This post is written by Zephyr traveler and 20-something-year-old guest blogger Chris Jarrett, who went on last month’s Tuscany & Umbria Hike, Bike, Wine & Food Adventure with his family and friends. His mom Rhonda wrote a guest blog last week, but we asked Chris to share his thoughts about the trip for another perspective! He is pictured above with his brother Nathan (Chris is on the right).
Day 1: Too many people to meet! Who are they, and why do I have to spend so much time talking to these boring people!? After walking a short ways from our hotel in Pienza, we began to truly get a feel for each other’s personalities at a quaint organic farm with the Tuscan countryside surrounding us. Discussing our interests, professions, and motivations for coming to Italy indicated that we were all alike in many ways.
Day 2: The grueling, brutally fun hike begins! The morning trek to Montepulciano was one of the most memorable journeys during the entire trip. A small cluster of around 8 of us were in a small valley when the skies decided to pour down buckets of rain for 10 minutes. We were standing next to a tree for a couple of minutes when my brother Nathan comes up from behind with a rain coat two sizes too small, what a laugh! We then struggled through the hike and discussed literature, movies, and other interests as we all continued our hike. Reaching Montepulciano gave us all a rest well deserved, though the actual reward came much later after the second hike. What could top sipping a café latte and gulping down gelato? Clearly, it is doing so while on the top of a hill overlooking the indescribable Tuscany hills after a long day of hiking.
Day 3: On our last day of hiking we reached San Quirico, where a gelato shop made beer-flavored gelato—a combination that some simply couldn’t resist. The second leg of our hike took us to a Roman hotspring (Bagno Vignoni), where the group bathed out our aches. Once we got back to Pienza we went to a small pizzeria in town where the chef brought out pieces of dough and displayed the technique behind his restaurant’s pizza crust. Some of the group went on a scavenger hunt and had a great time—I was too busy watching the Euro Cup!
Day 4: We ride! Luckily, my brother and I decided to stick closely to the guides, although I’m not sure our Italian guide Giovanni wanted to ride with me ever again after we forced him up the long route’s hill. Watching an artisan painstakingly hand paint a dish revealed the craftsmanship behind Deruta’s ceramics, justifying their reputation for high quality work. Upon reaching the town of Spello on our bikes, and much to the chagrin of our entire group, we were forcefully subjected to a fantastic wine-tasting at Enoteca Properzio that might never be bettered. But seriously, it was a night of pure camaraderie where the group knew how to tease and joke with each other without restraint.
Day 5: Today was the longest journey of our trip. My wine-making brother forcefully dragged me along on the long route so that we could do a wine-tasting at the Arnoldo Caprai winery, the winery that supplied one of the fantastic bottles from the previous night. This moment was perhaps the highlight of the entire trip. As tiring as a good workout can be, basking in your accomplishments and sharing that release of tension with your fellow mates is a feeling that can never be topped.
Day 6: Let me tell you about a man named Jim. He and I never really talked much during the trip, mostly because I tend to shy away from meeting a lot of new people at once. By the end of the day’s biking, I felt a good connection with Jim. He decided, for a reason he might have regretted halfway through the ride, to follow my brother and I’s decision to bike the short route as quickly as possible in order to reach the town of Spoleto with lots of time to explore. Jim not only kept up, but he was ready for more at the end! We ate a quiet, relaxed lunch at a restaurant with the absolute best gnocchi, where Jim’s amicable personality was finally revealed to me. Later that night we toasted the trip at the top of the town with the sun setting around us—a moment not to be forgotten.
Day 7: Our journey was winding down, and my buttocks were more sore than I ever thought possible, so some of us decided to walk around Spoleto that quiet Sunday morning instead of taking one last bike ride. It was a bittersweet moment to see everyone for the last time, but there existed this modicum of belief in the air that maybe, possibly, we’ll see each other on another Zephyr tour.