Giro d'Italia or the HILL towns of Umbria and the Marche

Note: This trip was taken by Emily Kenyon, a member of the Grizzly Peak Cyclists. References to related information is included where known. Please email any additional links to

Monday, 9/30

The trip really started with taking apart my bike, newly retrofitted with S&S couplings by Steve Rex in Sacramento. It looks fantastic and the ride is totally unchanged. I got the soft-sided case, which comes folded up with no instructions, nor were there any for disassembling the bike. Note even a clue as to which way the couplings unscrewed. I gather that instructions do come with bikes built to order with the couplings, but not with retrofits.

So my friend Lewis and I held our breaths and jumped in. Of course, we were so fixated on the couplings that we didn't do anything reasonable like remove water bottle cages and pannier racks before transforming the bike into an unstable, wobbly mess of cables and tubes. Well, it just added to the fun. After much twisting and turning of all the connected loose parts, we had it all in the case but didn't much like how vulnerable one crank and the rear derailleur looked. Removed those and turned our attention (very belatedly, it turns out) to the four stiffening panels that came with the case. Finally, the combined 20 years of college and 2 brains sufficed for us to figure out that each curved end snapped to a flat end, and everything snapped into the sides of the case. It would have been much easier to get them in without the bike in there already.

Of course, everything had to be shuffled around some more (a lot more), but we eventually got the bag zipped. There was even room for my helmet, shoes, 2 water bottles, pump, and all the parts (I hope) that we'd taken off the bike. Tools we eventually ended up needing: pliers (or quick-release gear cables), the S&S coupling wrench (which includes a pedal wrench), crescent wrench, and bottom bracket tools (naturally the one to remove the nut and the one to push against the bottom bracket weren't a pair), allen wrenches, and screwdriver.

The backpack straps on the case are a godsend. I could easily carry the pack on my back and the panniers in my hands, although it's a good trick to get the pack back off unassisted.

Friday-Sat 10/4-5

Took the 10 p.m. flight SFO-JFK, transferred to a morning flight for London. Since my frequent flyer itinerary left me stranded in London overnight, I couldn't check my bike all the way through to Rome. Arrived London at 8:30 p.m., passed through customs and deposited everything except toiletries in the Left Luggage compartment. Took the tube to Earls Court station and called my friend Malcolm just as he walked in the door from his evening at the opera. A 10-minute walk to his flat and a mere 3 rings at his door (he couldn't hear over Rigoletto, which he'd switched on immediately upon getting home), and I was greeted by a torch-wielding host -- the hall light burned out several months ago. We had a quick bite to eat, then I had a lovely bath and sucked some melatonin tablets and dropped right off to sleep (11:45).

Sunday 10/6

Up at 4:45 and caught a cab to Heathrow. The cabby tried to scare me by suggesting I'd have a very long walk with my luggage, but I resisted the urge to ask him to wait. Lucky thing, as he was wrong about my flight leaving form the distant terminal 4. Found a luggage cart, retrieved bike and panniers (only £4 total, as it had been <12 hours), and rolled along the people movers to the British Air check-in. Plenty of time to use my extra currency to buy a few postcards and a key chain for my favorite little girl. At least one set of postcards will make it home before I do!

Rome 10:05. I'd been told that cash machines abounded and that VISA was much more widely recognized than MasterCard, so I brought only a little US cash, and two VISAs (one debit, one credit). I made sure I knew the PIN for the debit card, since using that entails no cash advance fees or interest. The advantage to using cash machines and VISA is supposed to be the best exchange rate. Anyway, at the airport I found one machine inside immigration that took MasterCard but not VISA and two automatic bill changers, both out of order. Passed through customs and tried again. A machine that takes VISA! -- but rejects my card. Tried an automatic bill changer, but it rejected my $20 bill. I'm getting worried. Finally, I found one bill changer that would accept my cash, a $20, $10, and $5 -- hope that's enough for starters. After all, I got something like 52,500 Lire, that ought to buy something!

