Tuscany bike trip

Oct 20th, 2007, 01:11 PM
  #1  
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Tuscany bike trip

Sat 22 Oct 07

Holiday for 2 with bikes carrying luggage.

3.45am start and I'd already been awake half an hour. We drank some juice, ate up 2 nectarines, threw the remaining items into our panniers and set off for Leeds airport. (DH had already loaded the bikes onto the car last night.). We decided I would drop DH at the terminal and then park as the bikes were already dismantled ready for the flight and so not easy to move. I took his credit card as he had booked the car park. Security was higher than normal and we weren't allowed to drive up to the terminal only into the short stay park so I left DH there with 2 bikes 2 bags to put them in 4 panniers and 2 dustbin bags. Then I went to park and somehow lost the credit card at the barrier. Leaving the carpark I asked the security guards if it had been handed in. It hadn't. I walked to the terminal past where I'd dropped DH without seeing him and asked at the info desk. No card. So I went to the checking desk to look for DH. No sign of him, just a huge queue. By now it was nearly 5.30. Then my phone rang. DH wanted to know why I hadn't brought him a trolley; he was where I'd left him. I wheeled a trolley over there and we loaded it up, everything now in bags. The checking queue was long, being for several flights, but it moved fast and we were done by 6, an hour before the flight. Then another check for the lost card at the info desk before DH gave it up for lost and rang the bank to cancel it. No queue at security so we were straight through.

Landed at Pisa at 10.45 local time and reassembled the bikes. Only damage was half of DH's front mudguard was lost. DH rebuilt the bike while the members of our flight and were replaced by a large group of Americans. We set off at 11.45 for Lucca on a route DH had chosen in advance to avoid hills. The city centre was busy with few road signs and we struggled to find the right way through until I started using the GPS on my Blackberry. Soon we were on open road headed north through Le Maggiola and Gello. We'd eaten bagels and brie on the plane and didn't feel in need of lunch. It was gloriously sunny and we were very warm in our long trousers, socks and shoes and (in my case) long sleeved top. Using the GPS we took strade bianchi and at one point a grass track which was neither on the GPS or paper maps but went the right way. We stopped for lemonade in a small bar in Ripafratta. We thought the Via Statal Abetone would be busy, but it wasn't. We were getting a bit tired approaching Lucca, but the cycling was easy. The outskirts seemed to go on forever, and then suddenly there were the walls. We didn't know where the hotel was precisely, but we had its address and eventually found the cathedral which we knew was near the hotel. The Albergo Diane was fine, cheap at €70 and they put our bikes in a store across the road.
It was 3.30 when we arrived, having done 27.3km. We went out to explore the city and had coffee and peach tart then wandered around until nearly 7. After changing, we went off to a restaurant we had chosen (xxxx), but it was full. Our 2nd choice was the Antico Sigillo (via degli Angeli) where we had a good, simple meal for €36 for the 2 of us. By 10 we were back at the hotel, exhausted.

