’Slang and I repeated our morning coffee at the bar down the street, where she remembered our drinks. After breakfast, we packed up our belongings, and transferred them into a single room where we could shower on our return.
We opted for the easy tour again today, given that we had a busy afternoon planned and could ill-afford a late return, or exhaustion. Yesterday’s road tour had been especially punishing, and dropped one or two riders. So with the word out on the road tour, we had thirty riders in our group. Glen was leading, and Liam transferred off the road tour and onto the easy tour. Our destination was Mondiano, the picturesque coffee stop from the first day. We took a different route, but with no less climbing. We caught up with the race tour, having a quick banana in the car park outside the piazza. The Swiss mockingly cheered a couple of their female riders grinding their way up the street to the high point. We entered to the central square, and again lingered for a good long time at the loggia.
Atypically, we got back an hour before lunch. Which was in our favor, since we had to pack the van and drive to Tuscany. Everyone took turns showering, while Rick emulated our guides and shaved his head. This was the source of much hilarity at lunch, with a direct comparison to Daniel’s scalp. With a single gold earring, Rick would be indistinguishable from Marco Pantani, the deceased Italian Tour de France star. It was even more comical when Nadia decided to improve on the shave job and touched up Rick’s head with a disposable razor, rinsed frequently in his water glass at the lunch table.
Before and after lunch we tackled the packing of the van, along with interested assistance from Jonathan. Wheels came off all five bikes, most of which went into David and Tony’s empty cases. The five boxes (three being the broken down plastic boxes from Crateworks) were stacked in the rear compartment. Three frames went on top of this stack, layered with foam padding that had been used in David’s soft-sided case. Two bikes went on the front of the car, supported by Jim Harrington’s minimalist bike rack we had brought along in Rick’s luggage. Tennis balls, bungee cords and used shop rags kept the rack secure and the bike frames protected. Luggage went into the interstitial spaces, with ’Slang’s suitcase riding up front, buckled into the middle seat, and daypacks stuffed under seats. A smaller van, or an additional rider might have been an impossible situation.
We left Riccione flawlessly on the second attempt, and gained the autostrada south, parallel to the coast, towards Fano. Rick was driving, with Rob as co-pilot, and three in the back seat. At Fano, we left the autostrada and turned inland on a red road, up over the 600 mile long mountainous spine of Italy that is the Apennine Mountains. After about two hours, we stopped at a bar for coffees and a break.
We rounded Gubbio, then Perugia, only missing one turn, which was corrected via a couple of white roads without any backtracking. We tried to imagine these two scenic backroads on bicycles. As we Rounded Lago Trasimeno, we caught up on history and culture with a reading from Rick Steves’ Italy book on Saints Francis and Catherine. At issue were the peregrinations of St. Francis and the locations of the relics of St. Catherine. After hearing of the simple and troubled lives of these two saints, David remarked, “With prozac available, we’ll never have anymore saints.”
Given the confluence of many roads around Sienna as we approached from the east, we tried to cut the corner to the north, taking minor roads towards the heart of the Chianti region. We blew the first turn off the main road, but with a few miles of backtracking then managed to find our way to Greve as darkness fell. We had been hustling to make the 9:00 PM arrival time when the reception closed.
We parked in the main square of Greve, to set out on foot for Via Roma, and Via dell Arco, which the map showed as very close. Via Rome was a narrow one-way cobbled street exiting the widest part of the square, to the north. A few storefronts down, a narrow opening in the wall provided an archway, followed by a bridge and a short narrow street. At the end we located the Antico Pastifico Ulisse Mariotti, the renovated pasta factory that now holds “self-catering” rooms and apartments. We located Monica, our hostess, and learned that we had been expected at 8:00 PM, reception closed at 9:00 AM in the morning, so there had been some miscommunication when I’d had the Belvedere call ahead for us.
Monica, showed us our rooms, and how to remove the metal barriers in the road to allow a greater turning radius for the van to enter through the arch. Tony and David have a small room with two beds and a bathroom to share, since they will be leaving early. Rob, Ken and Rick are sharing a larger apartment, with a kitchen and a patio area that we will all five use. Ken is on the fold-out sofa, Rick is in a double bed in the loft, while Rob has a small cot also in the loft. It seemed like this arrangement would work well for us, and with no daily maid service, or much else in the way of services, the price is very reasonable.