The day of rest is over.

Forgot to mention yesterday that the word of the day was Joy and I was runner up.

The word today is in the present which is really 3 words but we are all present and ready for the day

There was a small group that was keen to do a small tough hill ride this morning before we started so they all left half an hour before the end of our fabulous breakfast and we met them all at the bottom of the road on their return.

A bit overcast today and was sprinkling really lightly as we left but that didn’t last long.

First up a big mountain to climb but some of the villas on the way were amazing.

It was cooler today which was for the best as we did some serious climbing today. Apparently we climbed 1000m.

Naturally the views were spectacular

As the spring here in Italy was incredibly wet, apparently only 6 fine days in May, now that the weather has improved and perfect, the cutting of the grass and burning off has started which makes it very hazy. At night the smell of burning off just reminds me of the burning off in the back yard incinerator.

We came around a corner and saw the most amazing sight. It was the town of Collodi.

This is the home town of Pinocchio. We cycled down a fabulous hill and into the cutest town with Pinocchio everywhere

We stopped for coffee in Collodi and then headed out of town up another big mountain to the town of Montecarlo.

I have been quite proud of myself today because I turned my e-bike off for a lot of the climbing we did today.

Montecarlo was gorgeous

Again it was 3 big plates of pasta on the table for lunch and bread.

After we left Montecarlo we did some more serious mountain climbing and then it was the downhill run to the gelato shop for the obligatory gelato and this time went up to the roof garden and saw the view of the bridge and the river that we have been riding over every day.

back to the villa for a swim in the fabulous pool and then a stretch yin yoga class and time for an aperol.

Tonight was the last night of having dinner at the villa as tomorrow night we are off to a restaurant for our farewell dinner.

Another sumptuous dinner by Fiorenza with her home made tiramisu. Yummm

So tomorrow is our last day of cycling and we have been told it will be the hardest but at the end of the day we hand our bikes back and transferred back to the villa before we head off to dinner.

So it is off to bed in readiness for the big day in the morning.


A Day Off

Today is at our leisure to do what we want.

I am up before anyone and sitting outside in the garden with my cup of tea.

this is what I have been waking up to every morning.

What a gorgeous day. After a leisurely breakfast with everyone we were left to our own devices.

Siobhan, Jodie, Jean, Justine and myself decided to do the big walk up the mountain behind the villa to the convent so off we set.

The climb was very steep up to the gate to get us out of the property and onto the road.

The views were spectacular. A beautiful day with not a cloud in the sky and we could see all the way back to Lucca

As I said a very steep climb and we came around the corner to the sign that pointed us in the direction of the convent

I had a massage booked at 12 so decided to head back with Jean but the other 3 girls went on only to discover there was a sign saying dogs which deterred them somewhat.

I found out later that it is no longer a convent and was bought many years ago by a German who now uses it as his home.

It was massage and chill out time and once that was done it was straight into the pool for a swim as it was a very warm day.

We had a light lunch at the villa and we were all picked up to be taken to San Martino which was an olive oil farm and winery.

Giuseppe met us at the cellar door and took us on a tour of the vineyard which sits on the side of the hill overlooking Lucca in the distance

Giuseppe explained that he and his wife lived here and his wife was 3rd generation owners. In 300 years there had only been 2 owners.

They had a donkey

Their house was a villa that went back so far all the furniture in the house and paintings were originals and the whole place was heritage listed

The gardens were beautiful and the house amazing.

Nothing was damaged during the war as they were given protection from the nazis and all troops

We were then taken down to the ground floor kitchen which was original and still used with its huge stove

We then were seated and Giuseppe gave us a talk and wine tasting with a taste of his olive oil as well. Absolutely delicious

He told us how all his olive trees were over 300 years old and he got 1 litre of olive oil from each tree.

His wines were all biodynamic and organic and he planted and did all his work in the vines by the lunar calendar. Very interesting.

The wines were delicious and so naturally we were then taken to the cellar door to purchase goodies.

He only produces 700 litres of wine per harvest as only a very small winery.

It was then back in the cars and back to our villa for aperitifs and nibbles

And then another sumptuous meal from our lovely Fiorenza.

