Day 53: Falerna Marina – Tropea

Distance: 68.56 km

Time: 3 hours 12 minutes

Average speed: 21.4 kph

Cumulative distance: 2762.95 km

Cumulative time: 139 hours 5 minutes

Word of the day: ‘cipolla’ (chee-pol-lah) – onion

We’d planned to cater for ourselves at Falerna Marina and eat in the little peaceful garden of our lovely annexe, but it being Sunday, we’d unfortunately missed the supermarket. Our hosts recommended a restaurant on the lungomare, so we headed down in the early evening and had a good dinner, sitting on a terrace overlooking the sea.

This morning we set off, a little creaky perhaps, our ‘seventh day in a row’ legs ready for the upcoming rest period. Down to the lungomare, under the autostrada, and back onto the SS18, we were soon up to full speed and cruising along the straight, flat road.

There wasn’t a great deal to look at to begin with, but we were making good progress, and enjoying the knowledge that we’d be revisiting some old haunts today, Pizzò for lunch, and then Tropea for a couple of days rest. We passed a few fields of lime trees, absolutely loaded with fruit.

We even managed to trigger a speed gun, which was quite satisfying!

Mostly, though, we just pedalled along, in a good rhythm, clocking up the kilometres. Pizzò appeared up ahead, and it was up, a short climb but a good place to break for lunch.

Pizzò is famous for its ‘tartufo’ ice cream, a wicked spherical concoction of ice cream around a liquid chocolate centre, dusted in cocoa powder. If ever there was a good day to eat one, surely a near seventy kilometre bike ride would qualify?! We needed carbs first, though, and found a café serving various savoury items, more difficult than you might think to locate, actually, practically every café in the main square served only tartufo in various forms.

Unfortunately, despite our best intentions, we were just too full after a panino for the Captain and an arancino for the Stoker to contemplate a tartufo. This heat plus all the exercise doesn’t half deplete the appetite for some reason… Never fear, though, we will knuckle down and make sure to have one in Tropea.

As we headed down out of Pizzò we could see Tropea in the distance, a rather hazy headland, the third of three. In fact we’d seen it last night from the restaurant in Falerna Marina, when it looked even further away and even more hazy. The afternoon was much more strenuous than our fast, flat morning, up and down we rode, and each time we crested a rise, the headland of Tropea was just that little bit closer.

The sea is an extraordinary colour here, a bright azure blue that the pictures just don’t quite capture. It’s so blue that someone familiar with Spinal Tap might ask “how much more blue could it be”, and conclude that the answer could only be “none more blue”.

Along the side of the road we saw lots of fruit and vegetable stalls. That’s been a constant feature of the trip so far, but the produce has changed enormously as we’ve come south. Initially there would be apples, plums, courgettes, tomatoes, then there was a period of enormous watermelons. We knew we were properly in the south when we started to see strings of chillis, and then nearing Tropea clusters of the sweet red onions it’s known for.

Also on the side of the road, sometimes wild, sometimes cultivated, are prickly pears.

They are very odd-looking things. The little fruits on the edges of the lobes are edible, apparently, and in fact one of the apartments we’ve found for our onward journey from here has a host who often supplies them for her guests’ breakfasts. I hope she explains what to do with them!

We rode into town, and were stunned anew by the view from the little square in Tropea, over to the Santuario di Santa Maria dell’Isola.

Imagine our surprise when our hotel room turned out to have exactly that view! It’s very new, this hotel, and run by an enthusiastic young couple who visibly relaxed on learning that they could talk to us in Italian! We’ll stay for three nights, setting off again on Tuesday with just two days’ riding to the ferry for Sicily. It’s starting to feel really close now!

Here’s today’s track.

Day 52: Paola – Falerna Marina

Distance: 46.97 km

Time: 1 hour 48 minutes

Average speed: 26 kph

Cumulative distance: 2694.39 km

Cumulative time: 135 hours 53 minutes

Word of the day: ‘piccante’ (pee-cahn-tay) – spicy

Paola clings to a steep declivity on the western flank of Calabria’s Catena Costiera (coastal chain). Walking through the streets, therefore, often involves navigating long flights of steps and steep inclines. It’s picturesque, though, with narrow streets and a distant view of the sea. The evening sun added some lovely colour to the buildings.

We picked our way through to the restaurant “Vecchia Paola”, feeling duty bound, now that we’re in Calabria, to eat Pizza Calabrese. This features melanzane (aubergines) and the fiercely spicy sausage called nduja. A good job, then, that we had ordered plenty of water to accompany our meal. It was delicious, naturally!

Our host, Mario, scored extra points this morning for leaving lovely fresh cornetti on our doorstep at seven-thirty. Not that we were awake until an hour later, but they were extremely welcome. Before leaving we checked every corner of the apartment several times over, not wishing to repeat yesterday’s mistake. When we were satisfied that we had left nothing behind we pedalled off in a southerly direction, heading towards the SS18. It being Sunday, the roads were quiet, and we enjoyed a twenty minute descent towards sea level.

The scenery, whilst not nearly as spectacular as that of the Cilento, was still to be admired. To the east were the high mountains of the coastal chain, sometimes terraced, sometimes with “relic” terraces, overgrown and abandoned. To the west was the azure sea, and the ever-present railway line, occupying the narrow space between mountains and sea.

Once down at sea level we alternated between long fast stretches on the SS18 and short slower diversions into nearby villages, in order to avoid the long tunnels on the main road. Our rule of thumb when planning the route is that we must be able to see the far end of the tunnel if we’re going to cycle through it. Google StreetView proves invaluable in this regard, as we can look at the tunnel and assess its viability.

We enjoyed the diversions, of course – it being Sunday the streets were bustling. Unlike the north, though, there doesn’t seem to be the tradition of drinking an Aperol spritz after church. The people do seem to be very friendly in Calabria – we’ve received many cheery waves and toots of the horn in the last couple of days. In fact yesterday we were overtaken by two policemen on motorbikes, the first of whom tooted the horn. I feared briefly that we were about to be pulled over for some unknown offence, but after a cheery wave they vanished into the distance.

We stopped in Amantea to drink some water and admire the Norman castle in the hills to the east.

By this time we’d already completed more than half of today’s planned distance, and in very good time. We set off again, pondering on a lunchtime stop, but soon realised we only had ten kilometres remaining, so we carried on until arriving at the beachfront of Falerna Marina. After a leisurely lunch we cycled the short distance to our lodgings.

