I’m feeling a bit slow in the mornings, but after a good cappuccino at the local café, and a few turns of the pedals, the old joints click together and my brain boots up.
We sit at a pavement table, our bikes standing together like black horses. A fat chef with an apron and tall hat, a ‘Carabinieri’ (fancy policeman) in his black pants with a red stripe down the leg, a road worker dressed in fluorescents like me, stand around chatting with loud gestures. Women sweep and make the coffee.
We spent the night in a little apartment at the end of a long passage.
Apparently King Henry VII died very inconveniently here in Buonconvento, on the way back from his coronation in Rome.
This picture is a slight example of the colours.
Zigzagging up and down the hills, on white farm roads, the tractors and vans leave us in clouds of dust. Sometimes we must take the Cassia road, which is tarred but there is no hard shoulder and it’s very narrow, so trucks have to rumble along behind us until there is a chance to pass safely. Occasionally we come across fellow bikers and shout “Buon giorno” or “Ciao”.
Seems Simon is still having some trouble with my Brooks seat, ouch. I’m using his seat and it’s just fine thanks.
Bumbled into Siena before lunch, by way of the Porta Romana.
Pretty impressive city all round. Bedecked with artistic treasures and gigantic architecture. A cold beer makes everything look even better.
Simon once stayed at a hostel run by nuns for the pilgrims who walk the via Francigena, so we went there and were welcomed in. No cost. A very matter-of-fact Nun showed us to our brown dormitory, which we messed up with battery cables and stinky socks, padded tights and wet towels.
After a shower and short siesta we made our way around the town, by foot, which feels so much harder than riding a bike. Tramp tramp.
With Simon, food is never far from thought. After a delicious glass of Chianti red wine and a platter of cheeses and other yummy morsels on a spectacular terrace overlooking the bricky towers, guess who we bumped into?!
Our lovely friend-almost-daughter Sian, who had also arrived in Siena that day. www.sianowenphotography.com. She came to my rescue in Rome lately and helped me set up this blog. We ran around photographing the golden hour of Siena.
The nuns invited us to join the procession from St. Francis to the Duomo.
It was a mysterious and spirited event, lots of kids in white shifts, and men in black carrying a canopy which is held over the Blessed Sacrament, a blood stain from the same Hostia we saw in Bolsena a couple of days ago. The miracle happened in 1263, then in 1290, the dome in Orvieto was built to house the original piece of stained cloth. The Cardinal in Orvieto wanted to make a scientific analysis of the blood in 1995, but it was forbidden.
The procession lasted late into the evening, and we tootled back to the convent to find our Nun waiting up to let us in. Some pilgrims were asleep in our dormitory, and we earnestly tried not to wake them but the old brass door handle rasped loudly. Sleeping bags were necessary, but we had none, so used the communal blankets. We slept very well. Not sure about the pilgrims though, they were a bit grumpy. Simon and I tend to snore in tandem apparently.
Met a Danish couple at breakfast, they’re riding from Rome to Copenhagen. They slept in the Nun’s office last night, and complained that the roads were very steep.
He had a Brooks saddle too, but says he has some problems with it.
After a quick stop at the bike shop for another bike bag, in which to keep my camera etc. we exited the walls through Porta Camollia, and wobbled around the periphery looking for the track.
A man said he thinks “we can go down that way through the fields”, and so we did.
The German Shepard watched us from the farmhouse, two tasty bikers coming down the hill through the tall green weeds. The dog lay behind a fence, but as we got near we saw the gate was open.
He didn’t move, but we felt the adrenaline.
This photograph shows the only level bit of land we saw for the rest of the day. Simon battled up and down, while I whizzed my pedals – battery on full turbo!
Drivers were very careful to give us a wide berth on the gravel.
Made it to Radda, the centre of the Chianti region, for lunch. And the longer we sat the more we ate, and the more we ate the more we drank, till eventually we flopped into the very same hotel. So here I am writing this from a lovely big bed.
That is not a muffin in the picture, it’s an semifreddo made from almonds. Quite delish.
Total trip distance from Marino … 325 kms
Today 27 kms (haha, due to high hills and too much good wine).