Friday, January 31, 2014

Last Friday's visit to Assisi.

Emily and I are off to Sicily tonight, so this will be my last post for a while.  It has been raining pretty steady for the last 2 plus days, and it is predicted to continue today, so probably no ride before the trip.  Che picatto.  I know it will do me good to be off the bike for a number of days, but I really like to get out most days.  Last Friday, Emily and I went to Assisi with students from the Syracuse University program here and had a great time.  The person who does Emily's art history class coordinates all the field trips for the Syracuse program here, and as Emily had to miss the class field trip last December, she very kindly invited us to join on this trip.  

It was very fun.  Assisi is a beautiful old hill town, and is one of the major pilgrimage sites in the world.  St. Francis has a very large following, deservedly so.  Em gave me a number of things to read before the trip about Francis, and I really like the point of view that he looked at religion from.  It is pretty close to the sort of Buddhist point of view I subscribe to, and I think all religions have at their core, before the organized part of the religion takes over.  We had a wonderful tour of the Basilica, learned about the probable Giotto fresco's, and saw the location of the remains of St. Francis, which is what all the pilgrims come to see.  I have only experienced Elaine's lectures to ex-pats in her art history class and occasional lectures at the Pallazzo Tornaboni.  It was fun to experience and hear how she presents the material to students.  She is simply a super talented teacher who shares her love and enthusiasm of the subject well.  

After the tour, we walked up to the town center where there is the remains of an old Roman structure flanked by 14th and 15th century structures.  Quite interesting.  Emily and I joined Elaine and her assistants, Kellin and Laura, for lunch at a place she likes.  Really fabulous food, wine, and conversation.  One of the advantages of going with Elaine is she visits the different cities often with classes and knows the best places to eat.  This place was really outstanding.  After lunch, a slow, casual walk back to the bus, then a trouble free return home.  It was a full day, but really great.  Thanks, Elaine.  

Emily and some of the students on their way to the old town of 
Assisi from the bus parking area.  The large building is the Basilica
of Francis of Assisi.

The final approach to the Basilica.

After our tour of the Basilica, we walked to the town center.  On
the way there were many views like this in the old hill town.

I love the feel of the hill towns when they are so steep
that you have stairs instead of streets.

Looking up into a garden on the way to the Piazza del Popolo.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Monte Morello (almost) before the upcoming storm.

Monday it pretty much poured rain all day, and we had plans which was fine.  We did a big trip to IKEA and picked up the shelves that are my present for Emily for Christmas.  Next, I just have to install them, which will be the biggest part of the gift.  It could be easy, but we shall see.  Masonry walls with anchors always makes it a little harder.  Also, all of my good tools are still in the US, but I was able to borrow what appears to be a good hammer drill from Nicco.  I hope it goes well.  Yesteday it was nice for a little over 1/2 the day, but I was busy with a job I do for an organization here 2 or 3 times a year.  SAI is the company, and they set up housing, schools, and everything a student would need to Study Abroad Italy (SAI).  I take a day and greet students on their first day here and help them get into their apartments, help with luggage, and answer questions.  Yesterday it was a solid day of work starting around 8:20 until 6:30 with the only breaks waiting for students to arrive at their apartments.  I ride my townie bike around town, and have been designated as the person who meets the students who arrive by train or have been here for a couple of days, and thus can get to the apartment on their own.  It is fun to be around the energy that a Junior in college has, in particular at the start of a big adventure like a semester abroad.  I make a little money, which is nice for a couple of dinners out.

This morning, I met with Donatella, Kate's brother-in-law's Mother in law, to do a couple of hours of conversation in Italian.  Donatella has a similar grasp of English as I have of Italian, and we try to speak only the language we are working on while helping the other person as necessary.  We both correct grammar and idioms which are very different in the two languages.  I was able to get out around 12:30, and around 2/3 the way through the ride it cooled off and clouded up and it is currently threatening rain.  The prediction is for a solid couple of days of rain, so it was good to get out.

I decided on climbing Monte Morello, which almost worked well.  Just below the top, the road was closed.  There was a sign earlier on the climb, but normally there is room for a bicycle to get through and the workers almost always wave me on.  Today, they had heavy equipment in the road and chain saws and big, cut trees in the road everywhere.  I simply turned around.  I went back toward Pratolino and turned off to take a little, pretty rough and steep, road down to the church above Cercina, then take my favorite option for the descent (#4) down toward Careggi, but climbed up to take the road above part of the complex, then took my new standard route around the Meyer complex, then up and over to Piazza Giorgini, then home.  A very fun ride.  Happy to get out before the storm.  20.7 miles in 1:48 rolling time for an average speed of 11.5 mph with 2451 vertical feet climbed at a sun effected average temperature of 50.  Ciao.

