Day 10: Acqui Terme – Salice Terme

Distance: 76.73 km

Time: 3 hours 17 minutes

Average speed: 23.3 kph

Cumulative distance: 503.7 km

Cumulative time: 24 hours 12 minutes

Word of the day: ‘fragole’ (frah-goal-ay) – strawberries

Dinner last night was a relaxed affair, a simple pizza in a beautiful location – the first floor of what was formerly Acqui Terme’s abbey.

Our eyelids were already drooping, to be perfectly honest, but we managed to keep them open for a post-dinner gelato – our first of the trip. The stoker’s favourite flavour too, salted caramel. Then it was back to our “cell” for some sleep.

We knew today’s journey would be longer (by the standards of this trip), so we ate a fairly early breakfast, packed up, pumped up the tyres and pedalled away, having very much enjoyed Acqui Terme. Almost immediately, while crossing the main town bridge, we saw further evidence of its Roman past – a small portion of the former aqueduct.

Almost as soon as we left town we were on one of the quietest roads we’ve encountered so far – gently rolling hills, with a slight overall downhill gradient. For the first hour we averaged more than fifteen miles per hour. We’re really enjoying this new tandem. It has a steel frame, which makes it heavier than our previous aluminium ones, but despite this, and despite our carrying four panniers, a back bag, a small saddle bag, a tool container and three full water bottles, we seem to be faster than we used to be! Admittedly, we have trained for this trip, completing several hundred miles between Christmas and our departure. Nevertheless, it’s been a surprising feature of our journey so far – long may it continue, and complimenti to everyone at JD Tandems in Gargrave for producing such a fabulous tandem.

Soon we were down on the plain, and the Alps were almost invisible behind us. Vines gave way to arable crops, with a particular emphasis on aromatics – there was a pungent smell of onions in the air! Our previously quiet road had given way to a much busier one, and we were making more measured, cautious progress in the traffic. For a while we turned off onto a cycle path. We were initially enthusiastic about this, until we realised that we were also cycling into a block head-wind, so it was with some relief that we turned back onto the road. By now the onions had given way to strawberries, which proved much less smelly. The verges were still well-populated with poppies.

So it continued through the morning – busy phases through the towns, and where we were close to junctions of the autostrade, followed by longer quiet sections. We passed over one large torrente, somewhat quieter than the ones we saw in the Alps.

Almost all of this was flat, or nearly flat, and by the time we were feeling hungry we’d completed fifty-two kilometres of a planned seventy-seven. So in Villalvernia we pulled into a roadside café for a simple lunch: agnolotti con ragù for the Captain and focaccia con prosciutto e formaggio for the Stoker.

Soon after we arrived we were joined by half-a-dozen touring cyclists, flying Sardinian flags from their bikes – we enjoyed a lengthy conversation with them. One of them pointed out that we were close to the house of Faustino Coppi, a cyclist much revered in Italy. Apparently he grew up and trained in the hills around here. On this occasion we chose not to add the Casa di Coppi to our itinerary, as it would have added a lengthy climb to our day.

Remounting, we headed off, to cries of buon viaggio from the cyclists. Only twenty-four more kilometres to go, and we kept up a cracking pace, at least when the road surfaces permitted it. Again, the perimeters of the road were rough and potholed, so we had to occupy the median. The drivers were patient with us, though, and soon we were pulling into our second spa town of the day, and our destination: Salice Terme.

…where the terme has recently closed, unfortunately, so no swim in thermally heated waters for us, today. Never mind, the town is lovely.

Tomorrow we have a much shorter day planned, to the city of Pavia. Once there we will be firmly in the valley of the Po, where we will remain for some days to come.

Here’s today’s track.

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