The train from the airport to the main station (Roma Termini) cost 13,000 Lire. Struggled off the train with my bike, helped by a very charming man -- nationality unknown. Just as I was offloading my bags to put them on a luggage cart, someone started to walk away with it! I look sad, and he let me have it. Finally found the ticket booth -- nope the agent didn't speak English -- and used my fractured Italian and written destination to buy a ticket -- 17,000 Lire. He told me that my train was to leave in 10 minutes (12:10), so I hustled down the platform and boarded the train, praying I had the right one. It all seemed too easy. A perfect spot in the foyer for my bike bag and a seat where I could see it. It was too good to be true: I was in 1st class and was kicked out by the conductor, who did, however, let me leave my bike bag where it was. I think over half the 1st class compartment occupants went by me as they, too, were kicked out. Well, at least my bike travels 1st class.

Hard to get used to the ubiquitous smoking. It seems the US is successful in two things: educating its citizens against smoking and persuading the rest of the world to buy our cigarettes and kill themselves.

Across from me a man reading an English newspaper -- British? No, Austrian. So I practiced my German (much better than my Italian) and then couldn't ask the simplest thing in Italian. Better stick to one foreign language at a time.

Beginning to worry; I see nothing but hills. The train passes constantly through tunnels. Am I up to this? I fell asleep, and when I awakened it was looking a little better. Stretches of relatively flat, although it definitely isn't Kansas.

Arrived in Terontola at 14:24, train for Passignano due to leave at 14:50, and (grazie dio) from the adjacent track. Two stops and I was at Passignano.

Hoisted my bike on my back, picked up the panniers, and hiked the longest 300 meters of my life. Plenty of stares. Found the hotel and gratefully offloaded. The receptionist is very nice and speaks excellent English. Lovely shower, washed out my traveling clothes, and resisted the urge to lie down and pass out. Hiked back toward the train station and met my brother-in-law, Mike, halfway. So at least he got help with his bike. While he showered, I looked around town for cash machines. Neither showed a VISA logo, but back at the hotel our receptionist assured us they would work.

Time for gelato. Then we tried both cash machines -- and the second one worked! That's one anxiety allayed.

We took our bike bags to the neighboring park to assemble, and in no time we drew quite a crowd. We're the stars of at least one home movie! My bike had survived pretty well. One ding in my paint where something poked all the way through the foam pipe insulation I'd wrapped around the tubes. Mike's brand new handlebars had an uglier gouge (and he has the hard case).

A few twists, both conceptual and physical, and I had unscrambled the cables that seemed so hopeless. An hour and a half later, and they looked like bikes again. Mike's, custom-built by Steve Rex and brand new as of 2 days ago, looks smashing in gold with green oak leaves, in honor of the Nature Conservancy, where he is the Project Director of the Cosumnes River Project.

Finally time for dinner -- Italians eat late; the restaurant for our hotel didn't open until 7:30. Rather touristy, but pretty good food. I had something translated as tortellini and nettles (?) -- maybe artichokes, it was hard to tell -- but good. Second course was filleted lake perch, marinated (as in swimming in olive oil).

Monday 10/7: Passignano-Gubbio

Test ride through town revealed a funny noise in the smallest sprocket. Front derailleur seemed slightly twisted, but the real culprit turned out to be an unused bolt for the rear rack (I'd decided on Lewis' front low-rider rack based almost entirely on the fact that it folded flat, whereas my rear rack would have been much harder to pack). Removed that and all was well.

Headed out of town about 3 miles along the lake, then turned uphill and climbed and climbed and climbed to Castel Rigone. Not terribly steep, but without a break. Stopped for water and stamps (francobolli) and ran into a German woman and her grandson. They seemed pretty impressed at what we proposed to do.

About a mile further up the hill, we stopped to put on capilene shirts (it had started sprinkling), and Mike discovered he'd left helmet and gloves at the store in Castel Rigone, so I waited and admired the spectacular view while he retrieved them.

More climbing (about 5 miles) and then a long winding descent to Umbertide. Although it was now sprinkling harder, one curve looked gradual and dry enough to let 'er rip, but loose rocks at the apex nearly did me in!

Found our way to the Piazza Caduti Lavoro in Umbertide, where we bought fruit and ate our panini con formaggio (filched from the breakfast buffet). Finished with a fantastic caffe e latte before everything shut down for the long afternoon break.

