Monday 29th June
Back on the road again, with new tyres, a new brake and new saddles.
For the first hour or so we were slipping around on our Brooks leather saddles like Bambi on ice. After a while our cycle shorts rubbed the sheen off, much to my relief.
Today’s cycling was pleasant.
We spent the morning gaining height, and the afternoon losing it. Lunch time came around while we were in between villages, and in the end we stopped in a lay-by and perched on a 3 foot high concrete barrier, facing away from the fly-tipped rubbish! In Italy public benches are in short supply compared to France.
We reached our target campsite much sooner than expected, and decided not to push on as Eric has a painful blister that was being exacerbated by the pedalling (from all the walking about in Rome).
The campsite we found seems pretty much empty, which is fine by us. It means that we get the facilities to ourselves and can nab some chairs from outside the empty caravans.
I had a siesta (couldn’t keep my eyes open in this incredible heat) and then spent the afternoon reading and playing the ukulele. Around 7PM the temperature became absolutely perfect. It was a very quiet and peaceful evening.
Nice view from the campsite.
What a tough but brilliant day today. We spent the morning cycling steadily upwards, until we reached the stunningly beautiful village of Narni.
We headed back downhill into the town of Turni (where the staff at the supermarket were very intrigued by the tandem, and also had a good laugh at my attempts at Italian) before beginning the ascent again. We entered Umbria in the afternoon and followed a river which wound its way through a mountainous valley.
It was pretty near perfect cycling – blue skies, amazing views, an almost deserted road, and considering where we were, as near to flat as we could hope for.
Lucky for us three of the villages we passed through had public water taps. We filled our bottles at each one.
We passed a lot of picturesque villages perched on the tops of hills.
The nice Dutch couple next to us lent us their mallet and even charged up the iPad for us. Now at the late hour of 9.30(!) we are in the tent ready to sleep.
The next campsite on our map is even further away. Let’s hope our legs are feeling fresh in the morning…
Wednesday 1st July
We knew we had a big day so we’re out of the campsite by 8AM – what an achievement! The first thing we did was walk the bike down the incredibly steep hill we had come up yesterday. We didn’t want to risk the wheels/brakes. Nevertheless, it just a’int right.
We got to the bottom of the hill… and started going uphill. We were in the middle of the Umbrian hills (or are they mountains?) and the views were stunning.
We stopped in a pretty village called Visso for food.
We continued on up an agonising hill, trailed by a small cloud of flies (the cartoon stereotype is true: flies love the smell of a smelly person, and that smelly person was Eric, obviously).
Then finally we reached the top, and it was arrivederci flies! We sailed down for 10 whole miles before we so much as had to push our pedals. It was total bliss.
We descended from about 750 metres all the way to sea level. That’s a lot of downhill! We stopped for lunch outside a gelateria and knew just what to do.
After lunch it was flat and straight, and we ploughed a determined line to the Adriatic Sea, which happens to be the setting of one of our all-time favourite films, Porco Rosso.
I don’t know what it is about Italian campsites and hills. Once again, our campsite was at the top of a ludicrously steep incline (a 20% sort of deal). We rolled through the gate making some very loud exclamatory noises (‘GAAAAHHH!! WHY???’) much to the delighted amusement of the man at reception.
Thursday 2nd July
I am tired. This tent is like a sauna. I am fantasising about ice cubes and cold showers.
Once again, the day began with us walking the bike down a very steep hill. Thank you Italian campsite. We were soon back at sea level, and pedalled our way along the flat, straight coastline. It wasn’t the most interesting road, but it allowed us to clock up some miles.
At around 10.30 we made a detour to a Decathlon as we needed some more gas for our camping stove. I ended up buying a new hob for 35 euros, as the one I have isn’t compatible with any gas canisters we’ve seen in Italy so far. This made Eric very grumpy (’35 EUROS – THAT’S RIDICULOUS!’). Eric is convinced that Italy as a whole is a total ripoff.
Eric’s grump factor increased when he accidentally took us onto the wrong road, and we ended up going inland and uphill. To top it all off we went through a harrowing mile long tunnel. It was dark, the air was thick, the throb of dozens of engines combined into a constant roar. A lot of cars would beep at us just before they overtook us in order to warn us that they were coming. I wish they wouldn’t – we can hear them coming, if anything is likely to make us swerve out into the middle it’s a sudden loud noise in our ear! But we were fine, we tucked ourselves into the side, gripped the handlebars and pedalled.
The main crop around these parts is sunflowers.
We pedalled like the blazes, stopping for water every 30 minutes or so. At 3 we stopped and bought our second cold drink of the day, and had a much needed sit under an umbrella.
At 4.50 we had cycled 65 miles, and had the opportunity to stop at a campsite. It was up a steep hill. We decided to carry on to the next campsite to make tomorrow easier.
Perfect, I thought, we’re taking distance off of tomorrow’s journey, and avoiding the hill.
We then proceeded to cycle up a massive hill. The sky was cloudless, there was no breeze and the sun was a hot, merciless circle of pain. By the time we reached the top I had gone from very tired to ‘just inject the sugar into my veins!’
The view at the top was magnificent (sorry I was too tired to take a photo). Rolling greeny-blue hills and hazy, sun-shot air. We descended feeling very glad that we’d gotten that hill out of the way – otherwise it would have been the first thing we did tomorrow morning!
Back on the coast, it was a final few miles to the campsite, which is costing us almost 30 euros – but let’s face it, after today they could have charged anything. We rolled through the gate at 6 feeling achy, sweaty, exhausted and pleased.
Friday 3rd July
We were both feeling a little worse for wear this morning, after 3 big days and a poor night’s sleep in a stuffy tent. Nevertheless, after 2 bananas and 3 cereal bars we were up and ready to go by 8.30.
We spent the first part of the day cycling along a beach resort, with hotels, sun beds, cafes and bars as far as the eye could see. The road was flat and straight (two qualities which should not be underestimated) but it was still quite hard work, as we were sharing the road with cars, other cyclists and lots of pedestrians. Lots of wiggling and negotiating was needed.
We eventually turned inland from the beach onto a road much like yesterday’s: pretty dull but very efficient. While on this road we had (/chugged/guzzled – pick your favourite unflattering verb) 6 cans of Fanta between us.
We had a nice lunch (it included Fanta). We continued along the long, straight, flat boring road. It was hot. We were tired.
We passed a lot of these fishing nets. That’s about as interesting as it got!
The tent has once again turned into the sauna of doom. And to think I remember a time when I was in this tent wearing 4 layers, gloves and a hat. I didn’t know how lucky I was!
One more day until we reach Venice. One more day…
Saturday 4th July
We were both feeling very excited to be reaching our destination after such long days in the heat.
Today was pretty simple: keep following the long, straight road to Venice. The scenery became marginally more interesting today, with views of farmland and the occasional orchard, but it was still quite dull. The most interesting thing was the 7 mile bridge we crossed.
It was another ferociously hot day. A 300gr tub of lemon gelato at lunchtime helped!
After many miles on the boring road we rolled through the campsite gates at around 4, just in time to see a coach full of backpackers disembark and hit the reception desk of the ominously named Camp Jolly (makes me think of creepy clowns).
Since being here I have seen the coaches disgorge two more lots of tourists. Venice is going to be absolutely packed.
Tonight we have tried wrapping wet towels around ourselves so that we aren’t so hot. And mosquitoes and ants be damned, we are keeping our tent doors open.