Pratolino, Monte Morello (almost, road closed) Cercina, Careggi by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

This is a little bar / cafe at the start of the state forest / park on the
climb to Monte Morello.  The sign says cafe and advice.  I 
will have to stop sometime for both.

The climb to Monte Morello - what a beautiful road.

Just before I was forced to turn around, I stopped and took these
2 pictures of the view to the east.  It does not show well in the
pictures, but there is new snow on the bigger peaks in the background
of both pictures.  

Monday, January 27, 2014

San Baronto and Quarrata con squadra.

A number of super busy days in a row.  Yesterday, I was up pretty early and off to meet the team for a ride from Illiopesca.  We decided on the San Baronto route, which was great by me, as it is really nice and I had not ridden it in a while.  It was quite cool when we started, around 36, but it warmed up with the sun and turned into a very pleasant day to ride.  We rode out through Montelupo, and it was a totally popular morning for people to be out cycling.  We led a large group, then re-grouped with a couple of stragglers, caught and followed a group of around 40, then let them go in Montelupo.  This scene is one of the fun parts of cycling here with a team.

We pretty much stayed just the 6 of us to Vinci and stayed together pretty well, then broke apart for the climb to San Baronto.  Luca dropped me at the start, then I caught and dropped him, then we came back together, then picked up two guys from another team, and the 4 of us stayed pretty close the entire climb.  The competitive nature of us all kept the pace pretty strong, and I had a second best time going up.  It is a really beautiful climb, quite mellow, and you can really push it.  When we arrived in San Baronto, there must have been 50 cyclists on the street, causing Luca to say, "This looks like a real party".  We waited for a while for the others, and I had a cafe.  After Lorenzo and Allessio arrived, we decided to double back to get the last two and encourage them to the top.  The weather was simply perfect for climbing - calm, cool, but warm enough so you were not at all cold.  I took off my shell at the base of the climb before Vinci.

The descent was super.  The last time I descended on the north side of San Baronto, there was a good 30 mph wind with gusts, so we took it quite easy.  Today, it was calm, dry road, so, a good day to let it go.  Fun!  We regrouped at the bottom and kept it together all the way back into town until people started to break off to return to their own homes.  Super fun day, team.  I love riding with these folks.  62.6 miles in 3:47 rolling time for an average speed of 16.5 mph with 1660 vertical feet climbed at an average temperature of 48.

San Baronto, Quarrata con squadra by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

Leaving Vinci, Leonardo's birth place,  the very nice and mellow
climb to San Baronto starts.  Between being passed a few times, and
passing quite a few on the way up, along with the people descending
I must have seen 200 cyclists on the 15 kilometer stretch to San Baronto.

The team in San Baronto at one of the calmer moments we
had up there.  When Luca and I arrived, there must have been 
50 or more cyclists in the street by the bar.  Quite a scene.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Great saturday morning ride with the team.

Up early this morning to ride with the team.  I had extra time and was planning on a casual warm up on the way to the meeting point, then I checked my battery for the electronic shifting, and it was in need of a charge.  I have been learning about the drawbacks on the battery and the only one I know of is not keeping up with the charging schedule.  I simply had not checked it lately.  It is really simple to check.  From a you tube video about the batteries, etc. in the shifting system, I learned that if you are in the situation I found myself in, a quick 5 to 10 minute charge will be more than enough for a 5 hour ride, but I had never tested this.  I charged it for a little over 5 minutes and took off.  It worked fine, so all was good.

I really pushed it to Tavernuzze, or almost all the way as I caught a group of 4 on the team on their way to the meeting spot just before Galuzzo.  I did not remember to start the garmin until around 7 kilometers out, which is why I am using the descent feet for the climbing, which should be accurate.  No one was biting on the suggestions for longer or truly different rides at Tavernuzze, so we took off and did the standard route to Greve then Panzano.  A wonderfully beautiful morning, it was a great ride.  We regrouped at the top with only Leonardo beating me up there.  Terenzio basically was 5 feet ahead of me and passed me with only around 30 meters to the town square.  We discussed options in Panzano, and again, no one was really biting on a longer ride or options.  I knew that Leonardo was game as he asked me a few times if I wanted to go longer.

We all went back down to Greve together, then I stopped and forced a decision.  5 people returned on basically the same route we came out on, but Leonardo and I did an alternate that was my idea.  I loved it.  We climbed Passo de Sugame which is a great climb from Greve, long, but with nothing too steep.  We then descended about 2/3 the way to Figline, then took a very fun road across to Brollo, around 5 kilometers to the road from Figline to Poggio alla Croce, another pass.  Just a perfect day to be out and alive and riding.  Leonardo did not push to drop me, although I know he can if he wants.  We descended to San Polo and I had a cafe and we relaxed for a few minutes at a place I am really liking currently.  I was wondering how old he was, so I asked, and was surprised that he was only 23.  From my point of view, quite young.  He is very fit and totally into cycling, so it is no surprise that he can drop me.  Anyway, we enjoyed each other's company and the riding which is all that really matters.  From San Polo, we took the climb up to a little pass and then descended to Capanuccia, then Grassina, where Leonardo branched off to return to his house and I went through Cinque Vie to the Viale, then home.  Great ride on a pretty perfect day.  54.7 miles in 3:40 rolling time for an average speed of 14.9 mph with 4219 vertical feet of climbing at an average temperature, including the sun effect, of 49.

