After four days in Florence, the days were starting to blend together. We spent one day in a wine bar, two days touring Tuscany, and one day doing not much of anything.
One of the highlights of our first trip to Italy was our Vespa tour in the Chianti region of Tuscany. We arrived at the Tuscany Bike Tours shop shortly before 9am and the shop was buzzing with people. We checked in at the desk and were told that we were the only people signed up for the Vespa tour and that the rest of the hoard was signed up for the bike tour. This was good news to us because that meant we were about to embark on a private Vespa tour led by Keith, part owner, part tour guide, and full Irish.
The drive from the shop in Florence to the starting point in Tuscany toook about an hour . Keith found Peter and I waiting outside the shop and said, “OK. You guys are going to go with Beatriz. Beatriz is, um, basically my girlfriend. She will drive you to the castle where the tour begins.”
Peter and I were then guided by a British lad to a car park about two blocks away. We met Beatriz – an American from San Francisco – and her Fiat 500. A Fiat 500? Really?
Since I get car sick, Peter squished into the “back seat” and I sat in the front seat. Peter, Beatriz, and I were happy in our clown car until Keith stopped by with two additional passengers. For some reason, Keith believed that five people could sit comfortably in a car made for two people. Beatriz knocked some sense into Keith and they agreed that our Fiat would only take one additional passenger. The random passenger hopped in and we drove off to Tuscany.
Tuscany is a bunch of narrow, hilly, winding roads. The conversation on the drive was as good as it could be with a bunch of strangers sitting on top of one another.
During our drive, we learned that there are cow fart powered cars in Italy (gas stations sell methane) and Beatriz works for Backroads, our Barcelona bike tour company and she did the Barcelona bike tour last year. The world is so small!
Soon enough we arrived at the starting point which was a castle/winery. We climbed the castle tower, sampled some wine, and ate some bread. The views from the top of the castle tower were excellent.
After boozing up for our Vespa tour, we had our Vespa headgear fitted and were transported to a gravel car park for our Vespa training session. Keith’s theory was that if you can master driving a Vespa on gravel, that you’ll do just fine on paved roads.
Driving a Vespa required full concentration.
After passing Keith’s Vespa driving test (turning clockwise, turning counter-clockwise, stopping, and starting), we ventured of on our Vespa tour. We drove around Tuscany for about an hour and then stopped at a family-owned restaurant where we ate lunch with the bike tour peeps and then we drove around Tuscany for another hour-and-a-half.
Keith took Peter and I to areas of Tuscany where the Vespa tour normally does not go because of time constraints (in general, the larger the group, the slower the group). One off-the-beaten-track stop was this little village church:
As with all good things, they come to an end and we arrived back in Florence around 5pm. That night we had dinner with our new New York friends who we had met the day before and called it a night. The only goal for the following day was to locate some delicious gelato and we accomplished that goal, no problem.