Tuscany

Italy, we love you.  We can’t help it.  Architecture, pasta, gelato… we can’t get enough.  You’re not making it easy, though.  How about thinning out the throngs of tourists and turning the heat down, oh, twenty degrees or so?  That’s really all we ask.  Oh, and it would be awesome if the bike compartments in your trains were actually unlocked and available for cyclists, and half the trains were not cancelled because of a strike.  But no biggie.
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Sunflower field outside Firenze.

We were so excited for Italy that we cut short our last few days in France and beelined to Florence.  By beelined, I mean we took the slow and meandering path of a bee, stopping at every station.  (The slower regional trains are the only ones in which you don’t have to pack your bike up like a piece of luggage.)  We arrived in Florence, had our first delicious Italian dinner, and took note of the fact that it was still 85° at 8pm.  Whatever, we thought.

The next day we biked about 45km to San Giovanni Valdarno.  I’ve heard people talk about the rolling hills of Tuscany.  I wouldn’t describe these as “rolling”.  I’d describe the region in terms of hillsides, implying some degree of verticality.  Still, it was a very pleasant day, and we had a good time.

The next day, Italy cranked it UP.  It was a scorcher.  We didn’t mind, though – we had a short day planned.  That was  until we entered the valley of Hell.  Literally – see for yourself:
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Sign for the Valley of Hell of Valdarno.

After great success with Michelin maps in France, we unwittingly bought a dud.  The Italy Michelin map was seriously challenged.  As a result, we got stuck in Terranuova Bracciolini, re-entering the town at least three times by accident. image
May we never return again.

 This wouldn’t have been as big of a deal if I hadn’t had two cappuccinosimage
(four shots of espresso!  I had no idea. They look so pretty.)

and hadn’t gotten stung by a bee while riding.  I entered some sort of caffeine-enhanced pre-anaphylactic shock state, asking Joe in a daze if this was the same town we had started in (we had already biked 10km at this point).

The Michelin map also failed to indicate when a road turned into a steep, deeply rutted gravel path.  Oops!  (And, yes, we’re still in the Valley of Hell at this point.)  Biking was not an option.  image Walking out of the Valley of Hell.

We made it out, and got to our hotel in Arezzo about four hours later than planned.  Worst day of honeymoon OVER!  Woo hoo!

Joe and I promptly went on strike and refused to do any more biking in Italy.  Commence lounging in cafes and slurping gelato.  Arezzo and Siena have both proven to be excellent locations for these lazy activities, along with seeing beautiful architecture and eating delicious food.  Being on strike is great!  This must be why the Italians do it so often.
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Living the cafe life with spritzes in Siena.

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