So another day comes to an end. We are back on our bikes tomorrow for another scenic trip through this beautiful countryside.

Until then

Buona notte

Another day in the SaddleQ

Everyday just gets better and better.

Such a lovely bunch of people on this cycling trip and having lots of laughs

Another hot sunny day in Tuscany.

After another sumptuous breakfast in our beautiful glass annex it was on with the cycling gear and off we went.

Today we did a 52km ride and some very big hills. I should stop calling them hills as they are mountains

We did a lot of cycling and mountains today and this is how I felt when we got to the top

I know I have an e-bike but there is still a lot of cycling to be done.

As we cycled through the countryside here are a few photos of the day.

We stopped for lunch at the bottom of the mountain and I have to say the downhill was so much fun. Hairpin bends and lots of gravel, pine cones and cars and trucks coming up the hill on the narrow road. Oh but the fun of coming downhill at full pelt with the wind in your face. I had a bit of a manic laugh as we careered down the mountain.

Lunch was at a lovely road stop but the proprietress was really good and as there were so many of us just bought out big plates of 3 different types of pasta. So much easier. Of course I had to have my obligatory Aperol.

After we did another couple of mountains we stopped for our obligatory gelato which is just around the corner from our villa.

Home and straight into the pool for some rest and relaxation and then it was our stretching yoga class. Did a Yin class today which I have never done before and I loved it. Finished with our legs up the wall which I find incredibly relaxing.

It is now aperitif and nibbles time prior to another fabulous dinner by Fiorenza.

Each morning at yoga a word is given for the day and the person that shows the most of the word gets a bicycle cap to wear for the day.

For example the first days word was gratitude and Anita got the hat at the end of the day as she has expressed gratitude all day by saying how wonderful everything was and how grateful she was to be here

The second days word was courage. The cap was awarded to Katherine for climbing incredible mountains on a normal bike (not an e-bike).

And today’s word was adventure. It was awarded to Justine as prior to doing this holiday she had not ridden much and was wearing clip ons and going the extra mile at the end of the day when an extra hard course was offered for anyone wanting to do more.

Tomorrow is a rest day so will spend the morning by the pool and in the afternoon we are all going to an olive oil farm and winery.

So for now buona notte

First big ride

I am lying by the pool at the end of a huge day of cycling, hills, lunch, gelato and more cycling. What a day

Up this morning and into the riding gear.

After another sumptuous breakfast we got the bikes and we were off.

I should mention here that we have a great support crew with us each day.

Charlie cycles with us every day and charges our batteries on our bikes each night as well as helping with any bike difficulties. He comes over from the UK to help Virginia with the cycling.

Nicole also helps with the cycling but is also the yoga teacher for our yoga classes.

Nick is Nicole’s partner and takes all the photos and helps out as well.

Then there is Virginia who runs the whole of Soul Fit Adventures. She is a cyclist, yoga teacher and the person behind it all.

We set off this morning about 9 am and were told last night in our briefing that we would be cycling about 80kms today.

And what a beautiful day it is. Sun shining, not a cloud in the sky and getting warm by 9am.

I had tried the e-bike out yesterday but needed to really work it out as it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.

Charlie had charged all the batteries overnight as there are 3 of us who have an e-bike. Of course got to the bottom of the driveway and mine wouldn’t turn on. Charlie to the rescue and off we went.

Everything is so green in Italy and the mountainous terrain with houses on the side of them just makes it all so picturesque

We cycled to Piazzano which was a nice cycle and then onto Montemagno where we stopped at the top of the mountain for refreshments and photos.

It was then a downhill ride which was fantastic all the way to the bottom of the mountain and into a gorgeous little town called Pietra Santa. We stopped there for lunch and of course there was the obligatory church with bells that rang out on the hour. We went into the piazza and had lunch. I had an aperol as I was thirsty and after people watching and having a chat with the girls we met up with everyone and headed back.

The roads were quite busy and by this stage my saddle was very hard and even though I had good niks on my “bits” were beginning to show wear and tear! The roads were very bumpy and quite a few potholes as well as steel round grates for sewerage or some sort of something to access under the road. So every time I rode over these or the bumpy road I was in a bit of agony!