Here we were met by Laura, our host, her mother and the family dog, Simba. In the fridge are some fresh figs and they insisted on giving us lemon cake and some very good homemade limoncello. It’s a tough life…

Tomorrow we are cycling to Tropea, which we visited some years ago. There we shall take a couple of days at rest and enjoy the views towards Stromboli.

Here’s today’s track.

Day 51: Scalea to Paola

Distance: 75.3 km

Time: 3 hours 39 minutes

Average speed: 20.7 kph

Cumulative distance: 2647.42 km

Cumulative time: 134 hours 5 minutes

Word of the day: ‘dimenticati’ (dee-men-tee-kah-tee) – forgotten (adjective, plural)

We walked down into Scalea last night and bought some goodies for tea – burrata from a ‘mozzarelleria’, and some tomatoes, sausages, salad, and bread from the Spar, a proper big supermarket chain in Italy, although even the small ‘convenience’-size ones always have really good stuff. We ate outside in the little garden of our AirBnB, marvelling at the range of plants in the garden which are strictly indoors only in our colder climate in the U.K.

This morning we were up and about promptly, with around sixty kilometres to ride to Paola, mostly on the flat. We packed up, waved goodbye to our cheerful host and set off, pausing only to pick up some new brake pads at the bike shop in town. We didn’t spot a breakfast cafe until we were a little way along the road, at Santa Maria del Cedro.

At this point the Captain picked up the message from our AirBnB host to say that we’d left all our bidons in the fridge! Damn – only one thing for it, to retrace our steps and collect them. It was annoying, but there was no point gnashing teeth or wailing, so we got on with it, and nearly an hour later we re-passed our breakfast stop with all bidons in place, and an extra 14km on the clock.

Our route took us along the coast, partly on the famously dull SS18, and partly on smaller roads nearer to the sea, where there were a string of seaside towns, each with their collection of beaches sporting coordinated umbrellas, little cafes and restaurants, shops selling lilos and so on. Popular this year are lilos in the shape of a slice of pizza!

We also passed some little marinas, some boats still moored, but lots of spaces presumably indicating that their owners were out on the water enjoying the sunshine.

At one point we reached a scheduled rejoining of the SS18, only to find that bicycles were not permitted on the stretch we’d planned to ride. It’s the tunnels – we’re quite happy with the small ones where you can already see the end as you enter, but some of the longer tunnels would not be a good idea, and they can be kilometres long. We thought we’d planned a route to avoid the worst ones, but maybe we’d missed one. We diverted along the parallel road, which was perfectly fine, although it did involve some hairpin bend climbing to get back up to the SS18 after the tunnelled section.

Still, good views from up there, as ever, and then a fabulous long, fast descent to enjoy as a reward.

It was starting to get a little late for lunch, and we were running rapidly out of water, so we rode down into Acquappesa and found a little restaurant right by the beach for a quick lunch, a concerted rehydration and a refill of the bidons. The beach looked lovely, very uncommercial, probably a ‘spiaggia publica’ but very clean, the water sparkling and little tiny waves breaking on the rocks.

After lunch it was back up to the SS18, and the last few kilometres towards Paola. It hadn’t been as dull as people had said it was, although we have a few more days on it yet as we make our way down towards the ferry crossing to Sicily – maybe we’ll become very bored by it like everyone else.

At Paola we had a short climb up to tonight’s apartment – a lovely newly renovated place in what was once the town’s bakery. Our friendly host showed us in, and then left us to drink lots more water and watch Geraint Thomas pull off a great time trial to cement his place as Tour de France winner (provided he doesn’t fall off tomorrow….). That’s the second time we’ve seen a Brit win a Grand Tour this year, the first time was in Cervinia the day before we set off on our epic adventure.

Finally, now that we’re safely done with our hilly but beautiful days in the Cilento, it has been calculated that we’ve climbed 2963 metres over the last five days. That’s a Ben Nevis, plus a Snowdon and a Simon’s Seat.

Here’s today’s track.

Day 50: Sapri – Scalea

Distance: 51.37 km

Time: 3 hours 5 minutes

Average speed: 16.7 kph

Cumulative distance: 2572.12 km

Cumulative time: 130 hours 26 minutes

Word of the day: ‘isola’ (ease-oh-la) – island

Last night we dined on the balcony of La Quercia (The Oak), and watched the sun go down over the mountains we climbed during the day. One of the coastal towns, Scario, was celebrating its saints day, and we watched their firework display while finishing off a very nice bottle of Aglianico from Agropoli, through which we passed three days ago.

Today we were to pass through three provinces. We left Campania, entered Basilicata for a short but incredibly beautiful transit, then arrived in Calabria, the last ‘mainland’ province, which forms Italy’s toe.

Before all this, though, we enjoyed breakfast on Sapri’s lungomare. The croissants were particularly good this morning, almost to French standards. We’ve also learned that when ordering our latti macchiati in the morning we have to add caldi (hot), otherwise the coffee is served slightly lukewarm. Perhaps that makes more sense in these temperatures.

Our exit from Sapri was gentle enough, but we knew we had a few tough ascents today, and soon after leaving town we hit the first of them. What a spectacular coastline, though. For the last three days we’ve enjoyed memorable views while cycling around the Palinuro peninsula, but nature saved the best for last. The road was carved into a vertiginous hillside, and we didn’t stray too close to the barrier on the right, as there were sheer drops on the other side. Twice we went through short tunnels, enjoying the new vistas that opened on the far side.

After completing the initial steep climbs we dropped down towards Maratea, “The Pearl of the Tyrrhenian”, which is famous for its beautiful scenery and coastline, and for the enormous statue of Christ the Redeemer, built of pure Carrara marble, and located on the top of Monte San Biagio. We stopped to take pictures, but didn’t linger – too many hills left to climb!

On we rode, clinging to the hillside but enjoying every moment, until finally we caught sight of the beaches of Praia di Mare below us. A long descent brought us into town, where we crossed from Basilicata into Calabria, and cycled along the lungomare for a while before ducking into town for a simple lunch.

Three hills remained, to be climbed in the heat of the early afternoon. The first was long and arduous, mainly because there was no breeze whatsoever, so we felt exposed to the full heat of the sun. At the top, though, there were magnificent views over Isola di Dino, where some enterprising soul had built eco-pods for visitors.

The two remaining climbs took a while, partly because we kept deciding to stop and take pictures.

The climbs achieved, we descended into Scalea and located our lodgings on the edge of town.

We’ve read that the coastal route from here as far as Pizzò is something of an anticlimax after the amazing Cilento coast. No doubt we’ll still find something to write about! Tomorrow’s destination is the town of Paola.

