Archive for July, 2009

Strada Del Vino Thursday, July 2nd, 2009


One of the delights of traveling by bicycle is that a rider is able to wander and discover hidden places where no tourist treads. Where English is not spoken at all. Where modernity seems distant. And…the pace of life seems still. A rider penetrates this environment and silently leaves it. He does, however, retain the scenes, the vistas, the faces and facades in his mind. They become the richness of his being. One such discovery is the Strada de Vino, the wine road. It begins around the hilltop town of Montecarlo and hugs the Apuan Alps to Lucca and beyond to the coast. The roads are narrow, the climb is steep, there is no traffic, the air is clear, and there is beauty and stillness all about. A perfect setting to stir the passions of a bicycle rider.

My day begins at Caffe Carlo IV on the main street of the hilltop hamlet of Montecarlo where I get comfortable at a streetside table spreading out my journal and maps. I P8040659know the rhythms of this street by now. The little grocery store across the cobbles opens and displays of merchandise are stationed at each side of the entrance. The pharmacy two doors up  will open soon and the owner in white smock will water the geraniums in front. To the north the street terminates in a small parking lot with imposing castle fortifications just beyond; to the south is wall and gate providing a framed panorama of sloping vineyards and valley stretching towards the Arno River; and anchoring the center is the ever imposing church and belltower of massive Tuscan stone overlooking a neat square with war memorial and vistas of valley and Apuan mountains to the east. The breadman arrives at the corner of the square and P7280422leaves his goods at the bar entrance. The proprietress is late today. She’s a bustling blond with a tan and expensive jewelry and…an attitude to boot. Her body language pieced together from my prior visits express dissatisfaction with the mundane and a yearning for her rightful place, ‘la dolce vita’ at the beach and the night life and such. Residents one by one open shutters and exit onto the street, greeting each other and making the morning rounds. Ah, here comes my blond proprietress in a huff. I order my usual, caffe e latte and pastry, on the run as she hurries into the bar for a quick open. I’m at peace. Half consciously I notice the quaint motions of life about while mostly immersed in my writings about the prior days adventures and the promise of the day to come. My caffe e latte in large glass and plump croissant are quietly placed on my table. The pastry is light and good and so is the frothy coffee. I’m in a suspended state, partly noticing the familiar about me and partly feeling lucky to be alive in this setting. I appreciate the moment knowing that nothing lasts.

Over the month this has become my default ride, my happy ride, a ride filled with solace and beauty. Sometimes I exit the city from the south and hug the wall to appreciate the antique fortifications; at times I examine the wonderful remnants of the castle with parapets and crenellations to the north or I meander the windy side alleys filled with quaint sights and nestled porches and nooks before I begin the descent on the Strada del Vino.

Vineyards and olive groves  in a valley at base of Apuan Alps.

Scenic Tuscan fields in July.

Medieval Romanesque Architecture near Tofori.

Country Gothic Church near Vagliano.

The solitude of a mountain road with no cars to be seen.

The town of Vagliano or is it Matraia.

As it has been for centuries.

Quiet residences around Matraia.

An inviting mountain restaurant. Perhaps a visit is warranted on next visit. Near Matraia.

Just for the beauty of it all.

….and more!

Now for some lunch at Lucca.   Wall erected in 1700’s and never breached!


The Cycling Tuscan

Silicon Valley Real Estate…… Luciano….  Broker’Owner…..