Day 336, Rome, 20.683 km
The more time I spend in Italy, the more I find my GPS application lousy. Unnecessary detours on crappy roads, ridiculously high elevation announced (it must be the tunnels, but still), so I try more and more to follow the road signs. Besides, I was going to Rome, and as the saying goes, it’s hard to find the way that wouldn’t take me to my destination… On the other hand, I’m not quite up to speed on some of the subtleties of the Italian metric system: I’m on the road to Siena. A sign says the city is 25km away. Two kilometers later, Siena is 32 km away. Still on the same road. Then 18 km away a little later… Enough to trigger some metaphysical questions about time and space, but for the moment I always reached my destination… For the moment…
In Florence, once I’m ready to go, I realize that all the spokes of my rear wheel are completely loose. The return of the spokes problems! I thought I got rid of them forever… I go around the bike repair shops of Florence: the first one doesn’t have time. The second one doesn’t seem to want to do it, he tells me he doesn’t have time. The third one tells me he can do it by 6pm. Damned. After the first moment of frustration, I realize that it leaves me a day to enjoy Florence, eat, sleep, read… Not such a terrible program after all! Once I get the bike back, I leave Florence, with all the people who work inside and live outside the city. Great! Fortunately, it doesn’t last, and I find a less crowded road around 7:30 pm… With a first glimpse of the hills of Tuscany, its vineyards, its small villages and its castles, all under the orange light of the sun that starts to set… Delightful!
The next day, I start with a breakfast break in Siena, after a few laps trying to follow the confusing indications on the signs. Very nice medieval city center, even if the cobblestones and the big climbs are not the most pleasant…
Then I find what I have spotted on the map as a bike path that should lead me to Rome: the Via Francigena. At the beginning, it is very pleasant to ride on roads without cars. Then I find myself on a small track that climbs in the hills. It’s a bit of a change. Fortunately there are trees and a little bit of shade to protect me from the hot weather. It becomes more and more like a hiking trail. I pass two walkers. The first one says to me « Ave ». I say to myself « Well, we are getting closer to Rome, people are starting to speak Latin! Interesting » When the second one greets me too, I understand what the first one said: « Salve ». No Latin after all… The path does not get any better, it becomes less and less pleasant. After some quick research, I realize that this Via Francigena is rather, like the road to Compostela, a pilgrimage road to Rome. I even come across several places where it is possible to have your credential stamped. But all this doesn’t really help me to move forward on my two wheels, and I end up taking the road… Fortunately, this one is not too busy and offers nice views on the surrounding landscape!
Then I leave (already) Tuscany. The green hills and vineyards are replaced by broom and bare rock. Not less pretty but a bit more deserted. Especially since the villages are getting farther apart, I only come across the occasional closed gas station or « industrial » area that often look abandoned. It’s hard to find water. But I always seem to find some of it at the right moment. The end of the day is approaching and I take advantage of a passage near the lake of Bolsena to take a dip, rinse and refresh myself (it’s always so hot, in the 35° in the afternoon).
The next day, breakfast in Viterbo, a nice little town which has the advantage to have a bike store and a Decathlon! I take the opportunity to change the chain (we will try to make the transmission last this time), and to refuel with gas and sun cream. I push the pleasure to the point of taking a nice fall at the exit of the parking lot: I forget to unclip my pedal, so it’s a bit more complicated to stand up without my feet. I get up quickly, check if there are witnesses of my exploit. Everything is fine, nobody in sight, my honor is safe!
The rest of the stage is rather quiet, hot too, but a good portion in the shade of hazel trees makes it quite bearable. I arrive in Rome, as usual the entrance to the city is quite horrible. While I had planned to go back to Naples the next day, I finally decide to take a day off, and take the opportunity to have a look around the city before having an excellent pizza and a good night’s sleep… That leaves me one more day to write, stroll and eat again, what a nice program!
To finish, the geography point: I would say that I am halfway down, which is about 1/5th of the way around Italy!