Here’s today’s track.

Day 49: Marina di Camerota – Sapri

Distance: 40.46 km

Time: 2 hours 38 minutes

Average speed: 15.3 kph

Cumulative distance: 2520.75 km

Cumulative time: 127 hours 21 minutes

Word of the day: ‘tornante’ (tore-nant-eh) – hairpin bend

Once we got over our surprise, yesterday’s holiday village was great fun. We enjoyed the pool, and were officially excused the aqua gym session and group dancing on the grounds that we’d come over a stupidly big hill on a bike to get there. The staff were all lovely, very welcoming and enthusiastic, and we had a good meal in the restaurant, escaping before the cabaret really got going.

We fortified ourselves this morning with cornetti from a cornetteria near the harbour in Marina di Camerota.

Not many kilometres on the planned route today, but we knew it did start like this:

After a nice chat with the smiley girl at the bakery, we set off, and it began, with the first hairpin bend of a set of ten. Hairpins are great, a fantastically efficient way to climb a mountain. They work with the gradient, not against it, so for most of the time you’re just twiddling up with not much requirement for puffing and panting. This is interspersed with the actual bends themselves, where you have maybe a dozen pedal strokes of harder effort to get around the corner, after which the twiddling resumes but you’re somehow much higher up and you have something different to look at.

After what seemed like no time at all, we were suddenly right up here:

After the hairpins, we climbed some more into Lentiscosa, stopping briefly at a water fountain to drink and refill a bidon. Lenticosa’s church had an interesting tiled dome.

As we climbed on, we saw the dome again, getting smaller and smaller as we got higher.

It is even in this picture, honestly!

The climb was steady, not too steep, and we pedalled on, knowing the top would eventually be within reach. There were points when we couldn’t see the sea at all, strange after our last couple of days on the peninsula.

Eventually we rode over the top, and enjoyed a short descent into the next valley. One more ridge, and we’d be descending for pretty much the rest of the day!

What a view there was when we put the last ridge behind us, past San Giovanni a Piro in the foreground, down to Capitello beach, with Sapri, our final destination just around the next headland.

It was a twisty descent, lots of curves, and much careful steering and brake work by the Captain. There were shouts of ‘hard left!’, ‘soft right!’ and so on from the Stoker who had the benefit of Jack the Garmin’s map to see what was coming up, but it required much focus from both motive units.

We took lunch in Policastro Bussentino (which sounds like a medical condition), and then pedalled on, along the lungomare in the sunshine. We knew our lodgings tonight were up a short hill, so decided to go shopping before checking in, and then tackled the last climb to the apartment.

It’s fabulous! What a view from the balcony.

It was briefly interrupted by torrential rain and a huge thunderstorm right overhead, but it’s passed over now, so we should be able to enjoy the sunset over dinner out there later.

Here’s today’s track.

Day 48: Marina di Casalvelino – Marina di Camerota

Distance: 40.92 km

Time: 2 hours 28 minutes

Average speed: 16.5 kph

Cumulative distance: 2480.29 km

Cumulative time: 124 hours 43 minutes

Word of the day: ‘frana’ (frah-nah) – landslide.

We breakfasted this morning in a café on Marina di Casalvelino’s lungomare, and enjoyed some of the best cornetti of the trip. Usually we try to have a decent sized breakfast, particularly on “climbing” days, as otherwise it’s easy to run out of fuel before lunchtime. Sometimes, though, in the high temperatures we’re experiencing, it’s difficult to eat in any quantity.

The start of today’s route involved a flat section of about five kilometres, heading slightly inland. Our front disc brake seemed to be sticking slightly, so we stopped to adjust it, whereupon a friendly local decided to have a long chat with us. For only the second time on this trip the conversation turned to the benighted subject of Brexit. He was bewildered that the UK wanted to leave. We replied that we were as bewildered as he was, very cross about it all and most certainly not in favour. The topic then moved on to Italian politics, which served only to bewilder all of us! When he eventually drew breath we took the opportunity (politely of course) to leave, telling him that we had some important hills to climb!

Almost immediately we did indeed begin the first climb which, consisting mainly of a sequence of hairpins, wasn’t too difficult. This was helpful, as today was turning out to be rather hot. On reaching the summit in the town of Ascea the Stoker spotted a viewpoint which also had a water fountain, so we paused to cool off and drink two bottles of water before refilling them for the next section. Here’s the tandem, resting under an olive tree.

We descended steeply from Ascea and could soon see our next climb on the other side of the valley. It looked particularly steep, so we made sure to enjoy the luxury of not pedalling during the descent.

Once we started to ascend the road was partially blocked off, warning of a risk of landslides, and of a restriction to emergency vehicles only. This, of course, had no effect whatsoever – all the cars squeezed through the blockage and continued. Having no other option available, we did the same.

Soon we encountered a massively steep section, of mixed surfaces, obviously a repair of a previous landslide. As soon as our tyres started to slip on the horrendous surface we realised it was better undertaken on foot. Fortunately it only lasted for about three hundred metres, after which we were able to remount and continue with the remainder of the climb.

The hill surmounted, we enjoyed a lengthy shallow descent towards the town after which the peninsula is named: Palinuro.

It wasn’t exactly on our route but, as we were making good time, we decided to head there for lunch. Firstly, though, we cycled through the town towards the port area, where we saw crystal clear waters.

It’s a beautiful place, and after finding the centre of town we settled down outside a small osteria and enjoyed some bruschetta (with tomatoes for the Stoker and porcini mushrooms for the Captain).

We returned to our planned route after lunch and enjoyed a gentle ride of around ten kilometres by the sea. The cliffs to our left were striking, and we had to go through three short tunnels cutting through the headlands.

Once we arrived at Marina di Camerota we turned sharply uphill towards our lodgings which turned out to be a sort of Italian mini-Butlins! We went to the pool and resisted the cajoling of the, well, red-coats I suppose, pointing out that we’d completed our exercise for the day! What a journey of contrasts and exciting experiences this is turning out to be.

Tomorrow we start with a five hundred metre climb, which should be fun, en-route to our destination at Sapri.

Here’s today’s track.

Day 47: Paestum – Marina di Casalvelino

Distance: 55.3 km

Time: 3 hours 13 minutes

Average speed: 17.2 kph

Cumulative distance: 2439.37 km

Cumulative time: 122 hours 15 minutes

Word of the day: ‘cima’ (chee-mah) – summit

We decided to have two days off in Paestum to avoid the ‘Orvieto mistake’. That’s where we took a rest day, but there was so much to see that we didn’t do any actual resting , and found ourselves not entirely restored when we set off again. This time, then, we planned two days off, one to see the sights of the area, and one to rest.

