Zipping through the rolling hills of the wine country of all wine countries
We woke up bright and early to the smell of yellowing grass and the deafening sound of hundreds of cicadas.
This was the Florence portion of our Italy trip, and we were staying in a repurposed Tuscan villa in the country hills above the city.
Today we would be forgoing the streets of Florence in exchange for a trip through Tuscany. Of course, the best way to experience the sights and smells of the countryside is on bicycle.
We didn’t just rent the bikes and travel alone, we went with a tour group, planning to visit a castle and a few wineries along the way. Unless you’re a hard-core biking enthusiast, I would definitely recommend this, as the tour guides took us through the best portions of the countryside and we got to experience the different facets of Tuscan life.
The views were spectacular. Everywhere I looked seemed to resemble a logo on a wine bottle. Of course, I was on a moving bicycle, so couldn’t take quite as many pictures as I would have liked.
That being said, the views and sensations are still vivid in my mind. Bright greens and yellows, hills striped with rows of grape vines, valleys dotted with orange brown rooftops. The fresh scent of summer was heavy in the air, full of warm grass and dry clean dirt and trickling streams.
This fresh air was a well needed respite after spending so much time in busy cities full of scents of cigarette smoke or volcanic sulfur.
The breeze hitting me from my forward propulsion was very warm, but not unpleasant, and the hot sun bearing down on us added to the overall ambiance.
I am a very slow biker. It’s not that I’m nervous or uncoordinated, I just believe that biking should be a patient process. I enjoy leisurely gliding along and being able to take in as many sights as possible.
This wasn’t too much of a problem, as the cyclists made up a big group that was widely spread out, and we were told to go at our own pace. That being said, I was still close to the back of the pack.
We made it to an ancient castle nestled in the rolling hills: Castello a Poppiano.
The guides had pointed out our destination long before we reached its gates, and we watched its stately figure grow larger against the country backdrop as we rode nearer.
The castle wasn’t quite so castle-y as other European destinations. It was a bit small and had more of an Italian mansion feel.
The courtyards were well maintained, decorated with potted plants and old wine barrels.
We had the opportunity to climb up to the tallest tower to see the hills from a vantage point.
As was expected, the views were gorgeous.
We then made it down into the cellars, to see the wine slowly coming to fruition in the old barrels.
This particular tour was a wine-tasting based bicycle tour, and samples were given out while we were in the courtyard. My brother and I, being underage at the time, were given a different option: olive oil tasting with fresh baked bread.
The olive oil was unlike any variety I have tried before or since. It held a certain spicy kick, as well as a leafy earthy aroma. The tour guides made it clear that we were welcome to take a sip or swish of the Tuscan wine, but my mom wouldn’t allow it.
Although I missed the opporunity for true Tuscan wine tasting, the olive oil was a fantastic experience in itself.
We visited more destinations like this along the bike tour, stopping each time for water, wine, and olive oil.
We also stopped at a beautiful village toward the end of the trip, which looked like a painting: exposed brick, hanging flowers, clotheslines hung between windows.
The entire experience was beautiful, and definitely worth every penny if you are ever near Tuscany. Another item to cross off my bucket list!