A brilliant golden light filtered through the trees this morning but I was far too comfy in our tent to get up and take a picture. I will just have to commit the morning splendor to memory. Quickly packing up we made our way back to the road and set off for another day of Tuscan hills. I'm not sure what it is about them, but Tyler and I were both feeling pretty down about hill climbing today. Up and down we went, huffing and puffing to cover tiny distances for monumental amounts of effort. Hills, it seems, aren't our specialty.
When the towering Volterra came into view, perched high on what could be called a small mountain, both of us perked up for the long, slow climb. Suddenly riding was easy again as we pedaled switchback after switchback, ever upwards towards the ancient city. It is all a mental game, I know, but somehow mountain climbing is so much easier for us! Maybe it is the fact that we have a clear goal in mind and can see ourselves approaching it, rather than expending so much energy in such an inefficient way to get from point A to some unknown point B.
As we ascended our final switchback into town we took a moment at the local park to admire the views and celebrate our climb before continuing on into the old part of town. Stopping for coffee and gelato at what must be the favorite local hangout, we were joined by zillions of high-schoolers on their lunch break. When classes finally resumed, we were left in peace and quiet to watch busloads of tourists go by. Relaxed and eager to explore, we finished our treats and headed out.
The town of Volterra was the one recommended to us by my dad's friend Bettina, who had said it was beautiful. Pushing our bikes through the old town, we were glad see that though mobbed with tourists, it still managed to remain charming, living up to its highly touted reputation.
We wandered around narrow alleyways, past shops specializing in Volterra's famous sculpted alabaster and trinkets with an Etruscan theme. Apparently Volterra was an important Etruscan settlement long, long ago.
Our visit was regularly halted by tourists asking about our bicycles. We spoke with people from Holland, Switzerland, Austria, Canada, Wales and a few other countries(!) answering questions about our bikes and our trip. We could scarcely enter a shop or stop to take a picture without someone coming over to chat. We didn't mind in the least! At one point Tyler joked that he felt like we were out evangelizing cycle touring.
After fully appreciating Volterra's ancient beauty, we hopped back on our bikes and set off for an exciting 500 meters descent. It was nice to give our legs a break, letting our hand do the hard work squeezing the brakes. Once we were back at sea level, the tourists disappeared and we continued heading west on wonderfully flat ground until we made it to the quiet coast town of Cecina.
Yesterday we'd decided to head back to the sea; here we were, a day later, on the coast! Tyler and I navigated our way through town until we made it to the pebbly beach where we were greeted once more with the ever familiar and comforting scene of blue sky and sparkling blue water.
As quickly as we arrived, we propped our bikes against a fence and ran into the water. To our pleasant surprise, it was finally warm!! After frigid water in the south of France in July, we were astonished that the sea would be warm in late September. It felt so good to be in the water again. After our dip we decided to splurge on the novelty of a campsite. We had seen signs for two of them on the way into town.
The campsite was nice and shady and thanks to it now being the off season, welcomingly empty. In the heat of summer, this place would probably be a nightmarishly expensive affair with swarms of beach goers, but for a mere 13 euros (yay for camping in late September!) we practically had the whole place to ourselves.
We set up in the shade, took hot showers, cooked a simple soup for dinner, plugged in our electronics, and settled in for a lovely evening knowing all of our basic needs were taken care of. It was a good day. :-)