We have Simon and Dianne, our friends and fellow tandemists to thank for the tip to visit Paestum, famous for its archaeological sites: three Greek temples and the ancient village, which includes an amphitheatre, debating/council building, baths and much besides. All of this is supported by a very well laid out museum, currently also showing an exhibition featuring the ‘Tomb of the Diver’.

We mainly concentrated on the Greek temples and the extensive Roman village around them, an amazing number of excavated buildings, with research still in progress. It was like going to Pompeii or Herculaneum, but with far fewer people around. The Greek temples were particularly striking, enormously well preserved, but distinctly different in style to the later Roman buildings. Here are some pictures.

After spending the morning looking around thoroughly, we returned to the hotel, and then had a little trip to the beach. The red flag was flying, so we couldn’t swim, but we dipped our toes in the sea to officially complete our journey from the Adriatic coast to the Tyrrhenian.

Our second rest day was just that – resting, and enjoying the enormous pool at the hotel. Well, we enjoyed it in the afternoon – in the morning there was a huge thunderstorm! It soon passed over, and we were able to resume alternately vegetating and floating around in the water. Yesterday evening we had booked ourselves into the Tre Olivi restaurant, which had excellent reviews, and it didn’t disappoint – we had a fabulous meal, accompanied by some lovely local Aglianico wine recommended by the friendly and funny sommelier, Valentino. And there actually were three olive trees in the restaurant’s outside terrace.

This morning dawned hot once again, and we packed up and left with the usual post-rest day mixtures of nerves and excitement to be off again. It’s a strange thing, it happens every time, like you think you might have forgotten how to do it! Fortunately, we had not, and we made a good early start along the coast road, first towards Agropoli.

There were four significant climbs in today’s planned route, so we were expecting it to be a considerable effort. The first climb started straight after Agropoli, gently lifting us and giving great views inland on the peninsula.

We were following the route taken by a cycling blogger who’d recommended doing the whole climb up to Castellabate for the views, so it was a long haul but what an incredible panorama at the top. The sky, the sea, the terracotta roof tiles on the houses below, it was well worth the effort. We received ‘complimenti’ from a local lady at the top, when we stopped to have a drink and take some photos.

The descent was quite something too, steep at first, and then a more manageable series of hairpins, back and forth, giving alternate views of where we’d been and where we were going next, all the time dazzling us with the incredible azure colour of the sea.

We were making good progress, and were pleased with how well we’d managed the first hill, especially as it was twice the height of any of the others. Our second climb came up quickly, and again it was a gentle slope, we got into a good rhythm and found ourselves at the top pretty quickly.

We stopped at a roadside restaurant for lunch, where we were served by Italy’s saddest-looking chef. It was one of those places where there’s no menu as such, he just reeled off a list of the day’s pasta, and we chose from that. The Captain selected gnocchi, whilst the Stoker went for penne arrabbiata (“angry pasta”!) although when it arrived it was Very Angry Indeed, extraordinarily spicy, so we swapped over. Something to remember, that – the food is likely to be more highly spiced the further south we get.

Climb number three loomed up almost as soon as we left the restaurant, but we were fortified now, and it posed no great challenge. As we descended we noted huge numbers of prickly pears on the roadside, something we didn’t see in the north at all. The roadside vegetation is much more arid in general, aloes alongside the prickly pears, and palms of various types.

Our last climb was the shortest and least challenging, and before long we could see Marina di Casal Velino, where we would find tonight’s lodgings.

Our host had expressed some concern about our having chosen his chalet when we told him we were arriving by bicycle, because the chalet is set high above the marina, which would have meant a bit of an excursion down and up by tandem to go shopping tonight. He suggested we swap to his other place at the marina itself, so that’s where we are. It’s not nearly as nice as the chalet would have been, but it has pretty much everything we need, and he’s definitely saved us some additional vertical work today!

After our couple of days cycling in the grot at the foot of Vesuvius, it was wonderful today to be riding in the countryside and enjoying the spectacular views. We’ll be on this lovely peninsula for the next couple of days too, and tackling plenty more climbs and descents. Tomorrow we head to another marina, Marina di Camerota, where we will have the incentive of a pool to splash about in at the end of our ride.

Here’s today’s track.

Day 46: San Marzano sul Sarno – Paestum

Distance: 66.75 km

Time: 3 hours 9 minutes

Average speed: 21.1 kph

Cumulative distance: 2384.07 km

Cumulative time: 119 hours 2 minutes

Word of the day: ‘lungomare’ (loong-oh-mar-ay) – a road running alongside the sea. See also lungolago (lake) and lungofiume (river).

We left San Marzano on narrow streets, on another baking hot morning. To start with we continued on busy urban roads, and the surroundings were once again full of litter and graffiti. All of the area surrounding Vesuvius has turned out to be run-down and in need of renewal, it’s quite shocking after the other glorious places we’ve seen.

As we cycled past Nocera Inferiore, though, things began steadily to improve; there was a marked decrease in the amount of litter and the villages seemed more cared-for. At the same time the gradient kicked upwards as we began the climb over to Salerno. It wasn’t steep, though, and the roads were much quieter. A few clouds blocked the sun to give us some welcome short-term relief as we ascended steadily.

The summit was soon reached, and the long shallow descent to Salerno began. We had hoped to spot the sea on the way down but the valley twisted around, denying us the vista we sought. Nearer to Salerno the views were hidden by tall apartment blocks.

The clouds had disappeared by now, and after negotiating a few busy roads on the outskirts of Salerno we emerged on the lungomare. At last, the Tyrrhenian Sea! We last encountered the (Adriatic) sea at Chioggia, more than a month ago. To our right we could see the Amalfi coast stretching into the distance, reminding us of holidays past, delicious tomatoes, water taxis, terrifying twisty roads and the only truly delicious limoncello we’ve ever tasted (it was home made, from Amalfi lemons)!

We set off south – initially the roads were very busy, and we had to stop frequently at traffic lights, or when a driver in front of us decided suddenly to turn around, having spotted a parking space. This seems to happen quite a lot, and we’ve learned to anticipate such behaviour. To our right were packed beaches stretching as far as the eye could see. These thinned out incrementally as we left Salerno. The more southerly beaches looked far more attractive, often partially hidden from the road by wooded areas.

