italia99002When Jeannie and I  first bicycled Tuscany in 1995, we found the combination of the culture, the history, the food & wine, and most importantly the friendliness of the people made us eager to return. So, for our 25th wedding anniversary we made our plans to return to Italy for a month.

As we have cycled through many beautiful, interesting, curious, and friendly places, we have often remarked that someday we would like to visit a place and stay long enough to feel more of a pulse of the life than we might if we were only there for a day or two. This trip to Italy we wanted “to be” in Italy – essere in italia. We wanted to stay in one place for at least two weeks, to learn the bus schedule, to have to remember when the bakery was open, to learn to enjoy the differences in the pace of life and not just pass through as tourists.

A major consideration in our planning was that, as cyclists, we were looking for an area that gave us a wide variety of opportunities for riding about the area. Our research led us again to the Tuscany region, though this time a bit further south than our first trip to the Pisa – Siena – Florence area. We were not to be disappointed.

cortonamapUsing the Internet, we came across Italian View Ltd. that through e-mail correspondence, directed us to the wonderful agriturismo il Borgo near the Tuscan town of Camucia – close to the ancient Etruscan hill town Cortona.

A restored 1800’s farmhouse, a family run business created by Rodolfo and Luciana in 1995. il Borgo’s four apartments are simply and comfortably equipped, yet modern. The friendliness of owner Signore Rodolfo and his family truly add to the comfort, charm, and warmth.

Cortona was our original choice for a center point from which to base our explorations; however, we realized that being up on the side of a mountain would be a disadvantage at least half of the time when traveling by bicycle. On the other hand the fact that Camucia was not the tourist destination appealed to our desire to become immersed, if only for a brief period, in Italy.

ilborgo3Our Italian “home” was in the agriturismo Il Borgo just outside Camucia, a small town at the foot of the mountain where Cortona, Camucia’s more famous sister, keeps watch out over the broad, flat Valdichiana (Valley of the Chiana River.

Il Borgo is a delightful agriturismo just a short walk from Camucia, down the mountain from Cortona and perfect for cycling and walking in-and-around the small town, Cortona and the surrounding areas. A fabulous location for getting into Italian life and culture.  The area is beautiful, friendly, and filled with a history that extends back thousands of years.

Our apartment was simply, yet elegantly and comfortably decorated. The kitchen was equipped with all those things necessary to make use of the fresh vegetables, pasta, breads, meats and wines from the shops of Camucia.

As cyclists, we found the location fun and challenging, and diverse enough to provide whatever type of riding we desired. We generally rode one day into the mountains, and the next into the valley.

Camucia was within easy walking distance, and we didn’t miss not having an automobile. For greater distances we took our bicycles, the bus, taxi, or train.

Rodolfo, a former cyclist himself, often helped us plan our daily rides into the Italian countryside where every turn presented a new view of vinyards, olive groves or a quiet village. While the routes were sometimes challenging, they were always beautiful.

One day, on the advice of. Rodolfo, we pedaled into the mountains east of Castiglion Fiorentino, just north of Cortona. Several of the climbs were tortuous and exhausting, yet at the top the grand views made the effort worthwhile.

Part way up a long climb near Asina, we came upon this small abandoned church which provided a quiet place to rest for a few minutes.

What started as a short afternoon ride to Lake Trasimeno turned into an 50 mile (80 km) ride around the lake. Returning home tired and hungry, we feasted on fresh pasta with asparagus pesto, drank a glass of wine and slept a good sleep.

The entire valley was alive with a carpet of new crops and the ubiquitous poppy. Grains, olive trees, and grape all had the deep lustrous greens of spring.

The springtime flowers (mid-May to mid-June) were beautiful and fragrant. This loop covered about 35 miles (56 km) and turned north at Tuoro into the big hills. An old fortress at Pierle provided a break in one of the days two tough climbs.

Assisi, in the distance, was another destination that was worth the challenging climb to get there.

Orvieto, situated high on a plateau composed of an ancient weathered lava flow.

A morning view from our room in Montepulciano.