Our last booked tour of the trip was today: a cycling trip from Florence out into the Tuscan countryside. It wasn't a ton of cycling (just over 11 miles total) but it was still fantastic. I booked this through Artviva tours in Florence (this is the tour) and I would book again with them in a heartbeat (as long as we had Stefan as our guide!).
We started in town and met up with Stefan, and two other couples going on the tour/ride. We (as you already know) had our own bikes, and after we were given the "OK" that our bikes were suitable for the ride (specifically: the hills getting out of the city) we headed over to the bike shop to get everyone else's bikes, while getting a bonus walking tour of Florence from Stefan.
Here's the map of our day (click for larger version if you want):
We headed across the Arno and up the hill, stopping first at the Basilica di San Miniato atop a hill at one of the highest points in Florence.
In this shot you can see some of the old city wall that used to surround Florence, running up the hill, toward the right of the photo:
The front of the basilica:
Then we rode on up the hill to the top, where we stopped and checked out Galileo's pad. Apparently when Galileo was politely asked to stop talking science to students and other gullible folks in Florence and perhaps even to leave the city, the Medici family gave him this nice hillside villa in which to live.
Next we headed into a beautiful restaurant called Trattoria Omero. Incredible views from this place in the Florentine hills.
We sat and dined on Tuscan meats, cheeses, Chianti, and some incredible pasta (one with a yellow pepper sauce, and another with a spicy tomato sauce) and finished with a nice espresso. Then, back on the bikes we went! (Stefan in front, then Kevin…nice path huh? This is a two-way road!)
Our next stop was Villa Le Piazzole where we'd been before on our 500 Touring Club day, but what was interesting is that this visit was completely different. So different, we weren't even sure we were at the same place until we were in the cellar! We came in through the back, so we saw the olive grove, the garden, and the bunnies!
We met the owner, his wife, one of their dogs, and tasted two wines: a white, the Bianca Toscana (Chardonnay 50% , Pinot 30% , Trebbiano 10% , Grechetto/Malvasia 5%) and the Rosso Toscana (Sangiovese 60%, Cabernet Sauvignon 20%, Merlot 20%). Both were fabulous and we brought home one more (the Rosso) So now we have four bottles (it's Monday, and we leave Friday). Good thing we have friends coming over to our Florence apartment tomorrow night to help us with the wine (and the prosciutto, and salami, and formaggio) that we need to consume before we head home on Friday!
Here is Stefan, teaching us stuff about wine:
The villa, out back:
One of our roads home:
It was a really great day. I was worried after we got to Florence (after riding our bikes through Italy for a week) that I'd overplanned and overbooked us for tours we'd no longer enjoy. I was wrong. We've enjoyed every single tour we've done and neither of us would change a thing about this trip and the schedule. We've learned so much!
We came home, chilled and did some work for a few hours, and decided this was our night to try the traditional Bistecca alla Fiorentina (basically, a very high quality T Bone steak, grilled over a hot fire and served rare/medium rare, seasoned with salt and garnished with extra virgin olive oil at the table).
We showered and got dressed up a little and walked down the street (oh man, high heels on cobblestones) to All'Antico Ristoro di'Cambi.
Traditionally, Bistecca alla Fiorentina is served with white beans, but we ordered a side of sauteed spinach instead because I've been seriously missing my veggies while traveling in Italy. We also tried the pappa al pomodoro (tomato and bread soup) and theirs was a little spicy, and fabulous!
Our waiter was great and gave us spot-on recommendations, including his recommendation for a wine we'd never tried: a Villa Donoratico Bolgheri from an area on the Tuscan coast just south of Livorno (apparently one of the most prestigious vineyard areas). Anyway, it was great and paired perfectly with our Bistecca alla Fiorentina.
Night shot on the walk home along the Arno River:
Tomorrow we'll be sleeping in!! It's the first day in a while that we don't have anything planned that has us getting up at 7:30am. I plan to stop at the shoe shop down the road where Francesco makes custom leather sandals, and we will met our soon-to-be-wedded friends at their palazzo at 2pm for a walking tour around Florence, and then tomorrow night as I said we've got some friends coming by for a visit and a glass of wine. Should be a pretty chill day!