The first day is a wrap! We leave busy Florence behind and immediately start our climb into the hills of Tuscany. Our first stop is a small forest trail where we test the offroading capability of our bikes and then head to an old monastery for our first crack at some real Italian gravel tracks. Making our way east we climb mountain passes, ride across lush meadows and finally arrive at our home for the night, a converted farm house on the top of a mountain, that just so happens to have its own vineyard. This is Italy, after all.
After an excellent stay at our Agriturismo we head our and almost immediately leave pavement behind in favour of a beautiful gravel track that follows the ridge line of the surrounding hills. We stop at Monte Battaglia and take in the view and the medieval watch tower that guards these hills. From there its a mix of gravel and tarmac as we carry on west towards our stop of the night, a converted villa wit stunning views of the Emilia Romagna.
Today takes us northwest into the very northern tip of the Apenine mountains. Sticking to mainly tarmac we dive into a ceaseless mix of tight hairpins and as we drive through the Monte Sole historical park, then swing south on a loop through the hills and villages that make up some of the most beautiful scenery of central Italy. Arriving at our hotel we realise we'll be spending a night in a medieval castle, complete courtyards, battlements and, of course, its own vineyard.
Views from our stay tonight... In a beautiful Castello on top of a hill
Yet another fantastic day in Italy dawns. Our first stop of the day are the ruins of Canossa, one of the most famous sites of the power struggle between church and state during the 11th century, as well as one of the most beautiful ruins in a country blessed with countless archeological sites. Canossa also marks the most northern point of our tour, so it's time swing our bikes around and head south, away from the plains and back into our beloved mountains. Just before lunch we tackle the most challenging section of off-road riding of the tour. A small gravel farm track takes us down towards a river valley and into a remote section of farm land and forests. Thanks to a fantastic team effort we ford two streams, ride along a muddy path and make it back on the road with no more than liberal application of mud and silt. After a well deserved lunch we head back onto some of the twistiest mountain roads so far, stop for some excellent gelato and arrive at yet another mountain-top hotel, where Holger greets us with the traditional Edelweiss boot beer!