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.

Day 37: Orvieto to Montefiascone

Distance: 27.74 km

Time: 1 hour 57 minutes

Average speed: 14.2 kph

Cumulative distance: 1862.75 km

Cumulative time: 93 hours 19 minutes

Word of the day: ‘sopra‘ (sop-rah) – above

Orvieto, what a great place for a rest day. Well, not that much resting, actually, there was loads to do. We went up the Torre del Moro, fabulous views of the town from the top.

Then we went underground! Orvieto is built on a volcanic cliff, and it has been discovered that under the town, in the soft rock, the Etruscan people who built the town had dug out wells and caves. Thousands of them, linked to the houses above, and originally used for storage of food and water. There are guided tours to see some of the caves, and we were taken round by a very knowledgable and vibrant lady.

The Romans wanted to get their hands on Orvieto, and placed the town under siege. The Etruscans lasted for more than two years, and the caves explain how they managed to feed themselves up there for all that time, 25,000 people squashed into a small town, with no space for growing crops or keeping animals.

The niches are for pigeons! After the first pigeons were ‘settled’ by the Etruscans into the niches, they considered them home, flew out to feed, built nests, bred, and doubled their numbers in a month. A perfectly sustainable food source, and pigeon is still a popular dish in Orvieto today.

Our large English-speaking group had asked a lot of intelligent questions of our guide. At this point, the story of the pigeons having been explained, there was a pause, and then a shout from the back.


Our guide didn’t miss a beat.

“Fertiliser!”, she said.

I’m afraid we’ve been childishly repeating the question to each other ever since…

It was a fascinating tour, and a real insight into the life and times of the original people of Orvieto. We discussed it all over a bottle of their famous white wine and some pasta for lunch. After lunch we had a look in the duomo, whose beautiful external stripes are repeated inside, along with some extraordinary ‘rock slice’ windows, really striking.

Our last touristy thing was to go down the well of Saint Patrick. It’s huge! And 243 steps down, and back up again. There are two sets of steps running around the outside, one going down, and the other going back up. This was so the donkeys who were used to transport water up from the well could go up and down at the same time.

After all that, we were exhausted! We had a rest before dinner, and then went out for a simple but delicious meal with a bottle of Orvieto red wine.

Today we had just thirty kilometres to do, but having descended from Orvieto, we had a long, long hill to conquer. It was at least an hour of climbing, a reasonable gradient, some hairpins. We had fabulous views back to Orvieto.

We found ourselves actually above it eventually.

Once at the top, we found that the road had been newly surfaced, it was lovely and smooth! We bimbled along, the road rising and falling a little, and finally saw today’s destination on the horizon, Montefiascone. After a bit of navigational faffing and a bit of uphill, we located our lodgings right at the foot of the Rocca dei Papi. Our house is amazing – huge, historic, and it even has a wine cellar. There are two problems with this. There’s no actual wine in the wine cellar. And even if there were, it’s official ‘Alcohol-Free Day’ today, so we wouldn’t be able to drink it.

There’s a great view of Lago Bolsena from up here, unmistakably a volcanic crater.

A longer day tomorrow, to Civita Castellana.

Here’s today’s track.

Day 36: Todi to Orvieto

Distance: 40.6 km

Time: 2 hours 23 minutes

Average speed: 17.1 kph

Cumulative distance: 1835.01 km

Cumulative time: 91 hours 22 minutes

Word of the day: ‘galleria‘ (gal-air-ee-ah) – tunnel

When we reserved a table at Ristorante Cavour they warned us that the terrace, which offers a fine view over the countryside surrounding Todi, would be closed because of the rain. When we arrived, though, they had clearly had a change of heart, and we were able to enjoy the sunset, and watch scores of swifts swooping around catching insects. We had some food and wine too, naturally.

The descent from Todi this morning, in bright sunshine, was steep and cobbled to start with, so we took it very slowly. It then continued on a rough surface for a few kilometres, requiring careful steering to avoid the many potholes. When able to look up, though, the bucolic surroundings were well worth the effort.

