August 2016: Update | Cycle Bella Italia

August 2016: Update:

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Italy in 2016

We had an incredible time cycling in Tuscany in June and July of this year.  The Val d’Orcia and the other valleys near our home base of Pienza are a patchwork quilt of vineyards, olive groves and fields of hay throughout this land of rolling hills.  Tuscany is relatively unpopulated, where the towns are small and not heavily visited by tourists.  Wine, cheese and olive oil tastings, truffle hunting and special dining experiences, along with great cycling were all a part of an amazing experience.

For more photos of our trips, check out our gallery.

Focus on: Bagni San Filippo

Tuscany is a region of numerous hot springs, with Saturnia being one of the more popular (and crowded) tourist destinations.  For a more relaxing and less crowded thermal bath adventure in Tuscany, consider Bagni San Filippo.

Bagni San Filippo is a small village in the Val d’Orcia in southwestern Tuscany, known for its thermal, sulphurous waters, its sediments and mud.  Visitors can swim all year long and enjoy the special limestone formations that form as the water surfaces from the multiple hot springs.

This area of cascading pools, which have been a popular destination since Roman times, is the perfect place to enjoy a relaxing day bathing in the warm, mineral waters.  A pleasant spot to pass the time in the area is Fosso Bianco, a limestone formation from which 120 degree water forms a series of warm pools that pour down the slope of the surrounding wooded terrain.  A visit to Bagni San Filippo is a unique Tuscan experience.

Wine Talk – Antinori

Family-owned Marchesi Antinori is one of the most famous names in Italian wine. Antinori’s extensive portfolio features some of Italy’s most revered and sought-after wines.

Giovanni di Piero Antinori joined the Florentine Guild of Vintners in 1385, beginning a wine making legacy that has lasted over 26 generations. Throughout the company’s history, it has remained family-owned and operated.

Beginning in 1961, new vinification techniques were introduced that began a revisionist period in the concept of Chianti. Antinori revolutionized Tuscan wine in 1971 with the launch of Tignanello, a barrique-aged wine that contained Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc (which at the time, meant that it was ineligible for the Chianti Classico appellation). Tignanello shook up the Italian wine industry, leading to far-reaching changes in rules and attitudes. Even though the Chianti Classico DOCG rules have now been changed to accommodate wines such as Tignanello, the Antinoris continue to sell their wine as a “Super Tuscan” wine rather than a Chianti. In 1978, following the success of the 20% cabernet blend Tignanello, Antinori launched the 80% cabernet blend Solaia, from a neighboring vineyard.

Just 30 minutes north of Siena, travelers to Tuscany can visit the state-of-the-art Marchesi Antinori Chianti Classico Cellar. The cellar is set among olive groves, vineyards and oak trees, where guests can experience the Antinori winemaking process first-hand and learn about the family’s history.

The Palio

The Palio, a festival which occurs on July 2 and August 16 of every year, is the most important cultural event in the city of Siena, having origins dating back to the 6th century. The various communities within the city, or the “contrada”, challenge each other in a bare-back horse race in the Piazza del Campo, following months of preparation and a week of intense community pride.

The Palio is much more than a simple event for the Sienese, it’s actually a large part of their lives since the time of their birth. Every resident belongs to a contrada, participates in the life of the contrada and assists with the organization of the Palio throughout the entire year.

Each of the 17 contrada’s has its own unique emblem and colors which are on display as scarves, flags and emblems in the build-up to the races. The lead-up and the day of the race are invested with passion and pride. Formal and informal rituals take place as the day proceeds, with each contrada navigating a strategy of horsemanship, alliances and rivalries.

Prior to the races, there is a two-hour pageant of the Corteo Storico with period costumes, flag displays and great ceremony. The race itself, takes less than 90 seconds to complete. Although there is great public spectacle, the passions displayed are still very real.

From Our Shop

Featured this month is the Cycle Bella Italia messenger bag. This bag is incredibly sturdy and practical for carrying all the things we need when touring off the bike – phone, camera, etc.