Con Squadra - Panzano, Greve, Sugame, Brollo, San Polo, Capanuccia by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

I had never noticed this sculpture of a wine bottle before in the 
town square in Panzano, obviously a wine region, and yes, 
the sky really was that blue.  Che Bello!

The squadra regrouping in Panzano after the climb.

The snow on the peaks in the background was more striking in 
person, but you can still get a good idea of the view on the
road to Brollo from the east side of the Passo de Sugame road.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cercina quickie!

I joined Emily's Art History class this morning, and it was really great.  They started their second semester with a visit to San Miniato, one of my favorite architectural spaces here in Florence or maybe anywhere.  I learned lots of history about the location, San Minias, and the building itself.  I like the proportions of the space enough that many years ago I paced things out and did a little plan, then used the size of a person to try and understand the space in section.  Interesting that Elaine, the professor also loves the space inside.  Although there are times I disagree with her opinions about some buildings, when I did a trip to Rome with the class and we visited the Pantheon, she also said it was one of her favorite spaces.  These are two of my favorite all time spaces, both seem close to being perfect interior spaces.  After class, a group went to a wonderful restaurant, Il Fagoli, where their specialty is Rabbit on Thursdays.  I have had the rabbit there a few times previously, and it never disappoints.  Super good.

Home in time for a short ride, and although I think I did most of this ride last week, it is really one of my best short rides, so I bent my own rule and did it today.  Just a super fun ride, a good workout with a fair amount of climbing in a short space, with most of the route having very little traffic.  Up Via Bolognese to Pian de San Bartolo, over through Cercina to the church above the little town, down option #3, then back up to take the option around part of the Careggi hospital complex, then taking the option to go around the Meyer hospital part of the complex, then a hop, skip, and a jump and I am home.  Ciao.  15.7 miles in 1:17 rolling time for an average speed of 12.1 mph with 1637 vertical feet climbed at an average temperature of 52.  Showers pretty steady after turning off Via Bolognese, but really quite lite.

Pian de San Bartolo, Cercina, Careggi, Firenze by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

The road between Pian de San Bartolo and Cercina.

This is the second part of Cercina, a tiny town one of my close
in quick rides goes through.  Fun place with almost no traffic.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sette Ponte with some rain.

Plans changed today, and we postponed going to IKEA until Monday, which left me with time for a fairly long ride.  I hadn't ridden the sette ponte road, one of my favorite roads in a while.  It is kind of unusual to be able to ride it in late January, but we are enjoying a very mild winter.  I rode up to San Donato in Collina by way of Ponte a Ema, and Via Carota and nice route.  I enjoyed the descent through Troghi and Palazzuolo (that has a short but steep climb at the approach) to the turn off below Le Valli.  I cut over by the outlet fashion malls, over the river and climbed to the turn off to Matissino on the main road on the east side of the river.

I continued to Castelfranco, picking up a rider on a mountain bike on the way.  He was very talkative, and I surprised myself with my ability to have a conversation in Italian.  Maybe I am making progress.  He lives in San Giovanni Val D'Arno, and turned off for there around 4 kilometers before Castelfranco.  At that point, it was sprinkling, but then really started raining.  I stopped and changed clothes, and it felt fine in the rain to Castelfranco when the rain stopped.  I got some water and took off the rain gear, then headed over to Regello on the sette ponte road.  It is always a pleasure to ride this 10 kilometer piece of road.  I stopped in Regello to have a cafe and a piece of pizza as there is a place there I really like.  It had started to rain just as I arrived in Regello, and the Donna at the cafe told me it was supposed to rain the remainder of the day and tomorrow.

I took off from Regello and changed my plan a little still climbing to Donnini, but not taking the climb to Tosi, as it was raining pretty hard.  It was lightening up though, and just below Donnini, it totally dried up and the roads were dry, which is great as it allows more speed.  I enjoyed the descent to Donnini then got on the main road and powered back to Florence, once again changing out of rain gear around San Ellero, then Pontesieve.  Great day even with an hour or so of heavy rain.  With about one dry hour on the way back, most everything was dry when I got home.  59.3 miles in 4:06 rolling time for an average speed of 14.5 mph with 3990 vertical feet climbed at an average temperature of 56, although the temperature during the rain was around 48, just at the edge of challenging.  Ciao.

San Donato, Matissino, Castelfranco, Regello, Donnini, Firenze by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

Here is the climb to Castelfranco.