To the left we spotted a field of buffalos. They do exist, after all! We also passed fields of watermelons, and patches of prickly pears by the roadside. Finding somewhere to lunch wasn’t difficult – every beach seemed to have its own bar or restaurant. We didn’t linger for long, though, being impatient to reach our hotel and rest our legs.

So here we are in Paestum, famous for its three Greek temples, which we intend to visit tomorrow. I’m writing this by the pool, with the Stoker to my right and a cold beer to my left! We’re taking two rest days here, so the next post will be on Tuesday, when we set off to cycle around the Palinuro peninsula, which promises to be spectacular and also rather hilly. The sea will be our constant companion for the foreseeable future, as we’re hemmed in by the high Apennines to the east.

Here’s today’s track.

Day 45: Caserta – San Marzano sul Sarno

Distance: 50.18 km

Time: 2 hours 25 minutes

Average speed: 20.7 kph

Cumulative distance: 2317.32 km

Cumulative time: 115 hours 53 minutes

Word of the day: ‘vulcano’ (vool-kah-no) – volcano

After we’d landed at our lodgings yesterday afternoon we watched the Tour de France competitors struggling up Alpe d’Huez. We’d had a long, gruelling day, but we’d said to ourselves at one point “It’s not Alpe d’Huez, though, is it?!”. Those iconic twenty-two hairpins are definitely on our to-do list, but not this year!

Our host yesterday had recommended a restaurant not far from the apartment, and we trotted out in the evening and enjoyed pizza for the first time since Rome. Now that we are in the vicinity of Naples, it was not surprising to find that they were firmly in the ‘Neapolitan’ style, a big puffy crust surrounding the toppings. Roman pizzas have much thinner crusts, with the toppings spread almost to the outside. No doubt which is better is a subject for much debate amongst Italians.

We set off this morning with just fifty kilometres on the schedule, our shortest day for some time. Getting out of Caserta was fine, busy but safe, and each time we turned off onto a smaller road it became more tranquil. That’s about the best that could be said for it, though – definitely not our most picturesque day.

We were travelling through an area of suburbs, quarries, industry, with very little to admire. Hang on, though, what’s that on the skyline?

Yep, Vesuvius, our companion for much of the day. It’s unmistakeably a volcano, still active, and it’s thought that it’s building up to a big eruption any time now. The cone shape, missing the top blown off in AD 79, was recognisable even from this unfamiliar angle.

It really drew the eye, which was just as well, because the immediate landscape was not great. Everything was covered in a fine layer of dust, presumably from the quarries – cars, vegetation, probably us after cycling through it. And there was rubbish everywhere along the side of the road, at one point a lay-by of around a hundred metres full of sofas, mattresses, bin-bags and an awful lot of abandoned toilets, presumably after bathroom remodelling. Not Italy’s finest vista.

Still. Look! A volcano!

We had a quick pit-stop near Piazzola for lunch, and then pressed on towards San Marzano sul Sarno. There was a section through busy streets, really noisy, everyone beeping and weaving in and out of parked cars – we didn’t realise until we’d left it behind just how noisy it had been.

As we neared San Marzano the Captain remembered that it’s famous for its tomatoes – many of the plum tomatoes we get in the U.K. are from here. It’s a surprisingly small place, and when we arrived we were warmly welcomed by Sonia to our lodgings, where, oh joy, there’s a bathtub!

P.S. Did I mention the volcano?

Here’s today’s track.

Day 44: Cassino – Caserta

Distance: 80.29 km

Time: 3 hours 59 minutes

Average speed: 20.1 kph

Cumulative distance: 2267.14 km

Cumulative time: 113 hours 28 minutes

Word of the day: ‘bufala’ (boo-fa-la) – buffalo

After loading up the tandem this morning we cycled to a nearby café for our usual cappuccini and cornetti. It isn’t the done thing in Italy to drink cappuccino after about ten in the morning, so we usually just squeak in before the deadline. We were quizzed at length by a friendly Italian gentleman about our activities, plans and general outlook on life. So much at length, in fact, that we eventually had to make our excuses and leave, otherwise we’d never have completed all of our kilometres today!

We needed to thread our way through various mountain ranges today en-route to Caserta.

To our left, initially, were the Apennines. Immediately ahead was Monte Trocchia. Seeking to avoid the busy roads we set off on a very minor one, which almost immediately took us up a steep ramp at the edge of Monte Trocchia. Some warm-up! It did provide, though, a good retrospective view of Cassino.

Inevitably, while trying to avoid the big roads, we ended up on a rough gravel track. The Stoker was very patient, but eventually it turned into an extremely rough gravel track, and we both decided that it was worth re-tracing part of our route to pick up a bigger road. Later on we dropped steeply down one side of a valley, with a sinking feeling that we would then have to climb steeply back up the other side. So it turned out, and we were relieved to rejoin a larger road close to the ruins of a small castle.

To our right, now, was a massive extinct volcano, about the same circumference as Vesuvius. Our maps show it as Roccamonfina and apparently it was active between 630,000 and 50,000 years ago.

All of this climbing and (limited) descending takes time, of course, and by the time we reached Marzano we were hot and hungry, and running much later than we had planned. The first Osteria we spotted specialised in baccalà (salt cod). In fact, every dish on the menu involved baccalà! We ducked out and found a place which sold pizza slices instead!

When we looked at the profile of our ride at lunchtime we could see that we had been climbing for most of the morning, but our route for the afternoon would provide some relief. We set off on a more major road, and to start with each short downhill stretch was followed by an uphill stretch. Eventually, though, we were able to enjoy a lengthy shallow descent from the high point reached at lunchtime.

Tantalisingly, ahead, we could just make out the hazy outline of Vesuvius. Tomorrow’s route takes us much closer – we’ve never seen it from the eastern side before, it should be fascinating. We also began to notice plenty of roadside farms selling fresh Mozzarella di Bufala, a speciality of the region of Campania, which we entered this morning. Frustratingly there were no buffaloes to be seen!

With the easier cycling came a diminution in beautiful landscapes. Gradually, as we approached Capua, the urban sprawl took over. For the last ten kilometres we climbed gently towards Caserta on a busy road. All the drivers were respectful, though, and it was still mostly relaxing. On entering Caserta we left the main road to cycle through the grounds of the Reggia di Caserta (the Royal palace of Caserta).

Our AirBnB host, Emy, was waiting for us, and showed us into a lovely large apartment, where glasses of chilled water were provided immediately. Never has water tasted so good as on this journey.

