Today was the last day (Day 6) of our bike tour, and we both agree it's been one of the coolest things we've ever done. There's just no better way to see and get a feel for a place than to ride bikes through it. I also think the way we did it, on our own bikes with regular clothes (well, bike shorts hidden underneath, of course) helped the "fitting in" feeling we were going for.
We got up earlier than usual in Brisighella this morning because we opted to catch the 8:30am train to Borgo San Lorenzo (instead of the 12:30pm train). We waffled at first because we thought we might want to spend more time in Brisighella, but since we arrived on the early side yesterday we got to explore plenty!
At the train station in Brisighella with our NZ pals (another group of 6 doing the same ride):
Here's a map of our ride (starting with the train ride from Brisighella to Borgo San Lorenzo — click to enlarge):
The train ride to Borgo San Lorenzo (through the Apenine mountains that divide Emiglia Romagna and Tuscany) was about an hour. We had four tickets…one for each of us, and one for each of our bikes. Taking the bike on the train felt a little wonky. The train doors open and there's the spot between the area where people sit (separated by doors), with steep stairs going down either side, and you just hoist your bike up and park it there, hoping it won't fall over when the train moves. Two of our other tour mates had their Eurobike bikes in there and we all just tried to arrange them so they wouldn't fall over and they wouldn't block the doors (the doors that were on all four sides!)
Shots from the train ride:
In Borgo San Lorenzo:
That's the only photo I took of riding through Borgo San Lorenzo. It was pretty, but we needed some espresso.
We knew were were going to have some climbs today and figured the fuel would do us good. Back on the road:
When you're leaving a town you get those signs (above) that have the name of the town with a red slash through it.
Alrighty, and now on to those climbs!!
We gave it a shot but after not too long we ended up walking the bikes up this 1.5km 13% grade (and even that was pretty tough!)
Water break next to the roadside shrine:
Oh yeah, here's a screen shot from my iPhone running Cyclemeter:
It kinda felt like straight up. After the 1.5km straight up, there was some downhill, and then another 3km or so of uphill, but not as steep as the first climb so we were able to actually stay on our bikes. All in all the climbing today was about 463 meters, or 1,519 feet. But take a look at that view from the top…Fiesole in the foreground, and Florence in the background. Nice!
Coming into Fiesole:
We stopped here for more espresso and some acqua frizzante (fizzy water, but you probably got that).
Oh, and the view was this:
We continued on a bit looking for our lunch spot and opted for this little sidewalk spot called Fiesolano:
We had some pizza and a glass of house vino rosso and more fizzy water, and then continued down the hill toward Florence.
This is an incredibly scenic ride, from Fiesole (or above it, really) down into Florence. Pictures do not even begin to capture how breathtaking it is to arrive in Florence via this route by bicycle.
Narrow road, with a traffic light at either end:
Separated bike lane. All of the parts of Italy we've seen so far are more bike-friendly than we'd imagined they would be. In busy areas though, there are bikes wheel-to-wheel chained to that fence on the right so that they stick a bit out into the right side and you have to ride on the left. Perhaps some better bike parking is in order?
We lost our sticker path for a while, but worked it out via our Cyclemeter map and Google maps and eventually found the stickers AND our hotel. We're at Hotel Grifone for our first night here and this is the view from our room:
See the Duomo, right between the tip tops of that tall tree! Neat!
Our room has giant, openable window:
And here's the view now, after my long long blog post:
Beautiful. Tomorrow we'll move over to the apartment we've rented for the rest of our stay in Florence. It's in the Oltrarno area (across the Arno river from the center of town and the Duomo, so a little quieter than the main tourist area). It should be lovely. We'll let you know!