The gate to Castelfranco on the approach from below.  I left 
some rain about 1/2 kilometer before the citta.

Looking back down the main street into the old part of town 
with the gate at the end in Castelfranco.

The strada sette ponte curves in and out of numerous drainages 
between Castelfranco and Regello.

My favorite bar in Regello.  I had a great piece of pizza, an 
excellent cafe machiato, and some nice conversation with
a very patient senora in Italian.  

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Quick ride to the north after a few hours of housecleaning.

Emily is babysitting all day, and she has also been doing most of the housekeeping lately.  So, when I awoke to a cloudy, rainy day, I decided to spend some time cleaning the house and my bike.  It took a few hours, and by the time I was done, the roads had dried out and I decided on a quick ride.  I am picking up Viola from school in less than 1 hour, so I only had a little time.

I decided on going up Via Faentina, even if it is the same start as yesterday, and turned off in Pian de Mugnone to climb on the perfect pavement to Fiesole.  From Fiesole, I continued climbing to the turn off for Vincigliata, did a little more climbing, then enjoyed the beautiful descent through Vincigliata to Firenze.  I wandered around a little after getting to the city trying to find some alternate routes, and I think I at least saw what I should take when I come down this way.  I did not really have time to turn around and experiment.  Still, a good ride for only having a hour or so to get out.  13.2 miles in 1:04 rolling time for an average speed of 12.9 mph with 1188 vertical feet of climbing at an average temperature of 57.  Not bad?

Via Faentina, Pian de Mugnone, Fiesole, Vincigliata, Firenze by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

I love the perfect pavement on the world championship course
from last fall.  This is approaching the outskirts of Fiesole from 
Pian de Mugnone.

The final part of the climb to Fiesole from Pian de Mugnone.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Great ride into the Mugello and back on a nice day with the rain over.

Another day, another ride in my current retired state.  Of course, when I am working now, it is taking people riding, and while I enjoy it, it is different on my own.  At this point I am very much looking forward to the season starting back up, and it appears I will be busy starting in April.  I am a person who likes to be busy and to feel like I am contributing so I do like it when I am busy with work.  I have a day next week when I will greet students coming for the semester and help them into their apartments.  I have one person talking about a couple of days in March, but this person has been talking about it for over a year, so we shall see.  Enough of that, it was great to be out riding, with wonderful weather, and the countryside scoured clean by the recent rains.  The streams were running pretty high in the Mugello area, so it must have rained harder there than in the city.

I started going through Le Cure and hooking up to Via Faentina to climb to Olmo.  Above Olmo, I turned off and continued climbing to Bivigliano then traversed to the really fun, steep, and relatively challenging descent into Vaglia.  From Vaglia, a power crank to Scarperia where I turn off on the beautiful little road that goes through Sant Agata to Galliano.  I love the countryside here, green, rolling hills with mountains to the North and South.  After Galliano, you hook up with a main road to the turn off for Bosco ai Frati, then ride a tiny road over to San Piero a Sieve.  Over to Borgo San Lorenzo, then a cut off to the Via Faentina climb to the Croce alle Vetta.  At this point I was pretty tired, but I found the energy to enjoy pushing the downhill to Fiesole, then let it run on the steeper hill from Fiesole back to Piazza Le Cure, then a short up and over the tracks to the apartment.  Another great day of riding here in Tuscany.  52.3 miles in 3:42 rolling time for an average speed of 14.2 mph with 4134 vertical feet climbed at an average (sun effect included) of 58.  Wow!

Faentina, Olmo, Vaglia, Sant Agata, Borgo, Croce alle Vetta, Fiesole, Fi by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

The start of the steep descent into Vaglia from Bivigliano.
I counted 10 switchbacks which pretty much are one after
another on this super fun steep descent.

Rolling into Vaglia on new pavement.

I love the view to the south on the road between 
Sant Agata and Galliano.

The renovation is finally complete at Bosco ai Frati, a monastery
to the northwest of San Piero a Sieve.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Nice Chianti ride with a team of one - Me.

I awoke at 5 to take care of what many middle aged men need to do more times at night than I would like, and checked the weather.  It was truly pouring rain, and it did not look good for the team ride.  After yesterday, I decided to get up for the ride anyway, and the rain stopped around 7:30.  I was at the meeting spot in Tavernuzze before 9:30, and waited for 10 minutes with no one else showing up.  No real surprise, as the weather was what it was.  The skies were still threatening, but I did not get rained on the entire ride.

I went out from Tavernuzze to Greve, a popular route for many teams, and joined with 2 groups at different times on the way.  Both times, after a couple of kilometers, I was simply tired of trying, sometime successfully, sometimes not, the spray from the tires in front of me, and eventually just let the groups go.  The second group was relatively fast, although I am sure I could of stayed with them if I really tried.  It was nice to simply go my own pace anyway.  On the climb from Greve to Panzano, I passed somewhere around 8 of the people from both different groups anyway.  In Panzano, I had an excellent cafe machiato, then decided to return to Firenze on the ridge to the south of the valley I had just climbed up.

