This post is written by Zephyr traveler and guest blogger Rhonda Jarrett, who went on last month’s Tuscany & Umbria Hike, Bike, Wine & Food Adventure with her family and friends. We asked her to write about her favorite part of each day of the trip. Her husband and son will also be sharing their favorites in separate blogs — it will be interesting to compare and contrast!
Day 1: Hiking near Pienza. What a great welcome at the Chiusi train station. I instantly feel the excitement and know it is going to be a great week. Everyone is open and friendly and the guides — what else can I say but Wow! They made everyone feel right at home. The hike was wonderful and the countryside was beautiful, but the best part of the first day for me was the fabulous food at the organic farm. The food was so flavorful and the variety was amazing. I felt like I was tasting tomatoes for the very first time.
Day 2: Hiking near Montepulciano.
I will only mention this today, but it is true for every day of the trip. The breakfast spread has something for everyone and lots of it. It filled me up all the way to dinner (except, of course, for the baggies of GORP provided for extra energy). And the lattes, well let’s just say I am a tea drinker and didn’t have a single tea on the entire trip. On to the best part of my day. I know most people will think I am nuts, but we were fortunate to have a little rain on the hike and my hiking partner for the day and I had a great time in the rain. It was actually a very refreshing way to see the Italy countryside. And I must admit getting back to our hotel and taking a hot shower was pretty nice, too.
Day 3: Hiking to San Quirico d’Orcia and Bagno Vignoni. I know this is wine-tasting trip, but they managed to throw a local beer tasting in just for fun, and it was a lot of fun. We got a quick tour of the facilities and were able to taste the local beers. As for the day’s favorite activity, it was getting the gelato after a great dinner and going on a scavenger hunt through the town of Pienza. Our team didn’t win but it didn’t matter, because we were laughing so hard as we tried to decipher the clues that we barely made it back to the hotel with our pictures. And then trying to justify that the pictures we took really were the right answer made us laugh even harder. Then we toasted the end of a perfect day with limoncello.
Day 4: Biking to the Umbrian town of Spello. Let the biking begin! For the biking routes we could choose between the short, medium, or long route. Not being a great biker, I thought the medium route would be a good start. We got our directions and were on our way. Remember my hiking in the rain buddy? Well she decided to follow me on the bike route as well, along with a real adventure traveler, Jim. We managed to miss a turn early in the route and ended up creating our own route. Now, I must tell you that we didn’t figure out right away that we were not on the route, so we went quite a ways before we realized that the directions didn’t jive with the roads we were on. But we did what the guides had told us to do and we stopped and asked for directions. Everyone was so friendly, and although we were quite a ways from where we needed to be they got us heading in the right direction and we made it back to Spello. So, although we didn’t see what everyone else saw, we saw some beautiful countryside and met some friendly locals. I would say that was the best part of our day, but the wine tasting and dinner at Enoteca Properzio that followed topped off a perfect day. The wine was awesome and our host Roberto was so animated and obviously loves life.
Day 5: Biking to Assisi and Bevagna. Ouch! Sitting on the bike again this morning was a bit painful, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me because I knew we were heading to the olive grove and the olive oil tasting at Ragani. And I am glad I didn’t, because I learned a lot about growing and picking olives and making olive oil. And yes, I bought a couple of bottles to bring back with me. But the best part of the day for me was watching the soccer match after dinner with my family and drinking good wine. The owner seemed to really enjoy my son’s expressions and was impressed by his knowledge of the players. He made us feel like we were at home watching the match.
Day 6: Biking to Spoleto. Well the trip is almost over and I am already starting to have withdrawal symptoms. I don’t want it to end. Today’s bike ride was spectacular with beautiful views of countryside and challenging rides into the towns (for some reason they like to put their towns up at the top of the hill). I have two favorites for today. I know I am supposed to choose one, but it was impossible. First was the cooking class. I was actually thinking of not going, because I was tired. Since that wasn’t much of an excuse, I decided to go. I learned how to make stringozzi pasta and ravioli and got to help, which made the experience all the more fun. And of course, getting to taste what we made was just icing on the cake. The other favorite of the day was the ride up the outdoor escalator to the Roman aqueduct and toasting to the trip with Prosecco (the Italian version of champagne) at the top and seeing everyone laughing and having a good time.
Day 7: Okay, so the trip is over and everyone is getting on the train to go their separate ways, so what could possibly be my favorite part of the day? Well, we were fortunate enough to have Desiree, one of our guides, spend the evening with us at the hotel on the beach outside of Rome. We all went to dinner at a local Trattoria and watched the soccer match, drank good wine and told fantastic stories of our week.