Our directions out of town were sketchy, at best, and although we started right, we immediately made a wrong turn and climbed another gradual 1.3 miles before turning back. Our first of many stops for directions got us back on course.

Another gradual climb up the valley to Pietralunga, where we stopped for a gelato -- really good, and it was a blast to watch the group of men gesticulating and arguing and carrying on like the typical caricature of Italian-Americans.

Once again our ambiguous instructions led us astray. Looking for Viale della Pace, we turned away from the correct route (Via Roma) and headed up a steep (really steep) hill. A woman in a car heading down stopped, figuring we had to be lost. When it became clear that we hardly spoke Italian, she asked if we spoke German. She seemed to be a German woman transplanted some time ago to Italy. We caused quite a traffic jam with curious onlookers and cars trying to get by. An Italian man jumped into the fray, and we had a 3-way conversation: German, Italian, and English. Finally they were satisfied that we understood that we needed to turn around and go down Via Roma, where we began the first of several steep descents, interspersed with short climbs.

We kept being passed by muddy white sports cars that whizzed by most impolitely (compared with the normally amazingly considerate Italian drivers). At first we suspected that we were being leap-frogged by a single delivery car (il postino?), but then three slightly different ones passed in quick succession. Some car club out for a spin, most likely.

Incredible countryside -- deciduous forest and wildlife sanctuary. We finally popped out at the main road, pondered directions and map, and headed off along a somewhat dubious looking secondary road. The right turn to Montefalco was closed for road repair, so we continued along a really narrow back road. We thought we'd be forced onto the main road to Gubbio, but found a turn toward Gubbio (confirmed by a farm woman) that took us directly to Gubbio without traffic.

We had little trouble regaining our designated route where we turned in through the city wall, then promptly missed our turn (this time the street name was misspelled on the cue sheet). We stopped to ask two men, who ignored us while continuing their conversation. Then a tour bus driver walked by and helped, telling us to go back down the way we had come and take the first left and again the first left. No problem finding our hotel from there.

Our bicycles locked up on their terrace dining area (under a corrugated roof), we checked in and washed off the road grime from both self and clothes. Despite riding in nearly constant sprinkle, there was still far less dirt in the basin than when I'd washed out my travel clothes the day before. Now let's pray they dry by tomorrow.

After a bottle of delicious local acqua minerale, we headed up into town for a quick walk. Unbelievable town: narrow cobbled streets between mouldering stone buildings -- many in the process of renovation. Paid our respects to the statue of S. Ubaldo and climbed up to the base of the funicular. Too dark to visit the hilltop shrine tonight, but considering tomorrow's ride shows basically downhill on the profile, we may try it in the morning. Back via a different route, on streets barely wide enough for a single car -- not that that slowed down the Italian drivers a bit. Past lots of steps up to a castle or something, down a street so steep it was essentially stairs. Found a farmacia, where the English-speaking pharmacist sold us cafiaspirina (the Italian equivalent of Excedrin) and some fantastically expensive lotion for Mike (that's what you get for buying Swedish lotion (Niveacreme) in Italy). Down another random street, only to find ourselves half a block from our hotel.

A fantastic dinner of spaghetti carbonara (perfectly al dente and FULL of cholesterol) and verdura cotta (cooked veggies -- in this case cold boiled spinach).

Total distance 53 miles, 4510 feet of climbing, riding time 5:35.

Tuesday 10/8: Gubbio-Fermignano

Words fail me. What a day! Breakfast at our hotel, followed by a walk up to the top of town. We'd asked the only other person at breakfast if she spoke English, and she said "only a little", but really spoke it quite well. I asked her what clear nail polish is called in Italian, with the help of a few hand gestures. She said "smolto naturale". Armed with this information we headed for the nearest profumeria and bought some for protecting the paint dings on our bikes from the rain.

Then we walked up streets so narrow you wouldn't believe a car would fit, until one comes along. We spotted an open-air market from the top of the city and headed down. Everything under the sun (or, more correctly, clouds) for sale -- clothes, cutlery, meat, fruit, etc. We passed someone selling compact umbrellas and I debated whether to buy one. Then I saw one covered with horses -- the perfect souvenir for my mother and protection for us at the same time. It was marked 14,000 Lire, but she immediately knocked it down to 12,000.

