Cinque Terre a Roma

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.

Cinque Terre was well worth the several hundred kilometer detour. The place is absolutely spectacular… even if it rains a bit.
Vernazza dusk

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.

Toilets!

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

Best wild campsite ever

The weather was a bit wicked that night, but waking up to this kind of view was worth it.

Vernazza
I know there are a lot of imperfections in the above photo, but I still really love the magnitude it implies.

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.

Riomaggiore

Cinco Terra coastline EPIC!

This was simply one of the most rewarding days I’ve had on the bike in the last 5 months. We rode along the coast to La Spezia…
La Spezia

and to San Terenzo…

San Terrenzo

and continued south the long way around Montemarcello…
Lunch break This is where we stopped for a lunch break. Damn. I could have sat here all day.

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

Coming down from this pass was neat, the Appennino (Italian mountains) beaconing out to us on the horizon. Take a close look at this photo:
Appennino settentrionale

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.

Even the rest of the ride to Viareggio was amazing. We had a spectacular sunset, and a nice bicycle lane for 30km or so.
Sunset over the Ligurian Sea
Nothing but flat and fast..

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.
Hotel in Lucca

You must be polite while you sneak out the back to get a fresh loaf of bread.

The visit to Lucca was well worth it, a nice city.
Lucca

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 made it to Firenze.

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…
Florence

Somewhere near Piti

Leave Firenze, in the pouring rain was well worth it. After an hour in the rain, we were very pleasantly rewarded with this:
Toscana roads

Toscana

Toscana

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.
I'm still in Eroica country

Haven’t heard of Eroica?

L’Eroica report / DAY 3 / The Race from Le Coq Sportif on Vimeo.

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.

Next up, Siena. Most people refer to Siena as the gem of Toscana. It’s nice. See?
Torre Del Mangia, Sienna

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.

View from Pienza

Riding down from Pienza

Anita had really wanted to visit a Terme (hot spring) along the way. I could not argue with this, perchรฉ 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.

Terme San Filippo from a distance

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.

The bath

The calcium deposits were impressive enough as well. I’ve never seen anything quite like this before.
Terme San Filippo

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.

Diego, my new Italian cycling friend

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.

Arrival at Piazza San Pietro Roma
ROME! FUCK YES 9000km. Sorry, had spit that out ๐Ÿ˜‰ This is a landmark moment. The capital of one empire, I will now go to the ancient capitals of the middle east.

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.
-jeremie