near the gate to the Piazza della Republica, we ate dinner in a Sicilian restaurant.

 

Last year we found a funny video on YouTube where some Siciclian guys claimed to be on the “Sicilian Space Program.” They shot a “rocket” with a video camera and a pottery cannoli (a pastry) attached. Quotes: “Boldly going where no cannoli had ever been before” etc.

 

We’d sent the URL to Dario but Ilaria had never seen it. We’re showing it to her here after she and Yvonne had ordered cannoli.

 

The cannoli in the video is almost visible at the lower left of the iPad and the real desert canoli center bottom of the picture. Go to YouTube and search for Sicilian Space Program. Choose the one with the most views.

P1020254

 

P1090155

We ate at the same restaurant again the next day; see Juergen’s wonderful fish dinner.

 

 

P1090119

St. Patrick’s Well was dug by order of Pope Clement VII (b. 1478) to supply the town with water in case of siege. The well is 203’ deep; with 248 wide steps and 70 windows for illumination.

 

It was designed with two spiral ramps in a double helix around the central well shaft. Like the animals used to carry water, we walked down one spiral stair, across the water on a bridge below, then up the other spiral stair.

 

We never saw the stairs that went in the other direction!

 

The name was inspired by legends that the pilgrimage site of St. Patrick’s Purgatory in Ireland gave access to Purgatory, indicating something very deep.

 

We were in Purgatory AGAIN!

P1020276

 

P1090134

The “mesa” of Orvieto is riddled with caves and tunnels and rooms since Etruscan times since tufa is the main building material.

 

There are 1000 caves officially listed.

 

They are used as cellars today, but they also hold medieval niches for funerary urns, the foundations of a 14th c oil mill and a 6th c. BCE well.

 

We had a private wine tasting of the excellent white wines of Orvieto. Note Juergen’s T-shirt (same as background. Explained

earlier above).

P1090142

 

 

Here the beer is packed and we’re ready to transfer from Orvieto to our starting point for today’s biking.

P1090156

 

P1090157

SOVANA

 

The Church of Santa Maria Maggiore (13th c.) is a stone box on the outside but the inside has this 8th c. carved white marble ciborium (a permanent canopy over an altar) one of the few examples of pre-Romanesque art in Tuscany.

 

Engraved on it are typical early middle ages decorations of doves, peacocks, sun discs, spirals and other geometric motifs.

 

The 11th c.  Duomo in Sovana was built on the foundations of an earlier building.

 

Under the apse is a 7th c. crypt.

P1090163

 

P1090168

The doorway of the Duomo.

 

PITIGLIANO

 

Pitigliano’s beginning is in Etruscan times.

 

We had a wonderful local guide (Elisabetta Peri) who gave us an excellent tour and helped us understand the assimilation of the Etruscans into the Roman civilization.

P1000505

 

P1090187

Once in a while we had automobile traffic. Italians are used to bikes on the road and are very courteous.

 

At the end of a very steep drive we biked to the home of Luca Rivetti (another member of the Siciclando family) to have a cooking class.

P1090195

 

P1090196

The first thing we did was to eat handfuls of fresh cherries from a tree and admire his large vegetable garden.

 

Luca decided that teaching to prepare complicated meals that are difficult to duplicate wasn’t a good idea.

 

So he taught us his cooking “tricks” instead, which was a great idea.

 

We also got to taste wonderful Italian things.

 

Luca took this photo of us in his kitchen. This was before we had a bottle of Sagrantino de Montefalco.

P1090200

 

2015-Calendar006

Here are the preparation notes for the wonderful things we tasted.

 

The first one is a lentil dish. The second one features eggplant, and the third is for bruschetta.

 

Everything was delicious.

 

Afterwards his wife came home from work and we all went for a walk.

 

This gully was an old Etruscan road between two cities that has eroded over the last 2000 years. We really enjoyed walking it.

 

Luca’s wife is German. She is a DO. Together they speak either Italian, English, or German as she spent years in the U.S. when her father was a professor at Cal Tech, and he spent years working in both the U.S. and in Germany.

 

Their two delightful daughters, 7 and 9?, are equally fluent in German and Italian and are learning English in school!

 

We had a great time chatting with them. Oh, yes, and their dog is definitely part of the family and understands all of the above languages too!

P1090216

 

The first historical mention of Sorano is in the 3rd c BCE when it was an Etruscan city.

P1090226

 

P1090227

We liked the unusual way Yvonne’s caprese salad with mozzarella di bufala was presented.

Juergen is playing with his laptop.

 

We were staying in a spa/agriturismo in the countryside, so Ilaria drove us to nearby Scansano for a walk.

P1020291

 

P1090230

SATURNIA THERMAL BATHS

 

This is a natural spa in the Maremma region of Tuscany that has been famous since Etruscan times.