Sun 23
We were up at 8 and wandered off to find a bar for breakfast. We knew we'd found the right one when we saw the hotel receptionist who'd checked us in having breakfast there. Then back to the hotel to pack up, check out and retrieve our bikes from their shed. Somehow, at this point, I managed to lose my hat. We were on the road well before 10, headed due east on Via Romana through Capannori. In the town we stopped as the church bells started ringing at 10.30 ( the bells the bells) and we found a deli open where we could buy a bottle of water.
We kept heading east, looking for an archaeological display which was somewhere in the town, according to the map. We reached a roundabout with a sign off to the left for a Roman/Etruscan park of 100 farms and thought that might be it, so took the road. It was hot and sunny as we cycled over a bridge across a railway. We couldn't see any sign of an archaeological park from up there but decided to keep going because the road was quiet and was going in more or less the right direction for San Miniato or Santa Maria a Monte where we thought we might spend the night.
After a couple of miles we reached a large packaging factory and roadworks - all quiet because it was Sunday. Then, with no warning, the road was barred just before a bridge over the Pisa-Florence motorway. I squeezed my bike through the gap and went to investigate. In the middle of the bridge I met a very elderly Lycra- clad Italian cyclist, also pushing his bike, coming towards me. He said, "Va bene?", nodding in the direction of the way I'd come and I said, "Si", and then we repeated the exchange the other way round. He then said a lot more that I didn't understand, and I asked the way to the archaeological park and was told to bear left over the bridge. I'd waved DH to come on when I saw the man, and we moved the barrier at the far end of the bridge aside and carried on, soon reaching the 100 farms park. There was little information, but we cycled through it past hunters with dogs and guns, goat shearers, etc. The road became strado biancho, then grass, and we needed to use the GPS to keep going in the right direction to hit another road. There were few people around and we were slightly worried some careless duck hunter may shoot us by mistake. We came across a couple of Etruscan remains of buildings with display boards showing how they had been.
After that, we followed a very poor track for several miles along drainage ditches until we joined a road towards Bientina. After a while we stopped for lunch and had pasta then continued to Santa Maria up a steep hill. While DH was trying to find a non-existent Tourist Information, I played with my Blackberry and discovered it had a search function which would identify hotels, or anything else in the Italian Yellow Pages, and show them on the map. We decided to go to the 4 Gigli in Montopoli as it boasted 4* and a panoramic restaurant. Montopoli was on top of a hill but quite pretty and the hotel, including our room, had amazing views. We got there at about 5.30, fairly tired. DH was pleased to find the restaurant was part of the slow food movement, less pleased when we didn't get out of dinner until nearly 11 by which time we could hardly keep our eyes open.
Distance: 71.4 - 27.3 km
bilboburgler is offline  
Oct 20th, 2007, 01:12 PM
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A few more days

Mon 24

After breakfast (included in the €85 room rate) we retrieved the bikes from the hotel's pottery shop across the square. I paid the bill (€70 for dinner) while DH pumped up the tyres, then we had a quick look in Tourist Information before setting off. We headed east towards the Elsa valley, using the GPS to find all the right small roads. There wasn't much traffic but we had to walk up many of the hills, so it took an hour and three quarters to do the 11km to San Miniato. The town was quite pleasant. We locked up the bikes and had a wander around the cathedral square, then went in search of lunch. We had pasta in a low key restaurant where we were joined by lots of business people at 1.30pm.

It had been overcast and cool in the morning, but after lunch the sky cleared and it got quite hot. We headed over the hills to the Elsa valley, with some very steep parts. We went through various villages, past several tempting agriturismos with pools, but we had decided to stay in Castelfiorino. Crossing the river into town, we saw something swimming in the muddy Elsa which may have been an otter, but may also have been a dachshund.
In the town, we failed to find the first Blackberry-indicated hotel so got TI to mark 3 on a map. We chose the nearest, Albergo Lami. It wasn't until they asked for our passports that we realised they were still at the 4 Gigli. The elderly couple running the Lami said the lack of passports was fine as far as they were concerned, which was just as well, and rang the 4 Gigli for us. I spoke to someone there who spoke a bit of English and asked him to send the passports to us in a taxi.
We had a walk round town and then ate an early pizza in a place on the same large square as our hotel. The room rate was a mere €60 plus €4 each for breakfast. We were asleep by 10pm.

Tue 25

We had breakfast in the hotel and then walked to TI at about 10 - no sign of the passports by then, despite having asked the 4 Gigli to get them to us by 10. The hotel owner rang the 4 Gigli again for us when we got back, there was much shouting “mama mia” and she managed to impart to us that they had thought we were sending a taxi. Our passports finally arrived at 11 and we left soon after, paying €60 for the taxi and €70 for the hotel, including a couple of euros for phone calls.
We headed west out of town, towards Gambassi Terme. We thought it would be a nice short trip with a thermal spa to look forward to at the end of it. It was very hot and we were soon climbing too steeply to be able to cycle. We walked most of the way for an hour and a half, stopping for lemonade in a roadside bar at Borgoforte. Then it was more uphill to Gambassi, the final stretch into town being very steep. A middle aged German couple managed to cycle past us, he towing a trailer, but they clearly had very low gears.

We went in search of the spa building and found, predictably, that it was shut for lunch until 3.30. With 2 hours to kill, we went and found a good lunch (Le Torri, Via Volterrana) then sat in a municipal garden until TI opened, also at 3.30. The woman there spoke enough English to explain, in a somewhat embarrassed manner, that despite its name the town did not have thermal springs.

