Saturday, May 28, 2005

Towns of Toscana

I have been working on a detailed itinerary for the Toscana Trip today. I enjoy the planning and logistics but less so the 'selling' of a place that I have to do.

So much of Toscana exceeds words or photos. Can't I just write ¨Wait and see for yourself¨ or something?

We will stay the first 2 days in Montepulciano, then 2 days in Massa Maritima and the final 3 days in Montacatini Terme.

I only took photos of these areas when I was there is April during a week of weather hell! They all turned out very dark. Some of these are my photos, and others are pulled off the internet. Nevertheless...

Countryside around Montepulciano

San Biagio Temple at the foot of the hill
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Taken while training: on road from Montepulciano (Pienza in background)

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Taken while training around Montepulciano

Massa Maritima

Massa Maritima

Massa Maritima is an official Slow City. I didn't know this the first time I was there but now that I look back at the time I was there I have to smile. It makes sense. I walked into town my first night to find a place for dinner. It was a small place run by a family (of course). The waiter prepared a salad for me. Would I like tomatoes? Yes, please. Would you like onions? Yes, please. Would you like arugula? Yes. What about goat cheese? Would you like.... Eventually he finished designing my salad. It was however the most amazing salad! It had the most delicious tomatoes--they were so flavorful! And the goat's cheese! Heavenly! I had a wild mushroom pasta after that which came quickly. But as you know, when the pasta is ready it is ready. You can't wait. I was the first one who arrived for dinner but after I had finished my pasta there were two other families and a single gentleman eating as well. The waiter brought me lots of tourist info to me. A huge stack! I read through some of it... but was really ready to go. I had done almost 6hrs training that day and was really hoping to get to bed soon. The young guy asked for his check, and said he was in a hurry. The waiter commented that he didn't understand the reason to rush food. Why go out for dinner if you do not stay long enough to enjoy the ambiance? Hmm.. I felt I should wait a bit longer before asking for my bill. The mother brought out her fresh tiramisu. The son showed off the desert to evry table. Tiramisu is my favorite desert. I guess I could have a desert to pass the time. Although, I he does not ask me if I would like desert. Not yet? Would I have to wait longer? I thumbed through the info brochures more. I was really tired. I had been there over two hours. I waited a bit longer. Ok, just 5 more minutes and if he doesn't come by the table and offer me desert I will ask for the bill... Eventually I stood up and went over to the counter to pay my bill. But don't you want some tiramisu first? I declined and said that I maybe tomorrow I would have some. He seemed offended that I was leaving. Was it too soon? When you dine alone it isn't the same--if I had good company to share my meal with I am sure I would want to stay longer. Did he understand that?

I will take the group there for dinner one night. We will fill the tiny place up I am sure.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Italy: home in preparation for my return

Several years ago my friend from Iceland passed on her URL to her blogsite and I fell in love with the idea of starting my own. Now, six years later I have finally created my own blog. :)

We have had the greatest weather this last week. It reminds me that Bermeo, Urdaibai and Euskadi are actually beautiful. (Although Euskadi is having some tough competition with Toscana right now!)

Italy is my personal heaven right now.

I returned from my Giro d'Italia trip last week. Specialized's Mike Sinyard had me organize another Giro trip for himself and several dealers from the US. It was a great group. I hired Jo Planckaert for this trip as well. He is wonderful and makes my job so much more fun (and easier). I also had Josué, my massage therapist from Calpe, come as a mechanic/masseur/driver/guide.

We began the trip in a small hilltop town, Soriano nel Cimino, which is outside of Viterbro and about 90kms north of Roma (although it takes about 2.5hrs to drive between Viterbro and Roma because of the horrible traffic). The hotel sat up at the very top of the hill and had a great view but the 20% grade in the final kilometer made the last bit of my training rides a bit tough!!

This is what my view from the hotel room was like.

The first Giro stage the group did was between Viterbro and Marina di Grosseto.

Marina di Grosseto

From Marina di Grosseto we rode to Pistoia, which is just 10min west of Firenze. We stayed at the same hotel in that area the rest of the week.


The women in red is Paola Pezzo--the Olymic gold medalist mountain biker. She is a legend!!!

A couple other photos of the group:

Right now I am finishing up the last details for my Toscana trip with the group from Hong Kong which begins on the 11th of June. It will be a big group of 18 (15 from Hong Kong and 3 from the US). I know all but two of them so it should be another enjoyable week. Jo and his friend Tim are both flying down from Belgium to help me. Tim came with Jo on the Roubaix event we did for Specialize in April. I am sure that they will work out well with the group. It is great working with the same people over and over. So often our staff changes every trip, which is a lot of work and preparation.

I am going to arrive in Italy several days earlier to take care of a few last minute details and maybe spend a day at a spa! I deserve it right? Besides I am not driving the Honda this time--I am driving the big truck, which means it will be a long and painful trip. I will need a good massage and thermal treatment after that.

I have so many projects on hold right now. Moving into the new office, my garden, my Italian....

Although it is tempting to just stay in Italy, coming back will be different this time. I have a bit of a break before I have to begin planning our next tour.

Until then... capuccinos and sweet air will fill my thoughts.