Soon enough we merged onto the main road to Orvieto. We’d checked this road carefully, as it is classified as a strada statale, a category we’d normally avoid as being too busy. On Google StreetView, though, it looked empty, and so it proved today. The road follows the Tiber through a steep-sided valley, forming the Parco Fluviale del Tevere, and the surroundings are idyllic – afforested hillsides sloping steeply down towards the green-brown river. The road was rolling, rather than flat, and we enjoyed that too – occasionally we went through a short tunnel, but the tunnels had windows in one side, so we had no particular need of our front light.

A gasp of delight from the rear motive unit alerted me to the fact that the river had opened out into a large lake.

In fact it turned out to be a reservoir called Lago Corbara, but no matter, it was a spectacular companion to our journey for several kilometres. When we reached the dam we dropped down to the valley and crossed the Tiber just as it emerged from the dam – it was very attractive at this point and clearly carrying less silt – the water was much clearer.

Most of our remaining journey was on a very minor road, which meandered around the contours of the hillside, sometimes climbing quite sharply. It was very quiet, sufficiently so that the Stoker experimented with the camera.

With only ten or so kilometres to go we caught our first sight of Orvieto, sitting atop cliffs of volcanic tuff. They may be hard work at the end of the day, these hilltop towns, but every one has been worth the effort.

We lunched in Orvieto Scalo, at the base of the climb. Nothing too large, as we knew we had some hard work ahead. As it happened, though, this climb turned out to be the easiest of those we’ve tackled in recent days. It was long, certainly, and there were no flat sections, but it continued at about five percent for the duration, and before too long we were entering the outskirts of Orvieto. We cycled past the Duomo, with its spectacular mosaic façade then, weaving our way carefully through the crowds of visitors, located our hotel.

After showering we had an initial wander around the streets. The architecture has changed dramatically since Todi, mainly through the use of volcanic building materials, which lend a darker appearance to the buildings.

We’re staying here for two nights, so no post tomorrow. Thereafter we have to navigate our way, over three nights, to Rome, where Joshua is flying in to meet us with some much needed fresh clothes!

Here’s today’s track.

Day 35: Assisi – Todi

Distance: 52.64 km

Time: 2 hours 45 minutes

Average speed: 19.1 kph

Cumulative distance: 1794.41 km

Cumulative time: 88 hours 59 minutes

Word of the day: ‘fiume‘ (fee-oom-eh) – river

Last night’s barbecue was very successful, a chance to determine the difference between the sausages we’d had in Tuscany (large, more coarsely minced) and Umbrian sausages (small, finely minced), thankfully without setting the neighbourhood on fire.

We set off this morning, via a cappuccino and a cornetto at a bar just inside the walls of Assisi, and then a lovely downward start, descending the hill we’d ground up yesterday afternoon.

In fact we retraced our steps exactly for a while, before crossing the Chiasco river and turning towards Torgiano.

It was unremarkable cycling, but very pleasant, just sailing along the valley floor, eating up the kilometres and admiring all the little hilltop towns alongside.

At Ponte Nuovo we met the E45, the autostrada which runs north-south through Umbria. It was to be our companion for the rest of the day, sometimes right alongside our smaller and much more peaceful road. And the other side of the autostrada, although we couldn’t see it, was the Tiber. We were following its path south towards Rome, where we hope to land in a few days’ time for a resupply and an extended rest.

We stopped for lunch at a little cafe just off the road, and remarked on the fact that no-one seems to offer to heat your panino up for you this far south. Further north, it’s expected that you will want your panino hot, with the cheese inside it melted, but it doesn’t really appeal so much the hotter the temperatures get.

Refuelled, and with just 8km remaining, we climbed back on the tandem and pedalled off. Our destination today was Todi, another hilltop town, so we knew there would be an uphill finish again today. It started fairly gently, and we got into a good rhythm, gradually gaining height round a series of long curvy bends. With just 400m to go to tonight’s lodgings we had to climb off and push the tandem up a fantastically steep bit, but that done we could ride the rest, and arrived to be greeted by our Australian host with “You didn’t just ride up the really steep road?”. We confessed that we hadn’t, quite!

Todi is small, but beautiful – we have Jan and Nick to thank for this one.

The main square is gearing up for a Blues Brothers evening tonight!

The duomo is one of those where the architecture and the stone stand largely unadorned inside.

We also visited the cisterns under Piazza del Popolo, where the city’s water supply was once housed, all 2500 cubic metres of it.