It is a beautiful ride, with lots of up and down, some of which is quite steep.  As I turned, the skies were screaming rain, but I had the whole rain kit with me, so I was prepared.  As it turns out, no rain until after I was dry in the apartment back in Firenze.  I enjoyed the ridge road over to Quattro Strade, and rode to San Casciano weighing my options.  I decided on descending through San Andrea by the Machiavelle estate, then climb to Impruneta from Tavernuzze.  It was a good route.  I don't ride this much anymore, and have never ridden it often on the descent.  From Impruneta, I took the San Gersole / Vacciano route to Cinque Vie, then home on the Viales.  I loved the ride and am totally happy I got up and made it happen.  55.9 miles in 3:44 rolling time for an average speed of 15.0 mph with 3990 vertical feet climbed at an average temperature of 56.

Greve, Panzano, Mercatale, San Casciano, Impruneta, Firenze by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

It ended up being a team of one today.  It was truly pouring at 5 am,
and only stopped around 7:30, so I was not surprised it was only me.

After turning toward the ridge road from Panzano to Quattro Strade,
I saw that the sky was screaming, rain.  It never materialized until
I got home in Florence, and then only sprinkles.

Clouds, hills, and valleys from the road between Mercatale
and San Casciano.  

Just a nice view with the low clouds / fog on the hills.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Ride to the north on a cloudy / rainy day.

I planned on the team ride this morning, but at 6:30 when I checked the weather it was raining, so I went back to bed and ended up getting up around 7:30, by which time the rain had stopped, but the skies were still pretty threatening.  I ended up getting out around 11:00 after a nice slow breakfast, my normal yoga / meditation routine, all of which takes around 2 hours.  It was still dark, but not raining, and I thought, go for it.  I tried a different clothing option today, and I don't think it will happen again, although it worked ok.  I wore my rain pants (gore-tex) over my riding shorts, as with what appeared to be imminent rain, it would be nice to have the rain pants, but this way I would take less stuff than wearing tights and taking the pants.  Well, the pants were fine, a little warm, as even the gore-tex does not breath as well as the warm weather tights I wear.

I decided on a ride close to home with the possibilities of expansion if the rain did not come.  I rode out through Le Cure, then up to San Domenico on my alternate route number 1, which I have not ridden in a while.  I knew that the work at the top of the road was complete, but I found out today that they are working the bottom section of this road now.  The workers let me through, and it was fine, but option number 2 is probably better.  I continued up toward San Domenico then turned off to descend down through Maiano to the start of the Vincigliata climb.  The roads were totally wet, and I take it quite easy (read slow) when the roads are in this condition.  I enjoyed the climb and experienced the first glimpse of the pants overheating.  At the top of the road, I took the left over to the Fiesole / Alberaccio road and climbed toward the Croce alle Vetta and took the road to Bivigliano just before the pass.

Between the crossroads by the pass and Bivigliano, it got quite a bit cooler and started to rain.  I could have taken a cut off to Pratolino, but with the clothes I had on (I put on my shell on the way) I was pretty comfortable.  I enjoyed the beautiful ride over to Bivigliano, then cut off below the town to loop through Viliani and Caselline, hooking up with the road to Pratolino after Caselline.  In Pratolino, I took the road over to the Monte Morello road, but took a cut off below the top that takes you down to the church above Cercina as it was raining pretty good at this time and I did not want to extend the ride.  By the time I was descending from the Church above Cercina, the rain was over and as I descended to Firenze the temperature really warmed up as well.  I did my now normal cut off around Meyer and Careggi then rode on home.  It turned out to be a really great ride even if I had a half hour or so of steady rain.  Treated myself to a cheeseburger and a beer at the place down the street I like, which was great.  30.2 miles in 2:37 rolling time for an average speed of 11.5 mph (read wet roads) with 3471 vertical feet of climbing at an average temperature of 54.

Just riding around in the close in hills to the north. by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

The dark forest on the way to Vincigliata.

The dark forest above Vincigliata.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Chianti hills ride and Vittorio's birthday party.

Another busy day yesterday.  We purchased a TV a couple of days ago, with the intention to use it to watch the movies we stream on Netflix, etc.  It took a couple of days and a few attempts to get the appropriate cables and the correct installation, but I had it done by around 11:30.  We had Torrio's birthday party at 4:30, which Emily was at around 1:00 to help, and I needed to be there before the start, so time for a 3 hour ride.

