After a day of planning and making decisions regarding our route, I was ready to hit the road this morning. Bree, still a little sore from our alternate activity day, was a little less energetic. We began our long day on the bikes by climbing a massive hill in parts so steep that Bree had to get off and push.
I was set on seeing the countryside surrounding Greves in Chianti, so we decided to pass through the classic Tuscan countryside as we made our way down a campsite just outside of Siena. Little did we know, however, how much climbing would be involved. The terrain started out with true rolling hills. It was awesome! A little up, and a little down. Of course, the true rolling terrain didn’t last long. Instead of winding roads down through the recesses in the hills and valleys, someone decided to route them up the sides of the mountains. I am nearly certain that the only way you could justify calling the mountains here hills is if you were looking at them from an airplane. If you are a cyclist, it makes for some pretty slow moving.
While it was a long and arduous trip into Chianti,it certainly had its benefits. I had not been in love with the Tuscan landscapes we have seen since we have been here until today. As we climbed and dropped over hill after hill, we passed neatly organized vineyards interspersed with the silvery backdrop of olive groves. On top of all of that, we must have come to Italy at the right time, because everywhere we go the fields are laced with red, white, and mostly yellow wildflowers. Bree particularly loves the wild poppies.
By the time we rolled into Greve, we were pretty beat and were only about a third of the way done with the days ride. The miles tick by really slowly when you are climbing as much as we did. After taking a break on a bench in the shade to eat a typically glamorous lunch of tomato sauce, foccacia, mozzarella, and some grapes, we set out for our final destination – a campsite 10 km north of Siena.
As we rolled out slowly, ready to be demolished by another set of hills, we began to see more and more cyclists who cheered us on. The Italian cyclists are incredibly friendly, and as they passed we would exchange friendly ciaos. If the country to the north of Greve was pretty, the region south is absolutely beautiful. If you ever come to visit Tuscany, this is the place to see.
We descended the last mountain for the day as a enormous Castillo Montereggiano came into view at the top of a vineyard-lined hill. Bree is convinced that I am blind when I am riding, because this was the third of fourth castle that we passed today that I didn’t even see until she pointed it out. I suppose I spend too much time riding and not enough time looking around.
Since the castle was en route to our campsite, we stopped by to check it out. I was surprised to find that it housed several shops, bars, hotels, and gelaterias as well as a pretty little church.
We were anxious to get to camp though, since we were both beat. Before we left, though, I caught a glimpse of an Orbea Orca just like mine at home(the white and black version). This is the first time I have seen it anywhere else. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to catch its owner in time to ask about it as he rode out of the castle gates.
We arrived at the bottom of a hill around 5:00, about 1 km from our prospective campsite feeling pretty exhausted. Bree noticed a sign, however, that said “Closed” above “Campeggio Luxor”. As the GPS was directing us up a dirt road to the campsite, I offered to go check it out so that Bree didn’t have to climb the terribly steep hill. It was a tough 5 or so switchbacks on the dirt road, and upon reaching the top, found that the campsite was indeed closed for what looks like forever. Disappointed for lack of a shower, I rode back to Bree to give her the news. Rather than ride another 12 km (uphill of course) into Siena for a hotel, we set out in search of a free camp.
We found a site not far from where Bree was waiting for news on the campsite. It is just off of the road in a wildflower and giant-spider infested meadow next to a stream. Aside from what my legs tell me is stinging nettle, our campsite couldn’t be better. Hopefully we don’t have any boars tonight.