Travel Story 

Timeless textures

Rolling through Tuscany on a bike

Lying on my back in Siena's Piazza Il Campo, I feel like the world is revolving around me. My eyes are closed and my senses piqued. A kaleidoscope of languages echoes in every direction, only to be interrupted by laughing children and whispering lovers. I'm picking up voices and happily imagining the rest.

The Piazza Il Campo has been described as the most beautiful square in the world. Completed in 1349, it was built with an amphitheater-like curve and welcomes all of Siena's main streets, creating a natural place for all to gravitate to.

I roll over, take a sip of water, toss a few olives into my mouth and suck on them like candy. I feel like I’m in a film where everything is swirling around me in a chaotic blur and I remain in focus.

I drift off and daydream about yesterday's ride. Cruising the dreamy, sublime Tuscan landscape, the air is fragrant and intoxicating, a combination of earth, spice and flower. Tuscany is one of the world's quintessential cycle-touring domains. I am in bicycle heaven. I shift down a few gears and feel my speed accelerate down a gentle hill. Tuscany is rolling, almost never just flat. I coast up to a small village and head for shade.

Sitting across the street are five men and a few quiescent dogs. The men are staring contentedly at me with a curious gaze. Their faces are tanned like leather from years of work on the land. I imagine that there is a story behind each wrinkle.

"Buon giorno," a hand waves to me and breaks the silence of the still heat. The old man gives me a nod and shakes his cane. He must think I’m nuts to be cycling at this time of the day. I can’t argue with him. It's mid-day and the Tuscan sun is blaring down like a hammer. Everything is closed down for the three-hour midday repose. This time of the day is sacred to the Italians and I can understand why.

Back on my bike, I head out of town and onto a small and narrow road that climbs up through a shaded olive grove and onto a long, snaking tufa ridge. I pick up my pace and feel the afternoon cadence that I’ve been searching for. In every direction are rolling red hills with long Cypress-lined driveways leading to the grand villas that Tuscany is known for. I can appreciate the Renaissance gate, the medieval streets, the Romanesque church and the Etruscan wall that typifies Tuscany, but my thoughts are for the warm coloured stone, dreamy clouds and pastel light that makes everything look like a painting.

On the horizon I can see a walled town poking up out of the hills surrounded by rolling vineyards for as far as the eye can see.

"It must be Montepulciano," I think to myself out loud, with sweat beading off my nose. I stop and pull my map out to make sure I am heading in the right direction. The heat is starting to take its toll on me and I have at least another 30 kilometres from here. I might have to stop for a cappuccino to help me on the last climb up to town.

Montepulciano is famous for its Vino Nobile. The sooner I get there, the sooner I could be enjoying a glass of red by the pool.

A flock of pigeons takes off noisily and wakes me from my dream. Then an old lady shrieks and drops her sandwich as the flock surrounds her. I look around in a daze and re-focus my thoughts and surroundings. I welcome the shade as it creeps across the stone of the piazza. As the temperature drops to a more comfortable zone it seems that everyone is pouring onto the streets for an evening stroll.

I get up and walk back to my hotel for dinner and prepare for tomorrow's ride.

INFO: Check out www.cycleventures.com for info on cycling trips in Europe and other destinations world-wide.

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