Sunday, March 8, 2009

"The Amazing Ride" in Val d’Orcia, Tuscany

This following guest article is written by Marco Vignoli, owner of I Bike Tuscany,, a cycling tour company specializing in the Tuscany region and single day bicycle trips for visitors to Florence.

"My favourite ride is a ride in the Val d’Orcia, in the southern part of Tuscany. For all that I have cycled all over Italy and in other countries, I am so fond of this ride that I can think to call it nothing other than, simply, “The Amazing Ride.”

There’s something about the combination of gentle dirt roads profuse with wildflowers and striking vistas over deep, farmed valleys that cannot disappoint. In the spring, the scent of yellow ginestra strongly perfumes the air. The olive trees and other foliage offer gentle shade as you ride; you can lose yourself in the feeling that you alone are drinking in the scented air and the pretty clusters of waving poppies by the roadside. As one cycles an arc around deepening valleys, neat fields below line up in a quilt of patches in shades of yellow and pale sage. When clouds pass they shadow the valleys, bringing sky and earth just a little bit closer together, but the sun is always warm on your back.

There’s a particular moment that I remember from a ride last spring. I was turning away from the deep valley views and crisscrossing a farm on a twisting road with a gentle ascent. To my left and right were only planted fields and to the left an ancient farm building. I could hear the breeze moving the grass beside my feet as I pedalled. It was a space to perfectly accommodate a human being held within his or her own thoughts, propelled by his or her own energy.

I hope I’ve conveyed to you the measure of this ride that is so special to me. It’s the kind of ride on which you can experience the best feeling of being alone – of being alone with your legs and your bicycle and a diverse but welcoming landscape. It encompasses much that I think of when I think of this, my home region of Tuscany – traditional farms producing great olive oil and wine, the best of local food to be enjoyed in a leisurely lunch with one’s legs sprawled out under the table in a tiny cafe, and quiet country roads traversing orchard to forest. It’s a small oasis of peace where one deeply…breathes."

Photos: by Marco Vignoli; Marco is to the left in group photo

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