15 July 2016

13 July - Pisa and the Ligurian Coast

It's time to leave the walled cities of Tuscany behind and move on.

We're about an hour and a half away from Pisa, so we'll roll through some more of the wonderful Tuscany countryside.
... and stop in the city of Pisa. Walk around a corner and here you see just down the end of the street, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the nearby cathedral.
Once you get up the street to the actual plaza, all around people are taking the obligatory "look, I'm holding up the building" pictures.
As you walk around the area, all around are people with the same silly poses. Kind of hilarious really.
The weather has cooled off slightly, with a little bit of rain to cool things down. So, we stopped in one of the sidewalk cafes for a bite to eat - some lasagne and salad.
Time to roll down the road a bit.
Finally out of that tourist trap, we go down the coast of the Ligurian sea to a bit of a hidden gem called "Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre". These jagged, ancient volcanic cliffs drop into the sea, but there are five towns in a zone protected from further development. After cruising up and down the ridgeline, we dropped down into the town of Monterosso al Mare to find a nearly tropical beach and vibe.

12 July - San Gimignano, Tuscany

Today was another short ride day, only one hour over to San Gimignano from Siena, but it was a beautiful, leisurely ride through the hills of Tuscany. We ride along hilltop ridgelines, then drop into heavily tree-line tight valleys and back out for another ridgeline ride. This is more bucket list stuff here folks!

San Gimignano is another walled city near Siena, but much smaller and without the huge crowds.

There are only two small piazzas (plazas). Shortly after arriving in our hotel and getting sorted out, we heard this strings and wind orchestra warming up in the plaza just outside out room. Apparently there is a big concert event this evening. Nice timing.

So, as they warm up and the air cools down from another 95F day, we take a chance for a bite to eat in one of the 3-4 restaurants in the smaller piazza around the corner to the right of the picture above.

After a bite of gigantic raviolis with truffles and some of that wild boar, we stepped back around for a bit of music in the piazza next to our hotel.

14 July 2016

11 July - Siena, Tuscany

In 2004, I stopped by Siena when on a ride, back when we lived in Germany. I was only able to spend an hour or two, so I put this place on the bucket list to come back to with La Rayne. Finally, 12 years later, it's checked off.

As we walk towards the city center, La Rayne just had to do a bit of shopping...

Behind me I noticed a couple of pups intensely waiting for their lady, shopping nearby. Feel free to ignore the superfluous post holding the leashes, just like the pups were doing.

Eating wild boar is a thing here. Most do not wear glasses.

Did I mention that it's about 95F outside today? It's about 20F more than we're used to...

So, we need to climb the tallest tower at high noon.

Just inside this portal is the ticket office and stairwell. Many steps up tiny winding staircases of stone. Watch your head and leave your vertigo on the ground..

Now, more gelato is consumed... We're doing our part to keep this industry alive.

10 July - Into Tuscany

This morning we left the mountain ridge of San Marino, towards the west. We took lots of small, very winding roads which were a bit technical. Obstructions like bicyclists, local sport bikers, and small two-stroke three wheel pickup trucks kept me busy La Rayne has been an outstanding passenger through the new experience of riding on the back of this sort of bike. Personally, I'd never ride on the back of this machine.

Sorry, no pics of the windy road. Just imagine a lot of trees and bushes right up the edge of the road, and many blind corners...

Temps are climbing as the morning goes along, so about 1215, we pass a restaurant with 3-4 motorcycles stopping, so we decide to turn around and stop as well. Its time for a break and perhaps a bite to eat.

The restaurant is opening in 10-15 minutes, so we wait for a table.  The menu is just one page of paper, with 22 different items all served in a row, for one price of 22 euro. Sounds good, we'll take that. There was no other choice, anyway...

As it turns out, the place is apparently THE place to be, because by 1245, the entire restaurant is completely full.  We were the first table to be seated, and people from all around just showed up and filled about 35 tables in short order.

The first course was a deconstructed salad, of the first 8 items or so, which was followed by 6-8 more small plates, tasting a bit of various awesome specialties.

One of the most important tricks to having excellent experiences is to be somewhere unexpected and new at random and ideal times.

After a fantastic two-hour long lunch, we rolled off the mountain / hill (depending on perspective) and into eastern Tuscany, then into Siena for the night.

We'll be in Siena for two nights, so we have an entire day (tomorrow) to explore Siena.

9 July - San Marino

Today, we've left the low, swamp lands around Venice and have traveled south to San Marino.  For those who are unfamiliar, San Marino is a very small nation fully land-locked within Italy, and claims to be the oldest surviving sovereign state and constitutional republic in the world, tracing the roots of their establishment back to the year 301. It only covers 24 square miles and has about 32,000 residents.

Today is to be the first of four days in a row, when we stay inside the fortress walls of an old city. This comes with a small challenge, because these sorts of cities have very narrow "roads" which are more like pathways and are unsuitable for traffic. So, today we park outside sity wall of San Marino and walk in 200-300 yards to our hotel.

Just as we arrived, these local drummers escorted us to our hotel. How nice.

Once checked in, it was time for some lunch in their terrace dining room overlooking to the western border of their contry and beyond into Italy. The border of San Marino is just the next ridgeline.

There are a series of three tower compounds along the top of the ridgeline, previously used for defensive purposes, as well as solitude for religious purposes.  So, a bit of a climb for the view.

13 July 2016

8 July - Venice

Today we put the hills and mountains behind us for a bit and rolled towards Venice.  As we left the elevation, we left the protection from the heat of the lowlands.

Before leaving Colorado, we booked all of our hotels,  For the most part, all of them have been excellent. Today was the exception. This place set a new bar for us in low-quality lodging, but I'll spare you the details.

So, after dropping baggage and changing clothes, we made our way across the bridge to Venice, which was only about 5-10 minutes away. They have made a new island just outside the city, just for a big parking garage, right next to where they dock the cruise ships.

We spent most of the day just wandering the narrow streets and walkways, climbing over the waterway bridges, and just taking in the sites.

Gelato was consumed.  You may notice we got a bit hotter as the day went on, until we got in the boat to return back to the bike...

7 July - Pedavena

After the rather demanding riding and easy days up in the heart of the Dolomites, we took yet another easy day today and rolled through the mountain hills of Tyrol and the southern Dolomites to a small town called Padavena. Here we stayed in a small 2-3 bedroom B&B.  It's the house in the picture below, just right of dead center in the picture below.

So, not a lot of news to report from today. So, in the early afternoon, we did take a nice walk up the hill to the ever available "pizzaria", overlooking town, then back to the room for a nice afternoon nap.

Later in the evening, we rode the boke down into town and found an old brewery, still in operation since the 1890s, but has been converted to a large open-air restaurant of sorts. The just served light food, appetizers and such, but its a great place to relax and just hang out with folks.

So, all we had to do was cuddle up on the porch and watch the rest of the evening slip away...