A Travellerspoint blog

All roads lead to Rome

But it can take a long time

sunny 33 °C

One last swim in the morning before we head out, then we are off to another outlet visit just to the north of Rome.
The pool

The pool


Here L picked up a few clothes, but still no shoes for her size anywhere in Italy. I on the other hand pick up another pair of runners Asics this time, and some cycle gloves (colour matched to the Goka, natch). Gaelan gets a Lindt Ball. We spent a bit too long here, and we have to rush in through the traffic to get into our accommodation in the San Lorenzo area. The ring road is pretty heavy, but we do get in. Amazingly, without getting lost. More amazingly we get a car park outside too. Our host is soon here to meet us and help us shift a mountain of stuff (raised eyebrows at the bike) up to the 4th floor apartment in a rickety lift. This is only the first leg though as once we have dumped everything in the flat, I have to jump back in the car and get it back to Peugeot. The road is chock a block to get out of the city which takes about 20 minutes. The next 10 kms around the ring road was at a stand still, and took 50 minutes until it suddenly cleared, and the foot went down as I had to get through the next 15kms in 9 minutes. I raced through the gate at 4:59 just before they shut for the night. They didn't take me to the airport but to the nearest station, and it takes me another 90 minutes to get back to the apartment.
We are all knackered, and it is the night of the Spain – Germany semi final in the World Cup. We thought about some take away pizza and watch it at home, but there are TVs in the restaurant so we plonk down here to have pizza and beer whilst watching the game. We go grab a gelati at half time then get home in time to see Puyol head the ball through the back of the net, and head to bed satisfied...

Posted by lostagain 03:23 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

In the Tuscan Hills

Montepulciano and Pienza

sunny 33 °C

Naturally the first thing the next morning is going for a ride in the team outfit. I get 90 minutes out there for around 40 kms. A bit windy, so a bit tough on my own. To keep to the ritual, a swim on my return too.
bona fide Gallo Nero

bona fide Gallo Nero

Into the car for a drive around some hill towns to the south. First we head to Chianciano Therme where we have a look about the treatment centre where people come to take the waters. And obviously it is still big business – it is set up to take thousands with treatment rooms, a spa, reception rooms and a ballroom, all set in massive gardens. And then we find we have just touched on the town as we drive past masses of hotels towards the other two thermes in town. We head on up to Montepulciano and hike up the hill from the car park.
The drive around this area is great, and is just the sort of thing you see on postcards of Tuscany. Montepulciano is a very pretty little town with lots of small lanes waiting to be explored and some great views around the area. We stop off up the top at a bistro to have some pasta and a glass of wine. Then a nice walk around the rest of town before we head off.
Up the hill

Up the hill

My kind of place

My kind of place


Next stop is Pienza, where we have a quick walk around, only because it is small and we are getting tired. This is a very picturesque little town with a great main street. There are some great buildings along a beautiful main street. The views over the surrounding valleys behind the church are just great, real postcard stuff. We head back home to have a swim then get packed up ready to leave tomorrow.
In the main square

In the main square

Side street

Side street

somewhere to put your hat?

somewhere to put your hat?

Posted by lostagain 03:16 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

In Perugia

And another quick ride

sunny 31 °C

The next morning I am out for a ride again. A bit shorter than yesterday, only an hour as I still had some sore points from yesterday’s ride. Jump straight in the pool for a quick swim before we head off to Perugia.
The approach to Perugia which was quite a surprise. We parked under the city walls below the bus station then started to walk up the hill. Then you walk underground into a passage to the base of an escalator. And then another escalator, and another. When you get to the top you are inside the barrel vaulted brick structures that formed the city’s walls. And they are substantial – at least 10 metres high, and you walk upwards inside them before a final escalator ride into the sunlight. This brings you out into a pleasant shaded square with a couple of fountains and of course a statue – this one a mounted rider in bronze.
In the city walls

In the city walls


Perugia square

Perugia square

Past this stretches the wide main drag for the old city which rises north for about 500 metres until it reaches the basilica and the prior’s palace. Higher above this sits the site of the original settlement in the town, and in all directions you can get magnificent sweeping views of the surrounding landscape. And if you head off the main area very far, you find yourself faced with a steep drop down off the edge. They knew how to pick a defensive position in those days.
Perugia main drag

Perugia main drag

In Perugia

In Perugia


Wandering about in the stone streets in 35 deg heat has taken it out of us a bit, so we put feet up at a terrace bar on the town’s east side with huge views again. We slug down plenty of cold drinks, then head back down towards the car. On the way, we have a look in some shops, and one owner locks G in while she heads up to the bar for an espresso – and then cracks the shits because we are disturbing her afternoon coffee.
After this excitement we calm down with a bit of a drive around Lake Trasimeno where there are some more magnificent views. There are also more camping grounds than you can shake a stick at, and it won’t be too long before the lot is packed out for the holidays. There is good train and road access on this east side of the lake, but there is not much a corridor between them and the lake. Do a quick bit of shopping for dinner at Passignano.
It is getting late at this point, but we head up to see if there is a particular shop open in Castiglion Fiorentino. With a bit of guidance, we find Castellini sports where I purchase my own Gallo Nero outfit for riding in. We wander around here a bit, then head back to the sports store for a recommendation for dinner. We are guided to an osteria not far away, where I get to have some wild boar in a tomato salsa, very nice! As always gelati for desert.
Slept well that night

Slept well that night

Castiglion in the evening

Castiglion in the evening

Posted by lostagain 02:48 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Out for a ride in Tuscany

I'm a Gallo Nero now!