The scenery and the mountains were spectacular and it was such a perfect day for a ride that I put that all behind me and just cycled on.

We were on our way back and went back up the mountain we had flown down that morning. Surprisingly it wasn’t as bad a climb as I thought and we were back at the top of the mountain before we knew it.

From then on it was virtually a downhill run all the way home which was so much fun. I love freewheeling down a hill.

It was gelato on the way home at Sauro Gelateria and then it was home.

Arrived back at 3.30ish so a good days ride

It was immediately off with the riding clothes on with the swimming costume and straight into the pool. Bliss.

Still very hot and quite a few people with sunburn.

Did my stretching yoga class and tried really hard not to fall asleep. Feeling very tired and stiff and sore from the ride.

A couple of glasses of wine and another gastronomic feast from Fiorenza and that was it.

I am in bed hardly able to keep my eyes open.

Such a good day and after our briefing tonight. Same again tomorrow.

Buona Notte


Heaven on a stick

This place I am staying in would have to be the most beautiful place and I have another one to contend with next week.

Oh bliss!

Woke this morning to beautiful sunshine. Nothing to rush out of bed for as want doing the morning yoga class.

Took my time to get up and shower and put the cycling gear on.

Went for a wander around the estate and breakfast was in the beautiful glass annex we had dinner in last night.

Fabulous breakfast. We have 2 cooks here permanently for the week and the meals are spectacular.

This was breakfast

The 2 lovely Mercedes came to pick us all up and take us into town to get our bikes.

Took a little while to get everyone sorted so while I was waiting Siobhan and I went for a walk through Lucca.

There was some sort of military ceremony happening with uniforms and medals and brass bands. Not sure what it was for but the whole crowd started singing so assumed it was the Italian national anthem.

There were Sunday markets happening and everyone was out as it was another beautiful hot day in Italy.

Got our bikes sorted and we were off

I have an E-bike but you would never know. It was lovely to ride.

Did a circuit of the wall to get used to our bikes and we were off.

Unfortunately we didn’t stop at all and it was 2 hours- 42kms of cycling on a flat road with some busy roads but the beauty of Italy is that the car drivers actually like bikes so did not feel in any way in danger as we did a circuit around the outskirts of Lucca

As we didn’t stop not much time for photos but squeezed in one of a big tower on the top of a house or hill. Not quite sure.

Got to try out the electric part of the bike as we approached the villa and had to go up a bit of a hill. Must admit took me a while to get the hang of it. I thought I could just press the button and it would take off but was informed I had to change gears and give some resistance before it went zooming off. I love it.

Got home and have to say the saddle is extremely hard and was quite sore. Thank goodness I packed my butt cream!!!

Lunch was waiting for us on our return and yet another scrumptious meal of two different types of pasta and salad.

Went for another swim and I had booked in for a massage.

So thrilled that Isa had driven over from Munich to be our massage therapist for the week.

I first met Isa when I did my cycling trip through Laos 7 years ago as she came along as the yoga teacher and cycling guide. We shared a room and I hadn’t seen her since.

So lovely to see her again and catch up

I floated off the massage table and into a stretch yoga class and feel like I am floating on air right now.

I am sure I will sleep very well as we will be off in the morning and doing a big ride of approx 80 kms.

Thank goodness we have the pool to relax and cool off in when we get back each day.

Showered and ready for dinner. Had a drink of wine in the kitchen with Fiorenza who is our wonderful cook

Another fabulous dinner with lots of laughter and fun.

Just been told we will be cycling 80kms tomorrow so am in bed to get a good nights sleep to enable me to do it. Thank goodness for an E-bike


Quiet day in Lucca

Today is the day I move into a villa and start riding a bicycle.

Had a leisurely breakfast on the beautiful balcony with Siobhan. A lady who is also doing the cycling.

I checked out of Evelina’s but Sylvia was so lovely, she is going to keep our bags for us until we are picked up by our transfer this afternoon.

An absolutely beautiful day. It is warm and for the first time this morning did not need a jumper on. Good sign.

