Day five started with a deluge. Our Backroads leaders were prepared with an alternate plan. We were taken by bus to the town of Radda instead of riding our bikes there. In Radda we learned all about Balsamic vinegars with the opportunity to taste the differences, except for the 300+ euro for a small bottle of the very best stuff. No question there is a discernible difference in sweetness, smoothness, and flavor from average to best, with, I think, 8 or 10 different preparations tasted.
We were also able to learn about caffe’. One needs to ask for an espresso not expresso. Expresso is a fast train, unavailable in coffee bars. Coffee trees grew wild in North Africa and a drink made from the roasted beans was first consumed in the Arabian Peninsula in the 11th century. Coffee plants were not cultivated until the 15th century. In Venice coffee plants were traded for perfumes, teas, dyes, and fabrics by Arabic merchants. It wasn’t until the early 1900’s when people from Milan forced just below boiling water, under high pressure, through finely ground coffee beans. The espresso was born. Italian coffee snobs insist espresso is only for immediate consumption and is to be taken while standing at the bar. The barista may take offense if you don’t drink it piping hot. If you order a latte, you will get hot milk. If you want what we call a latte you need to order a caffe’ latte (coffee with milk). Most coffee bars will prepare all the various espressos, cappuccinos, and other signature drinks Americans are familiar with.
The rain stopped and those of us who were prepared by bringing biking gear along had the opportunity, after lunch to take a 16.8 or a 31-mile ride back to the hotel. I didn’t think the rain was likely to stop, so I didn’t bring my biking gear along. I was not sorry for the day of rest and recuperation for my sore butt.
After an aperitivo at the bar of the hotel that evening we were taken back to Castelnuono Berardenga for a Tuscan feast.