Cycling in Tuscany

The day after I had arrived in Pieve Santo Stefano was a Sunday. When I woke up it rained and it kept raining till noon. When I finally cycled down to the village I found the local supermarket had just closed its doors. On the way back I noticed an apple tree and I stopped to pick up some ripe fruit that lay underneath it. That eveningI cooked the apples and made a stew together with a package of instant mashed potatoes that I often keep as an emergency ration. It was delicious. Living from the land, I thought.

This part of Tuscany was great for cycling and I made some daytrips in the surrounding countryside. In Caprese Michelangelo I took some pictures of the church where Michelangelo was baptised and, a bit further uphill, the house where he was born in 1475. In my previous post I wrote that he was born in Chiusi della Verna, but this is not true.
In his day it was thought to be the year 1474 because according to the Florentine calendar the new year started on March 25th. It wasn’t until 1582 that they found out they were wrong and converted to the Gregorian calendar: October 4, 1582 was followed by October 15, 1582. This must clearly have left a lot of people unsure of when exactly they were born and how old they were…

House where Michelangelo was born.

House where Michelangelo was born.

From Caprese Michelangelo I rode to Chiusi della Verna along a beatiful scenic road, which was hard work but worth it. In Chiusi della Verna I parked my bicycle by the main road and hiked up the hill to the monastery which is known as the Sanctuary of La Verna. When I arrived I could see a line of chanting monks entering the church and tourists thronging after them to see what they were up to,. Inside the church the friars stopped chanting and just stood together before they left the church again. The crowd dispersed.

This sanctuary is known as the place where Saint Francis of Assisi received his stigmata. I don’t know the theological significance of these stigmata , but I am sure you can find them on Facebook.

I really don’t like Italians.
But then there was the big mother of the family with the screaming children and she came over to my tent and gave me a plate of tagliatelle calamari.
You eat, she said.
And so I did.
Or the old man who helped me push the bike when he saw me wrestling it steep uphill. He just smiled serenely when I tried to thank him.
Or the young man who invited me for coffee and when his children came, lovingly sighed: Now it’s no more quiet.
Which was so true….
Or all the drivers and cyclists who put up their thumbs when they saw me struggling up a moutain pass and who were shouting: Bravo!!
But I hate the rest of them. All of them…

Anghiari is a beautiful mediëval town. It has a walkway the ancient walls where one can look out over the field where the famous battle of Anghiari was fought. Thousands of soldiers gave battle here on 29 june 1440, but luckily there was, according to Machiavelli, only one casualty: [who] fallen from his horse, was trampled to death… Another source mentions the unfortunate soldier drowned in a swamp.
Inside the city there were old towers, crumbling walls and cobble stones. Apart from a few tourists strolling the streets, it was eerily quiet. At the Gate of the Catorcio there was a sign that read: “… In a space on one side of the gateway, which in the past would have been used as a urinal, there is an arrow slit from the old walls”. Of course I had a look inside the niche and from the smell in there I could tell that local men had taken up the old habit again.




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