This weekend I discovered the rich wonderland of the Colle Senese, the southern Tuscan rolling hills of the Siena countryside, while scouting out some spectacular roads for a new 2011 bike tour.
Discovering the infinite bounty and diverse landscapes of Tuscany is an endless experience. While venturing more deeply into southern Tuscany beyond the classic Chianti countryside, I saw the topography of the landscape and its indigenous gastronomic resources gradually change character and form.
In this area of Tuscany, the vineyards are sloped gracefully along rolling hills that reach deep into the visual distance, with the stark contrast of the white winter wheat fields acting as a stunning backdrop to the elegant, regal cypress trees that accentuate the ridges. The gradual long rolling hills provide perpetual long-distance views all the way to the Appenines.
Dramatically different from the Chianti region, its views and terrain are all the more mystical, dreamy and lunar-like. The roads are virtually traffic-free, smooth and pristine. From the silence and tranquility of the environment and the sheer lack of human presence on the roads, it feels like an undiscovered, virgin land, yet this is where the Via Cassia was forged thousands of years ago, rich in Etruscan, Roman, medieval and Renaissance history. This dreamy territory boasts some of Tuscany's most precious jewel towns, Montalcino, Pienza, Montepulciano and Cortona. It is the perfect cycling haven, rich in medieval and Renaisance treasures, providing truly gutteral opportunities to feel and taste the land through its fine Brunello and Vino Nobile wines and its "cacio", pecorino cheeses.