Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Quick Escape

Today is my day off from leading tours this week, so this is a time that I can take for myself to catch up on chores and take a solo ride to my favorite place, the Convent of Monte Senario.

The convent and church is uniquely situated on a towering hill commanding a daunting position in the northern Tuscan countryside. The summit is visible on the horizon 12 miles in the distance as you approach it along the quiet winding vineyard-laced road from Fiesole. From the distance it seems like a vision from a fairy tale. The drama builds as I get closer and closer.

The ride takes me to cooler elevations where chestnut trees, wildflowers and blackberries thrive. Where pine and cypress trees sway in the breeze. The hilltop convent is approached on a long steep road that assaults the slope and eventually becomes a dark and dense pine forest where rays of sunlight send their beams through the trees making it look like a silent, spiritual wonderland. The ride is like a trip to heaven.
There is never traffic on the road, only splendid vistas, chirping birds, butterflies, bales of hay, little farmhouses with roosters cock-a-doodling. Where you hear, see and smell only nature and your soul. The convent is so isolated, so unapproachable due to the long steep climb that leads to it, making it easy to understand why the monks would want to settle here.

Soon it will be too cold to ride up to Monte Senario. Because of its altitude it gets icy much earlier than the southern Chianti hills. So, I am now taking every possible opportunity to visit my sacred place before the winter settles in.