Respond to the call that ignites your spirit. – Rumi
There were a few promises I made to myself prior to visiting Tuscany. Wine and pasta were a given, but my priorities were to spend time in the outdoors, interact with the locals, and have gelato Every. Single. Day. So when I read about a bike ride through the Chianti countryside, that included a gelato tour, I was sold.
I booked the tour through I Bike Tuscany and when I woke up the morning of the ride, I knew this would be that day that simply makes my heart happy.
I was right.
We were to meet at Bar Italia in Castellina in Chianti. We sipped a cappuccino, watched the morning come alive with the rest of the town and learned two things. First, we should have ordered a croissant, since the gentleman at the next table offered me one of his when he heard me “yum”. Second, when you ask the locals about Castellina, they will skip mention of the old medieval town and cut to the chase. To them, this is where the best gelato is made.
We were exactly where we were meant to be.
The Gelato: Paula and Raffaele arrived with the bikes, but the first stop is Gelateria di Castellina with Simone. It is here we learn finding the right combinations for gelato requires a sensitive palate and extraordinary alchemy. The simplest and sometimes most unusual ingredients become the most delicious masterpieces and today we are the guinea pigs to guess the flavors through a friendly competition.
If you have never had basil, chili, or saffron gelato it is certainly worth a try at impressing the master, but stracciatella remains my favorite.
The ride: The bike ride would take us thirteen miles from Castellina to Poggibonsi. Thirteen miles that I think might the longest downhill in the region, at least from our perspective.
The tiny roads took us though a countryside promised only by Tuscany. We glided through towns we might miss if we blink, and shouted buon giorno to anyone who would listen.
The wind on our face carried the smell of a fresh rain, and I wondered if I would have missed the abundance of wildflowers if I had been in the car.
Once again, castles and hilltop fortresses are commonplace. Overlooks gave opportunity for Paula and Raffaele, to talk of this region rich in Tuscan tradition, and it’s impressive history. The 12th century, walled city of San Gimignano that we can see in the distance, will be our destination.
And while we visit San Gimignano as tourists, I think of another time when the distinctive skyline must have been a welcome site for weary travelers.
San Gimignano: The bikes were secured on the van at Poggibonsi and we were privy to the drive uphill to San Gimignano. Famous for the preservation of it’s prominent towers, and medieval architecture, San Gimignano is known to locals as the Manhattan of Tuscany. It is here we walk along the ancient walkways, explore shops of the local artisans, and also where we discover the best breadsticks on the planet.
The van ride back to Castillina was filled with both laughter and just a bit of regret, as I wanted the day to continue. Instead, with a promise to return, we said our goodbyes.
Now, with tomorrow on our mind, and one, double-scoop of gelato in hand we bid farewall to Simone, and head home.
Be reminded…when life presents you with twists and turns, ups and downs, and all arounds, pick up your feet and simply enjoy the ride.
Wind Kisses, Donna