Towers and tandems in Tuscany

Having spent the last couple of days exploring Lucca itself, we were keen to see some more of what Tuscany had to offer.

In the morning we hopped on an early-ish train Pisa, since no trip to Tuscany would be complete without a visit to the famous leaning tower. Knowing that tickets were sold out online, we joined the queue to find a lone ticket was still available for the final slot before we needed to return to Lucca. We snapped it up for Sara, since I’d visited the tower only last month as part of a highly cultural stag weekend.

We spent the next few hours exploring the cathedral and some of the quieter piazzas around the leaning tower. More importantly, we also squeezed in lunch at L’Ostellino. I’d also visited this tiny sandwich deli last month, and had hyped it up quite a bit to Sara. I picked up a roast pork, brie, olive tapenade and chilli sandwich, while Sara went for prosciutto, pecorino, honey, pear and walnut. Both lived up to expectations, and this place now occupies two spaces in my list of top ten sandwiches ever. I asked Sara for her opinion, but apparently she doesn’t keep a list of her top 10 sarnies 🤷🏻

Sara then joined the queue for her tour up the tower. However, a combination of slippery steps and wobbly knees meant that she only managed a single lap of the top deck of the tower, pausing just long enough to give me a wave. Good luck trying to spot her in the photo!

We returned to Lucca following a power walk back to the station. This was necessary to make it to our next excursion on time – which was almost certainly the most romantic date I’d ever planned – a tandem bike ride through the Tuscan hills followed by a wine tasting at a local vineyard. However, the reality of a 35 degree bike ride in the afternoon sun set in quickly as we wobbled our way through one of Lucca’s city gates. Then, just as we’d started to hit our stride and the buildings and traffic made way for vines, the road turned steeply uphill. I frantically searched for a lower gear as our bike lost speed, only to find that there were no gears, and we quickly ground to a halt. I have no shame in admitting that we pushed the tandem up the final stretch, arriving at the vineyard with very rosy cheeks even before we’d hit the wine.

The wine tasting itself turned out to be more of a set menu accompanied by wine pairings. In fact, the 4 courses and 4 glasses of wine was probably the best dining experience in Italy so far, and the views over the Italian countryside were just the icing on the cake. The vineyard itself was owned by a half-Italian, half-Wisconsin chap who was understandably proud of his dual heritage, and who gave us the warmest of welcomes. We happily grazed our way through the courses, and all-too-soon it was time to head back to Lucca in order to return the tandem. This direction was easier now that gravity was on our side, not to the mention the additional ballast and dutch courage.

The following morning, we passed another couple on a tandem cycling serenely through Lucca’s cobbled streets as we made our way to the station. I can only assume our arrival at the vineyard was similarly graceful.

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