Tuscany is beautiful. In early autumn, with the stark azure sky kissing a quilt of green terraced vines that blush red while regiments of plump black olives await their orders.
The hills guarding Florence are brutal. With sharp climbs in excess of 20% gradient leaving me grasping for breath, panting in the shade of neglected common oaks or untidy ancient olive trees, their massive girth and twisted trunks serving as a Beauty Spot, set against the manicured landscape of scenic splendour.
Earnest whippet like roadies fly past at breakneck speed calling “Ciao!“ as they descend opposite.
At times it becomes impossible to cycle. We push the bicycles to the crest; stopping to catch our breath, savouring the views of slow moving tractors coughing through mists of dust advancing on crumbling renaissance farm houses.
At the makeshift shrine to Our Lady, I offer a muffled prayer before dropping down the deep switchbacks into Chianti. Reaching the bottom, I burn my fingers on the rear rotor of my disk brake. Inexplicably, I’ve also lost the feeling in the little finger of my left hand.
Beauty is seductive. In the camping ground silently watching the evening advance, our young hostess Maria, speaking softly in English says “I can never leave the village”.
We suffer less on the road from Chianti to Siena; familiar now with the moods of the backroads and gravel tracks. In Certaldo, it’s market day. At Nana’s organic food stall, we purchase imperfect zucchini, odd shaped onions, tomatoes with blemishes,along with home grown capsicums and a juicy pear for dessert.
Back at camp, I create a tasty one pot pasta meal of sublime beauty.
Beauty costs, but not that much.