I start in the cozy cobblestone streets in my neighborhood, saying hello to merchants and neighbors (I'm sure they think I'm strange, rolling around in lycra instead of high heels, although they always chat and greet me with a smile) and within 5 minutes I'm on the "viale" (a 4-lane road where I am surrounded by the piercing energy of speeding motorcycles, busses and cars). I am pent up, and the motorcylces are so sharp, so sexy, so quick... the energy revs me up. Only moments later, the traffic is behind and I am crossing a little isolated "secret path"across the river to San Domenico. Then I am climbing, climbing, climbing the fanatastic road up through Fiesole, surrounded by ancient stone walls, with the spellbinding panorama of Florence now 1,000 feet below me, and then I reach this stunning Etruscan town where the road levels out for a minute, and then as I pass the chiesa, the Roman ruins, the pasticerria and macelleria, I suddenly enter heaven. All of a sudden, the cypress trees are standing above me, in a narrow lane that goes on for miles. They are always blasting with overpowering smells of pine. It is noticeably 10 degrees cooler up here. There are no cars. With the exception of other cyclists, I am the only moving object on this blessed road. The road becomes increasingly silent and I begin to see chicken coups, old stone farmhouses, endless vineyards and sprawling pastures dotted with bales of hay....quiet, peaceful unadulterated roads. The landscape starts to change and as I climb higher, the temperature falls another 5 degrees, the chestnut tress and pine forests start to appear. Did I really leave my apartment only 35 minutes ago? And suddenly the summit of Monte Senario comes into view 10 miles out in the distance, perched up on a commanding peak that dominates the countryside. My destination. I don't think I will ever stop being stunned by the beauty of the road that takes me there.
Today I was pent-up when I left my apartment, but this particular ride is my cure-all. As I turned up the second climb to Bvigliano where the road is a constant 8% grade, the still-surviving rasperries along the road begged me to stop to eat them. There is nothing like it. Nothing around....just me, the sight of Monte Senario, the endless vistas of rolling hills and vineyards....and raspberries. I saved my Powerbar for another day.
I stop to refill my waterbottle at the top of the climb, under the evergreen and chestnut trees. The water coming from this fountain is mountain-fresh, cool, soothing. And then I cover up my arms with my manicotti (did you ever wonder where that word came from? "Arm warmers") and I put on my windbreaker for the descent. And in another blissful 15 miles I am back in my piazza, saying hello again to the same neighbors and merchants. But I am in a totally different state of mind than when I left.
I savored every single moment of my ride today. Because I know that the weather is changing quickly. It is getting cold. Before you know it...and it could happen ANY day now.....it will be too cold to ride up north. The weather really changes fast. We've been blessed with such beautiful cool but not cold autumn weather. So I never know if today's ride up to Monte Senario will be my last of the season. As soon as it gets cold, the rides will be heading south into Chianti country. So, for now, I will appreciate every minute of this fantastic ride.