Thursday, May 5, 2016

A Spectacular Ride to End the Tour

Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Sorano to Montefiescone  
36 miles, 2,750 feet of climbing 

In terms of bike touring, it just doesn't get any better than today - the weather was pristine, the views were amazing, and the wind was at our backs.  We had some challenging climbing as we headed east out of Sorano toward Grotte de Castro.  Thereafter, for several miles of our ride, we rode along Lago di Bolzena, a beautiful and expansive crater lake of central Italy.  As this was the final ride of our tour, and we didn't have many miles to cover, we took our time and really just enjoyed the surroundings and culture of the region.  Today's route concluded with a three mile steepish but scenic climb up to our destination town, Montefiescone.  We finished our ride relatively early, which gave us plenty of time to return our rental bikes to the bike shop in the center of town before it closed for the afternoon.  We then went and found a nice little restaurant for lunch - one last margarita pizza for the road and, boy, was it excellent.  Then we had to proceed with the business of getting our belongings organized and packed for the trip home tomorrow.  At 7:30, we gathered at the hotel restaurant for our final group dinner.  This was a absolutely fantastic tour - the rides, the sights, food, the people and, of course, sharing it with my favorite person.  😊 
Until next time, Italy . . . arrivederci!

Leaving Sorano
Heading toward the lake
Sheep, being guarded by a ferocious dog who barked and chased me away
Sights along the lake
Lake shore
Steep climb up ahead
Town on the lake
Lakeside cappuccino break
Montefiescone - a busy town with narrow streets and lots of traffic

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Penultimate Ride: Nice Day for a Loop Ride

Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Sorano to Pitigliano Loop Ride
27 miles, 2,800 feet of climbing

The weather we've been having on this tour is getting better by the day.  Today, we would enjoy sunshine and warm (mid 60s) temperatures as we rode a loop ride to the historical town of Pitigliano.  Pitigliano is an old town known as the little Jerusalem for the historical presence of a well-integrated Jewish community and a Synagogue, which was built in the 16th century.  It was a scenic and hilly route ("scenic" and "hilly" generally go hand-in-hand).  Spent a little time exploring Pitigliano before heading back to the Villiagio.  Spent the rest of the afternoon sitting outside in the sunshine, relaxing and trying to get and stay on the internet (the signal is not the stongest in these somewhat remote towns we've been staying  in).  Julie - our fearless and super-organized tour director - arranged for a van to transport us into the Sorano "centro," where we had our choice of two restaurants to go to for dinner.  We picked the restaurant with the more traditional menu.  We had a lovely dinner with some of our fellow riders.  Of course, there's nothing like gelato to cap off a fantastic Italian dinner.

View of Sorano from the road
Encountered short tunnel on the route
More views from the road

View of Pitigliano from the road
The road from whence I came - view from the climb up to Pitigliano
Art, his new Italian bike jersey, and his Whistle

A Rainy Start to a Beautiful Day

Monday, May 2, 2016 
Piegaro to Sorano 45 miles
3,888 feet of climbing 

Well, our luck dodging the rain ran out this morning.  It poured all night and was still raining pretty steadily when we were getting ready to leave.  Because we had no internet, we were unable to check the forecast, but rumor had it that the rain was going to pass some time after 9 a.m., and we would meet dry conditions as we headed to our destination town, Sorano.  And that is exactly how it happened.  We donned our rain gear and headed out around 9:00, and rode in light rain for the first 12 miles or so.  Our route consisted of three distinct climbs, with rolling terrain in between.  As usual, beautiful scenery throughout.  At mile 22, we took a cappuccino break in a little town called Aquapendente.  The owner of the cafe was also a cyclist, and came out to talk to us about our ride.  Even with the language barrier, we were able to have a short but meaningful conversation.  For the latter half of the ride, we rode with blue sky and sunshine, and the temperature rose to a pleasant comfortable 63 degrees.  Plus, the climbing and the rolling hills kept us plenty warm.  We arrived at our lodging fairly early - around 1:30.  We're staying at an agritourismo - Villaggio Le Querce.  I would describe it as a rural motel.  Instead of a hotel room, you get a little "apartment," complete with a kitchenette.  It's a very peaceful setting outside the town.  We had plenty of time in the afternoon to relax and enjoy the setting and the beautiful weather.  There was even a hose available, so we washed our bikes.  We walked about 1/4 of a mile to a local restaurant for a group dinner.  Art & I both had the risotto with asparagus, which was molto delizioso.  This was definitely the best weather day of the tour, so far.  According to the forecast, the threat of rain is over for the next few days, so, hopefully, we'll be able to pack away the rain gear for the rest of the trip.  
It finally stopped raining - now just overcast and cool
First climb of the day - about 5 miles
Sheep enjoying the day - in a spontaneous display of cuteness, the lambs started jumping around
Blue sky!
View of Old Sorano from the approach
Arriving in Sorano
Our lodging for the next two nights - Villaggio Le Querce
Happy biker
Clean as a whistle!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A Lakeside Ride