I wanted to do some last minute things in Lucca before we left this afternoon (shopping) so off I went.

I have absolutely fallen in love with Lucca. The people are lovely and so helpful and it is not inundated with tourists.

Have thoroughly enjoyed my short time here and look forward to a return visit.

I walked the ramparts of the town and came across a medieval festival. It goes for 2 days with all sorts of activities. Everyone was dressed in medieval costumes and all the stalls were selling medieval goods.

I found the street I was looking for and did my shopping. I could have gone crazy. The smell of leather was almost overwhelming so you can guess what sort of shop I was in!!!

As it is Saturday everywhere I went in all the little piazzas there were little markets.

After some serious shopping I am now sitting in Puccini’s piazza having coffee.

I tried a cappuccino the first morning I was here. They don’t put chocolate on top not that I wanted it but pretty ordinary

Then later I tried an espresso. Not too bad. But this morning have found my coffee. A macchiato with a little biscotti and I am happy!

Walked my feet down to stumps this morning and climbed 5 billion stairs and have had my gelato so am now at the meeting place for our transfer to pick us up and take us to our villa.

When I climbed the clock tower this morning you could look across and see our breakfast balcony.

Went and had a slice of pizza and a gelato and I met Siobhan and we headed off to our pick up point for our transfer to the villa.

There are 14 on the trip. 13 girls and 1 guy and all lovely. 2 from the US, 2 from Jersey in the UK and the rest from Oz.

Two gorgeous Italian men arrived in the black Mercedes van to pick us all up and we headed off to the villa.

Lots of very narrow roads and right out of town.

We arrived at big gates which opened for us and OMG! I have definitely died and gone to heaven. If this is anything like the villa we have next week I am moving to Italy immediately.

This is my room with view

Unpacked and settled in and it was so hot went to the pool for a swim

I am definitely moving to Italy

Everyone on the trip joined me at the pool and we swam and chatted and got to know everyone and before we knew it was time to get dressed for dinner.

But the villa is so beautiful even walking back from the pool

We had drinks under the trees in the garden

Then headed in for dinner

Such a wonderful first night of the cycling week. Really looking forward to it.

After a beautiful home cooked meal (4 courses). I am finishing my blog and off to bed.

Weather really heating up and looking fabulous for the rest of the week.


Cinque Terraces

Today is going to be a big day as I work the Italian trains.

Up early and off to the train station. First a train back to Pisa then change trains to La Spezia which is where I can get the train to Monterosso.

You learn as you go! I should have got the cinque terra train ticket in Lucca when I bought the other ticket to La Spezia because when I got to La Spezia OMG. The crowds queuing up to get a ticket went for ages. So I went to the machine and bought a ticket to Monterosso and thought I would go there and work it out later.

No too bad though as I left Lucca at 7.08 and am now almost in Monterosso at 10.30am. It will be time for breakfast when I get there.

The train trip from Pisa was lovely. Very mountainous and lots of villages built on the top of the mountains.

Arrived in La Spezia and it was hell. From the calm and peace of Lucca I struck tourism at its worst.

Queues out the door and down the platform with people queuing to get either information about the cinque terra or trying to buy a day pass on the train.

I couldn’t cope with that so went to a ticket machine and bought a ticket to Monterosso and went and got on the train.

I think every tourist and local and their dogs were going my way!

The train trip was lovely but you were in a tunnel most of the way so couldn’t see much until you got to the station.

Got out at Monterosso with everyone else and tried to get through the crowds to get out of the station.

It was the perfect day. Not a cloud in the sky and the ocean was very blue and flat.

I wandered up and down the promenade after getting a map and headed around the headland to the actual town.

Right there was a little office where you could buy a day pass on a boat and it would take you down to all the villages on the cinque terra.

Got my ticket and was on the boat very quickly.

Passed Vernazza and dropped people off.

Then off to Manarola. Couldn’t stop at Corniglia as it is the only town on the Cinque terra that is not at sea level. Here is a photo of it from the sea

Next Manarola

And then the 5th town Riomaggiore.

Got off here and climbed a 1000 steps to the town.

