Italy: Cypress Scented Vacation Time in Tuscany

Text: Andi Seiler • Photography: Andi Seiler

Bewitching mixtures of scenic beauty, fabled lore and the lure of an amazing culture highlight a memorable tour of Tuscany.

Inhaling the invigorating fragrance of the cypress groves above the small village of Castagneto Carducci, we listen to crickets and enjoy the freshening breeze that ascends from the nearby coast. A scant hour ago, a dismal shower rained down but now the Tuscan landscape basks in glowing color and warmth. I glance through pages of a book that becomes another companion in the following days: Giosue Carducci: Poems, Nobel Prize for Literature, 1906. Castagneto Carducci is his village and they are very proud to claim him there.

Stimulated that morning by Carducci's lines about the 'Hills of Tuscany,' the group ventures into the mountains to discover shadows, light and color playing an unbelievable game in the slowly moving fog. Amazing combinations of curves take us forward mile by mile and all the while the inline-four engine of my Yamaha Diversion thrums its rhythmic song.

Only a few miles from Larderello mighty geo-thermal cooling towers encircle us. It's an otherworldly experience that continues with these big, shining tubes lining the route all the way to Pomerance. The tower boreholes are sunk about 2000 feet (700 meters) deep and bring up steam measuring 320° F (160° C). The steam also carries boron gas to the surface - it stinks of rotten eggs - and that quickly spurs us onward and upward, farther into the mountains of Tuscany, which offer a much more pleasing array of aromas.

It's the beginning of September, the grain fields are harvested, and the bright barrage of yellow stubble and the grays of newly plowed fields display a wonderful combination of hues and textures. Here and there a perfect little farmhouse is placed. Time for a break, and even the slightly ticking engines seem to welcome this respite in glorious surroundings.

Half an hour later, on our way again, the road to Volterra winds up in tight turns like a cooling strand of vermicelli. At the Porta all'Arco we have to leave our bikes and continue on foot. The inhabitants kept the Etruscan arch entrance covered from German troops during World War II by filling it up with stones, and thereby the Germans never conceived the notion to blow up this pretty, ancient remnant. From there, a walk to the Palazzo dei Priori, the oldest town hall in Tuscany, is a walk through time. The centuries call out in this place and history comments
eloquently everywhere, even in the
seeming insignificance of the small, narrow embrasures of the building. My friend Olli, however, is more impressed by the scantily clad alabaster figures encountered at the other end of town toward Colle di Val d'Elsa. It's not so easy getting him back on his bike after visions like that.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the Summer 2001 back issue.