Monday, July 20, 2009

Discovering Northern Tuscany

Having finally accomplished some importanat goals, such as establishing my official residency and starting to work, this week I allowed myself the pure indulgence of getting re-immersed in adventure cycling. For the past several days, rather than going south through Chianti, I've been escaping the heat of the city by heading north on my bike to ride at the much cooler altitudes, and in the process, have discovered another wonderland that I didn't realize existed so close to home.

I had already cycled some of these roads before with a group. That was before I had established my own clear sense of direction. But this week, everything changed and it all "clicked in". A tremendous sensation. I really got my bearings while navigating these roads by myself, and felt them so much more intimately than before. Everything looks and feels so different when it's just nature, the road, and you. I feel like I can finally say that these roads are mine.

The most awesome destination of all was the heavenly treasure of Convento Monte Senario, which surges from a commanding, secluded summit at an altitude of 800 meters. I could see the convent in the distance as I started climbing towards it from 20K away. It was a heavenly vision. I could really imagine saints and angels living up there as it looked like a little piece of heaven. The road twisted and turned, and climbed towards the summit through rolling green pastures and climaxed through a stunning thick forest of towering evergreen trees which emitted an intense perfume of refreshing pine that penetrated my entire body. At once, my spirit felt like it was being lifted into the sky and finally, the vision of the convent appeared in front of me. It was an intense experience. This is now my favorite ride. I am sure I will do it many times in the future. But the experience will never be as sensational as it was this first time, discovering it alone in the solitude and peace of a perfect day.

Some additional itineraries of the past week included Borgo San Lorenzo, Pratolino, Vaglia and Bvigliano. One day I flatted and some local cyclists going the other way stopped to help me, and I made some new cycling friends in the process!

I am entirely in love with my new home here in Florence. One minute I'm in the city center with all the possible art, culture and electricity I could ask for, and yet only 5 minutes away on my bike, I'm in some of the most peaceful, historical and spiritually uplifting countryside in the world. I can't imagine how I would be able to experience my new home in Florence without the freedom and perspective of riding a bike. I can escape the city so just a few miles I'm clear out of the city, in a different world.