I decided on the Chianti hills, my standard expandable / contractable ride.  If extra help was needed, I would get a call and return.  I started by going over to Grassina then climbing the main road toward Strada, then turning off to finish the climb to Impruneta.  I had only done this climb once before, and it is a nice alternative.  Cafe machiato in Impruneta, then the descent to the valley road followed by the climb through Luiano to Mercatale.  Only 100 meters on the main road, then the steep descent followed by a beautiful short valley ride, then a steep climb to Montefiridolfi.  Lately when I was off this direction, things transpired to not allow me to extend the ride to Montefiridolfi.

I rode along the ridge from Montefiridolfi to Bibbione, then took the fun descent to the main road in the valley.  I climbed to San Casciano, then rode over through Chiesa Nuova to the switchback filled descent to Galluzzo.  I decided on the climb to Poggio Imperiale, and followed it up with the Viales through Piazzale Michaelangelo back home.  Nice ride - 41.5 miles in 2:59 rolling time for an average speed of 13.9 mph with 3156 vertical feet of climbing at an average temperature of 52.

The party for Torrio was fun, but pretty wild.  For me, 25 kids in a medium sized Florentine apartment with their Mother's is a lot of people and an insane amount of activity.  The energy level of the kids, particularly the 3 year olds, Vittorio's age, is just amazing.  Torrio is totally into chocolate these days, and he consumed a fair amount at the party.  We helped with the cleaning afterward, then I wrestled with him for 1/2 hour or so.  He was pretty amped up to say the least.  Fun, but tiring.  Ciao.

Strada, Impruneta, Luiano, Montefiridolfi, San Casciano, Firenze by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

Looking south on the climb from Strada to Impruneta with the
only sun I saw today.

A church on the ridge between Montefiridolfi and Bibbione.

Princess Viola ready for the guests to arrive.

Pirate Torrio at his birthday party.

The general mayhem at Vittorio's birthday party.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Quick beautiful afternoon ride on a perfect January afternoon.

Happy birthday to my wonderful daughter, Kate.  We met this morning after she dropped Viola off to go to the Firenze equivalent of "Cosco" for businesses, of which she is a member.  She was shopping for supplies for Vittorio's birthday party tomorrow (his birthday was yesterday).  I went along to help and Emily and I have decided to buy a TV, and Kate had a flyer showing great prices on the TV's at this place, Metro.  We ended up with a 32" LG, LED, which I have hooked up and am getting Italian channels now.  I need a different adapter to use it for the movies on the computer, which is the primary reason we bought the TV.  Anyway, we met Kate at the car with a couple of brioches and a doughnut with a candle in it and sang happy birthday.  It was fun.

After returning from the shopping experience, Kate went to have lunch with some friends, and Emily and I took care of Torrio, who stayed with us.  We bought him a basketball hoop and basketball for his birthday yesterday, and have it set up in our apartment.  He enjoyed that, played with the toys we have here and watched movies with Emily.  We also had the chords for our rolling shades replaced on 3 of the 5 shades, which has been a process to get accomplished for me.  Anyway, I just wade through, speak Italian to the best of my ability, and somehow things eventually get done.

The weather really turned nice, and I got out for a very quick ride.  I did a pretty standard short ride for me, riding up Via Bolognese to the turn off in San Bartolo.  I really like the road over to Cercina and the church above Cercina, where the descent starts.  I did the descent option #2 today, which I have not done in a while.  It was fun.  At the bottom, I cut over above the Careggi complex, then did my new cut off around the Meyer complex to the back way to Piazza Georgini, then home.  Really fun but short ride.  Super nice weather.  14.2 miles in 1:10 for an average speed of 12.1 with 1581 vertical feet climbed at an average temperature of 58 - Wow!

Pian de San Bartolo, Cercina, Careggi, Firenze by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

I have taken many pictures of this little stretch of road on the 
way to Cercina.  It just looks beautiful to me.

I like the view of this villa on the way to Cercina.

At the start of the descent from the church, you ride through
this beautiful olive grove.  

Monday, January 13, 2014

Great Montesenario climb.

I started a new weekly effort today in my continuing quest to speak Italian in at least a mediocre manner.  I am meeting on Monday mornings with Donatella, Kate's brother-in-laws mother-in-law.  I have no idea what relation that makes Kate and Donatella, but she is determined to learn English and I to learn Italian, so we are meeting once a week to speak and help each other.  We met at their house and we wandered around putting words to different objects, which was fine.  Afterward, we sat and conversed, her in English and I in Italian.  It was interesting as we both tend to close our eyes and concentrate when we are forming the sentence we are looking for.  I think this will be quite helpful to me, and will soon start looking for another person to meet once a week and call that my Italian lessons. I am picking up Viola at school at 4, so I only had a two to three hour window for riding.