Our aim over the next two days is to get to Paestum, where we plan to take a couple of days to enjoy the archeological treasures and to laze around in a pool! Tomorrow we’re heading for San Marzano sul Sarno, south east of Vesuvius. What a trip this is!

Here’s today’s track.

Day 43: Pofi – Cassino

Distance: 45.09 km

Time: 2 hours 15 minutes

Average speed: 20 kph

Cumulative distance: 2186.85 km

Cumulative time: 109 hours 29 minutes

Word of the day: ‘guerra’ (goo-air-ah) – war

We sat out on the little balcony of our apartment right at the top of Pofi’s historic centre, and watched the sun set while we had dinner.

Pofi definitely gave a lot of ‘bang for the buck’, in the sense that it wasn’t a massive climb, but the views in absolutely every direction were spectacular.

It seemed like a very real place, too – when we went down to the little bar in the piazza for breakfast this morning we attracted some ‘stranieri’ stares, but everyone was very smiley and welcoming.

We left on little roads, enjoying the lack of traffic, and feeling a little tension in the legs after a long day yesterday. It was very hot, but the roads were not too taxing, and we rolled along nicely in the heat.

Today’s route took us down into the valley and then along towards Cassino, our valley being one of the two which Monte Cassino’s high position commands, and which made it so difficult for the Allies to advance on the German position during the Second World War. We bowled along the valley floor, alongside spectacular ridges, stopping at a roadside cafe for lunch.

It had been a little busy, lots of checking on traffic, and yelling of “Cars behind” and “Clear” to assist the Captain in his navigation of the rutty road surface in places. After lunch we turned off onto a much quieter parallel road, through sleepy farms and at one point a field full of cows wearing bells. It was like a bovine orchestra, clanking away as they moved and munched.

As we got nearer to Cassino we were keeping an eye out for the Abbey right up on the top of the hill above the town. It only appeared at the very last minute – it’s not an attractive building, really, it looks a bit like a prison, but its history is quite something. The current building dates back to the 1960s, the previous incarnations having been destroyed by Saracens, earthquakes and the Allies.

Knowing that we couldn’t check into tonight’s lodgings until 4:30 we decided to do our sight-seeing on the bike. First we headed to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery, where the casualties of the four month long battle of Monte Cassino are buried and commemorated. It was beautifully kept, as they all are, the rows of white headstones and the larger monuments inscribed with the names of those whose bodies couldn’t be found are very moving even all these years later. The Abbey is clearly visible from the cemetery.

After our visit to the cemetery we headed to the Archaeological Museum, in order to visit the amphitheatre. We bought our tickets, a bargain at 2€ each and headed down to the amphitheatre, through what one of the guides later told us was the city ‘gate’, where credentials would be checked.

It wasn’t a guided visit, but after we’d had a good look at the amphitheatre and climbed the steps to the next bit the lady was waiting for us at the top. She asked us about what we were doing on our tour, and made the usual surprised face at learning that our destination is Sicily! She pointed out some features in the landscape we could see, and we talked a little about the Museum, little visited she said, because “Rome is so close, and it’s like an open museum everywhere”. She told us about the amphitheatre and the nearby mausoleum of the lady who funded it, Ummidia Quadratilla. She spoke awfully quickly, but after all these weeks in constant earshot of Italians we have both found ourselves understanding more and more, and also being more able to engage in conversations.

All our planned sight-seeing completed, we headed back down and checked in to our apartment. Tonight’s menu is risotto with fennel sausages, purchased from an Italian butcher who spent six months working at St Andrews. They look delicious.

Here’s today’s track.

Day 42: Frascati to Pofi

Distance: 86.5 km

Time: 4 hours 7 minutes

Average speed: 21 kph

Cumulative distance: 2141.76 km

Cumulative time: 107 hours 14 minutes

Word of the day: ‘pecora’ (peh-core-ah) – sheep

Frascati sits in the Colli Albani, formerly an area of Roman villas, including that of Cicero, who lived in nearby Tusculum. Obviously today it is more well known for white wine, and since we didn’t have the energy to locate Tusculum, we decided to seek some white wine instead! Firstly we had a look at the cathedral in Piazza San Pietro. It is of a fairly unusual design, and constructed using Pietra Sperone del Tuscolo, a local volcanic tuff, notable for a dark greenish appearance.

Having satisfied the Captain’s geological curiosity we set off to our chosen restaurant, named Belvedere (beautiful view). They weren’t kidding – there were extensive views over the plains below, and we could see all the way back to Rome. This picture doesn’t really do it justice, but gives a general idea.

The restaurant was fabulous, and we sampled both Frascati white (still rather than sparkling) and red (Cabernet Franc) with our meal. While we ate, lightning bolts were lighting up the sky, and there were intermittent rainstorms. We used a lull in one of these to return to our hotel.

We’d set an early alarm for today, as it was one of our longer routes, with a stiff climb at the end. The weather was brighter and less humid, and after breakfast in the hotel we pedalled off through the cobbled streets. For the first few kilometres we contoured around the Frascati hills, sometimes gently climbing, on a fairly busy road. We were aiming for the plain which separates the Colli Albani and the Apennines, and while heading down there we passed numerous Frascati vineyards.

On reaching the town of Colleferro Scalo we encountered perhaps the worst road surfaces of our trip so far – while bouncing up and down on the terrible potholes I was composing (mentally!) a letter to the Mayor, chiding him or her for lack of attention to the roads. Perhaps the responsibility lies elsewhere. I’ll never send it, anyway!

To make up for the roads there was spectacular scenery to right and left – afforested mountains, gorgeous hilltop towns and, in the foreground, a lush arable landscape.

Eventually we turned off onto a much quieter road, and were able fully to enjoy our surroundings. There were sheep grazing in the roadside fields, and, as ever, the predominant crop was maize. After the hills which had characterised the start of the day, we were now descending gently, and maintaining a thoroughly satisfying pace. We refuelled on pizza slices at a friendly tavola calda in the town of Morolo Scalo, and refilled our bidons for the climb into Pofi.

Now we cycled amongst the vineyards for Cesanese del Piglio, a delicious wine we’ve already sampled more than once on this trip. Soon we caught a distant view of Pofi.

We should probably stop choosing hilltop towns for our destinations! It’s tough, after a long hot ride, to summon up the energy required to ascend the long steep climbs. We always manage, of course, but tend to arrive drenched and out of breath – not a great look when being greeted by our hosts.

Pofi is a delightful small town with spectacular views in all directions, including this one, which looks south east towards tomorrow’s destination Cassino, famous of course for the battle which raged there for four months in nineteen forty four.