I sat in the park by myself for 10 minutes while DH walked around while a drugged up individual sat opposite me and eyed my wallet (a bit uncomfortable until DH came back) at which point he walked off dropping his wallet. He stumbled back 5 minutes later and we pointed out his lost wallet.

So we decided we would go on and stay somewhere on the way to San Gimignano. There appeared to be several possibilities, and we were assured it was not necessary to book in advance.
After pushing the bikes up another long steep hill, the road finally flattened out a few miles outside Gambassi and we were able to cycle properly for the first time that day. It was still very warm at 4.30 when we reached the first of the holiday villages that supposedly did B&B. It didn't seem to be open, but there was another a couple of miles further on, down a big hill. Unfortunately they were full up with a group. They suggested a farm holiday place round the next corner, but that was full too. The receptionist said there wasn't much before San Gimignano, so we pressed on.
It was still warm and we were on a ridge road with wonderful views, but we were getting tired and beginning to wonder if we would ever find a bed for the night. After a few more miles we tried a house down a 300m drive which had a "camere" sign on the road, but the only sign of life was a large dog (fortunately on the end of a chain).
Eventually, having passed several holiday cottage type places which seemed unlikely to offer a room for a single night, we reached the outskirts of San Gimignano and stopped at the Hotel San Michele. We got a room for €77 including breakfast and the bikes were locked away in a laundry building.
Later, we walked the 1.5km into the old town centre for supper. There weren't many tourists about, so we had a look around in the dark before selecting the Il Castillo restaurant. We drank Chianti and desert wines.
bilboburgler is offline  
Oct 20th, 2007, 11:15 PM
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Enjoying your report very much. Tuscany doesn't sound like the easiest place to ride, with all those hills.
travelgirl2 is offline  
Oct 21st, 2007, 06:01 AM
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TravelGirl we spotted that if you follow rivers and railways it can be easy but then the call of the hills and the grand vistas...

Wed 26
We did 29.2km yesterday, much further than we'd planned, so we opted for an easy day today, heading for Colle di Val d'Elsa. We cycled up into the old town of San Gimignano first and pushed our bikes through the streets. By 10.30 it was already very full of tourists. We took some photos and I bought a hat to replace the one I lost in Lucca. Then we cycled off in the sun in an easterly direction.
The road soon became steep and we had to walk a lot of the time. After 10km we were on top of the hill near Bibbiano. It was an agricultural area and there was a gentle breeze. We stopped for lunch at 12.30 in Borgatello. After another km we were in the outskirts of Colle. Entering the old town through Porto Nuovo we bumped into a nice Texan couple who seemed to think they were in a castle. We explained it was a mediaeval town and they seemed quite happy.
The first hotel we found looked OK, the Hotel Adolfo, so we checked in for 2 nights as the weather forecast for Thursday was bad. We were offered a choice of rooms, one at €80 with 3 beds on the ground floor, the other much smaller but on the first floor and only €60. We took the latter. Our bikes were locked away in a basement at the back of the hotel and we went to explore.
The modern, low town was reached via a municipal lift. We wanted to see the glass museum (Colle being famed for its lead crystal industry) but it shut for lunch until 4. Instead, we went back to the hotel and washed some clothes. It showered with rain for the rest of the day and we took our waterproofs when we went out to eat.
We chose a wine bar not far from the hotel and had a glass of a different white wine each then a different red each with our meal.
In the night there was a big storm with much crashing of thunder.
Distance today: 14.5 km.

