Call it insanity.

Walking the streets of Firenze takes skill. The mixture of pedestrians, bicycles, vespas, fiats and buses all move expeditiously and with authority, and the right-away goes to whoever takes the initiate. Somehow it all works into a dubious harmony.

That is until you reach a tourist section. They're a traffic variable completelty unequipped for the rules of motion, stopping and stuttering at the most inconveinent moments. Language and cultural barriers are easy compared to navigating a tourism ocean; an unforgiving abyss of pedestrian negligece.

I knew it was divine when I saw that the brochure for IBikeItaly, which specifically said "NO ANNOYING CROWDS!" Every day the company takes visitors for an 18 mile bike loop of the Tuscan countryside including a visit to a villa for Chianti food and wine tasting. I couldn't remember the last time I rode a bike, but I remember every time I run into a tourist trap.

About 10 brave souls set out for the tour with our enthusiatic guide Barbara at the helm. The bike route is advertized as being "moderately difficult", but also says that if you're adventurous enough to consider a bike tour finishing shouldn't be a problem. The first 2 mile journey uphill immediately put our adventurous spirits to the test.


Toscana is a region of rolling hills and plains. Vineyards stretch in the distance until the villas, which contrast against the yonder mountains. The uphills brought us to a pinnacle of Tuscan beauty, and the downhill winds cooled our bodies, as rich greenery whipped around us. Barbara points out the house to which philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli was exiled, and I think I'm in love with Toscana.

The hospitality at Princpe Corsini's villa at lunch almost made me forget the nine miles that remained on the tour. Fine foods, and Italian women, abound in this house of majesty. The beautiful tour guide explains to us the process of Chianti wine production and I wonder if this villa has a room for rent.



The last thing I wanted to do was get back on a bicycle. The blistering heat now almost blinding the Tuscan beauty, and Barbara tells us more uphills are to come. I Bike Italy has a van that follows in case of fatigue but our group didn't need it. Call it the triumph of human determination. Call it insanity. We finished this tour. Every uphill grunted. Every downhill praised.



Our last stop was a gelatto shop about a mile or so from the tour's end. It came after almost 2 and a half miles of uphill with the sun baking our backs. As we sat in the shade eating the creamy delight there were sweaty smiles all around. The tour was not easy, but that doesn't matter when you complete it. The whole experience was visually stimulating and physically challenging. Without a doubt it was official: We earned this ice cream.

Just then, another tour showed up. They had chosen the same route as us only they used vespas.
We over heard someone say, "It's so hot." Another responds, "I know! I'm so tired!"

They'll get no sympathy from us.

www.ibikeitaly.com