Saturday, June 30, 2007

From Teabags to Toast in Three Days

Teabagging, that best describes our time on the Amalfi. Actually we based ourselves around the bend in tiny Atrani where we bobbed in the sea like tea bags for thee days.

But Croatia calls and so we threaded our way along 20km of twisting coast to the busy sea port of Salerno. From there it was a matter of playing dodge the mountains as we head for Bari.

We knew it would be hot and we weren't let down. Jane's cycle computer has a temperature guage and it has hit 40 degrees or more on the last 3 days.

From Salerno we passed through the busy industrial part of the coast, ducking and weaving around the autostrada (where bikes are not alllowed) trying to pick the rivers and the valleys, but climbs and the heat are unavoidable.

We found a great B&B in Contursi, which is famous for it's natural hot and cold springs. For the best part of two days we cycled in sight of the impressive Mt Albruni . From Contursi we plunged into the valley but had a day of three climbs over 500m, the last to the lakes of Monticchio.

Climbimg up to our high point of 854m, we had a 30km downhill run to the coastal farming plains and out first road signs to Bari. It was then a 30k flat ride to the town of Canosa, a stone's throw from the coast. It's flat and open and the sun turns like a screw upon the day. Oranges, grapes, olives and two idiots toasting on bikes in the sun. Towns that are deserted at 2pm, are thriving at 8pm, when it's just cooling down enough to think about food. Ah, food!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Make Haste for Lemon Land

Our Tuscan meanderings had set us back a few extra days so it was time to peel of some fast coastal kilometres to catch up with Donna and Melissa in Lemon Land, aka the Amalfi coast.

Okay, forget what you have seen about cruising with the jet set on the Almalfi coast. Sure the scenery is mind bogglingly beautiful and the sea a special kind of blue, and the corners weave in and out so tight that the buses have to do 3 point turns to get around them. And yes, you could drop anchor off Positano and sit on the deck of your $50 000 000 yacht to contemplate the NASDAQ, but you'd be missing the whole point.

The Almalfi is about lemons. No ordinary lemons, but BIG Lemons. You eat 'em, drink 'em, dip in chocolate, and stack 'em on top of donkeys and cart 'em up and down the hills.

Of course you can always just go the the beach and bob up and down in the sea.

Leaving Tuscany for the Lakes of Lazio

After weaving up and down and in and out and up and down in Toscana for two weeks it was time to make find that all roads do in deed lead to Rome.

Instead of staying right in the heart of the ancient empire, we camped by a Lake Bracciano, an easy hour's train ride to down town Roma.

Roma was... HOT. We usually cracked around 3pm when we would head back to our humble tent by the lake to bob up and down in the water for the rest of the afternoon.

Highlights were a tour of the Vatican musuem and the Sistine Chapel. Just quietly, the Pope and his crew have quite a few nice bits of art. Seriously, you do have to credit the Popes around the 1500's, they loved their art and made sure it was preserved, and for that I am grateful.

As it turned out the young sculptor who created our mate Davo, wasn't too bad at drawing on walls and ceilings either. A few people were out to see him fail and boy were they dissapointed. I'll go out on a limb and say that Mikey's blue wall behind the altar (painted much later) is a more impressive piece of work than the ceiling, but both jaw droppingly beautiful.

Fast track a couple of centuries and the Trevi Fountain (for some reason they call blokes named Trevor "Trevi" here) fountain is worth a look.

All roads may lead to Rome, and if you do find yourself cruising down one of them, make sure you detour to cool your heels in the Lakes of Lazio.

Visiting Davo and going with the Flo'

Much of our time in Tuscany was spent in small villages, but we had decided to stop by Florence and say "Hi" to a young bloke called David.

Jane and I had both met him about 20 years ago and he had made an impression on both of us then. We were interested in what he would be like second time around. Obviously he hasn't really changed, though we were a little older, and hopefully, wiser.

It's hard to describe or define perfection, but I guess you know it when you see it. Happy to admit that second time round young Davo almost brought a tear to our eyes.

We queued for an hour and a half to get into the Academy, and I would have queued for ten. Hats off to you Michael, you did a bloody good job. No photo's of Davo, because that's not allowed. Couldn't do it justice anyway.

Tuscan Daze

What hill top (and Tuscany has more than it's share of hill tops) would not be complete without a walled Roman town and ancient cathederal. Obviously, the Tuscan's agree.

The hills kept us down to 60k or so a day, twisting up to a town before plunging down the other side into another stunning valley. The road would undulate for a while before tightening into another climb and to another stunning town.

We also found ourselves on the coast and the more open farming land around Grosetto before again heading inland and yes, into the hills and a soak in the thermal hot springs at Saturnia Terme.

There is a lot to love about Tuscany, the food, wine, hills, olive groves, vineyards, people, wine, food, pastries, and of course the wine and food. But I will remeber Tuscany for it's light.

Monday, June 4, 2007


Jane: Who has ever heard of Lucca? I hadn't, maybe it's just me but this has been a real surprise. What an amazing little town - renaissance walled city in great condition. So pretty. This photo was taken from a tower in the middle of town (that has trees growing on the top, as you do..) looking down on a Roman amphitheatre and out to the surrounding hills. We've spent a few days here now, just dossing around looking at things and taking a rest. We arrived here on Saturday along with the rest of the tourist population of the world and there was no room at the inn. The weather turned cold and wet and my wet feet from earlier in the day started to be an issue. We finally found a little room that felt like complete luxury, mainly because it had an internal bathroom - we're quite easily pleased.

We had a very funny time leaving the Cinque Terre (I didn't think it was funny at the time, but time is wonderful healer..). We decided as we'd walked the length of it, we could catch a train to the end, being La Spezia. So we trawled our stuff up and down stairs at the train station and waited patiently for the train. We let the first one go past as the conductor said no bikes. The second one we couldn't get the door to the bike compartment open and there was no conductor, the third one had the bike compartment at the front. So the fourth one we said stuff it we'll just pile on anywhere and it ended up being a short train so we had to run with bikes and panniers about 50m (we dropped the tent but were told so by some nice men who also helped us get our gear on the train). After all that we could have ridden the distance in less time and with less heart ache!

On the way to Lucca we camped with the Dutch. These things seem to be delineated, the Germans stayed in Levanto and the Dutch were at this one. All very comfy camping with pools (not yet open as it's not warm enough), pizzerias, shops, Internet points - anything a grey nomad could desire! Not that we're grey nomads.... but there's lots here - almost as many as we encountered riding around WA.