Firenze

Made the decision last night to head to Florence for the day.

Up and on the road by 8.30am. Took 2 cars as Ro, Ben, Nicolette, Stu, Meaghan, Lubby and myself set off on the road to Firenze.

The Italian countryside is absolutely gorgeous and so green with rolling hills and (I think) pencil pines along the top of the hills leading up to another villa overlooking the countryside.

Arrived in Florence and parked the car and came out of the car park right in the middle of the market and found a bar for our morning coffees and waited for the girls to arrive in the other car.

What a beautiful town.

The churches and statues and intricate decorations and carvings were amazing.

The Duomo was spectacular.

Took a photo of David and Perseus with the head of Medusa. There was Neptune as well.

Of course there was so much shopping and the smell of leather was incredible.

Was so tempted to buy a leather jacket and tried on a few but just couldn’t do it. I was not that taken with the shoes either as they were all dead flat with no support in them. However the handbags. Now there was another story.

We got to the Ponti Vecchio and what a wonderful sight.

I think we timed it quite well as even though there were a few tourists it wasn’t too bad.

We walked over the bridge and could not get over the amount of gold and jewellery shops that lined each side of the bridge. In fact every shop on the bridge, both sides were gold and jewellery shops. It was amazing. We got to the other side and made the decision it was time for lunch.

It was extremely hot so found an air conditioned restaurant to eat in

Margarita pizza, the most delicious ever! Beats Franks and of course the obligatory Aperol.

Our waitress was absolutely gorgeous and cheeky and then found out it was Ro’s birthday and then we told her that Ro was marrying Stu so you can imagine the hilarity of the conversation.

Left the restaurant and started to head back the way we had come and when we got to the bridge they had closed the middle of the road off and lined the cobblestones with gold sheets.

It was to be a fashion show apparently and the models would be walking on the gold runway.

We squeezed down the side and came back through town.

Ro was on a shopping spree so we decided to split up and half of us went back to the car and came home while the others stayed for some serious shopping.

It was a fun day and so glad I went and saw Florence.

On the way out of town we walked past a Bar and here was a couple sitting having a glass of wine with their dog enjoying the evening with its own drink

Arrived back at the villa with a car full of shopping and Max and Alba had dinner ready and again we sat around the fabulous dinner table outside and had a very funny night.

It is now bedtime and looking forward to another day in heaven tomorrow

Caio

First day in our new Villa

After a very late night of drinks, stories, aperol and limoncello it was a bit of a slow start this morning.

Many cups of tea later it was on with the cossie and into the pool for the day.

A few of the crew went into town to do the shopping but it was a total chill out for me today.

This is what I have had to put up with whilst lying by the pool.

It has been a very relaxing day of laughter, swimming, chatting, shopping and just generally enjoying being under the Tuscan sun.

We are now sitting under the al fresco dining outside by the pool and having pre dinner drinks and playing cards while the boys are cooking the barbecue.

what a wonderful night it has been sitting around the table eating good food, laughing lots and enjoying this fabulous place

Another perfect day in paradise

Ciao

Onto the next Villa

Very sad this morning as it was time to say farewell to all the fabulous people I have met and had lots of laughs this week.

I thought as it was the final day before we left I would post where we have ridden all this week. So enjoy.

As you can see we have traveled some kms and I feel so much fitter at the end of this week than I did at the beginning.

Now it is off to Lucca to be picked up by my brother and be whisked off down to Monticello to our next villa to start the birthday celebrations of the year!

What a lovely afternoon we had. Met Max at the cafe in Lucca and after a few coffees headed out of town.

Drove through beautiful Italian countryside all the way to Monticello stopping for lunch in a little cafe on the way

Eventually arrived at our villa and how stunning was the view

It was a very hot afternoon by the time we arrived at the villa. Julie and Joe has arrived and it wasn’t long before Nicci and Stephen and Ro and Nic and Ben arrived and we were all sitting around the pool having drinks and enjoying the summer evening. Julie and I went for a swim in the pool and then a huge surprise as Olaf (Stuart) arrived as a huge surprise for the celebrations.

Ro had booked us in for dinner at 8 in Monticello so we loaded up a couple of cars and headed into town for a beautiful dinner in the medieval town of Monticello

So the end of another fabulous day in Italy.

Tomorrow will be a chill out by the pool and total relaxation.

It is very late and am ready for shut eye

Buona notte

The last day of cycling

Am lying in bed late at night having had a huge day today. So tired will have to post in the morning.

Well what a day it was. Everyone up early for the most challenging of all our rides.

We cycled into Lucca and out the other side and headed for a little town called Buti. It was quite flat for a considerable way so I didn’t turn on my power.

It was a great ride and another beautiful day. We started to climb up into Buti so went to turn on my power and nothing happened. No power.

Kept cycling and had a terrible thought that I wouldn’t have power all day.

The climb started and Nick, one of the support team came up and rode beside me with his hand on my back giving me a boost up the hill.

It was so lovely of him to help me as the e-bike is a bit heavier than the other bikes so it was a bit of a slog up the hill.

Am proud to say I made it to Buti very red in the face but I did it. Apparently on an e-bike if you don’t turn it on it goes into shut down mode after a certain time and that is what happened.

We stopped in Buti for coffee and there was something happening there presumably over the weekend as all the doors in the town had blue rosette sort of things on their doors and in the town piazza they were setting up a huge stage. It was suggested it was for the local football (soccer) team celebrations which happens in each town.

We will never know as we headed out of town after our coffees.

This is where the hard bit started. We cycled 10kms up the side of the mountain with switchbacks and steep climbs all the way to the top. Thank goodness my bike was working.

You can see in the photo above the tower at the top of the mountain. That is were we were cycling to.

Even with a e-bike it was quite gruelling but I made it. I think the worst bit is that the constant riding in the saddle I had an extremely sore bum and bits!

yes that is were we came from!

Came around the corner at the top and there was a cafe/restaurant which we rested outside in the shade until everyone had caught up and were at the top. Only to be told we had another 2kms to the very top.

After sufficient cooling down and regrouping we set off for the top.

And then the best bit! 9 kms of all downhill, quite steep and lots of hairpin bends. I loved it. Going fast downhill is my favourite part of any ride.

It was a very quick trip to the bottom of the hill and then a few more kilometres ride back into Lucca and out the other side to a lovely little restaurant on the side of the road but when you got inside you could have been in another world. Beautiful setting under the trees in a garden.

My beautiful bike.

After lunch we then rode about 500m down the road for the obligatory gelato and then back to Lucca where we handed our bikes back.

It was quite sad to do that as it meant the end was coming to a wonderful week.

A few of us went and had an Aperol while waiting for our transport back to the villa.

As it was the last night we were having a big farewell dinner out at a restaurant so had a little while before we left to relax, start and pack and wonder how I had more things to fit in my suitcase than when I started out a week ago???

We all got quite dressed up and had Prosecco on the lawn before a group photo and off to the restaurant.

It was a local Trattoria that had been in the same family for 300 years and the food was fabulous.

One of the dishes was amazing. They wheeled it out on a trolley and it was a massive wheel of Pecorino cheese that the top had been cut off and a bit scooped out and they put all the pasta in this and just tossed it and tossed it and then served it. It was absolutely divine.

It was such a lovely night and have met so many wonderful people it will be very hard to say goodbye today.

Later on I will post the rides we did everyday.

So it is breakfast and off to the next destination

Goodbye from Lucca.

Caio

Pinocchio

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.

Ciao

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