We had been warned about today…
Way back in Siena, the representative from the tour company had a bit of a sceptical look on his face when he met with us to go over the directions and plans for our trip. He was particularly concerned about this day.
“You’ll need to start out early he” he said, “there is much climbing, and some of the trip is on gravel roads.”
He went on to tell us that since the whole area as been designated as a UNESCO heritage site, and since gravel roads were part of the area’s heritage, no new paving was being done.
“They are very good gravel roads, very hard. Your bike might get dusty”
We set out from Monteciano, where we had stayed in an almost empty hotel, with some trepidation. It had rained overnight and it was very cool. We started with a long steep hill, which was pretty much the theme for the day, snaking its way up and down through heavy forest. Going up one hill we met a pair of wild boar piglets rooting at the side of the road. We didn’t stop for pictures not knowing how momma boar might respond if she was nearby.
Then the gravel started. The road was really a lot like our driveway on Donnybrook Line after a rainstorm. It was eroded, had loose sections and was intermittently cobbled in the center. I’m thinking the cobbled bits might have been what made these roads important to the heritage of the area. In some places you could see that the cobbled piece was about six feet wide with defined straight sides. At some point in time, with the advent of cars and trucks, the cobbled track was widened by adding gravel to each side. Over time, the cobbles were either buried, or removed in most places. These are rough cobbles, impossible to ride on.
Adding the gravel portion to our route today did have some advantages. There was very little traffic to worry about and the views from on top of the hills and along the ridge lines were outstanding. Compared to most tourists, our experience of Tuscany is very unique.
We made it though, contrary to the scepticism of our tour director, all 85 km (should have been less but we got a little lost once) We climbed over 1800 meters. We did end up walking up a couple of 16% grades and at one point walked most of a kilometer where a grader was redoing the road.
The day ended with another uphill climb to another medieval walled town with spectacular views from our hotel room balcony.