 

This area is called Cascate del Mulino (Mill Falls). The water comes from many springs between a mountain and some hills.

 

The sulphurous water is 100 degrees. It was very warm and we had just ended our biking day when we biked into the parking lot so we had no desire to go in.

 

Amazingly, this is all free.

 

We did a loop ride in the area and it was full of these cypresses that are iconic for Tuscany.

P1000518

 

P1000523

Our bike shirts feature sunflowers, and sadly for us they bloom a month later.

 

We did see these two blooming.

 

We saw many fields full of growing plants, now only 3’ high.

 

P1090243

 

MAGLIANO

 

Another sight from our bikes was the wonderful town wall before we biked into Magliano.

P1000529

 

One of the city gates of Magliano in Toscana.

P1090257

 

P1090258

View from the walls to the lovely countryside where we had just biked.

 

Lunch in Magliano.

 

Here we are less than 10 miles from the west coast and the Tyrrhenian Sea, so we had biked and driven across Italy, along with a lot of north and south movement!

P1090261

 

P1090269

There was a Ferrari rally that stopped in Magliano for two days. The city had roped of two (little) blocks for the cars and had a guard that would not let anyone touch the cars.

 

We joined the locals in staring at these cars and their owners.

 

Back at the agriturismo, we were given an olive oil tasting by Giorgio Rossi, whose family had raised olive trees for generations and is passionate about it.

 

We tasted good as well as bad olive oils. It was an interesting experience. We got a special bottle each which we’re enjoying back in San Diego.

P1090270

 

Tasty home-made pici (Tuscan thick spaghetti) and truffles.

P1020304

 

P1020313

CORTONA

 

 

 

P1020316

We had biked up to the town and to our hotel.

 

Our room was on the top floor of this hotel.

 

The hotel had a little garage, bottom left, where Ilaria is putting our bikes for overnight.

 

The streets where we stay can only be entered to drop things at hotels. She had to park just outside the city wall.

 

The hill is so steep in two directions that if you go into the hotel’s front door here and walk straight through the hotel, you find yourself walking out on a higher street.

P1020321

 

P1090283

This was our wonderful view over the rooftops from our high room.

 

The next day we biked down the hill out of town (FUN!) and through the countryside beyond.

 

That was our least up-hilly day of biking.

 

 

This restaurant was just off a very busy square that was full of Italians who had come into town to meet up with people on a Sunday afternoon. We liked the festive atmosphere (with few tourists).

 

Crotona is a wonderful place to walk around.

 

This restaurant was one of the best we went to. It was fun watching the some locals, some elderly, slowly walking up the steep street to go home.

P1090285

 

P1090289

Juergen had stuffed guinea hen and onions that were cooked in the plastic bag at left.

 

Yvonne had wild boar.

 

Yum.

 

P1000538

More poppies!

 

At the wine museum (days ago) we saw old photographs of the way farmers used to grow grapes (until the late 40s).

 

They planted trees in tight rows to hold wires for growing grapes. We’d never heard of that (and Ilaria hadn’t either).

 

We were on a back road going into a town when we spotted this long line of trees with the vines on wires between them!

 

Ilaria didn’t see it. She agreed that when biking, much more is experienced than when being in a vehicle!

P1000545

 

 

P1090299

 

The beautiful Tuscan countryside.

P1000546

 

P1090319

.

 

At a biking break, we were gulping down some GORP (Granola, Oats, Raisins, and Peanuts?) and Ilaria took this photo.

P1090305

 

P1090312

PIENZA

 

When we were in Pienza (between Montepulciano and Montalcino) in 2000 we took a tour of the Palazzo Piccolomini.

 

We asked our guide at that time to recommend a town where we could base ourselves for a few days.

 

From the loggia, she pointed in the distance to the highest hill in the area and said Radicofani wouldn’t be touristy.

 

Here, we’re trying to use a map to find Radicofani again.

 

This is the Palazzo Vescovile, which was built to house the bishops who would travel to attend the pope.

P1090315

 

P1090320

This is the loggia for the Palazzo Piccolomini where the guide pointed out Radicofani as a non-touristy place for us to stay on our previous trip in 2000. That was a great suggestion for us.

 

This was a first: before this time, buildings always faced in towards the city, not outwards over the city walls.

 

This is Radicofani. Our stay there is shown in our first entry to this website (at the bottom) for 2000.

 

The castle on at the top has been documented since 978 as Castle of Ghino di Tacco. Ghino was an outlaw and popular hero in the 13th c.

 

Boccaccio depicts him as a good brigand in the “Decameron” relating his kidnapping of an abbot.

 

Dante, in his Purgatory (again!!) points to Ghino’s ferocity when he refers to the death of a Bolognan jurist.

P1090278

 

 

P1090326

This was our street in Pienza.

