Monday, April 26, 2010

Custom Giro Jersey...Design by Nathan Blades

A nice combo, good job Nathan

Day 7

Loop around Cortona

Day 6

San Luca - Cortona, leaving Umbria back to Tuscany

Day 5

Up close at the Giro Part 2 Montefollonico - Monte Terminillio Stage finish at 1672 meters

Day 4

Up close at the Giro, Siena - Buonconvento, Stage finish in Montalcino

Day 3

Volterra to Siena, preview of Stage 7 of the Giro

Day 2

Roller coaster of a loop ride to the town of San Gimignano.

The Route...Day 1

Today we got detailed maps from Tom
our guide in Italy.
He did an awesome job, more than expected.
Looks like we have a lot of climbs, oh well...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Accommodations...Part 5

Hotel San Michele
Night 6 & 7 in Cortona

The Baldelli Palace, site of Hotel San Michele, is a concentration of Cortonese history. In the XI century, right where the hotel is now located, there used to be part of the defensive walls of Cortona. In the XII century the building became the mansion of the Marquis del Monte S. Maria and in 1206 it became a public building; where the “Podestà” would hold trials and issue sentences.

The mansion of the Marquis del Monte, appears to have been rectangular with towers and walls at the perimeter. It became the building we know now through a restoration in the XV century and a further restoration in the XVI century, both made by the Baldelli family after it had been given to them as a present by the Florentine Republic, around the year 1410. Although a number of upgrades and further small restorations have been made in the XVIII century, the building remains essentially a XVI century palace. This is clearly visible in the facade. In the XVIII century, at the first floor, the Etruscan Academy used to hold its meetings, to study the Etruscan heritage of Cortona.

In a hidden place, inside Hotel San Michele in Cortona, there is a fresco of Madonna with baby Jesus sitting on a throne and surrounded by four saints, which is believed to have been made by the painter Bicci di Lorenzo. The fresco, “forgotten” by the guides still awaits an official recognition but there are elements to confirm a very strong influence of the famous painter Masaccio. The first saint on the left is Saint Michael Arcangel, the old patron of Cortona, prior to 1261 when the new patron became Saint Marc. In fact on April 25th, 1261, the Ghibellines of Cortona, previously defeated by the Guelfs and sent in exile for 2 years, took Cortona back with the help of Siena under the command of Uguccio Casali.

Accommodations...Part 4

Villa Zuccari
Night 5 in Montefalco

This large villa, surrounded by the vineyards of Montefalco, has been the Zuccari family's residence since the end of the 15th century. The origins of the family can be traced back to one member of the family who lived in the house in the late 15th century along with his descendent Fazio, who died in 1534. The building, the original nucleus of which currently houses the restaurant, was expanded over the centuries and is known to have been adorned in the mid-19th century.
The Zuccari's were landowners with numerous sharecroppers. They married into the most illustrious and wealthy families of the area and also had excellent relations with local religious and governmental authorities. The current owner, Paolo Zuccari, transformed the property into a Relais de Charme with a 40,000 square metre park where visitors can admire an incredible 980 Meilland French rose bushes that bloom from May to October and a large deck-level overflow swimming pool.
The house embraces visitors and allows them to spend their vacation in an antique, charming and unique environment, for those seeking a place to relax and leave the stress of city life behind. Thanks to its strategic position in the centre of the region, Villa Zuccari is the perfect destination for visitors who want to explore the various natural and artistic treasures that Umbria has to offer.