There were so many tourists and the stairs were so narrow and steep it took a long time to get from the boat to the town.

I hope I am not sounding negative but it is sooooo touristy and I am not good in a crowd.

Got to the town and climbed a lot of steps and now sitting in a restaurant overlooking the sea having an aperol and the local delicacy of pasta with Ligurian style anchovies. This will be interesting. May have to have another aperol to get rid of all the salt!! Then again I could be quite surprised as their anchovies could be different to ours.

The view from my table.

Just arrived and smells unbelievable

OMG it is out of this world. Nothing like our anchovies

I just love how all the restaurants are on the side of a cliff or a hill and blend in so well.

Wandered down to the boat and sailed up to Varnazza and hoped off. There is a castle on the top of the cliff face with restaurants below sticking out of the side of the rock.

I think of all the towns I liked Varnazza the best although they are all unique in their own way.

I had such a lovely day exploring the towns by boat. A lovely lunch. It was sunny and hot and I am so glad I made the trip to do it.

I got off back in Monterosso

And made my way back to the train. I got a ticket back to Lucca with a few train changes and then myself and 15,000 tourists got on the train and off we went.

When I got my ticket to Lucca the lovely lady gave me all the times that all my changes of trains would be leaving. Unfortunately the cinque terra train was so late getting back to La Spezia that I missed my train by 15 minutes.

Headed into the town and had a drink and then on the train back to Pisa and a change back to Lucca.

It is very easy to get around with trains here and incredibly cheap.

So I am now home and packed ready to move to my villa tomorrow to start the cycling part of my holiday. If the weather today keeps up it will be spectacular.

I don’t think I have told you about my accommodation here in Lucca.

I was recommended a B&B called Evelina’s which is right in the heart of Lucca.

When I arrived and found the place it is on the third floor of an old building. No lift and a heavy suitcase but off I went.

Silvia met me at the front door. The B&B is an entire floor in this building.

It is lovely and so is Silvia.

My room is very cute

And breakfast is had each morning on the little balcony overlooking the roofs of Lucca.

So that is my day. Another one dawns tomorrow with another adventure starting on a bicycle.

Until tomorrow

Buona notte

Beautiful Medieval Lucca

What a day and it’s not over yet! Had an excellent sleep last night and was up and off early this morning exploring.

It was lovely out before everyone else so could walk the streets and soak up Italy in my own time.

Lucca is a medieval town that is world heritage listed and has a wall all the way around it. Years ago and I am talking BC it was settled by the Swiss. Because it was in the middle of Italy and was run by the Swiss it was never affected by wars or invasions. There was a moat all the way around it and was virtually impenetrable. If there was any issues with people wanting to raid the town or get the involved with the outside world, the Swiss were so wealthy they would buy them off to keep them away.

The whole town used to be Italian palaces with 96 towers throughout the town. However over the years when the community started to live outside the walls it was not permitted to have towers higher than the ruler so they were all taken off.

So many of the old buildings are still standing but in desperate need of repair but so expensive to do so that a lot of people have moved out of town. Today only 1000 people live in Lucca and a lot of the buildings are boarded up.

Early this morning I walked the ramparts around the city as there is a fantastic path built on the top that is for walking, running, cycling, walking your dog. Anything you like.

Popped back to my B&B for breakfast and I was off for the day. Unfortunately just prior to my leaving the apartment I realised my Travelex card had dropped out of my phone, pocket or something so after a mild panic got onto the right people and cancelled the card. Luckily I had a secondary card so all was ok.

Got my map and walked the city. So many old buildings and so gorgeous.

I found the botanical gardens and went for a wander through them. They were beautiful and everything is so green. There were turtles in the pond with lotus lilies

Would you believe in the middle of one of the lawns there was a Wollembi pine thriving.

It was a beautiful day and I walked and walked and explored the town.

Giacomo Puccini was born in Lucca so sat in his piazza and had an aperol and went into the house he was born in

Whilst sitting in the piazza a couple of musicians came along with their saxophone and tambourine and boom box and started playing music. It was just like in the movies.

I had booked a walking tour of Lucca so made my way to the meeting point and was met by Gabrielle who was just a wealth of information.

