This was a ride with a purpose, though. A Swedish magazine is publishing an article about Leif-the-sommelier and they want some pictures to accompany it. I think this is the fourth time since I've come here that he's gone through everything in the apartment looking for photos for an article someone is writing. "Good pictures, Michele. High resolution. With me (insert activity here, whether it be cycling or tasting wine, or tasting wine while out cycling...) I know I have some somewhere." He never finds them.
I would naturally be really weirded out if someone were writing an article about me and even more so if they wanted to publish a picture as well. He seems to be pretty accustomed to the attention. He just has a lack of appropriate pictures to send off to people when they ask for them. So when he (again) couldn't find pictures I told him that we should just pack up my cameras, a bottle of wine and a glass and go take some pictures.
So we rode off into the beautiful sunshine of Tuscany to take some photos. We decided to start at Piazzale Michelangelo, a small climb of less than 300 feet with a fantastic view of the city. I figured I could do that and still catch my breath and hold the camera steady. And actually the climb was pretty good. As a flatlander I have a healthy love/hate attitude towards hills. I love to look at them. I hate to think about climbing them on a bike.
We got to the piazza pretty early and so had a great piece of the railing looking out over Florence set up before the crowds got there. I'm not a real photographer by any stretch of the imagination...but I think we managed to get a few good pictures that included Leif, wine and the landmarks of Florence like the Duomo and Ponte Vecchio. Leif in casual clothing. Leif in his cycling outfit and helmet. With a bottle, without a bottle. And my direction was brilliant..."Do something winey. Sniff, swirl....whatever it is that you guys do, just keep doing it till I tell you to stop. Drop your shoulder, lift your chin." And my all time favorite (but I don't think his) "Smile like you mean it!"
|The cycling sommelier|
We finally stopped when I couldn't find any new places to stand him in front of. He complimented me on doing a great job. I should have suspected something was up. Then he casually said, "Should I call a vineyard and see if we can take some photos there?" Sucker that I am I said "Sure," and after a short conversation we were on our way to a farm somewhere south of Florence.
Florence sits in a river valley, kind of a bowl. Anytime you go out of the city you have to ride uphill. I even asked how bad it would be. "Just a few hills," he assured me. Maybe he really believes it's just a few little hills. Maybe he's trying to help me by not telling me how many and how big the hills are. Sometimes he acts like his inability to adequately prepare me for the hell that is to come is a language thing that he has no control over. Wait, did I say hell? I meant hill. I'm sure I meant hill.
Maybe he just has far more confidence in me than I do. He's never taken me anywhere that I couldn't handle. I should be more trusting maybe, huh?
We did reach the vineyard. I climbed the hills without a problem. Not without effort naturally. I'm not a "cyclist." But I didn't collapse at the top and I wasn't wheezing like an asthmatic bulldog with a head cold either. And I consoled myself with the thought that the way home would be mostly downhill.
|At the vineyard|
We took more photos (without the bottle or the glass) among the new vines just sprouting their leaves. Even though Florence has quite a few parks and green spaces it was so lovely to walk through the tall grass and smell the aromas of green and earth and flowers that the warm sun was lifting off the ground. Above it all was the sky looking impossibly blue and clean. I wanted to lay down. I wanted to breathe in the spring that surrounded us till I felt as green and blue and warm as the grass and sky. I had to be satisfied with walking slowly back up the hill to the cellars for the last photos.
I have to say that when you've climbed up high (No, I don't know how high. Not sure I want to know) the trip back down is fast. Exhilarating. Frightening. Windy. I loved it. Made climbing the hill worth every meter.