Checked out of our hotel and headed out of town past the ruins of the Roman theater. We turned uphill towards Scheggia, and what a hill. 910 feet in less than 3 miles, then an equally steep descent. By now prayers of thanksgiving for both granny gears and cantilevered brakes were becoming commonplace and we were beginning to suspect that the day's ride profile was just a tad bit misleading.

As we entered Scheggia, we realized everything would soon shut down for the midday snooze, so we stopped for a caffe e latte and ate the great raisin bread Mike had bought in Gubbio.

Another incredible descent, much of which we had to pedal into a headwind. In some places, the road was pretty rough. Headed into the tiny town of Isola Fossara, didn't see the fountain mentioned in our route sheet (could it have been the public water faucet we saw?), but still had no trouble identifying the tiny road headed for Serra and S. Abbondio. Another climb of about 700 feet through a gorgeous mountain pass and more dizzying descents on rather wet road to S. Abbondio. It had obviously rained more on that side of the pass while we were still climbing. Just before Cagli, we ran into a group of cyclists from Canada (a Cyclo Classico tour), lead by an Italian (Fabbio) and a Canadian woman. Very nice and great opera booming from the support van.

Through Cagli and Smirra to Acqualagna -- some climbing, mostly down. In Acqualagna I voted for a pee break where signs indicated also gelato and a telephone (we still had no reservation for the night). Turned out to be sort of a truck stop/bar and the gelato was all pre-packaged (and therefore beneath us) and the hotel didn't answer the phone, but the stop turned out to be a godsend because it started pouring soon after we got there. Mike hauled the bikes under an overhang, then we ordered caffe e latte and sat down to wait out the rain. About a quarter of an hour later, it let up and we were off again, but just as we reached the Gola del Furlo (Furlo Gorge), it started raining a bit harder again. We put our rain suits on in the shelter of the overhang of a closed gas station and headed into the gorge. My god, what a place to be on a rainy day! I wouldn't have missed it for all the cozy firesides in the world. The mist and other atmospheric effects were stunning.

Back down to civilization -- the frontage road for the autostrada, under it, and along the other side. Nice and flat along here, next to fields divided up by single rows of grapevines. Just 2 km short of Fermignano, the autostrada quit (still under construction) and dumped its traffic onto our road.

At the hotel, we were met out front by the proprietor who assured us he had a room, then led us around to the garage, where we locked our bikes. He asked us if we were with "Lori's group" (La Corsa), and we said we were.

Dinner was a fantastic wood-oven-baked pizza with eggplant on one half, mushrooms on the other, followed by the gelato we'd missed earlier. It was in the Oba-Oba bowling alley, so the ambiance was a bit odd, but the food was great. The bowling, by the way, was neither bocce nor American bowling, but something similar to the American style with smaller balls with no finger holes. The pins were set up automatically by the simple device of having them all attached to strings, which pulled up, waited for them to stop swinging, and lowered them gently back to the upright position. Only one shot at knocking down the pins before they were reset.

Total distance 47.1 miles, 2710 feet of climbing, riding time 5:03.

Wednesday 10/9; Fermignano-Cattolica

Piaggio, piaggio, RAIN, rain, rain. Rained hard all night -- evening paper said something about record rain, so we weren't surprised, and the morning paper said something about an all-time record for the Marche -- 180 mm (7") in 15 hours!! It predicted a break in the afternoon, but another front to arrive on Friday.

We'd planned on riding to Urbino for breakfast, but the slight break in the weather ended and it started pouring again, so we contented ourselves with trying to get our clothes dry with the hotel hairdryer (not entirely successful) and eating breakfast at our hotel. When the rain let up a tad, we headed off in full rain gear. Since we were climbing, we soon steamed up.

At Urbino, we climbed a steep cobbled switchback to a square at the apex of town. Off with the raingear and in with the caffe e latte and pastries (the first of too many for the day). Hiked the narrow streets in the university quarter. Raining harder again, so we paid our 8000 Lire and checked out the museum in the Palazzo Ducale. Lots of paintings of the Madonna and child with saints, but best of all were the incredible inlaid wood doors.