The weather was predicted to be like yesterday, but they missed it.  It is quite a bit cooler, but still totally reasonable to ride.  I really felt like climbing, which was a surprise as I have been on the bike for 9 days straight and should take a day off.  However, tomorrow is predicted to be 100% rain, so I rode today and will take tomorrow off.  Long term it looks like a number of days off perhaps starting Friday, but long term weather forecasts don't seem to be worth much here.  Anyway, climb I did and chose the Montesenario climb as I think it is the most direct climbing in the shortest distance.  Around 850 meters of climbing in less than 20 kilometers from the apartment.

I went directily up Via Bolognese to Pratolino, then continued up to the junction where I took a left and did the easy climb to Bivigliano, then took the road up to Montesenario.  My normal method is to take the direct road from the junction up, but I really likes today's method.  The descent on the direct road is smoother than the normal one, which is where I climbed today.  Back at the junction I went over toward Olmo, then took the road down to Fiesole, then back to Le Cure and home.  I passed 2 cars on the descent from Fiesole, so I guess I was going pretty good.  Anyway, fun ride and I am enjoying feeling strong the last few days.  26.1 miles in 1:55 rolling time for an average speed of 13.5 mph with 2867 vertical feet climbed at an average temperature of 49.

Pratolino, Bivigliano, Montesenario, Alberaccio, Fiesole, Firenze by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

As I was riding over to Bivigliano from the junction above 
Pratolino, I noticed Montesenario just coming out of the clouds.
It was quite grey when I got up there, but the fog was not present.

I thought this very quiet, smooth stretch of road between
Bivigliano and Montesenario deserved a photo.

The view to the southwest from Montesenario.

A view to the southeast from the front of the santuario at Montesenario.
A little of the working monastery is visible and Florence is in the distance.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Giro de Mugello con squadra.

Sorry, no pictures today, as when I took out the camera to take a couple, it told me the battery needed charging.  Well, it is charged now, and ready for my next ride.  Another ride with the team this morning, although all different people.  We met at Obihall, and decided on the standard Giro de Mugello.  Rebecca decided just to go to Pontesieve then turn around as she is fighting a cough.  The rest of us did a pretty good job of staying together and sharing the lead riding in a pace line.  We went out the main road to Pontesieve, then turned to go through town, then out the road through Rufina to Dicomano where we had a quick cafe stop.  Just outside of Florence on the way to Pontesieve, we encountered fog, which stayed with us until we started the climb up to Croce alle Vetta.

I like the light in the fog and today, the temperatures were just about right for physical exertion.  I felt strong and rode hard, dropping all but one person on the little climb between Dicomano and San Lorenzo.  We all broke up on the climb to Croce alle Vetta, and I surprised myself by dropping the entire group, waiting at the top 5 minutes for the first two, then another 5 for the next, then we all doubled back a little to help the last rider up the hill.  The weather totally cleared on the climb and suddenly it was really beautiful, so it was actually quite nice waiting at the top.  I was hoping for a personal best on Strava, but it was only 2nd on one piece and 3rd overall.  I don't know when I will ride it faster, but we shall see.  We all enjoyed the excellent descent in perfect weather down through Caldine and Pian de Mugnone.

There was talk about Via Salviati on the descent, and I just thought I would wait and see.  Sure enough all but one turned on Via Salviati, but one changed his mind after 1/3 of the climb.  I hung in there, and it was fine although a little painful.  After 3 plus hours of pretty hard riding, a stretch of 200 vertical feet at 20% is just hard for me.  The more I do it, the less it hits me mentally, though.  It is the final part of the gran fondo Firenze at the end of March, so I best get it straight in my head.  Overall, a great ride and it feels good to feel strong and be complimented on my climbing by a number of the guys.  As much as I like to feel I am leaving ego behind, I still feel good when complimented.  50.6 miles in 3:02 rolling time for an average speed of 16.7 mph with 2559 vertical feet of climbing at an average temperature of 49.  Another great ride with the team.  Ciao.

Pontesieve, Dicomano, Borgo San Lorenzo, Croce alle Vetta, Firenze by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Sabato con squadra - Pinone.

Although I could call last Saturday's ride a team ride, it was a solo ride, so today is the first group ride for me in a couple of weeks.  We had a group of 6 at Illiopesca this morning, and Luca and I decided on the Pinone tour, returning through Montelupo and Chiesa Nuova.  Luca had a friend there, Simone who I had not met before.  There were two women there, one of whom I am pretty sure I have ridden with once before and another I had not ridden with.  The introductions were very fast, and we were off, so I don't remember their names.  We went out through Lastra, then Signa, then the route I like by the river and then up through Comeana to Carmignano.  The two ladies whose names I don't remember were a little slow, and we waited (actually doubled back) before Carmignano.  We resumed a normal speed, and Luca, Simone, and I had a little challenge to see who was last to Carmignano, as the last person was to buy cafe in Pinone.

