Three:
Ride the back country roads. The inviting, easy going nature of Italians will quickly have you gorging on fresh toasted bread, drenched in proper, freshly pressed Olive oil. As usual, custom is washing it down with a shot of espresso. On a bike you are not a tourist but a traveller. Well, that’s the impression we got.

The time and weather to camp and be in Italy was fast turning against us. We had no winter clothes and our tent and sleeping stuff was made for hot climates – not European winter. Andreas gave us directions to an olive farm on our way to Bologna. As always it is best to set the GPS to stay off highways and toll roads, and shorter distance not faster route. The imbecilic manner in which the GPS software calculates the route actually works well when wanting to stick to back roads and experience the local scenes.

Olive farm

Olive oil press

Olive oil factory. Small farmers bring their olives to this factory for pressing.

On our way to Florence (or Firenze as more famously known) we pass the Hotel Passo della Futa high up on the Apennines midway between Bologna and Florence. Cyclists have used this road and bar for almost a century and the bar is decked with photos and memorabilia of the greatest cyclists of the post-war era, Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali.

Still cooking the old way inside the restaurant.
Still cooking the old way inside the restaurant.

passo del futa This is also the route taken by historic vehicles on the Mille Miglia rally in May every year, but not all of them made it to the top as it is a pretty tough climb, especially the hill climb from Florence.

Passo del Futo
Albergo bar

Florence: È una bella città

Florence is one of Italy’s most beautiful cities.  It is also home to Michelangelo’s David (a copy of which) is standing on a hill overlooking the city. It is the city of mile-high stilettos, the majestic Duomo and romantic red-tiled rooftops. The only issue is it’s overrun with tourists.

The statue of Michelangelo's David overlooking the city of Florence.
The statue of Michelangelo’s David overlooking the city of Florence.

View from the hill where the statue of David is overlooking Florence.

View from the hill where the statue of David is overlooking Florence. click for bigger view

Florence’s Duomo is among Italy’s ‘Big Three’ with Pisa’s Leaning Tower and Rome’s Colosseum. Its red-tiled dome, graceful campanile (bell tower) and breathtaking pink, white and green marble facade is a sight to behold. Begun in 1296 by Sienese architect Arnolfo di Cambio, the cathedral took almost 150 years to complete.

Duomo Florence.

The work and tiles on the building of Duomo is seriously impressive for such an old building.

Street vendors in Florence.

Get in and get out as soon as possible. Stunning winding roads and the multi colours of Tuscany around Florence with it’s cheap red wines await.  Chianti Classico is the regions best vineyards.

Cold and wet but still the best way to tour Italy. Camping near to the statue of David.
Cold and wet, but still the best way to tour Italy. Camping near to the statue of David.

florence local drink

Moscato – local Italian wine. Enjoying the late afternoon sunset over Florence.

Four……..

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