The rain had let up to a light sprinkle, so we headed back down the switchback (going against one-way traffic, but the carabiniere who passed us didn't seem to care).

On the descent toward Schieti, cars and trucks were very considerate, not whizzing past on the wet winding road, but hanging back until it was safe and passing us with room to spare. Not one splash from the abundant puddles. When it started to rain harder, we pulled over under a tree -- just in time for another cloudburst. We just pulled up our hoods, hunkered down, and waited it out.

In Ca'Gallo, our instructions said "signs for Montecavallo and Borgo Massano. Go straight for Borgo Massano." Well, neither town was on the signs and the road was almost a perfect Y. Since one of the roads was closed, we chose the other and stopped to ask directions. Turns out the other road would have been correct had it not been closed. The man directed us back to the highway, which he said ended in 1 km. Curiosity got the better of us, however, when we saw a car or two head down the closed road. We followed, only to be brought up about 100 yards short of our goal by an enormous mudslide. Back around the other way.

We stopped in Borgo Massano for another caffe e latte and lunch (picked up in Urbino). About 1 km later we turned left onto a tiny road that climbed up the hill to Pieggia. No traffic at all except a couple of farmer-pedestrians who looked at us like we were nuts. At the crest, we removed our raingear in honor of the sun breaking through! (No piaggio in Pieggia, says Mike). A little more climbing to Mondaino, then dropping all the way to Cattolica. We stopped at Cicli Tonti (big bike shop), persuaded them to lube our poor squeaky chains, and decided to quit for the day. We'd planned to take the train from Pesaro to Ancona anyway, why not from Cattolica to Ancona?

Mike found a place he could check his e-mail, we checked into our hotel, hung everything we owned out to dry and went to dinner (cosi dando uno scandalo in sala, comments a friend). The waiter was a bit surly when we showed up a minute before opening time (7:30), but when Mike said we were hungry from bicycling all day, he was so amazed be brought us little crostini with fresh tomatoes and anchovies. He tried to get me to say I'd driven while Mike biked, but of course I wouldn't. We could then hear him telling all the other waiters about us! We had risotto alla marinara -- perfect after a cold, wet, strenuous day.

Total distance 39.1 miles, 2240 feet of climbing, riding time 4:10.

Thursday 10/10: Ancona-Macerata

So we started by cutting out the only flat 60 miles of the entire route by taking the train from Cattolica to Ancona. As we ran down the station platform to the first car, where bikes were allowed, an American voice said "Do you need help?: There were already 6 cyclists, 60-something, from Oregon on the train. They had started their trip in Venice, keeping near the Adriatic coast and being poured on and flooded out the whole time! Our route certainly was a lucky stroke. Today the sun came out and although it was cool and breezy, we felt considerably better and drier.

We started by climbing up the bluff south of Ancona, with a spectacular view down to the Adriatic. At one point, looking out a ways, we could see an abrupt border between blue water and muddy water. We figured we must be coming to a river of some size, but it was quite small considering the volume of mud it had lately carried.

Rolling hills until we approached Sirolo -- another "hill town" for sure. Steep climb into town and then stopped at a bakery and fruit shop, side by side, to buy lunch before everything closed down for lunch. Took it to a nearby park on a point sticking into the Adriatic. Fantastic food, great view, sunshine -- it just doesn't get better.

Back down the other side of town to Numana, then along the flats until Loreto appeared -- on top of another hill! Another goodly climb brought us to the centro, where the duomo della Casa Maria borders one side of a square, with an apparent home for the developmentally disabled on another. The church houses a smaller building made of ornate marble, containing yet another building -- allegedly the house the Virgin Mary was born in and received the Annunciation in. Legend has it that the house was brought here by angels, and although that theory has been debunked by modern archeology, the stones themselves could apparently very well have originated in Nazareth.

In a shop window in Loreto we saw a poster advertising a class in preparation for matrimony. The illustration was of a couple on a tandem!

Down out of town on an incredible descent (up to 18% grades!), then more rolling hills, up the Colle Infinite (infinite hills), down the other side, and into Sambuchetto. Here we found the Bici e Moto per Tutti bike shop and got my cluster tightened (it had started to clunk in the high gears). The guy said something about a "something libera", which I figured was my freewheel. To thank him I bought a bunch more souvenirs (water bottle, cycling cap, jersey).