This building below with the decoration in the red bricks goes back to 12th century. Most of Lucca is built with red brick and that is how you can tell it is really old. Unfortunately a lot of the buildings have had to be filled in where the windows were to reinforce the building as it got older.

The building above is one of the only buildings left that has not been filled in and reinforced.

There is a clock tower in the town that was made by the Swiss. I was very disappointed when I was told the clock no longer works. What happened to Swiss precision?

There is a bell inside that still chimes but because it used to be very loud and chimed every 15 minutes the locals complained so they have reduced the noise, stopped it from chiming after midnight until early morning and cut the chimes in half so even though it chimes you can’t tell what the time is because they have halved the amount of chimes so instead of midday you may only get 4 chimes! Oh how I love Italy.

As we were making our way around the city we came across the highest tower in town and it is called seven oaks because they have a roof garden at the top of the tower and have planted 7 oaks up there. The reason the are oaks is they have a very short root system so don’t grow down into the tower. When the walk was over I went back and climbed to the top. 238 steps to the top but the view was spectacular

By the time I had done this I was exhausted so went back to my B&B and had a quick shower and out again to a Puccini concert.

I stopped at a little cafe for a glass of wine and a little risotto and then walked across the piazza to the church for the concert.

I had front row seats and there was a pianist on a grand piano and a tenor (who was blind) and a soprano and they were brilliant.

At half time we all wandered through the church and at the back there were excavations done were they had discovered Roman baths under the church.

After the concert I headed home as have to admit I was stuffed. I have done 31,171 steps today which equates to 21.8kms. I could be doing the Camino again!!!

A big day today and tomorrow I am off to the cinque terra.

Buona notte.

I have arrived

24.5 hours later I am here in Pisa. Great flight but very long. Sat beside some lovely people and at 1.30pm Italian time I have arrived.

Warm and overcast. Pisa is only a little airport but so funny to watch the Italians chattering and waving their hands in the air when they speak.

I got my train ticket to Lucca and walked out of the airport onto the Pismover which took me directly to the train station and onto the train to Lucca. The timetable said it was supposed to leave at 2.20 but I was still waiting to leave at 10 to 3! Oh I am going to love the relaxed attitude of Italy.

On the way to Lucca it absolutely bucketed down. Almost hail it was so heavy. Lucky it happened while I was on the train.

Was in Lucca within 20 minutes and what a lovely old station.

I got a map at the station and looked up where I was staying and headed off pulling my suitcase behind me.

The town of Lucca is world heritage listed and is totally surrounded by a big wall. The present wall stems from the renaissance and dates back to 1645. But was the fourth wall. The original wall three times ago dates back to 180 before Christ was born. Amazing!

To get through that wall and into the town there are lots of little very steep and winding staircases. With my suitcase it wasn’t easy but I did it and when you got through to the other side it was like being in another world

Cobblestone streets and very ancient buildings.

With my trusty map I headed off and found my very cute bed & breakfast that I am staying in.

This is the key to my room.

I was pretty keen to have a shower and get myself out of my flying clothes so after meeting Silvia (my host) and having a shower, I was off around town.

Unfortunately it was raining and a bit damp so what does one do in Italy. Find a restaurant in the piazza and have a glass of wine.

As it was still raining I tried a real Italian pizza.

Even though it was a little damp it didn’t discourage anybody from being out and about.

I sat in the square and people watched and took in the fact I was in Italy after such a long wait to get here.

Went for a little walk and the tiredness of a long journey took hold.

Made my way back to Evelina’s (my B&B) and hit the sack.

Tomorrow is another day.

Buona notte

Tuscany here I come

The day has dawned and I am packed and ready to go.

Left work on Friday and now all chores and catch ups are done.

Will be on my way to the airport shortly to start my next European adventure

For the first time in a long time I am actually taking a suitcase rather than a backpack or bike panniers. Of course the temptation with so much room in a case is to fill it.

I am sure I have far too much clothing but bad luck. I have the room for the first time.

Am now at the airport having been through the departure gate

Been through duty free and now sitting in the bar by Gate 10 ready to go.

Lookout Italy here I come.