Thu 27
The rare luxury of a day off the bikes. We got up in a leisurely fashion and left the hotel at about 9.15, wearing waterproof tops, to go down to the lower town. We had planned to visit the glass museum and then perhaps to go to Volterra in the afternoon, but TI in the main square of the lower town said there was a 9.45 bus and then only one in the afternoon that would allow us to get back. So we jumped on the 9.45 (just under €10 return for the 2 of us) and were in Volterra at 10.30.
We went round the Etruscan museum, which was good but involved negotiating a lot of steep steps which were definitely not cyclist friendly. There were lots of funerary items, a small amount of gold jewellery and a number of red figured pots like the ones we had seen in Metaponto.
Emerging from the museum, we explored the town for a bit, until great crashes of thunder made us head for lunch. The weather was bad, so we decided to catch the 1.15 bus back to Colle afterwards. When we arrived the rain was so heavy we had to stay in the shelter of the bus stop with the other people who had just got off the bus for 20 minutes or so. Then we went back to our hotel for a while before venturing out to the glass museum.
We were the only people in the museum for the 1 and 3/4 hours we were there. We would have left a bit sooner, but the rain was bouncing down so we stayed put until nearly 7pm. Then we dodged the rain back to the hotel, going a bit beyond it to identify a suitable restaurant for later.
The restaurant, the Osteria La Bettola di Pisto, turned out to be doing a buffet of dishes from different parts of Italy. The owner was very jolly and spoke some English, the place was packed with locals and a few tourists and we had a good time.
bilboburgler is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2007, 08:00 AM
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Fri 28
The bike shed beneath the hotel was full of bikes for the 40 Danes who seemed to be based at the Hotel Arnolfo for the week, but fortunately ours were near the entrance. It wasn't raining when we left, taking a steep road down to Colle Piano, but it started before long and we put our waterproofs on and sheltered under a balcony until the first, heavy shower had passed.
We headed south along the river through Gracciano d'Elsa and Scarna. The road undulated and was very busy until we turned off at Gracciano. We did some white road, which was easier to ride in its wet condition, but we had to walk up hills a fair bit once we rejoined the blacktop.
After Scarna we soon reached Abbadia Isola which had been on a pilgrimage route and had quite a grand church. Then a short stretch of main road to Monteriggione, a small walled town. To get into town we went up an incredibly steep walking track, so steep that I could scarcely push my bike up it and DH had to take up one, then the other. As we went through the gate the road became paved with stone in a herringbone pattern with the upper edges set proud to afford some grip. The town was busy with tourists. It being 12.30, we left the bikes in the main square and had a beer and a panino in a bar.
When we emerged it was bucketing down with rain and we sheltered under another gate's arch until it subsided a bit. Back on the road, we headed for Siena via Badesse and Uopini. We got to the city at about 3.30 and had to walk through the central area as the streets were so busy with pedestrians. It took us ages to find the hotel we wanted to stay at, the Palazzo Ravizza, and when we did we found it was fully booked with only a €250 suite on offer. We declined. Another nearby hotel, the Athena, had rooms at €150, but we weren't sufficiently impressed to stay.
Concluding that everywhere within the walls was probably full, and unwilling to face the hordes in the centre to go to TI, we headed down to the suburb of Santa Maria where the Blackberry GPS said there were 3 hotels. We only found 2, both full. By now it was 5.30 so we got out the maps and GPS and started ringing the nearest hotels. Several were full. Those that were not were very expensive, e.g. one at €650. So we looked further away in the direction of the Val d'Orcia and eventually booked one at €80 that was 15km away near Monteroni d'Arbia. We set off at 5.50 on the main road, the light failing fast, but at least the rain had stopped. We went fairly fast as the road was mostly level, and in the evening sun we sped past fortified farmhouses (grancias) and through small villages. After a short stop in Monteroni to ask the way from a couple of police officers, we arrived at Lucignano at about 7.10, just as it was getting dark. We had done 50km. We were pleased to find that the Hotel Borgo Antico was an old castle in a fortified village on a small hill. Our room was great with a large, modern bathroom. We ate in the hotel restaurant where there was no wine list but DH was taken off by the waiter (he explained that they had only just taken over the restaurant and did not really know what they had in the cellar) and came back with a very nice 2002 Rosso di Montalcino that they only charged €20 for. We collapsed into bed at 10pm vowing to have an easy day tomorrow.

