So...I was a bit perplexed to arrive at the meeting place and discover that I'd be riding with 20 other people, more than half of them Southern blonde sorority sisters (the rest of us ended up being their group photographers). A Canadian woman, and one of the few other brunettes in the group, commented, "I don't think I've ever seen so many natural blondes in one place."
Neither had I, come to think of it.
Perhaps blondes have more fun but, with the exception of two Amazon-like basketball players, this group of golden haired females had far less brawn than the brunettes. Our ride was just 20 kilometers, but the first part was relentlessly uphill. Only the "old" folk and the basketball stars made it to the top (and up subsequent hills) without walking the bicycles. I wasn't exactly a Lance Armstrong, breezing along, but out of a sense of pride I muscled my way to Fiesole, a picturesque village overlooking Florence. I arrived soaking with sweat, out of breath and ready to keel over - I had picked a bad day to skip breakfast. A vendor in the town square had candy for sale; a marzipan banana gave me enough sugar to continue.
Returning to the bicycles after a brief walk around the town, we proceeded uphill to our lunch spot, a restaurant called Casa de Prosciutto (luckily they served things other than ham). After enjoying antipasti, eating two kinds of pasta and drinking some locally produced Chianti (from Montereggi, for those who are interested), we were all ready for a nap. The strong espresso didn't seem to have an effect.
But there was no time for a siesta.
Next we rolled to the winery which had produced the Chianti (and which also makes its own olive oil) and where we had a chance to sample some of their table wine and purchase several varieties. I liked the idea of buying some of their products, which are not exported, but decided against adding to my already insanely cumbersome luggage. Besides, I think the wine tastes better when consumed in situ, under a hot Tuscan sun.
Whatever goes up must come down, and so it was that we found ourselves descending the hill on very steep and sharp hairpin curves, on country roads that are already quite narrow. They were a bit too terrifying to be fun, especially when competing with cars and motorcycles for a wider turning radius around some of the bends. With the exception of one sorority sister who wiped out, we all made it downhill unscathed. I just hope that when I wake up tomorrow I can still walk.