Here’s today’s track.

Day 41: Rome to Frascati

Distance: 61.37 km

Time: 3 hours 36 minutes

Average speed: 17 kph

Cumulative distance: 2055.26 km

Cumulative time: 103 hours 7 minutes

Word of the day: ‘diversione’ (dee-vair-see-oh-nay) – diversion

Three days off! We enjoyed our time in Rome with Joshua, huge thanks to him for coming out to meet us with our resupply. Including the Captain’s two right gloves. He was well rewarded with pizza and gelato, of course! We saw some of Rome’s sights together in searing heat, gosh it was hot. None of them need explanation really, so here’s a small selection of what we did:

Joshua left yesterday morning with a suitcase full of our returning ‘first half’ clothes, plus some things we don’t need (arm warmers, socks – what were we thinking?!), and some pasta in interesting shapes and colours from the market at Campo dei Fiori. We spent the day relaxing, doing some onward planning, trying to decide what to do about the route south of the Palinuro peninsula and so on. It felt rather strange this morning packing all our new stuff in the panniers and climbing back on the tandem.

We weaved through the now familiar streets of Trastevere back to the Tiber cycle path, exactly where we’d left it on Thursday. And with that we were off. The first fifteen kilometres were along the cycle path, not as interesting as the route in, possibly because as we rode away from the centre, the suburbs were inevitably more modern, more grotty, just what you’d expect.

Eventually we got to the end of the cycle path, which is marked by a round symbol thing and some benches…

… and no apparent way to get from it to outside of the huge ring-road autostrada. It had been the same getting onto it at Labaro, really tricky, why they didn’t just build a tiny bit more at either end to handle the enormous Tangenziale road is a mystery.

Still, kudos is due to the authorities of Rome for building such a safe and sensible way to cycle in and out of the city, and we felt quite proud of ourselves for having done it in its entirety.

Even having minutely studied on Google maps the exit from the path and the way to get onto our route to Frascati, it was still quite hairy, with some getting off to check that we weren’t about to join the autostrada, some turning around, and some mild swearing. After some faffing, we were there, and although it was not pretty, it was heading in the right direction.

And then, gah, signs on the roadside the the road ahead was closed for roadworks. We pushed on in the vague hope that we might walk the bike through, often that’s possible. Once there, though, it looked unlikely, and we turned around with everyone else. We couldn’t find the road which looked like it would take us around, and while we were wondering what to do next a local van driver came over to give us some advice. He was a bit non-plussed as to why we were not going a more direct route to Frascati in any case, but seemed satisfied with the explanation that smaller roads are better on a bicycle. He suggested that it might be possible to walk through, so we went back and asked the workers in our best Italian, but they wouldn’t let us or anyone else through.

The van driver’s diversion seemed awfully long, so we tried one more alternative, but that was a dead end too. A young man came out to help as we were turning around once more, and confirmed the van driver’s route as the only viable option.

So. A ten kilometre diversion to get around 300m of road works. There were no tantrums, but there was definitely some more swearing! We had a quick lunch in a fuel station’s cafeteria, which was much nicer than it sounds, and then got on and got it done.

After the diversion, we rejoined our original route, which took us pretty close to Ciampino airport. Lots of traffic. Very satisfying cycling past a huge queue of cars!

And then, gah again – big blocks of concrete where there was supposed to be a level crossing across the railway line. Bizarrely all the level crossing infrastructure was still there, lights flashing, barriers going up and down, but there was really no way through. So diversion number two would have to be enacted.

At this point, just to top off the day’s annoyances so far, our accommodation host for tonight messaged to cancel on us at the last minute! This was going to be something new, then, arriving in Frascati with nowhere to stay!

Remarkably neither of us felt very panicky about it – we knew there had been lots of accommodation available when we’d booked ours, so we decided to get there and just wing it.

And that’s what we did. Frascati is a hill town, so it was a bit of a slog up, but we’re safely installed in a pleasant hotel in the centre, a good 10€ cheaper than it would have been via a popular hotel booking website. Which is nice!

Here’s today’s track.

Day 40: Labaro to Rome

Distance: 20.36 km

Time: 1 hour 2 minutes

Average speed: 19.7 kph

Cumulative distance: 1993.89 km

Cumulative time: 99 hours 31 minutes

Phrase of the day: ‘La Città Eterna’ (la chee-tah ay-tair-nah) – The Eternal City!

We ate linguine with a porcini mushroom sauce at a delightful outside table in the middle of the lawn near il tiglio (the eponymous lime tree), accompanied by wine from Frosinone, further south in Lazio. There were blueberries and raspberries to follow, before we adjourned to bed for an early start today.

Our lodgings were so close to the Roma tangenziale (ring road) that all we really needed to do this morning was to work our way down to the cycle path which accompanies the Tiber through Rome. Our excellent hosts showed us a short cut to the Via Flaminia, then we had only a short distance to cover on a fairly quiet road before cutting left onto the cycle path, which runs along the west side of the river.

It was an idyllic way to enter a busy capital city. Well, almost idyllic. There were a couple of sections where we had to haul our heavily laden tandem up and down long flights of steps. It seems churlish to complain too much though, as we were able to cycle for nearly twenty kilometres away from the traffic, and arrive at our destination in Trastevere.

Initially our surroundings were surprisingly rural, but after a while we saw increasing signs of the city. In particular we cycled under a number of spectacular bridges, but being low down by the river, with a high wall to our right, we didn’t spot too many of Rome’s sights. Still, there’s plenty of time for that.

All the while we were keeping an eye on Joshua’s flight from Leeds to Rome, so that we could meet up successfully. We arrived a little early outside our lodgings, but couldn’t check in until lunchtime. So we enjoyed people-watching from a nearby café until Joshua’s Uber delivered him to Piazza di Santa Maria. It was a joy to see him, and not just because he brought clean clothes!

Shortly afterwards we gained access to our apartment, showered, changed and set off for lunch outside a nearby café. Afterwards we wandered into the Basilica di Santa Maria, perhaps the most heavily decorated church we’ve seen in our journey so far – there was gold everywhere! It has a beautiful floor and some interesting frescoes, and the exterior is stunning.

So here we are, Rome at last! All roads lead here, but our route, as you can see below, looks more like the wanderings of a drunken spider! There’s method in it, though, as we’ve seen almost all of the places we’ve had on our list in northern Italy.

Here we shall remain for four nights, leaving on Monday when, unless we change our minds, we shall head for Frascati. We’re just short of two thousand kilometres now, with about one thousand five hundred still to go. There won’t be any further posts now until Monday night.

