Saturday, July 02, 2011

Bike Across Italy: Day the Last, 11

Grand Hotel San Michele: Contrada Bosco, 30 87022  Cetraro
DayFromTo (elev)Distance: Day/Cumul (km)Distance: Day/Cumul (mi)Alt Gain: Day/Cumul (m)Alt Gain: Day/Cumul (ft)Alt Max (m)Alt Max (ft)Comments
11
Morano Calabro

Cetraro (120m)
98 / 903
61 / 561
1,627/15,253
5,339/50,044
762
2,499
The last day.





So, the ride is over, but not the trip!  The final stats are:

Consecutive days on the saddle: 11
Miles ridden: 561
Vertical feet climbed:  50,044 (which is about the same as cycling up Mt. Everest, from sea level, twice).
Flat tires:  0
Crashes: 1, but not that bad.
Servings of gelato:  19 and counting
Cups of espresso:  31 and still counting

Today's ride took us from the tiny conical town of Morano Calabro deep in Calabria, up into the mountains and through the Pollino National Park. 

Looking back at the town of Morano Calabro
Mark and I made it to the top, Passo dello Scolone
Where there is a shrine at the top, guarded by this ferocious moo cow.
Then down a glorious but steep and rough 14km descent to the Mediterranean Sea:


and finally into our final destination, the town of Centraro, where this photo was taken: 


Riders Bill Scapell, his wife Jennifer Davis, and EK at the very, very, very end of 11 days of riding.

After farewell champagne on the hotel terrace, there was dinner and farewells and congratulations all around.  
Suntanned and happy.  Want to do this again.
It was a remarkable experience not just because of the fabulous 11 days of riding through remote Southern Italian countryside that few tourists get to see, but because of the companionship of the 13 riders and 2 guides.  

Hoping for another great trip like this next summer.  Hoping next time with my cousin Alan.

Bike Across Italy:  From Polignano a Mare > Alberobello > Matera > Montescaglioso  > Castelmezzano > Padula > Palinuro > Maratea > Morano Colabro > Centraro in 11 days
Click image to check out the album of photos from the trip.





Bike Across Italy: Day 10, the penultimate day. Maratea to Morano Calabro

Villa San Domenico: Via Sotto gli Olmi 87016  Morano Calabro tel +39 0981-399881 fax +39 0981-399881 info@albergovillasandomenico.it
Day
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To
Distance: Day/Cumul (km)
Distance: Day/Cumul (mi)
Alt Gain: Day/Cumul (m)
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Alt Max (m)
Alt Max (ft)
Comments
10
Maratea
Morano Calabro (694m)
89 / 703
55 / 437
1,651/11,470
5,416/37,631
525
1,724





Posting this one day late, unfortunately, because last night's hotel (the best, the ONLY hotel in town) had no internet access. 


Maratea: population about 5,000, and for that it has 44 churches.


Maratea, seen from our hotel.
Each town and village makes its own special aperitive or digestive. 



In Maratea we arrived, walked into the village for a salumi and cheese tasting, then back to the hotel for dinner:






The next day was one of a long distance, nearly 100k, and moderate climbing.  It started with an optional climb for the gearheads up to the huge Cristo statue that towers about 100m above the town of Maratea, which itself was a absolutely gorgeous little town nestled in the mountains above the Mediterranean Sea, actually the Tyrrhenian Sea.  
Cristo about Maratea, a totally incongruous statue from 1965 conflicting with lovely 18c architecture and sensibility.  This shot from nearly all the way up the ride to see the top.
As we descended from Cristo, clouds and fog came in, making a tough day of climbing much, much easier.  Below you can see the Tyrrhenian Sea.
After cycling down from Cristo, we headed through this mountain pass, which is now enshrouded in a cloud.
We cycled through more wonderful villages of a few hundred population, stopping at bars for espresso, granita, or gelato.
We finally arrived around 4:30 at Morano Calabro, a conical town built onto a hillside. It was another amazing hotel, and the dinner last night was preceded by a demo by a mozzarella maker, and then was accompanied by a local band of Calabrian musicians (check back, I'll upload the video when I have a better connection), singing and dancing to the fantastic music.


