Under the Tuscan Sun

I arrived in Lucca, Italy yesterday.  Wow.  It is crazy that I am here in Italy.  I was just in Bend, Oregon.  I flew into Paris, then Florence, then US Cycling (Andrew) picked me up and drove me to Lucca. 

Welcome to Lucca, Alison. 

After so much travelling, it was nice to arrive at a decent hour.  My bike was built up within 15 minutes, which it is also nice to have mechanics, and I was able to take a little spin around to try to get the legs underneath me after such long flight.  Evie and Lindsay arrived as well.  I was able to sleep 13 hours yesterday, then ride today.  That is impressive, I know.  Jet lag does wonders to your body.

It is beautiful here.  Lucca is located in north central Italy, and is a part of the acclaimed region of Tuscany.  Lucca became a Roman colony in 180BC.  It was an independent republic for over 500 years, and Napoleon eventually took it over.  However, there is still the original, walled city in Lucca.  The wall extends around the “city” and is over 3k long.  At one point it housed 185 churches, just within these walls.  Apparently no one really tried to “take over” Lucca by force, because it was reasonably protected, but it was also a very wealth republic.  It was able to “pay off” its threats and basically live in peace.  Leave it to Napolean…

 

We rode around the area.  This is my second European adventure, and I am learning some things here.  This is my first time to Italy, and I was pleasantly surprised to see some similarities to France.  The road signs are very similar.  With their curvy arrows, and complicated intersections, I was familiar with the rules of passage here.  Also when entering the grocery stores, and needing to deposit 1euro to “borrow” a grocery cart, wasn’t a surprise.  I was able to find good produce and familiar food.  It wasn’t until I was checking out at the store that I realized I didn’t even know how to say “thank you” in Italian.  Merci, I mean…grazi.  Shoot.  I found myself rattling away in French, before I remembered I was in Italy, and would probably be better off sticking to a language I am fluent in, like English, rather then reciting a language I am marginal in, like French, to people from a different country from both entirely.  Oops.

I realized that “Ciao” is used to mean both hello, and goodbye.  I was thinking, ok, so kind of like Aloha, right?  Or Salut, in French.  Point taken.  I can figure this out.  I can think on my feet here.  Although my Italian is obviously limited, I like it here.  It surprisedme how noticeably fertile this area is.  The air is humid and the land is lush and green.  The hillsides are covered with every notable vegetable and fruit.  I was envisioning eating “Tuscan Chicken” and wathcing “Under the Tuscan Sun”.  They aren’t lying, it is beautiful here with so much alive here.  Everything is so alive.  There was no bonking on our ride today because we could stop to for anything from tomatoes, olives, grapes, apples, pears, peaches, and I guess if you wanted multiple types of squash and zuccini, there were plenty of those as well.  Our options were endless.  The air is warm and filled with an almost tropical feel as the variety of plants, vineyards, and orchards thrive here.  So, this is Tuscany.  I get it now.

The climbs are steep and epic.  The roads wind up these hills with succinctness.  It makes the descents narrow and possibly a little sketchy, but it is beautiful.  There are gated villas everywhere you look. The riding is beautiful, but a part of me misses the slower pace of Limoux, France.  The countryside there was like a hidden gem.  It may not have the affluence of Tuscany, but it had the peace and quiet.  Don’t get me wrong, I love being here, but if you are planning a cycling vacation, my vote is still on Limoux.  Chris Georgas does an amazing job there at Le Monastere

We are here until Friday, then we will start our journey to France for La Route de France.

Now, onto the next thing on my agenda today.  Eating.  Riding and eating.  Life is good.

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