 

The street goes “downhill” so, even though there are only 3 steps up inside the front door (at left) Yvonne is on the 2nd floor after walking down the hall.

 

She is partially visible at the open shuttered window.

 

P1090335

The following five pictures show the scenery we biked through as we biked from Pienza to Montalcino.

 

 

P1090338

 

P1090340

 

 

The cypress shadows are so Tuscany!

P1090342

 

P1090347

Montalcino in the distance – now we just had to bike up to it!

 

Montalcino is the home of one or our favorite Italian wines: Brunello di Montalcino. Heaven is having it with pecorino di Pienza!

 

Montalcino is getting closer.

P1000547

 

P1090358

ABBAZIA OF MONTE OLIVETO MAGGIORE

 

The Great Cloister has 35 very large frescoes depicting the life of St. Benedict.

 

The paintings were painted first by Luca Signorelli in 1495, and later by Il Sodoma in 1505.

 

We love the focused serenity and devotion of the monks while dog and cat go at each other. Renaissance humor.

 

This is another of the abbey’s frescoes.

P1090372

 

P1000552

Our last ride was to Siena and the scenery was wonderful.

 

No! Yvonne isn’t first – she’s about to be passed by a bunch of guys.

 

 

 

P1000566

 

 

P1000554

 

P1000556

 

 

We only have these two photos showing a climb into the a hill town.

 

This is getting up to the hill Siena is on, after this the climb into Siena starts.

P1000562

 

P1000564

We joined Ilaria right after this photo and followed her van up and into Siena.

 

That’s always a “different” experience; an enjoyable one.

 

P1090376

The view to the Duomo from our hotel room!

 

In the background, at right is the “terrace” where we climbed and took photos.

 

P1090384

This is a tele shot (from our hotel room) of the terrace where we took our photos.

 

This was earlier in the day. When we climbed up we were the only ones up there.

 

Siena’s Museo dell’Opera Metropolitana.

 

The first masterpiece of the Sienese School is here: Duccio’s glittering Gothic Maesta altarpiece of 1311.

P1090416

 

P1090433

 

While we were having our city tour there was a downpour.

 

While we were in the Cathedral the thunder clap sounded to all of us like a bomb just outside.

 

Fortunately the rain stopped while we walked around, but we could see lightning in the distance.

 

We went into the museum to get out of the weather and to see the Duccio altarpiece –And wound up climbing to the terrace atop the facciatone, which would have been an entrance to an unfinished cathedral.

 

P1090423

View over the walls to the area we biked through.

 

It’s such a different experience going through areas by bike rather than by car!

 

The Duomo taken from the terrace we had climbed.

 

The storm is visible and lightning and thunder were all around us when we took the picture.

P1090428

 

View from the terrace down to the Piazza del Campo where they have the famous Palio della Contrade horse race twice a year.

 

The riders are chosen by lottery, and they get horses the same way. So riders may or may not know the horse they’ll ride!

P1090425

 

Siena’s Piazza del Campo.

P1090409

 

P1090412

Siena’s Piazza del Campo.

 

This photo is in this website because it was the ONLY place we saw so many tourists.

 

By late afternoon, most were gone.

 

Siciclando is perfect for picking out of the way, but wonderful, attractions for us.

 

Siena’s Palazzo del Comune/Pubblico, the city hall.

 

It was built in the 14th C. Its tower is 289’ high.

P1090413

 

P1090415

Siena’s Basilica di San Domenico.

 

St. Catharine experienced many trances in this 13th-15th c Gothic church.

 

Inside an altar contains the ACTUAL mummified head of St. Catharine of Siena who died in 1380.

 

P1090388

The façade of the Duomo was begun in the 13th C by Pisano and is one of the most “fascinating” in Italy.

 

The uppermost mosaic on the façade is the Coronation of the Virgin.

P1090382

 

P1090383

The bell tower has six bells; the oldest one was cast in 1149.

 

The walls of the interior are faced with black-and-white marble.

 

The 15-16th C paving is unique. Forty artists worked on the marble panels.

P1090395

 

P1090397

The Piccolomini library, built in 1495 by the future Pope Pius III to house his uncle’s books.  Pinturicchio adorned it with frescoes.

 

This room is stunning.

 

Often on this trip we saw people having an aperol spritz: Prosecco, Aperol Orange Liqueur and soda.

 

 It is believed the spritz was born during the 19th c Austrian occupation of Italy (hence the German word Spritz).

 

This was our last night in Italy so we stopped so Yvonne could try one.

 

It was refreshing.

 

P1090448

 

P1090461

Our “last supper” together. In 2015, that is.

 

The restaurant Ilaria recommended allowed us to bring the bottle of Sagrantino de Montefalco we had purchased in Umbria so we could celebrate properly.

 

 

thumbnail2