Accommodations...Part 3

Hotel La Chiusa
Night 4 in Montefollonico

Restaurant and Relais de campagne with 15 rooms, made out from an old oil mill set in the heart of the Tuscan countryside, with a view facing Montepulciano, Pienza, Montalcino and the Amiata mountain. Dania sees personally to the cuisine, Umberto welcomes the guests and supervises the service in the restaurant. It is possible to taste gastronomic specialities tied to the region's traditions, with products grown on the farm and the best of the local market. During the season truffles and porcini mushrooms are picked locally. There is an extraordinary selection of local wines, with special attention to Brunello di Montalciano, Nobile di Montepulciano and Chianti Classico. "Supertuscans" such as Sassicaia, Solaia, Ornellaia Tiganello, Pergole Torte are never missing; but the wine cellar also offers Château Lafite, Mouton Rothschild, Château Petrus, Romanée Conti, Opus One and other jewels of the international enology.

Accommodations...Part 2

Villa Sacciapensieri
Night 3 in Siena

The "Villa Scacciapensieri" is a marvellous 19th century Villa set in its own large park and gardens perfectly situated on top of a little hill only 2.5 km north of the medieval walled city of Siena, hidden just on the border of the Chianti wine region with its green rolling hills. All the major sights of Tuscany are in easy reach of this four star family run hotel that offers a warm and peaceful blend of old world charm and an excellent restaurant with professional, attentive service. The Villa and its surrounding gardens are an oasis where one is allowed to relax and enjoy the true Tuscany.

The main Villa, constructed in the late 1790's - early 1800's, offers elevator access to rooms on the two upper floors, while the restaurant
"Altri Tempi", the cosy bar/lounge with open fire place, library, the little private chapel and the media-room (Internet access, television, video) are all located on the ground level beside the 24hr Reception Desk. The two annex buildings "Limonaia" and "Villino" are both very close to the main Villa.

Altogether there are 3 suites, 4 single rooms and 24 double rooms, all offering a completely private bathroom, hairdryer, air conditioning, Sat. TV, direct telephone and minibar.

The swimming pool close to the the outdoor restaurant overlooks the Chianti hills.

Accommodations...Part 1

Park Hotel Le Fonti
First 2 nights in Volterra

Nestled among the waving Tuscan hills, Park Hotel Le Fonti is just ten minutes walk from the center of Volterra, a small Etruscan jewel, overlooking the sea.
Our centralized location provides easy access to the main Tuscan cities, international airports and beaches.
As a Guest of Park Hotel Le Fonti you will be pleased to embrace the very essence of Tuscany: nature, art, culture, kitchen. We are looking forward in welcoming you

Renovated in 2002, Park Hotel Le Fonti is built in respect of the old Tuscan traditions, while at the same time offering all the comforts of a top modern Hotel. Its 67 rooms, 8 junior suites and 1 suite “La Torre” (The Tower) offer an exceptional living environment. All the rooms are equipped with A/C, Sat TV, safe, hairdryer.
At disposal guests hotel facilities:: big private parking, elevator, reading room, conference room, American bar, 2 restaurants,. 2 outdoor swimming pools (10 X 16 m. and 4 X 8 m Valley sight terrace.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

This is where it all starts..

Tough decisions to make where to go to ride a bike...

After considering to go either to the Tour de France or the Giro d'Italia, we decided to go to Italy - fewer spectators, better food, more affordable airfare, etc...

After doing extensive research, we found a tour company that catered to our needs and fitness level.

Mike and his wife, Tammy, Ken and his wife, Gene, are joining us for a 7 day, 375 mile cycling tour through Tuscany and Umbria.

We'll be in Montalcino ( Stage 7 Giro d'Italia finish) and Monte Terminillo ( Stage 8 Giro D'Italia finish) to watch the Giro live.

A new frame, a pistacchio green Orbea Diva, and a new coach, Steve, have motivated Julia enough to put in some serious miles to be prepared for the hilly terrain in Tuscany. This is her final week of being punished by her coach - 12 hrs of riding time. That's not only a personal record but also a huge accomplishment for her, since she has never ridden that much in her entire life. Best of all, she has had a lot of fun.

Mike and Tammy brought this homemade cake over to the store yesterday to celebrate our journey to Tuscany in May. They did great, the cake was devoured in less than two hours.

Wow, we'll have our second vacation together in the last 10 years.