Bike Across Italy:  From Polignano a Mare > Alberobello > Matera > Montescaglioso  > Castelmezzano > Padula > Palinuro > Maratea > Morano Colabro > Centraro in 11 days
Click image to check out the album of photos from the trip.


Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bike Across Italy: Day 9

Hotel Capo Casale: Via Capo Casale, 10  Maratea tel +39 0973-871308 fax +39 0973-871049 info@capocasale.it
Day
From
To
Distance: Day/Cumul (km)
Distance: Day/Cumul (mi)
Alt Gain: Day/Cumul (m)
Alt Gain: Day/Cumul (ft)
Alt Max (m)
Alt Max (ft)
Comments
9
Palinuro


Maratea (300m)
89 / 703
55 / 437
1,651/11,470
5,416/37,631
525
1,724



Every night at dinner our guides Dana and Frank describe what's up the next day, and always in superlative terms:  "tomorrow will be the longest ride of the trip," or, "tomorrow will be the toughest climb of the trip," or, "tomorrow will be the steepest ride of the trip," etc.  Tonight at dinner was no exception, tomorrow, we were told, will be the most climbing of the trip, clocking in at over 7,000 feet.  

But here's what happened today:

Looking down past a town towards the Med Sea
It started out with a ride out of the coast town of Maratea, leading to an optional loop climb.  I've done all the optional loops this week, something that the better riders do which keeps the group more clustered together.  So we climbed a few extra thousand feet and 10 or 15 extra km, then rejoined the rest of the group after descending back from 1,000 feet down to sea level at the Mediterranean, then climbed back again as our route zig zagged us to coastal roads then back into the hills and cliffs towering a thousand or more feet above the sea, 
The Cilentan Coast of the Italian Mediterranean.
then back to the sea through the towns of Sapia and Aquafredda, and finally back for a final and tough climb up to the hillside town of Maratea, and to our hotel at the very top of the town, with a commanding view of the village and beyond it to the sea.
Maratea from my hotel window
It was a rough ride for me:  the first climb was great, but the second I almost bonked: it was a Iong hot climb in full sun and no shade, and I think I allowed myself to dehydrate and developed a headache and dropped back in the group with little energy.  But lunch of bruschetta with fresh tomatoes and an octopus salad, gelatto, and coffee recharged the batteries and I finished the day feeling great.

There are always funny things about things each day.  Today there was a small road that bypassed a highway tunnel, an old highway that is very, very narrow and overlooking a drop down to the sea.  The name of the road translated from Italian is "make me an offer for my donkey."  This comes from the fact that the road is too narrow for two donkeys to pass each other, so strangers meeting on the road would negotiate a price to see whose donkey got chucked off the cliff.

Entering the town of Maratea

After showers and a brief 15min rest we trekked by foot down into the piazza for a tasting of local and Calabrian salumis, cheeses, olives, and wines, 
A local digestive made in Maratea
then trekked back up to our hotel for dinner: 
Mussels, anchovies


Spaghetti, anchovies, bread crumbs

Swordfish, olives
and a dessert tarte of fresh melon and saboyan, followed, of course, by espresso and grappa.  It was enjoyed on a terrace overlooking the village and the hills above.

Tomorrow is the penultimate ride of the trip, and it's hard to believe it's all drawing to a close.  We ride inland about 60mi and climb 7,000 feet into Calabria, a region I'm really looking forward to seeing (and tasting and drinking).  We're arriving in Morano Colabro and we're staying at the BEST hotel in town.  In fact, it's the ONLY hotel in town.