Sat 29

It was chilly outside when we got up. We loaded the bikes then left them outside the hotel while we explored the small village of Lucignano d'Arbia. The church apparently has some good frescoes, but it was locked. But yet again here was a small walled village which could have become a city if Siena or others had not got there first. When we got back to the bikes it started to rain and we had to put our waterproofs on. We went on the main road to Buonconvento through rain showers, doing the 11km in about an hour.
There was a huge market outside the walls. We found the newly opened TI in the museum (the sign was just being put up) and got them to ring a few hotels in Montalcino. All were full. We selected the Garibaldi in San Quirico instead and made a reservation there.
Then we set off eastwards at 12.30, after a stroll through the town, toward the Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore. The weather began to brighten and we took off our waterproofs. We were able to cycle some of the way following a stream, but it got steep in places and we had to walk. We thought the monastery didn't open after lunch until 4pm (actually, it opened at 3.15), so we were planning a lie down in the sun while we waited for it to open. But at luck would have it, there was a new hotel/restaurant a km before the turn off. San Valentino SP 451 di Monteiliveto or www.piccolohotelsanvalentino.com. We arrived at about 1.30 and had a good lunch, then reached the abbey shortly after it opened (having checked its opening hours via Google over lunch).

The cloister is covered in frescoes of the life of St Benedict. We also saw the library, pharmacy and a small gallery of mainly 14th - 16th Century religious paintings. No tickets but we were requested to leave what we felt was right. The shop contained things made by the monks including, bizarrely, anti-cellulite cream. We would have liked to have done a wine tasting as well, but the Albergo Garibaldi was expecting us at 6 so we left at 4.

We went over the hills to San Giovanni d'Assi, a pleasant small town with a new (2004) truffle museum in a mediaeval castle. No time to visit it though. We sped down into the valley and reached Torrenieri at about 5.45. It was steeply uphill from there to San Quirico and we made slow progress. We rang and finally got through to the hotel at 6.30 and said we'd be another half hour, but it actually took an hour because we couldn't find the hotel. It was well dark by the time we did, and we were exhausted. The room was fairly basic but clean and a mere €52 including breakfast. I washed a couple of T shirts and then we ate in their restaurant which specialised in fish. There was also lots of meat on the menu, but we didn't fancy any of it and had pizzas and beer, a cheap night. The Albergo Garibaldi is basically a small hotel at the back of a petrol station and the restaurant looks as one would expect but the kitchen is excellent with some very happy customers.

Sun 30
We checked out (€52 + €30.50 for dinner) and left our bikes and panniers at the hotel while we explored San Quirico. It only took about 10 minutes to reach the centre of town by a rather more direct route than the one we had cycled the night before. A very pleasant little town, especially as it was already sunny and hot. We reached TI soon after it opened and asked about the Hotel xxx. It wasn't in the San Querico area so the TI woman wasn't prepared to book it for us, but she showed us the hotel's website and gave us the phone number. We rang, but it was fully booked.
Back in TI we told the woman we wanted to be near Bagno Vignoni and she suggested a couple of agriturismos in Vignoni. She rang the first of them and we booked a €50 room. La Querciola de Mario e Rina Chechi.
We explored the rest of the town, finding the rose garden and the central square with Bar Centrale. Then we walked back to our hotel and picked up the bikes. We had to walk most of the way to our agriturismo as it was uphill on steep "white roads". Once again found a small fortified farm which had had its chance to be a walled city but blew it back in 1300 remaining with a proud tower which has a large WWII memorial tacked to the outside. We got there at 1.30 and were welcomed in turn by most of the extended family. We left our luggage, just taking one pannier with our swimming things, intending to go to the spa.

The 1.5km track down to town was very steep and shingly, so it wasn't possible to ride all the way. When we reached the main square with its stone tank of hot water we decided to have lunch. The place was very busy and service slow, but we had a glass of Brunello di Montalcino each which was very good. Then we went in search of the bathing facilities and found the pool of the Hotel Poste xxxx. By now it was 3.30 and the pool closed at 4.45, but we decided to go ahead despite an all-day charge of €12 each. As we parked our bikes at the end of the hotel's car park, DH looked over the edge and saw people frolicking far below us in a pool of water. So we got back on the bikes and whizzed down there. The water was cold, but the rocks around it very warm and the whole place a real suntrap. DH changed behind a bush and waded about in the water a bit, and then we sat on rocks and enjoyed the warmth for an hour.
Back in the town, we sat in a park for a while before buying slab-like sandwiches to take back with us and having an ice-cream. Then we walked back up to the agriturismo, arriving at 7 as it got dark. We asked for a bottle of wine (they made their own) and got one with both a 2005 and a 2006 label on it. Unsurprisingly, it wasn't up to the Brunello we'd had for lunch.
Our room had a kitchen outside it, shared with another (empty) room. We ate our sandwiches, drank the wine and watched Columbo dubbed into Italian on the TV.