sunny 30 °C

Back from the balloon flight it is still not lunch yet, but the first duty is to jump in the pool and have a general laze around. This state lasts for the rest of the day and apart from a little model making, bike assembly and suchlike we do not get much done. The next day we jump straight back into the pool, then go to another cycle shop to get some vitals for a safe ride (one of those helmet things) before we drop L at a nearby outlet village. Mundane duties call so G and I go and do the washing at a local laundrette. Time to wait for it to finish, so G goes home to read in the sun and I go and pick L and the washing up. She does of course want me to try on something - CK jeans for $25 - sold! Then it is back into the pool.
View from the house

View from the house


The next morning I head out for a shakedown ride to see how the bike is feeling and then take it from there. One km in just out of Brolio, and some other riders turn up and after a brief chat, Armando invites me along for the ride (once they realised I was Australian and not English!). We spend the next two and a half hours riding around in our area of the Val de Chiana, about 60km. I chatted to all the team and talked about the tour and Cadel's chances. We also talked about life in Australia and Italy, and cycling generally. We circled to the south past Creti into some hills around Farneta. We turned at Camucia, just short of Cortona, and stopped to water up at La Cappannace heading further north to have a rest and a chat at the local aero club and swimming pool. Enrico (the white cock) told me the best place to go locally, the Val d'Orcia and the hill towns through there. Here we parted as most of the group were heading home to Arezzo, but Andrea and Gabriele escort me back to Brolio. It is a fantastic time, and it was great to be asked if I was still in town for next Sunday’s ride. Sadly I will miss out as we will be in Rome, but they insisted that I go and get the Gallo Nero team suit at a local shop. L could tell I had a great time by the huge smile on my face all day.The Gallo Nero team ( and one Gallo Bianco)

The Gallo Nero team ( and one Gallo Bianco)


Good cool down in the pool, which has been perfect temperature all day every day, and it is deserted so we can be as rambunctious as we like. From our perches around the pool, we watch all the trains going down the fast rail track between Florence and Rome. They go past every 10 minutes, in one direction or the other, about the same frequency as the Melbourne suburban trains - if they haven't been cancelled.
The pool

The pool


Later on we headed out to wander about andwe grab a pizza for dinner in Foiana. Pizzas are easy cheap eating, but bythe time you get water, beer or wine and a dessert, it doesn't seem so cheap anymore.

Posted by lostagain 02:03 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Ballooning in Tuscany

sunny 32 °C

The alarm goes off at 4:45 and we are dressed and into the car and off along the quiet local roads for 45 minutes until we arrive at our destination just near Montisi . Down in the cool valley is a mill with a small meadow where they are preparing the balloon. G’s face breaks into a grin as he sees what the surprise is. It is rolled out and tethered to the basket before a big fan starts to fill it. In no time at all, it is taking shape (on its side)and then out comes the big BBQ flame to give it the lift. There is a delicate moment as the flame has to be carefully pointed so as not to be too close to the nylon envelope, and then it lurches upright. Take off

Take off

Early morning shadow

Early morning shadow


We get into the basket, six passengers and the pilot. We have our safety training (keep seat backs upright and stow your tables for landing...) And then a few extra blasts, and out goes the filling cylinder. With that gone, we move a bit then Allie gives a few more blasts and we rise into the valley. It is so very quiet and sound carries so far in the dawn that we can hear all sorts of things going on under an about us. Until Allie gives it a bit more welllie. Then we rise out of our valley, and over the Tuscan landscape. From here it is all laid out like a carpet for us to wonder over. One thing is for certain, there is no shortage of swimming pools in the area. This is a very popular area, and along with the classic rolling hills, rows of cypress pines, wheat fields and vineyards there are a hell of a lot of Agriturismos, Auberges, hotels, holiday flats - and a pool is de riguer if you want to have a holiday in Tuscany. The ballast

The ballast


But I digress. We float over the recent excavations of a 9th century church and over some small canyons where the water has dug through the soft local rock. From here we can see Montepulciano easily, and to the south we can just make out the islands on lake Trasimeno. Matt and Emma can just make out their honeymoon getaway near Buonconvento, and the local highlights (pubs) are pointed out as we go along. Allie has flown around Bristol in the UK a lot, and says that most balloon navigating is really done by the closest pub. We can see several large pubs, sorry, castles in the valley, and a number of abandoned farmhouses that could not be too expensive to buy and do up...
We are starting to come down to find a place to land, but as Allie descends the winds are very fickle and we cannot make it down.
Tuscany view

Tuscany view

So up we go to catch a different current and drift on to the next likely spot. We have picked out a large estate with lots of vines around it and start to descend, but the winds have now gone to being contrary and push us back in the opposite direction. Up we go again, looking for the puff of wind to get us to a landing site. This time we look good for a field next to a river. Allie will have to drop a rope and have the recovery person pull us out to the next field where there are no crops. As we drop we hit a dead patch, in fact we can see our reflection in the river’s surface as we just sit there for a few minutes before shifting off. As we get lower still, two or three times the height of the trees, a breeze suddenly picks us up and carries us into the right spot to land straight off. The landing is soft, and once the envelope is vented to make sure we will stay on the ground, we can hop out of the basket and help to lay the balloon down as it deflates. A team effort helps to stuff it in the bag and then we can relax.
The champagne breakfast on landing

The champagne breakfast on landing


As part of the ride, Robert and the team from Ballooning in Tuscany provide us with a champagne breakfast with local pizzas and fresh fruits and cheeses – just a scrumptious way to end the flight. We also get to meet the owner of our landing field – this is the second time in two days, so Hans also scores a glass of bubbly. We all pitch in and pack the balloon onto the trailer, and we are then treated to a gelati in Buonconvente before heading back to the launch site. A great flight was had by all.

Posted by lostagain 06:57 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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