Internet access here, as everywhere, is limited to the hotel lobby and I just, at 11:30pm, don't have the time to sit here for 3 hours while my images upload to smugmug.com, so the image website has still not been updated with the hundreds of photos taken.  Sorry about that, but I hope in Rome to be able to upload all these pictures.  For sure the hotels in Calabria will not have good, if any, internet access.
Bike Across Italy:  From Polignano a Mare > Alberobello > Matera > Montescaglioso  > Castelmezzano > Padula > Palinuro > Maratea > Morano Colabro > Centraro in 11 days
Click image to check out the album of photos from the trip.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Three More Days...

The ride today will take me and my fellow riders back into the Cilentan National Forest, and south along the Cilentan coast along the Mediterranean, from Palinuro (where we spent 2 nights) to Maratea.  Each of the next nights are one-nighters at the hotels, and Sunday morning I return to Rome for a day until my flight home.  

It's now 8am on Thursday morning as I write this, looking at the 9th day in a row of long distance cycling.  A nice breeze is blowing in the window, the sky is completely cloudless, and the sun is already high.  It promises to be a hot and humid day.

The morning is always the toughest time because it's hard to sleep on the hard hotel mattresses in warm rooms.  The last hotel had a/c but turned it off sometime around 3am, so in no time the room warms up and sleep becomes difficult.  I opened my French windows to let in the sea breeze but soon the smell of burning garbage wafted in.  Burning garbage is not an uncommon practice here in Southern Italy, where I would conclude garbage collection is spotty judging by the number of bags piled up along the roads around urban centers.  So I closed my doors against the smell and tried to sleep more in the hot room.

I'm sleepy, my hip is sore from my crash, and it's getting hot out, so andiamo.


Bike Across Italy:  From Polignano a Mare > Alberobello > Matera > Montescaglioso  > Castelmezzano > Padula > Palinuro > Maratea > Morano Colabro > Centraro in 11 days
Click image to check out the album of photos from the trip.

Bike Across Italy: Day 8

King's Hotel:  Baia del Buondormire 84064 Palinuro tel +39 0974-931324  fax +39 0974-931418 info@hotelkings.it

Day
From
To
Distance: Day/Cumul (km)
Distance: Day/Cumul (mi)
Alt Gain: Day/Cumul (m)
Alt Gain: Day/Cumul (ft)
Alt Max (m)
Alt Max (ft)
Comments
8
Palinuro


Palinuro
44 / 614
27 / 382
1,047/9,819
3,434/32,215
231
759
Out and Back to Ascea (Rest day)



Today a rest day, meaning a short 2-3 hour spin this morning up the coast to Ascea, over a segment of road known as Neptune's Stairs, 16% grade (the "flat" part) alternating with 22% risers.  Crushing but short.  In the little hamlet of Ascea we stopped at a bar for espresso and fresh figs from the market, and watched the old men outside the bar playing cards.  Then back to the hotel by 12, stopping at the best gelatatria of the trip so far (and I think I've eaten gelato at around 12 at this point). 

Maybe the best gelato on the planet Earth.

There are some that serve commercially made stuff, but the best places make their own from fresh seasonal ingredients, sometimes a flavor is available for only a few days.  I had the mandorla (almond), cafe, and cioccolata.  I'm going back tonight for more mandorla, and the baba.


Tomorrow we leave Campania, cycle back into Basilicata and then into Calabria, historically one of the poorest regions in Italy.  In general, I've learned, the south is the agricultural region, the bread basket, but is also the poor region that is discriminated against by the politicians who generally hail from the north.  There is also an attitude the northerners have to the south ("The North works and the South eats" is one expression they have), and one can see the poverty everywhere.  Many places the villages look third-world, and as I wrote earlier in the town of Matera there was a large population living in medieval conditions right up until 1967 (and by medieval I mean medieval: sharing their one or two room houses with pigs, horses, chickens, and donkeys, using their fermenting manure for a source of heat, living with no plumbing indoor or out, no electricity, and consequently with an infant mortality of 85% and a life expectancy of only 45).  Roads and other infrastructure are very poor in many places.  This region of Campania and also Calabria have been so poor, barren, and remote from the industrialized north that they were used as places for internal exile of political prisoners as recently as the mid-20th century.