Monday

Rising sensibly we headed back down the very steep hill and booked into the Hotel Post for the morning in the spa. Pool up to 38C very clean and nice. Spent a few hours lounging in the sun and in the pool (strange rubber hats required in the pool). We left around midday and headed down hill. We randomly chose a hotel in Pienza and since we could see it in the distance headed off on back roads. Lovely cycling, very clear day and we could watch all the cities and towns on hills all around us. In the 1300 it must have been a terrible place as people fought up and down it. Then it got hard as we hit the bottom of Pienza hill and had to push up. Passed by a number of fit Italians on road bikes with no luggage and fit bottoms very frustrating. Finally find our way to the hotel Corsignano, pretty glossy and dull but the staff were very helpful and breakfast was great and packed with Americans. The town is attractive but not that fantastic, we walked around and checking out restaurants. Strange how in the midst of all this beauty our minds always turn to food. Finally eat on the terrace of Il Prato packed with yet more Americans (probably the most we have seen in one place) crazy conversations like “I want still water why don’t you understand” to a poor man who only understands Italian and is offering “gas or no gas”. She seems to just get louder. Anyway the food is ok and the view is great with the lights of the mountain cities glint like diamonds on black velvet and the night is warm enough to eat outside.


Tues

We booked into Albergo Il Marzocco in Montepulciano for €90 by phone. Then, after checking out from the Corsignano we walked through town and took a back road to Monticchiello. We were on loose, shingly stuff for most of the way, which meant it wasn't always safe to cycle even downhill. The TV weather forecast was for two days of "scorchio" and they were right. We had some excellent views of Pienza above us as we wound through fields being ploughed and the odd vineyard.
We had to walk up the last 2km or so into Monticchiello, which was a very pretty village. There were at least 2 restaurants, and the one we chose was fairly full. I had a glass of Rosso di Montalcino and DH had a Val d'Orcia, which was more rustic and probably better. The restaurant was also a wine shop and even had Tokay Azu for sale. Coming into town were two Americans riding on road bikes with the man shouting “faster bitch” while the woman took the Lord’s name in vain.
We decided to take a slightly longer route to Montepulciano as it looked a bit flatter, but we still ended up walking a lot. We went east out of the village and climbed and climbed in the hot sun. An American couple on road bikes with no luggage cycled past us chatting happily. Eventually, after what seemed like hours, we reached a picnic table @740 metres and stopped to drink some water and have a 20 minute rest. The top of the hill was only a few metres beyond, so we had some downhill (on blacktop) before joining a bigger road and approaching Montepulciano via San Baggio. There was then quite a long push up to the walls of the town, but we soon found our hotel.
DH was going down with a cold, so after checking in at 5.30, installing the bikes in the garage and changing, we went in search of a chemist. Then we walked up some very steep streets to the cathedral and had a drink (Nobile di Montepulciano for me, spumante for DH) in the main square as the sun set There was almost no-one around and we were amazed it was possible to drink so cheaply (€5.50 for my wine, c��3 for DH's) in such a spot.
TI was already shut, and the official wine tastings ended at 6pm, so we had a walk around before choosing where to eat. The town was much larger than Pienza, but without all the tourists. DH took one of the cold remedy tablets from the chemist and perked up a bit, but we were still in bed and asleep by 10.

Wed 3
Check-out time was 12 at the Marzocco, so we lingered in breakfast trying to decide what to do. We had come to the conclusion that we needed to take a train back to Pisa and ought to spend two nights there. We decided to walk back to TI near the cathedral and see if they could book a train for us and tell us anything about the two lakes on the Tuscany/Umbria border near Montepulciano and Chiusi.
TI couldn't book trains, but said the office at the other end of town could. Nor could they tell us anything about the lakes. We walked back to the other TI which was just outside the walls and not far from our hotel. The woman there explained that the train from Chiusi would be better for us (just one change in Florence) than the parallel track through Montepulciano station, down on the valley floor. She gave us a list of hotels in Chiusi and tried to book the Centrale for us, but it was engaged.
In leaving we realised that this is the centre where the American bikers are based. Everywhere we look is Lycra.

