Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bike Across Italy: Day 8

King's Hotel:  Baia del Buondormire 84064 Palinuro tel +39 0974-931324  fax +39 0974-931418

Distance: Day/Cumul (km)
Distance: Day/Cumul (mi)
Alt Gain: Day/Cumul (m)
Alt Gain: Day/Cumul (ft)
Alt Max (m)
Alt Max (ft)

44 / 614
27 / 382
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.

1 comment:

aims said...

Have just recently come across your blog via your TED talk.

Of course I'm reading backwards, from the end to the beginning and reading your descriptions of the foods available brings up a question.

Being a celiac I have been leery of traveling to Italy, unsure whether there would be much for me to eat.....

Do you think that's something one wouldn't have to worry about especially in these remote villages etc.?

Besides that - what an incredible adventure you are having with mind boggling scenery and experiences! No wonder you look so incredibly happy at the end of the journey.