Well, I suppose it’s about time I keep you all updated again. I’ve been doing a fairly good job at procrastinating, posting only photos, and dropping subtle hints as to my whereabouts on facebook. I’ve been in Rome for nearly a week now, trying to take it all in. Perhaps I underestimated the “all” part of this goal. Weeks could be spent here.
So let me describe to you my adventures through Liguria, Toscana, and Lazio. It’s safe to say, that some of these places are the most scenic in Europe. Despite the Janus faced weather, the sky opens up every once and a while to reward me with some of the most memorable rides yet.
In November, it’s mostly void of tourists, and hotels/hostels can be haggled fairly cheaply. Anita did very well at bartering some very nice places for ~20 euro a night here. Like 3-4 star hotel nice.
That’s luxury for a dirtbag like me. There was a lot of rain when we were there, so we ended up spending 3 days there. Two nights in hotels, and one night wild camping it above Vernazza, likely the best illegal camping I’ve done yet 🙂
The weather was a bit wicked that night, but waking up to this kind of view was worth it.
After we’d waited out the weather for a couple days, we were treated to a blue sky above and a blue sea below. This was our view leaving Riomaggiore in the morning.
and to San Terenzo…
After lunch, coming down from this pass was a lot of fun. As the day was beautiful, there were roadies out everywhere. +25C, and these Italians are geared up like it were -10C. Layered up, but still with all the flashy road gear 😉
Look like a glacier or snow? No, that’s marble. Those mountains are near Carrara, where … get this, the marble for Michelangelo’s David was quarried. This place never ceases to amaze me.
The next day we rode to Lucca, and it was one of the more difficult days. Non stop rain all day. Of course, it started just as we packed it all up. We ended up only riding 30km to Lucca, and getting a place to stay. We ended up at a hotel, run by two old ladies in an old house in an old town who fed us mostly old bread. It was like staying with someone else’s grandmother.
You must be polite while you sneak out the back to get a fresh loaf of bread.
The ride to Firenze (Florence) was mostly uneventful. Arriving at around noon, we eventually decided that we would stay for a night or two. We ended up at this hostel (Plus hostel), which was more like a resort than a hostel. However, for 16 Euro a night, it was a pretty decent deal. They even had a sauna and a pool. I’m pretty happy we’ve made it this far…
I happened to be free night at most of the museums in town, which I thought was fantastic. Anita and I had a chance to visit most of the major museums, some of them having live music. I think Uffizi was my favorite.
I also did a bit of aimless wandering around town. I took the tripod with me and played with my camera for a while…
It is at about this point in Jeremie and Anita’s Toscana viaggio, that I was overcome by the lust to keep riding and took us on a detour to Radda in Chianti, not thinking about fuel and food. I had been drawn to this place as it’s where Eroica occurs.
Haven’t heard of Eroica?
This is something I would come back to Italy to do.
Very nice countryside. I had underestimated how small the towns are, and how large the distances between services actually are. A grocery store or gas station can, at times, be difficult to find.
However, if you plan to cycle in the city center, beware of the steep +15% grade hills around the streets. Maybe it’s my stubborn sense of misdirection, I found this place a bit difficult to navigate. No straight roads, and a lot of one ways. Still, worth the visit.
Most other resources on cycling Tuscany had mentioned the SR2 as the route. It’s the most direct route, and traffic turned out to be very light. Lots of natural hot springs on the way as well. As the previous post suggested, I was very excited to get to Pienza, in the Orcia valley. I was not disappointed by the vistas. I think the ride from San Quirico D’Orcia to Pienza (only 10km) was one of the best ever. The Toscana dream fulfilled. Check.
Anita had really wanted to visit a Terme (hot spring) along the way. I could not argue with this, perché no?
The wild spring she’d suggested was Terme San Filippo. A large calcium deposit in the middle of the woods is surely a sign of a good time, non? We made it there at dusk, and it was very easy to spot where we were going, 5km away.
We just wild camped beside the hot spring and sat in it all night. There were many pools, but only one which was tolerably hot enough.
We tried our luck again the following day in Vitterbo, as there is a Terme there as well. Not so much luck. The Terme is a resort, and our camping was wet and uneven. This was one of those days that tested my patience. Rain, snow, hail, a wet campsite, and the spilling of boiling water on my feet. This was pretty much the only time I’ve ever looked forward to wet foot gear in the morning.
Anita decided she’d stay at the Terme for the day and take the train into Rome. On the way into Rome, I decided to take a smaller secondary highway with less traffic or presumably more pleasurable views. I happened upon an Italian cyclist, Diego, on the side of the road fixing his bike. He had come from Treviso, and was riding into Rome for a big public march. Him and I rode into the city together.
What makes Diego cool? Oh, could be his artisan made steel frame. Maybe his badass 8 speed internal hub. Or even his overly assertive Italian contempt and confidence in traffic.
Having never cycled with an Italian before, I highly suggest it. You will be entertained. There is a European way, and there is an Italian way. The first thing I discovered, was that they do not drive well in Rome. This became evident when Diego started yelling PAY ATTENTION at me, and some other Italian profanity at the cars in our way.
Weaving in traffic on your bici in Roma is normal. Doing it with panniers in rush hour, a bit more of a challenge. Still, we arrived at St. Peters around 3.
As usual, the photos included in the journey I’ve not referenced here, can be found on my flickr blog.
Now, Anita and I have gone our separate ways. She did very well given the difficulties we had, and amazingly, stuck with it for 3 weeks. I think some of the same rewards played with her as they did with me. Even when things don’t work out the way you want them to, there’s always a reward about cycling that keeps you coming back for more.
Future plans… Sicily, Greece, Turkey… still possibly Lebanon, Syria, and definitely Iran. I’m still courting some of the possibilities in my mind, but there’s always the issue of visas and cold weather. Really I just make this up as I go.
Peace, love, and bicycle grease.