We set off at noon on a route north-eastwards on a white road East. The cycling was pleasant and undulating through vineyards and past farms with no traffic and good view of Montepulciano behind us. When we reached the local famous Church (which was built to enclose a chapel in which a miracle once took place), there was a fork in the road, no signpost and no indication on our maps that either road was anything other than a dead end. Rather than going back, we chose the left road which seemed to head the right way. We went down on a dirt track to where some grape pickers were working, being overtaken by two cars of hunters with their dogs and guns. The track up the other side of the hill soon joined the expected road through the Nobile di Montepulciano vineyards.
We were getting hungry, but there was no sign of any bars, or even villages, only occasional farmhouses. We had to walk up some hills, but mostly we could keep going. Eventually, after following the Poggio xxx, we came out on a blacktop road running east towards the Florence-Rome motorway. We stopped in the shade under the motorway bridge and I ate one of the remaining cereal bars we had brought from England. Soon afterwards we turned south onto the and found a bar where we had Panini and orangeades.
It was very hot and we had to walk up a fair few hills after that. Just outside Chiuso DH rang the Centrale and booked us in there. We got there at about 4.30, having done 26.6km. We were finally passed by some British bicyclers with luggage.
After a shower we went for a walk around the lower town (Chiuso Scala). The hotel was opposite the station from which we planned to catch a 1pm train to Pisa. We had a beer and then walked around some more before going for a meal. We had thought about catching a bus up to the upper town to eat, but the buses seemed to stop at about 7.30. DH's cold was bad, but he felt much better after his 8pm table. We were asleep at 10pm again.

Th 4
we got up early, packed, checked out and left bikes and luggage at the hotel. Then we caught a bus and were in the upper town by 9am. We had breakfast sitting outside across from the cathedral while waiting for the National Archaeological Museum to open. It was very good indeed, with many Etruscan funerary monuments and Greek, Roma and Etruscan pots.
The TI was open by the time we emerged, and the woman there unusually helpful. We only had time to do one of the 2 possible underground tours and opted for the one of the Etruscan/Roman water system rather than yet more stone coffins. We had a French-speaking guide all to ourselves. After about half an hour of creeping through tunnels and chambers we emerged in the cathedral bell tower and she left us to climb the 150-odd steps on our own. Our cycle-weary legs protested, but it was worth it for the view of the town and the countryside around.
We were impressed with Chiusi and wished we'd had a bit more time, particularly to go back out on the road we had cycled in to visit the Etruscan tombs.
We got a bus back to the station at noon and had Panini for lunch in a cafe before retrieving the bikes and luggage and catching a 1pm train the Florence. There we changed onto a Pisa train and chatted to an Englishman off a cruise ship in Livorno whose wheelchair bound wife was travelling in the baggage car with our bikes.
On arrival in Pisa at about 4.30 we went straight to TI to try and find a hotel in that area, as it was near the airport but walking distance of the old city centre. We were given a map and opted to walk round and check them out. Several were fully booked and a couple that weren't didn't have a room for Friday night too. We finally found a 3*Hotel touring which was our most expensive hotel to date at €115, but it was new and fairly smart.
We walked over to the leaning tower to see it in the dark, popping in a few shops en route. We concluded there wasn't much to Pisa apart from the cathedral square.
We were sick of Italian food by now, so were glad when we found a Mexican for supper. We were a bit sick of wine too so drank beer. It was warm enough to sit out to eat.

Friday

The experience of the Mexican last night was too much. Now the challenge was to find a curry. We considered asking the Pakistani traders in town but decided we would sniff it out. First a visit to the tower of Pisa in the daylight. Walking up to the tower DH stumbles on an Indian restaurant. We walk all around the Tower area (even trying to get into the cemetery). Great fun. Then back to TI to see what else there is to do. We select shopping, a visit to Museum and? Best part is the ceiling of the Church… Shopping not too bad but far too dull colours for the coming winter. Back to the hotel and then finally a curry.

Saturday

The ride to the airport is very easy and then DH strips the bikes back into plastic bags.
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