[ blog » 2021 » 07_Tour_Italy ]d20: Tuscany ( by Philipp Gesang, location: A Campsite near Le Tolfe)


On the summit of the first climb that took me out of the Bolsena basin I ran into a guy on a roadbike, Pietro, who I chatted with while we were sharing the wind on the final kilometers of the roads of Lazio. He didn't quite believe me when I explained that I was feeling safer on those main country roads of Italy than on German roads where drivers often willfully endanger cyclists.

Tuscany is strikingly beautiful. Hill after hill, steep climb after climb, but with that scenic backdrop the ascents confer an almost meditative state of silent enjoyment and wonder. The fortified hill settlement of Radicofani marked the highest point of today at an altitude of around 840 m, surrounded by beige and yellow fields that extend infinitely towards the horizon. The population density in that area is quite low by Italian standards so one can go tens of kilometers without running into an inhabited place. Belfries on many of the hills in the distane of course leave no doubts about the presence of humanity.


The queen of those characterisic Tuscan hill settlements is of course Siena. For sentimental reasons I chose to enter the town center on the legendary Via Santa Caterina. It's closed for traffic but as so often the cops didn't mind me going up there in slo-mo. Which was necessary cause I was trying to take pictures while riding which requires some balancing on those cobblestones, but above all because that road is steep as hell. Definitely one of those moments when I feel vindicated for having a triple crank installed on my Croix de Fer a few years back.

Downtown (or uptown?) Siena was teeming with tourists. If that is the situation in Covid times I don't want to know how crowded it gets without a pandemic going on. Perhaps the best year for rolling around those narrow, steep cobbled roads which I could still do quite efficiently without slaloming too much around people. The old town of course was absolutely stunning, straight out of an architect's fairy tale. Not a traffic planner's though, I had a hard time finding my way out from the Piazza del Campo towards the north.

After I figured that out I climbed up to the final item on today's itinerary, the Strada delle Tolfe with its 1.1 km of sterrato. Basically that stretch consists of a short descent with a treacherous corner at the bottom followed by a brutal ascent of 14 % slope according to traffic signage. Brutal even without all the baggage that I carry around on my bike. On the gravel I had some trouble staying upright but I managed to make it all the way to the top without setting a foot on the ground. The chapel on the summit reminds of the Kapelmuur in Geraardsbergen, a similarly challenging and iconic climb. I rested up there for a minute, soaking in the panorama of the nearby Colle Pinzuto, and then went to find the campsite on a neighboring hill.


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