One more climb (into Macerata) to go. Fortunately, our instructions directed us to the longer, gentler climb for which we were eternally grateful. However, when they became considerably less helpful just as we hit the ring road outside the city walls at rush hour, we were somewhat less delighted. We eventually found our hotel with the help of passersby and dumb luck.

Fantastic dinner at Osteria dei Fiori, just around the corner from our hotel. Served by the proprietor herself (whose English was excellent), we had way too much food, including an appetizer tart with some kind of green beans (soybeans?), compliments of the house, lentil soup with crostini, lamb chops coated with an aromatic crust, and complimentary wine and cookies for dessert. The wine is a regional specialty -- grapes pressed and boiled overnight, presumably to concentrate the sugar, then fermented. Very good, port-like, and probably going to do in my idiosyncratic knee joints that seize up at the slightest whiff of alcohol. I only drank a bit, and made Mike drink the rest (which, of course, he resisted strenuously, ha). As Mike said, it made you want to stay another day in town just to have dinner there again!

Total distance 46.8 miles, 3190 feet of climbing, riding time 4:48.

Friday 10/11: Macerata-Foligno

Breakfast at a pasticceria, where we were ogled by the passing schoolchildren. Then onto the bikes and down the narrow cobbled streets to the ring road and out of Macerata. Great town, but made a horror by fast cars on narrow streets (at least the streets were all one way).

Nice long rolling ride through the valley toward San Severino delle Marche. Once again, a hill town, requiring considerable climbing, rewarded by a very good pasticchieria. The very pleasant shop person directed me to a nearby public toilet -- I had forgotten those peculiarly Italian wonders. A shallow basin set in the floor with raised footprints to stand on while squatting down. And you'd better step back when you flush if you don't want wet feet!

Couldn't quite comprehend our instructions for getting out of town, but we followed the signs to Serrapetrona, which we reached after a long, fairly gentle climb, followed by the first fantastic descent of the day. Another small climb and then off on a small road toward Lago di Caccamo. Another steep climb and the second whizzing descent. This descent passed through the tiny village of Borgiano, where I encountered an oncoming car at the exact narrowest spot in the road. Just tucked in my elbows and knees, prayed, and made it by. Climbed back up a little to set up a picture of me coming back down through the same stretch. Then we discovered that our film had never advanced properly, and none of our previous pictures had been recorded. Oh well, e cosi la vita.

Adequately warned by our route sheet, we didn't miss the hairpin turn to the lake, where we picnicked on mini pizzas, focaccia, and fruit picked up in San Severino.

Next we followed a frontage road along the autostrada, climbing gently up again and greeted by numerous oncoming truckers who flashed their headlights and waved. One even honked and waved from the adjacent autostrada! Several times the autostrada abruptly disappeared, only to come back out of a tunnel on our other side a short while later.

In Ponte Latreve, we stopped to take a picture of the dilapidated church and eat a power bar. A gaggle of small boys on bicycles circled around nearby, popping wheelies and discussing us until the novelty wore off. As we left Ponte Latreve, the climbing became steeper, going up and up through beautiful farm country. Higher and higher - thank GOD for granny gears. Just short of the top I discovered my rear tire was going flat. I stopped once and pumped it up, then climbed to the chapel at the summit where Mike was waiting.

While I put on extra clothes (a cold, howling wind up there), Mike removed my wheel and found the tiny stone chip that caused the flat. In the shelter of the chapel, we fixed it, then started down the best descent of my life. The wind was a headwind at times, slowing down what would have been a near free fall to a very comfortable 22 mph. Switchback after switchback, we descended over 3 miles with grins plastered all over our faces.

Slight climb out of Colfiorito, then another glorious descent to Capodacqua. Brief jog onto the autostrada shoulder, then back onto side roads into Foligno. At last, a destination not built on a hill!

We found our hotel and checked in. This has to be the strangest hotel ever built. I suppose it's the height of postmodern chic, with steel walls and doors painted in gray and red. Looks more like a converted jail to me. Luxury bathroom though, with a huge tiled tub. A long hot soak felt awfully good.

