Finding Faith - 9 1/2 Weeks - CycleBlaze

October 26, 2019

Finding Faith

Porretta Terme to Bottinaccio

This was a beautiful yet pretty physically demanding day of touring. We ended up as the only guests in a very quiet and peaceful monastery in the Tuscan hills,  giving us time for reflection.

I'm pretty much an atheist, but the setting at the end of the day did give me pause to think and give thanks for all that we have. An amazing partner to share these experiences, family and friends who support us along the way, the good health that allows us to do this. These are just of few of the many many things that we are thankful for.

We are also somewhat materialistic, so we are also thankful for robust bikes with low low gearing and hydraulic brakes.  You are either using one or the other. Steep climbs or steep descents on narrow roads. Not much in between. 

Every tour has it's highlights, some are planned out and anticipated well in advance while others are serendipitous. Today was serendipity's  turn.  This was a day that really makes you love touring. Perfect weather, unknown terrain that wows you at every turn and crest of the next hill, of which there were many, and feeling tired, but not thrashed at the end of the day.

The pictures will show the beauty of the ride as we crested the Appenine mountains and descended into the hills of Tuscany. Andrea had told us about being able to book rooms at monestarys across Italy and we were giving that a try, having found a place a few km's north of Montespertoli.

We slept well.

Song of the Day, Hymns to the Silence by Van Morrison. The monastery we stayed at was in the Hamlet of Bottinacia, which was really only a Bar / Pizza place on one side of the road, and the monastery on the other side. Oh, and it was at the top of a hill. There was nothing else for more than a kilometer on either side of us. We were the only people staying at the monastery other than Sister Lauraetta and her dog Toby. There was no internet and barely any phone service inside the stone walls. It was very quiet and peaceful and a respite from today's constantly connected world. When this played  in the evening as we were getting ready for bed it was the perfect wrap for the day. 

The big drop about 1/3 of the way is us coming out of the Appennines. We then had about 20 km or so of a flat traverse until we hit the famed hills of Tuscany. These are the relatively small bumps near the end of the day. Don't be fooled though .. they are steep!
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Starting the morning in Porretta Terme .. the jackets came off as soon as we got into the sun
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A perfect morning for biking. We had a quick climb out of Porretta Terme (that's it in the valley below) up towards Lago di Suviana
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Lago di Suviana where we connected with the Italian BI-1 cycle route that continues on through the Appeninnes to Florence
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Once we hit the lake at an elevation of about 650m, the road contoured along for about 5 km's and then we had a nice down hill section for a few km's ... lovely!
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Unfortunately, around these parts, what goes down must come back up again! More climbing on steep (10 -14% grades in some points) roads through beautiful country up to 1000m before we would descend again
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Whew, ...that section done. It was getting warm now too!
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And now we started our descent towards Prato
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Amazingly beautiful ... a bit hazy in the valley ... pictures don't really capture how nice it really was
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...and more down .... nice payback for a couple of days of climbing!
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The views just kept getting better ... quintessential Tuscan villages, vineyards, olive groves, full sun and warm!
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In the flat valley around Prato we rode past this tree farm ... innovative way of growing trees .. probably makes moving and replanting far easier
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...and our final 10 km's of climbing back into the Tuscan hills. We came across this family harvesting olives. It was also getting very hot (high 20's) in the valley
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Olives are dropping onto the tarps spread out below
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simply a perfect day with amazing views in every direction
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well almost .... as I was stopped by the side of the road taking pic's, I saw this lady on her balcony looking over my way ... she's a good 500 -600 m away from me. Zoomed in and caught this ... somebody's having a bad day!
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...a now a downhill section ... still beautiful in every direction
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Hills, vines and Olive groves ... and blue blue sky
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I think our destination is in the hills on the horizon
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Almost ready for harvest
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Interesting fountain in Montelupo Fiorentino, smallish city a few km's north of the Monastery we're headed to.
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We've arrived! Inside the walls of the Santuario Santa Marie della Pace. Many monasteries run as B&B's and there's a website where you can search and book them. We were the only folks here tonight. Very quiet and peaceful and a bit of a change from a hotel!
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Evening light on the steeple ... the sun is setting sooner each day!
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One of the nicest parking spots for the Tout's
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A simple but terrific end to a hard but amazing day !
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Today's ride: 79 km (49 miles)
Total: 2,355 km (1,462 miles)

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