Sunday, May 1, 2016
Assisi to Piegaro, with loop to Lago Trasimeno
52 miles, 2,710 feet of climbing

Well, we got lucky with the weather again.  By all reports, it was supposed to rain this morning, but it was clear and dry when we headed off for our ride to Piegaro.  We had two routes to choose from today; one was more of a direct route to Piegaro, and the other added a loop to a lake - Lago Trasimeno - which added about 10 miles to the short route (not including the two wrong turns we took).  It turned out to be a beautiful sunny and cool day, so we decided to do the longer route.  The route was made up of mainly rolling terrain with a couple of long, steep climbs that really challenged the legs.  The loop to the lake was definitely worth it.  Riding along the lake was spectacular, and the traffic was light.  We actually saw a horse-drawn buggy coming down the road.  We arrived in Piegro just after 2 p.m.  Our hotel in Piegaro was quite exquisite and unique.  It reminded me of an old castle - beautiful stone and brick archways and ceilings.  There may have been a dungeon somewhere.  The furnishings had a Renaissance theme.  And very much like the Renaissance times, the hotel had no internet access, which is why my blog posts are behind.  At 5:30, we gathered for a cooking demonstration by the hotel's chef, Salvatore. Chef Salvatore showed us how to make several different types of pasta - tagliatelle, ravioli, gnocchi and tortilini.  He was amazing.  We had dinner as a group at the hotel's restaurant, cooked by Salvatore, and it was delicious.  With there being no internet access, we made it an early night for sleep.  Tomorrow we head to Sorano.  We'll be checking the weather the old fashioned way - by looking outside.  😊
Some clouds to start, but it turned out to be a great day
My escort
The middle of the road is not a good place to hang out
First view of the lake from the top of the climb
Horse-drawn buggy on the road along the lake
Lago Trasimeno
Lakeside selfie
Our accommodations at the Ca' De' Principi
Cooking demonstration by Chef Salvatore 
Me & the Chef
My dinner - it was quite delicious!

Monday, May 2, 2016

A Day in Assisi

Saturday, April 30, 2016
Assisi "out-and-back" Ride, plus a trip to a bike shop 
23 miles, 2,400 feet of climbing 

Today was scheduled as a rest day, which gave us the opportunity to see more of the sights of Assisi.  It was a clear, sunny day, with temps that were forecasted to rise to the high 60's, so we planned to go for a ride once the morning chill burned off.  We decided we would take a short ride back up the descent we came down yesterday.  Around noon, we suited up and got ready to start our ride.  Before I got on my bike, I checked my tires and discovered a a section of my tire had been worn away such that the rubber had actually peeled away and the casing was showing.  Well, that's just not going to do.  So, the first order of business was to find a bike shop to buy a new tire.  We were thrilled to find out there was a bike shop only about three miles south of Assisi.  We got there in a jiffy, as it was essentially downhill the entire way.  The guy at the bike shop was great; he spoke no English, but - thanks to the universal language of bicycle - he got us exactly what we needed.  From there, we rode directly back to the hotel so Art and I (mostly Art) could replace my tire.  So, after that minor but necessary detour, we resumed our planned route.  The ride back up the hill to Armenzano was a nice climb - it had a few really steep spots that were offset by the a couple of easy sections.  We climbed until we came to that crappy road section we had to ride yesterday, turned around and headed back to Assisi.  It seems we returned just in time, because soon thereafter, the sky clouded up and it began raining lightly.  But it didn't rain for long, and it turned out to be a very pleasant evening.  Ended the day with a nice dinner and a gelato.  Tomorrow, we head to Piegaro.  According to the forecast, it looks like we'll be wearing our rain gear. 
Morning in Assisi - view from our hotel balcony
Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi
Inside the Basilica
Front of the Basilica
The beautiful grounds in front of the Basilica
And now for something completely different . . . my tire problem
View from the ride
My great bike mechanic