29 May – 1 June – Firenze: exploring the city and its surrounds

Author: Mr A

Location: Florence, Tuscany, Italy

Wednesday: We had one day in Firenze (to give Florence its proper name!) together, then Catherine would fly out in the morning back to the UK for some medical treatment.

We made the most of the day, catching a shuttle in from our campsite come small heaving village of travellers on the eastern edge of the city, then wandering the city on foot taking in the many sites around the river and of course the Duomo.

Walking along the Arno River into town
Looking towards the Ponte Vecchio
Magnificent force behind the water in the river

The Arno River
Finding lunch among the back streets

This was our first experience of an “over touristed” destination. It was bedlam. Enjoying seeing the buildings and wandering the little lanes, but that many people are staring into their phones and walking into me every few seconds was just a little too crazy for us. We retreated to the relative safety of a gelateria.

Some fruit based sorbet for Mrs A
A little piece of heaven! Cannoli – tube shaped shells of pastry filled with sweet pistachio ricotta…mmm, mmm
The cathedral, wowing us in its splendour
Are there tourists behind me?

I think 18 months wandering around outback Australia might have made us allergic to crowds like that. We headed back to our little Truffy and Catherine set her alarm for a 5am kick off.

Thursday: I was left with 3 days of amusing myself before Catherine would return late Saturday night. I woke to a cloudless blue sky, so dragged out my e-bike and headed off to explore the bike paths along the Arno river that I had been researching.

Wouldn’t be keen for a swim in the river!

The area had been having some heavy rain up in the hills and there was a lot of water in the river.

The path soon ran out. The website describing the “160k path through Tuscany” was more aspirational than an actual reflection of what was built. Apparently the government ran out of money in their financial crisis, so only some stretches were created. I turned round and headed downstream through the city. It was a great ride as I folllowed the dedicated cycle lanes, full of cyclists of all ages using their bike as transport. Now there’s a novel idea for most Australians.

I was soon clear of the crowds and heading through a huge park in the west of the city, then clear of the urban environment and in beautiful Tuscan countryside. Eventually the path stopped, but I was going to have clocked up 60km so that felt like a good ride and time to find a pizzeria for a late lunch.

A path with a fabulous view
Just a light lunch…ah-hem…

Friday-Saturday: So I set my pattern for the next two days. Get up, ride, eat, sleep, repeat. Loved it. Evenings of “Killing Eve” on BBC iPlayer. Perfect. Florence sits in the middle of stunning Tuscan countryside. Little villages, some looking a little faded, others in the Chianti wine area all full of BMWs and Audis. Italians do love their big gates, and I couldnt help having a bit of gate envy.

I wonder who lives in this good looking villa…?

So, some observations on my experience of cycling in Italy so far, and some comparisons to Australia. In the three days and over 170km of riding on a mix of trails and roads (minor and major), I only once had an incident where I felt threatened by a car coming rather close. Nothing hurled out of windows (like cans of drink, cigarette butts) or abuse. No deliberately aggressive driving. Nothing like I experience at home in Sydney. Just fast but respectful drivers. I just don’t fathom the culture that feels the need to behave like many Australian drivers do to cyclists.

It was a pleasure being on the road here. I had a ball exploring around Firenze in every direction. My little e-bike helped me up those Tuscan hills and made sure I got to see a heap more than I would done unassisted. I think that would be the main benefit we see for having a little extra pedaling grunt. We want to see as much as we can of where we are, and in a way that makes us smile every time we jump on the saddle.

I only skimmed the surface of this area of Tuscany. We didn’t touch the Chianti wineries, and that’s somewhere we need to come back and sample. So with Catherine arriving back at midnight it was time to head off in the morning for pastures new.

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