We strolled to a pizzeria to tide us over until dinnertime. Beats any "sold by the slice" pizza in the U.S.

We ate at the hotel and the food was good, but the waiter just couldn't keep our order straight. Mike's vegetarian appetizer came as a plate of cold cuts -- exchanged -- and my gnocchi al Ragu came as gnocchi with 4 cheeses. I gave up, since the restaurant had now filled with a large party of Italian men all shouting over each other. Quite a cheesy dinner in the end, since my appetizer had been fresh pecorino with honey -- yum!

Total distance 67.7 miles, 3990 feet of climbing, riding time 6:59.

Saturday 10/12: Foligno-Passignano

Made an early start with a view to breakfast in Assisi. Cold! Lost our trail at Spello, where it was unclear whether we were to circumnavigate the city inside or outside the walls. We guessed outside -- and we guessed wrong. Consequently, we dropped down further and missed the road lined by olive trees -- we could see it on the hillside above us. In a tiny little town, Mike insisted on a right turn up a very unlikely little road -- and he was right! We climbed up to where we belonged and then climbed the hill to Assisi.

In Assisi we locked our bikes, had three different versions of pastry with figs and other dried fruits, and of course caffe e latte. Then we hiked up to the old fortress for a beautiful view of the plains below, then back down to the Basilica of St. Francis -- actually two churches built on top of each other. The ceilings were what caught my fancy -- I'm inspired to make another quilt, and I'm nowhere near done with the one inspired 9 years ago in the Duomo in Milan!

After paying homage to St. Francis and his companions in the tombs below the lower church, we hiked back up the hill to our bikes, then rode back down through all the pilgrims (scusi, scusi, perdono) and out of Assisi.

Lovely descent into Santa Maria degli Angeli, resisted the bike shop, and forged ahead. Rolling plains to Torgiano. Mike remarked that Our Lady of the Tail Winds was with us again. Then, after a pause "thank you Santa Susanna", a cryptic reference to his stoker, my sister Suzanne, whose increased effort he often mistakes for a tail wind.

In Torgiano we stopped at an alimentari just before they closed and bought water. When I asked the proprietor where I could find a cappuccino, he looked puzzled, then said "Ah! un bar!" and directed us back up the hill toward the centro. We decided just to skip it and eat at a nice little stone alcove along the road. Great raisin bread and fruit brought from Assisi. We continue to marvel at how quiet everything gets at midday. We also ponder the advantages of living where you get a 3-hour break in the middle of the day, during which one could ride up to a hill town or two!

Rolling on to S. Martino in Campo and left to Pila, descend a bit, then up to Castel del Piano, where we stopped for coffee. Very nice man at the bar suggested that we were "stanco" (great word, it means pooped), and served us an excellent cappuccino.

Down the hill again, missed our turn to Capanne, but I saw it just in time and yelled for Mike to stop. Turned around and took the correct road. As we pondered Agello away up on the hill, a fast Italian cyclist whizzed past, ignoring our greetings. We followed in his wake and climbed one of the steepest hills yet. At the main intersection , we pondered whether turning uphill to find a gelateria was worth it. We were rewarded with one just around the corner. After these fortifications, we climbed the rest of the way to the apex of the town and checked out the stunning view and falling-down bell tower.

School kids all around us appeared to be intently viewing the sky through various devices, and it slowly dawned on us that the rather pallid, off-color light was due to a solar eclipse. We caught it near the end, although the light didn't get back to normal for nearly another hour.

Steep descent toward Lake Trasimeno. At the lake, we turned north, into the headwind (Santa Susanna where are you?) and cycled along the relatively flat stretch through Monte del Lago and back to Passignano. Our clerk from last week greeted us as we passed through the hotel to put our bikes in the basement. When we came back up to check in, she wore a horrified expression on her face. Seems the day clerk had ignored our reservations and booked all the rooms! She was very apologetic and helped us find another room in a hotel only about 100 m away.

At the new hotel, I was greeted by a very friendly German shepherd, who jumped up and gave me a big kiss. We were shown our room, put our bikes in the garage, and prepared for a shower. Wait, where is it? Amazing, the entire bathroom serves as the shower stall, and you just have to swab down the toilet and bidet after splashing them. The floor, too. Well, no square inch wasted.