Yet, the warmth and generosity of the people we've encountered has been wonderful and impressive.

The food wine on this trip, mostly organized by our guides, has been truly memorable.  Last night's dinner was the best:  started with flat foccacia-like bread scented with anchovies, bruschetta, antipasto of sauteed fresh anchovies and fennel, linguine with shrimp that had been finally chopped and sprinkled on the pasta, fresh Mediterranean fish (John Dory or in French, St. Pierre, but I don't know what it's called in Italian), then fresh fruit with panna cotta, and then a selection of home-made digestives: limoncello made from grappa and lemon zest from the restaurant's lemon grove, a licorice root digestive that was really incredible, chocolate liqueur, and mandarin orange liqueur.  We had 4 local wines with dinner.



Bike Across Italy:  From Polignano a Mare > Alberobello > Matera > Montescaglioso  > Castelmezzano > Padula > Palinuro > Maratea > Morano Colabro > Centraro in 11 days
Click image to check out the album of photos from the trip.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bike Across Italy: Day 7 Padula to Palinuro on the Mediterranean coast

 King's Hotel:  Baia del Buondormire 84064 Palinuro tel +39 0974-931324  fax +39 0974-931418 info@hotelkings.it
Day
From
To
Distance: Day/Cumul (km)
Distance: Day/Cumul (mi)
Alt Gain: Day/Cumul (m)
Alt Gain: Day/Cumul (ft)
Alt Max (m)
Alt Max (ft)
Comments
7
Padula


Palinuro (5m)
96 / 571
60 / 355
1,507/8,772
4,944/28,781
881
2,890





Arrived today at the Mediterranean Sea resort town of Palinuro, in the area of Campania.  Sea to sea cycling across Italy has therefore been accomplished!  Today's ride was at a perfect air temperature, up and down across mountains and lush agricultural valleys and through small hilltop and hillside towns to reach Palinuro.  The view from my hotel:



Views from my hotel terrace


More description to follow, gotta run and enjoy that swimming pool now...




Bike Across Italy:  From Polignano a Mare > Alberobello > Matera > Montescaglioso  > Castelmezzano > Padula > Palinuro > Maratea > Morano Colabro > Centraro in 11 days
Click image to check out the album of photos from the trip.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Bike Across Italy: Day 6. Castelmezzano (Basilicata) to Padula (Campania)

Villa Cosilinvm:  Corso Garibaldi,2 84034  Padula  tel +39 0975-778615
Day
From
To
Distance: Day/Cumul (km)
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Alt Max (ft)
Comments
6
Castelmezzano


Padula (699m)
81 / 474
51 / 291
1,815/7,266
5,955/23,837
1,244
4,082






The view of Padula from the road (Click to enlarge)

Yesterday's ride was the longest of the trip, but today's ride brought the steepest climb, about 9% grade for 4 miles, and it came after cycling up and down hills for 45 miles.  Overall the ride took us out of the hamlet of Castelmezzano across the eastern part of Basilicata and into the province of Campania, through the little Dolomite mountains and through magnificent high pastures and fields.  Flocks of sheep and goats were tended by shepherds and their dogs, and the scenery was probably not a lot different than would have been seen 1,000 years ago.  We finished in the hillside town of Padula, an old Roman city.  Our hotel is built atop Roman ruins, and the ruins and frescos can be seen throughout the hotel.


















Monastery and Padula in background
Tomorrow we'll cycle to the Mediterranean coast and the Adriatic to Mediterranean (with a view of the Ionian) Seas ride will be completed. But, there are still several days of riding left, from the seaside towns of Campania south into Calabria, with still a lot climbing to look forward to.  It's an odd thing, other riders have commented the same, that in spite of all the mileage and climbing we all feel stronger and stronger, no fatigue whatever.


