Monday, June 18, 2007

Sunny Tuscany

Florence is where every two steps lead to a roadside Romeo, every four steps end at a museum, and every ten steps deposit you beyond its historic city-centre. There are, as in the rest of Italy, remarkable sculptures. But I'm burnt out! and my ability to pretend artistic perspicacity at its squares and museums is exhausted! So I finally embarked upon what I should have the very first day - its glorious countryside. Tuscany comes more alive in its olives and wine than in its marbles.

Went on a biking trip to the Chianti Valley with Bicycle Tuscany. The schedule was after my own heart - started off with wine tasting, followed by a three-course lunch with wine and coffee, and only after I had tanked up enough energy to cycle uphill and imbibed enough wine to believe it would be easy, did we start pedaling.

The Tuscan countryside is absolutely as romantic and picturesque as the movies show it to be. Cypress tress climb neat, conical, shapely heights; grapes branch out in school assembly rows; hills slope up and down as gently as they can - all of nature seems to be well-manneredly smoothing the course for trespassers like us!

Of course, the going was tough, especially as my cycling days belonged to memories of a decade ago, but the scenery and the calorie-burn was worth every wheeze.

But the biggest bonus for me was meeting interesting strangers in this journey, especially after the quiet days and quieter nights I've spent on this trip till now. Three of us in the group were solo traveling women and we reconvened at a bar abashedly named 'Pop Cafe', where the drinks were drinkable and all food you can eat free!

Florence is beautiful at night. Its Duomo may be ugly, but street musicians - not your guitar strumming variety, but entire orchestras of accordions and big base guitars and pianos - descend to add a surround sound in the moonlight, creating a spellbinding artsy atmosphere that Rome's untouchably old and preserved grandeur cannot give.

This trip is turning out as fantastic as I was hoping it to be!

More snaps here

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