Simone bought the cafe.   We separated after Carmignano and everyone took their own pace up to Pinone.  I was first up there, and I think it is the first time I have dropped Luca on a climb, but that may have to do with him staying with Simone for around 1/2 the climb.  Either way, I admit it felt good, as Luca is a strong rider and particularly a strong climber.  I would guess him at 5-6 and 140 lbs, so he is totally built to be a climber.  We had cafe at Pinone, waited for the ladies, and regrouped.  One of the ladies did not make it to the top, but we doubled back and she said she was going to return the way she came although she was less than 1/2 k to the top.  We let her friend know, and she returned with her.  That left 4 of us for the remainder of the ride, which was fine.

Another great descent awaits to Vitolini, then down to Empoli.  The route to Vitolini in particular is just really nice.  The road is also full of cyclists on a Saturday morning, as it is team time here in the mornings on the weekends.  At some point Simone was telling me he had found a perfect, like new, 1974 Bianchi at his uncle's.  I asked if he rode the Eroica and he said no, but asked if I did.  I responded that I would like to, but did not have an appropriate bike.  He offered his uncle's bike, and I would love it if it works out.  I will follow up later, as I would really like to ride the Eroica.  In the Eroica, you have to use a pre-1986 bike.

After Empoli, we did a pretty good job of staying together in a pace line and even picked up 3 more riders as we passed them on the way to Montelupo.  Good job staying with the guys, Laura.  Back to the 4 of us down the valley to Cerbia, and we came apart a little more as some people's energy was flagging.  We kept it pretty together, then took the climb to Chiesa Nuova slow and stayed together for almost the whole climb.  One of these days I have to stop at the bakery there as both Luca and Simone were talking about the best schiaciatta in Florence at the bakery.  Simone said sometimes on Sunday mornings there would be a line of 200 or more people to get some.  Maybe next time.  After regrouping in Chiesa Nuova, we returned through Scandicci and split up to return to our respective houses.  I really enjoyed the ride and the company today.  It also felt almost like May as we returned to Florence with the sun coming out and temperatures in the high 50's.  55.1 miles in 3:31 rolling time for an average speed of 15.7 mph with 2602 vertical feet climbed at an average temperature of 57.  Sweet ride!

Lastra, Carmignano, Pinone, Vitolini, Montelupo, Chiesa Nuova, Fi. by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

Luca and Simone on the way to Carmignano.

Simone, Luca, and Laura just ahead of me on the way to 
Cerbia from Montelupo, almost on the home stretch.

On the ridge descent just past Chiesa Nuova, I decided I needed 
picture of the sky as the sun came out.  

Friday, January 10, 2014

Great La Panca ride on a very grey day.

Emily was off to Pisa today with a friend to see an Andy Warhol exhibition, so I am on duty to pick up Viola from school today, which means being back at a reasonable time.  I have rides with the team both Saturday and Sunday, so a 3 hour ride today was plenty.  I decided on the ride ahead of time, and for a change I did not make any changes while riding, although I was definitely tempted.  I rode the main road all the way from Bagno a Ripoli to San Donato in Collina, something I haven't done in a while.  I have been using the Via Carota route since I found it, but rode it yesterday and wanted something different.  Good climb.  A great descent interrupted by a number of small climbs gets you to Incisa.

From Incisa to Figline, it is a busy, industrial road, but I clocked it today and it is only around 5 kilometers, so that is not bad.  I turn off in Figline for the climb toward Passo de Sugame, and this is one of my favorite climbs.  It is beautiful, not too much traffic, and quite mellow for most of the climb.  I stopped in Dudda for a cafe at one of my favorite bars in the countryside.  Just above Dudda, around 2/3 of a kilometer below the pass, I turn off to take a very short descent, then finish the climb to La Panca.  The descent from La Panca is just one of the best anywhere that I have ridden.  Not too steep, super curvy, and around 10 kilometers long.  At the bottom of the descent, I hook into the main road but turn off to go through the centro in Strada.  Back on the main road, it is a power crank down the ridge, then a real descent to Grassina.

In Grassina, there are a few jogs to take, then you are basically in Cinque Vie, with a very nice back road to the Viales available.  I often ride this route back into the city.  Back on the Viales, it is just head down, watch for traffic and crank it on home.  A very grey day, but quite warm, and just fine for a really great ride.  44.4 miles in 3:03 rolling time for an average speed of 14.6 mph with 3304 vertical feet climbed at an average temperature of 55 (no sun to affect the temperature).

San Donato, Incisa, Dudda, La Panca, Strada, Grassina, Firenze by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

I like the way the vineyard rows interact with the cypress trees
lining the road above.  I have taken many pictures of this, but I 
think this is my first winter view of it.  It is close to Sting's place here.

What a beautiful, mellow climb toward Passo de Sugame.

I love this bar in Dudda.  Great cafe machiato, and just a nice
place to stop.  Last winter I stopped here for the first time when
I was very cold and had been slightly lost for a short while.  
This memory probably has something to do with my affection for this bar.