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I was so lucky many years ago to have the opportunity to lead a Women’s Quest cycling retreat with Connie Carpenter and Davis Phinney. Connie and Davis are both UBER accomplished cyclists with Olympic medals and world championships under their belt but what they introduced me to was not intense road riding but the Artistry of Tuscany!
I fell in love with every aspect of Tuscany, the families, the food, the wine, the bikes, the light on the olive trees, the smell of the vineyards and how you can ride your bike forever and never get tired!
The Carpentieri Family – Getting people great bikes and keeping them well supporter on the road is a critical part of making Women’s Quest Tuscany a success.  And we couldn’t do this without Daniela, Gerardo and Riccardo Carpentieri.
Years ago Daniela and Gerardo started Ciclo Sport, a bike shop in the town of Donoratico.  There’s no way around it.  They, and their son Riccardo are legends.  Ciclo Spprt provides the bikes we use, support us with their shop and Riccardo is a one man Tour de France caravan.  Riccardo arranges our bike rentals and drives the sag wagon, providing us with treats, water, and mechanical help, all while serenading and telling us stories of his homeland if you ever want to join him in the sag wagon to avoid a hill or two towards the end of the day.  In addition to being a professional mechanic Riccardo is also a very accomplished musician and performer, however, he and his parents also epitomize the best of Italy.  They are warm, engaging and genuinely care about ensuring you have the trip of lifetime.
We love Daniela, Gerardo and Riccardo and can’t wait for you to meet them as well.  You’ll be family.
The Bike Riding – I’ve been very fortunate to ride my bike in many beautiful places In the world, and without hesitation, Tuscany is my favorite.  People often ask me why and it’s hard to put my finger on one definitive thing.  It’s the roads winding through postcard and calendar scenery, it’s the sheep grazing in the fields along side the road, it’s the abbey from the 12th century tucked into the landscape, it’s the smell of grapes being harvested, and it’s even what you had for dinner the night before that make the riding unlike anyplace I’ve been.
And of all of all the roads in Tuscany my favorite is the road that stretches from Sassetta to Suvereto, or the “wiggle road” as we like to call it.  14 kilometers of riding heaven.  From Sassetta to Suvereto the road winds through a cork tree forest with a slight descent and has almost no straight sections in it.  We’ve tried to count the gentle bends that fold onto one another and lose track every time – partially because there are too many and partially because we are mesmerized by how beautiful the road is.  In the words of two-time Giro d’Italia champion Gilbero Simoni “The roads here offer bewitching panoramas of the real Tuscany.”
The Mystic – I’ve had the great honor of calling Rolando Stephanaci a true friend and mentor.  Rolando is a world renowned sculptor and an eternal student of the mystical.  An expert in Etruscan, Greek, Roman and Egyptian philosophies we call Rolando the real life Da Vinci Code man for his knowledge of the mystical world.  Rolando lives on an estate in Monteverdi and opens up his home and kitchen to us for an unforgettable afternoon.
The afternoon at Rolando’s is like nothing you’ve experienced.  First take a dip in a travertine pool designed and adorned with statues by Rolando.  Afterwards we dive into one of the best lunches on the planet prepared by our dear friend Maria, an other worldly cook who prepares an endless feast for us with foods either from their garden or so local you don’t need a car to pick them up.  After lunch, and a few of Maria’s crazy delicious desserts, we retire to the shade of an enormous walnut tree where Rolando shares his thoughts and knowledge on anything that comes to our or his mind.  It is a unique opportunity to get an ancient take on our current world and it is like sitting down with Eckart Tolle.
The Culinary Wizard – We met Chicca on our first trip to Italy and have been close friends since.  Earlier in her career Chicca was an architect and lives in a refurbished Tuscan farmhouse she designed.  Chicca is also a wizard in the kitchen, bringing the best of Tuscany to us through her kitchen.  Chicca opens her home to us for dinner and a cooking class and shares with us some of the secrets of why Tuscany deserves the crazy good reputation it has for food.
From ricotta and spinach gnocchi with butter and sage, to chickpea flour bruschetta with fresh tomatoes and basil, to braised onions with balsamic and fresh rosemary, to cantucci to die for you’ll ask the same question Chicca gets over and over again – how can this taste so good, there must be something else in here.  The secret?  It’s Chicca’s wizardry and fresh, local ingredients as they were intended to be.
The Richness – There’s no two ways about it.  Everything in Italy is rich.  From the soil, to the worn hands of those attending to the vines, to the history, to the food, to the people, to the living landscapes through which we ride.  Perhaps the best example of this is the Chiappini family winery.  Tucked in the area known for some of the most famous Super Tuscan wines, the Chiappini winery is an absolute gem for its beauty, its history, its people and, not surprisingly for its wine.
The winery sits at the foot of the Macchia della Magona, a wooded preserve.  Looking up to the hillsides through their perfectly attended vines and olive trees is breathtaking.  Giovani, the family patriarch thinks of himself as farmer, and believes great wine is made on the vine and once harvested the job of the wine maker is to get out of the way and let nature take its course.  This formula has worked well for him as his 2009 Super Tuscan Guado de Gemoil was awarded 100 points by Wine Enthusiast magazine.  We are fortunate to have lunch at the winery and enjoy Giovani’s wines with a tasting guided by his knowledgeable daughters.
The richness of the Chiappini winery is felt all throughout Tuscany.  In the dedication of the cheesemakers, the passion of the artists, the history of the villages and the sweetness of the people.  Tuscany is a land for the senses and we drink as much as we can.