Here’s today’s track.

Day 39: Civita Castellana – Labaro

Distance: 42.1 km

Time: 2 hours 5 minutes

Average speed: 20.2 kph

Cumulative distance: 1973.53 km

Cumulative time: 98 hours 29 minutes

Word of the day: ‘vicino’ (vee-chee-no) – close!

We walked into town last night and had a good meal on an outside terrace almost overlooking one of the several valleys between Civita Castellana and its surroundings. It was a hot night, and the hotel’s air conditioning rather ineffectual, but despite that we managed to sleep in ’til 9:30!

We knew there was little point setting off early today, as our destination B&B just outside the Rome ring-road couldn’t check us in until 4pm, so we had a leisurely breakfast, and then lounged around doing some route planning, domestic admin and so on until midday.

When we did set off, it was very much downhill! For the last few days the exits from our selected hilltop towns have often been just too steep, or too cobbled, or both, for us to ride safely and enjoy. Today, though, it was fine, a good downhill ramp taking us to the valley floor, from which we climbed gently up and over the ridge into the next one.

For a few days now we’ve been seeing road-signs for Rome, which has been exciting. Of course, all roads lead to Rome. Which is handy at this point in our journey!

A long journey like this is full of milestones large and small, in the achievement sense, if not the numeric sense, since they are naturally in kilometres here. Rome feels like one of the larger ones, like reaching Chioggia and the Adriatic Sea, or crossing the Appenines, or reaching Pisa and turning east again. We’re not there yet, but we are oh so close now.

The route planning for today had been a choice. Should we take the more direct but potentially busier SS3? Or head further across into the Tiber Valley on quieter roads and cut back? We opted for the SS3, and it worked out well – a little busy, but not bad, a good surface, and some interesting views of Monte Soratte. We seemed to be following the railway line into Rome all day today, so unfortunately all our views of the mountain included the railway infrastructure.

We also discovered later that we had been following the Via Flaminia, one of Rome’s ancient routes:

You can see Monte Soratte on the ancient map, as Mt. Soracte.

We stopped for lunch at pretty much the summit of the climb, in Morlupo, where we found a bar with some delicious offerings, and enjoyed sitting for a while rehydrating and eating our chosen items.

The rest of the day was a long, long descent into the outskirts of Rome, a place called Labaro. We had good views down into the valley, in fact at one point a very generous bus driver behind us waited until the Stoker had finished filming before overtaking us, otherwise he might have completely obscured the view!

On arrival at our B&B, disaster. No washing machine, despite it having been erroneously listed in a popular hotel booking website as having one. Would we have to hand-wash? Oh the horror. The owners generously offered to take us to the lavanderia to have our stuff washed, though, and that worked out well, as they took us on to the supermarket whilst it was being done, and we collected it on the way back. Phew.

Labaro is what you would probably expect of a suburban town outside the capital’s ring-road, but our B&B is perfectly nice – a little garden, where our professionally washed kit is now drying in the sunshine, somewhere to eat outside, and a beautiful lime tree for which the house is named. Our host’s daughter leaves tomorrow for the U.K. to spend two weeks at a language school, we wish her the very best of luck.

And so, tomorrow – Rome, where we’ll meet up with Joshua and spend a few days together. We’re heading in on the Tevere cycle path, a new-ish route, entirely traffic-free, and the only way we’d consider cycling in Rome. It looks great. Fingers crossed!

Here’s today’s track.

Day 38: Montefiascone to Civita Castellana

Distance: 68.68 km

Time: 3 hours 5 minutes

Average speed: 22.2 kph

Cumulative distance: 1931.43 km

Cumulative time: 96 hours 24 minutes

Word of the day: ‘anfiteatro’ (ann-fee-tay-at-row) – amphitheatre

We stayed last night in a property dating back to the sixteenth century – it had been the home of our host Andrea’s grandparents, and remained almost unchanged from when they were still resident. The thick stone walls meant that it remained cool inside, and it was full of period furniture. Best of all, though, was the secret wine cellar. This was essentially a set of tunnels, dug out of the volcanic tuff beneath the house. It was really extensive, but sadly bereft of wine. It must have made a perfect wine store, though, as the temperature there was much cooler than the rest of the house.

Before setting off this morning we wheeled the tandem down cobbled streets to Montefiascone’s cathedral which, while tucked away in the town’s narrow streets, boasts the third largest dome in Italy. We took turns to go inside, while the other held the tandem upright! Inside it was airy and utterly silent (as we were the only people present).

The dome was best appreciated from a retrospective view, after we descended the steep narrow cobbled streets and joined a bigger road.

Today’s cycling started with an easy descent on a busy road towards Viterbo, and required much concentration from both motive units. There was a continuous stream of traffic heading to join the autostrada at Viterbo. We didn’t see much of Viterbo itself, but what we did see looked good. To us, though, it was a relief to reach the far side of town and turn onto a quieter road.

Immediately the cycling improved. Now we had very little traffic, and a well-surfaced road climbing towards the slopes of the extinct volcano which now holds Lago di Vico within its caldera. Though long extinct, it was easy to look up towards the rim and imagine the ferocity of the forces which formed it. Like all volcanoes, it was surrounded by hugely fertile land.

We climbed a couple of large hills around the volcano’s southern slopes, but knew that the climbing would stop fairly soon, and our afternoon would be much easier. Whilst descending through the town of Sutri looking for a suitable location for lunch we spotted a sign to the Roman amphitheatre. Despite our hunger it seemed worth a look, and indeed it was. Firstly we looked at a church, originally an Etruscan temple, carved out from the volcanic tuff forming the valley wall. It was dark and atmospheric, with painted images on some surfaces and bare rock elsewhere.

On the way back from the church we noticed that, once again, our route has coincided with that of the Via Francigena.

The amphitheatre, too, was carved out in situ, rather than built from the ground up. Tunnels surrounded the arena itself, and above them there were three levels of seating.

Again we were virtually the only people there, allowing us time for a few lines from Monty Python. I believe that’s obligatory in these sorts of locations!

Lunch was taken nearby, then we set off for the remaining kilometres, most of which were flat or slightly downhill. Only the occasionally dodgy road surfaces slowed us down, and after about an hour’s work we arrived at Civita Castellana and located our hotel.

Tomorrow we need to drop into the Tiber valley, so we’re lined up for our visit to Rome. We haven’t quite worked out our route yet, but I’m sure we’ll find one!

Here’s today’s track.