We went to dinner at the Pizzeria 4 Cammini and returned to find a box of bon-bons and the first hotel clerk's card apologizing again. Mike averred the candy was all for him, as no doubt she'd fallen for him, but I'd have none of that!

Total distance 52.7 miles, 2390 feet of climbing, riding time 5:22.

Sunday 10/13

O.k., here's the plan. Get up early, take bikes and bags to station, disassemble bikes. Return to hotel and have breakfast. Catch the early (8:45) train to Terontola and on to Rome. Have about 5 hours to spend in Rome -- see Sistine chapel and buy food items for people at work -- then take 5:20 train to Naples and hotel.

Here's what really happened. Got up early (in fact, I woke up at 3 a.m. and couldn't go back to sleep). Finally got up at 6:15, finished packing and went downstairs to find ourselves locked in the hotel (!) and no clerk to be found. We tried the emergency exit and no alarm sounded, but the garage where our bikes were housed was locked. The clerk showed up at about 7:00.

Walked to the station and disassembled my bike -- in 50 minutes! Having done it before definitely helps, as does Mike's trick of deflating the tires (absolutely necessary for the hard case, optional but helpful for my soft one).

Back for a really lovely breakfast, including fruit-filled croissants hot out of the oven. Got back to the station just before the train, and the very nice conductor helped me load the bike bag and purchase a ticket (no ticket agent at Passignano). Uneventful trip to Rome except that a gang of about 30 or 40 twenty-something young men got on at Orvieto and considerably increased the decibel level.

In Rome I checked the bags, waited in an interminable line to buy a ticket to Naples, and took the subway to the Vatican. After walking halfway around its walls, I discovered all the sights were closed because it was Sunday. Same was true for all the alimentari where I might have bought gifts. Consulted my map and decided I'd go see the Coliseum and Pantheon. Hard to miss the Coliseum, and if 8000 Lire seemed a bit steep to walk around the middle level, heck why not. A little harder to find the Pantheon, since all the street signs I could find didn't appear on the map, but I admired the Forum and the Altare della Patria before chancing on a sign directing me toward the Pantheon -- which was closed as well. Consoled myself with one last gelato, stumbled upon the Trevi Fountain (wow!), and promptly got lost again. Eventually, I found my way to the Piazza della Republica, which the map shows as just adjacent to the train station, but the signs directing me there abruptly stopped at the Piazza. Gave up and took the Metro one stop.

No problem finding a seat on the train to Napoli, although it was jam packed and I had no reservation (apparently unavailable in 2nd class). I'd telephoned the hotel in the morning because I was concerned that it might be closer to the Stazione Garibaldi, where my train did not stop, than to the Stazione Centrale, where it did. The man on the other end of the line spoke some English and said yes, it was closer to the Stazione Garibaldi, but when I asked how to get there from the Stazione Centrale he said no problem, it's only 20 meters away. Armed with this conflicting information, I figured I'd just ask at the tourist information when I got there.

Unfortunately, the man at the tourist information in the train station seemed determined to carry on as long a discussion as possible with the 2 young girls he was already helping. I gave up after 15-20 minutes.

I went out front and found a cab, asking how much it would cost. He shrugged and said 15,000 Lire ($10). Figuring I didn't have much choice, I got in. He said it wasn't far, about 1 km, but with the bags.... A very short time later, we pulled up in front of my hotel. After checking in and taking a nice hot shower, I went out to find dinner -- and discovered I was just around the corner from the station! Of course, the cabby had taken me a few extra blocks to lend plausibility.

Small plate of ravioli and a large bottle of mineral water. Both much appreciated. An early start tomorrow -- my plane leaves at 7:20. By the way, the hotel clerk says it's a 15 minute ride and costs about 12,000 Lire to go the airport (in the end it cost 18,000 because there were all sorts of surcharges for "nighttime" and "empty return".) Moral of the story, don't trust Neapolitan cab drivers. And don't try to see the sights of Rome on Sunday. I should have gone to Pompeii instead.


Some of the companies mentioned in this trip writeup have WWW pages. These are included for your convenience.

Note: Other tour reports by Grizzly Peak Cyclist members can be found on our tour page. [GPC Home Page]

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