Two notes for today. Firstly, we are, in theory, over halfway now. That’s based on a vaguely planned total of 3500km, which might change, of course. And secondly, it rained today. Actual rain! We were in the duomo, and then suddenly, water was coming from the sky. First time for a fortnight. Rather refreshing…

Tomorrow we head for Orvieto, where we’ll take a rest day. It’s another hilltop town, our fourth in a row!

Here’s today’s track.

Day 34: Perugia – Assisi

Distance: 23.92 km

Time: 1 hour 24 minutes

Average speed: 17.0 kph

Cumulative distance: 1741.77 km

Cumulative time: 86 hours 14 minutes

Word of the day: ‘rosa‘ (rose-ah) – pink

Dinner was taken on the small terrace of our lodgings in Perugia, with an accompanying buzz of chatter from the neighbouring apartments – all the buildings surrounding Perugia’s hilltop are squeezed tightly together, often separated by tiny alleyways and stone staircases.

This morning we had to haul the (newly cleaned) tandem down two flights of stairs and back out onto the street, then up a further flight of steps at the end of the alley. That warmed up the muscles nicely! Initially we wheeled the tandem down the steep rutted streets until encountering a road surface we thought was more suitable. Off we pedalled, downhill, around hairpin bends, with, at one point, a good retrospective view of the centre of Perugia.

Then the Stoker called a halt. She had realised that she wasn’t wearing her cycling sunglasses. Furthermore, they were back in the apartment, sitting on top of the fridge, and we no longer had the keys! We pedalled back uphill for a while, having sent a message to our host, but when we received a reply it was to say that the host wasn’t available today. Oh dear! Still, we have a non-prescription pair spare, and the host offered to forward the sunglasses to a future stopping point, so all is not lost.

Back downhill, then! It was fiercely hot today, and the descent steep. Occasionally we had the benefit of dappled shade, and sometimes even a slight breeze. After a while the descent slackened off, and we were able to relax. At the town of Ponte Valleceppi we reached the valley floor. Not just any valley floor, though, this is the valley of the Tiber (Tevere, in Italian). We crossed the river for the first time – I suspect we will make its acquaintance a few more times in the near future.

Once we were on the valley floor we could see back to Perugia, and make out the pattern of streets at the centre of town.

In front of us, looming increasingly large, was the striking town of Assisi.

For about fifteen kilometres we cycled mostly on the flat plain, on beautifully quiet roads. Today’s journey was short, but we knew it would end with a steep climb. So it turned out – after a none-too-brief wait at a level crossing we arrived at the bottom of the climb, and set off up the hairpins. For eight kilometres we pedalled steadily, gaining height all the time. We were frequently passed by coaches and buses bringing the faithful and not-so-faithful up to the town. It was very warm work, and something of a relief to find our lodgings just outside the town walls.

After a quick shower we donned our civvies and walked into town through Porta Nuova. Assisi is a spectacular town. Clinging to a steep hillside, it’s an elegant place built with pink and white limestone, sometimes both of them together in an attractive striped pattern. There are piazzas, fountains, viewpoints, and, of course, churches. Lots of them!

Our first priority, though, was lunch! At Gli Orti, we enjoyed salads accompanied by endless supplies of fizzy water, while sitting in a pretty piazzetta. Suitably fortified, then, we marched onwards.

It was a slightly surreal experience, to be honest. The streets were full of nuns and friars, most of the shops sold religious ‘tat’, giving the whole place something of an air of unreality. Set against this the sheer beauty of the place, the architecture, the views down to the valley and across to Perugia, and the ever-present white and pink stone buildings.

After a long walk we arrived at the Basilica di San Francesco. The church itself is not too large, but the whole complex is massive, and best appreciated from below.

Inside there are freschi by Giotto, azure blue vaults with stars painted upon them. Oh, and a friar who periodically utters the word Silenzio into his microphone, followed by Shhhhhhhh! In the courtyards at the far end we found an exhibition about the 1997 earthquake, which caused a considerable amount of damage to the Basilica. The restoration work was impressive, but there are areas inside where the original frescoes are absent, presumably irreparably damaged.

After meandering and enjoying the sights we headed back to our lodgings, via a nearby supermarket where we acquired the ingredients for a barbecue this evening.

Tomorrow we head south, following the Tiber to our destination, the hilltop town of Todi.

Here’s today’s track.