Every day has pretty much the same schedule:  up at 7, breakfast at 7:30, luggage to the van at 8, a route review at 8:30, and rolling before 9.  The guides arrange for lunch around 1 or 2: sometimes it's a picnic, sometimes panini from a market, sometimes a sit down at a restaurant.  We roll into our destination around 4, shower, and at 5 have a guided walking tour of a the town or an important site, then have a huge multicourse dinner and get back to the hotel at 11.  Then I try to edit some images from the trip and upload the blog entry for the day.  These are huge days and the only down time is the hour to unpack, wash the bike clothes, and shower.



Bike Across Italy:  From Polignano a Mare > Alberobello > Matera > Montescaglioso  > Castelmezzano > Padula > Palinuro > Maratea > Morano Colabro > Centraro in 11 days
Click image to check out the album of photos from the trip.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Bike Across Italy: Day 5 (of 11): Matera to Castelmezzano Stats

(Locanda di Castromediano: Via Michele Volini  Castelmezzano  tel +39 0971-986249 fax +39 0971-986249 beccodellacivetta@tiscali.it

DayFromToDistance: Day/Cumul (km)Distance: Day/Cumul (mi)Alt Gain: Day/Cumul (m)Alt Gain: Day/Cumul (ft)Alt Max (m)Alt Max (ft)Comments
5
Matera


Castelmezzano (960m)
109 / 393
68 / 244
2,433/5,450
7,982/17,882
1,037
3,402
Spectacular ride.



I approached the ride today with a little anxiety: it was the longest day of the ride so far, perhaps of the week: we were going into the mountains called the Piccolo Dolomite, or little Dolomites, to the mountain top town of Castelmezzano.  The ride was a little more than a metric century, about 70mi, with nearly 7,000 feet of climbing.  However I felt physically the best I think I've ever felt on a bike, and even at the end of all that I felt like I could have gone farther and higher.  I think the reason was that although the cumulative elevation change was a lot, none of the pitches were particularly steep, or if they were they were short, the temperature was ideal in the mid 80s, and the scenery was spectacular as we cycled from the ancient town of Matera higher and higher, past a turquoise lake, up the hilltop town of Grassano, down and back up to another hilltop town for lunch, and finally into the picolo Dolomite.  Lunch itself was wonderful, a little restaurant that served us bruschetta with tomatoes to die for, homemade pasta with a sauce of peppers, oil, bread crumbs, and a tiny bit of anchovies, local wine, then coffee.  


And speaking about coffee, it's impossible, it seems, to get bad coffee here.  Every espresso no matter in how small a town or village has a perfect creme, is naturally sweet and never bitter.  But nobody knows how to foam milk properly for cappuccino, so I stick with espresso.


The only negatives for the day were very gusty head and cross winds for the first half of the day, and a crash on a steep descent on a right hairpin turn.  I have no idea what happened, one moment I was in, I thought, good control descending, and the next thing my bike slid out from under me and I crashed onto my right hand and hip.  Fortunately gloves spared my hand, but I lost some skin on my hip and have a bruise that makes walking painful, but thankfully I was able to ride with minimal discomfort and finished the day.  Even more importantly, my bike survived though not unscathed, there are some scrapes on a shifter and the rear derailleur, and really amazingly, my brand new Nikon D7000 camera that was strapped to my back survived without so much as a scratch.  This is a great product endorsement for Blackrapid, the manufacturer of the strap system for active sports.


Camaraderie among the group is very good, everyone is supportive and kind to those who ride up hill slowly ,and to those who ride downhill too fast and crash. Most of the day's mileage took us along the Apian Way, the road the Romans built from Rome to Barisi on the Adriatic in order to gain access to the Greek Islands and beyond:





The ride took us through the beautiful mountains, the little Dolomites, dotted with small villages perched on hilltops, many with the feudal castles preserved from centuries past





And finally, after climbing nearly 6,000 feet for the day, to the mountaintop hamlet of Castelmezzano





Bike Across Italy:  From Polignano a Mare > Alberobello > Matera > Montescaglioso  > Castelmezzano > Padula > Palinuro > Maratea > Morano Colabro > Centraro in 11 days
Click image to check out the album of photos from the trip.