Sunday, April 20, 2014

Day 10 - Last post of my via Francigena

Finally. Now it's a slow ride to find the b&b that I had booked earlier considering this is the Easter weekend near the Tiburtina station. Actually more of pushing the bike as there are so many tourist. Actually I am officially now a tourist too! It's not easy to move around Rome without bumping into a tourist spot. Too many, heres 2 of them. The place I am staying are more residential and its nice to see how the people of Rome actually live. Got a flat (third) right outside the street of the b&b! Fixed it at the b&b and have it cleaned up. Will be sad to let it go, my steed for the last 10 days.

Tomorrow I will just relax and maybe ride along the Appian way, the only thing I have not done in Rome.

The experience of riding a bicycle to Rome is great, but I would probably walk my next pilgrimages. It is very tough and I have to give up or push on some of the trails. It may be faster but you experience more when walking.

That's it. Till the next pilgrimage.

Day 10 - Vatican City

Finally after 10 days probably 800+ km. There is a huge line to see the crypt and probably need to pay unlike Jimmy in Santiago. Sorry Pete, not going to see you up close. Thanks for the testimonium.

Day 10- The last via Francigena sign before the square

Quite unnecessary actually.

Day 10 - Almost there

I can see the Dome of St. Peter on the way down hill!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Day 10 - Leaving Formello

Weather report was right. Today's going to be wet. Glad this is the last day. The spring rain is more like a light drizzle but still a very slow ride to see Pete at the Vatican with blinkers on.

Day 9 - Sutri

Etruscan necropolis where they bury their dead. Moving on to the next town.

Day 9 - Formello

Good thing I'd decided on Formello. Probably the last small town before Rome which is 35 km away and you can even see it in the valley. It's a youth hostel that is also an ostello and it's also a museum. The theme is a tribute to via Francigena with steps going from Dover and over to France and every town and city until Rome which is the roof where the pananomic view with Rome in the backdrop.

Yesterday in Bolsena there were 2 Italians and an English couple who arrived very late. Today there are guests with luggage so I guess they are not doing the via Francigena.

Lots of km today. Should be at the Vatican tomorrow before lunch if it is not raining. The weather seems accurate as I am seeing dark clouds coming in around sunset.

Day 9 - Campagnago

At 4 pm the weather is still cold but warm enough to have a gelato and deciding if I should stay here or the next town Formello.

Day 9 - Sutri

Etruscan necropolis where they bury their dead. Moving on to the next town.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Day 9 - Capranica

Can't wait to get out of Viterbo (big city) and after a quick lunch at Vetralla, now heading to Sutri. Pit stop here in Capranica.

Day 9 - Slow climb up to Montefiascone

Cold morning but weather got better later. Nice slow climb up and at Montefiascone saw the 100 km mark sign right at the church.

Day 8 - Leaving Buonconvento

Very very cold morning. After breakfast walked with Jake (I pushed the bike) for like half an hour talking until we got lost! Guess that's the cue for me continue and backtrack back. It was great as I missed the occasional conversations that happened when walking.

Day 8 - Bolsena

Long day. Finally here on the huge lake. Will need to ride almost half of it tomorrow to get to Viterbo. I guess from here just 2 more days to Rome.

Day 8 - To Bolsena

Have to skip Radicofani up on the hill or I'll never get out if there today. Left Tuscany and now in Latio and finally a fantastic view if lake Bolsena.

Day 8 - To San Quirico d'Orcia

Just 21.5 km and it took me a whole morning! That's the thing about the hills of Tuscany, very tough with the ups and downs. I think it's enough and I also need to make up the distance to Rome so I had to take th sr2 road downhill (mostly) all the way to Bolsena.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Day 7 - Buonconvento

Nice non-touristy working town. 2 German pilgrims and Jake from Melbourne (left) and Andrea (right) the bar keeper and also runs the parish ostello. Jake is a priest on training here in Italy doing a walk starting in Siena today. Interesting companion for dinner.

Day 7 - Buonconvento

The journey from San Gimignano to Siena took longer than expected. Got missed a sign and went off a bit, something you don't want to happen on the Tuscany hills as they are surprising harder than going up and down the Apeninnes mountain. That you know how much further up. The winding roads here you have no idea and can't see it if it is up again after the bend. Still the view is excellent. My legs were getting tired and I really don't mind a shorter day to Siena but the weird thing is that started followimg the vehicle via francigena sign instead of the walker sign and the next thing I know is that I am already down the hill on the way out. Can't imagine I can actually missed a big city like Siena. Too tired to go up the hill again back into Siena and decide to 20 something km to Buonconvento. Anyway I had been to Siena and the center steps plaza is not a big deal (sour grapes! :)

I've met and talked to a couple bikers and like many places in Tuscany, they are foreigners. Mostly they got here via campervan and ridding on lightweight road bikes. A Canadian couple and even a couple from Switzerland but they are riding on fully loaded touring bikes. He stop (probably attracted to my bike with planners and we chatted a bit. They were on a world wide journey fir the last 2 years and now going home. Will have tI check out his web site when I am back.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Day 7 - San Gimignano

Last 2 days has been chilly, especially in the morning. The Tuscan sun is always very bright. Had an early start and here in San Gimignano for breakfast. Too bad I couldn't make it here yesterday, the city of towers. It's nice to be back here, and of course just as many tourists as residents. An hour here to absorb the place and it's Siena next.

Day 6 - Gambassi Terme

By the time I arrived it is almost 7 pm. Don't want to risked another 15 km to San Gimignano especially I know there is a steep slope before the town so the day ends here. Via Francigena actually passes below this town. So instead of staying at the Segerico ostello, I pushed the bike up a steep slope to the town proper and checked into another b&b. This place is known for it's thermal bath but unfortunately it was closed. I had the high floor at the b&b which has a roof patio. A wonderful view right before sunset. The weather was cold today and especially so here. Hope it gets warmer tomorrow.

Day 6 - San Miniato to Gambassi Terme

This stretch is the highlight of the day. A nice trail along the typical Tuscany landscape. Extremely beautiful! The only down side is that my bike having a semi slick tires can't go up well beyond a certain gradient on the gravel slope so unfortunately a bit of pushing the bike required. Also the focus and attention I need going down on the gravel slope means I can't enjoy the view as well as a walker.

Day 6 - Ponte a Cappiano to Miniato

Strong headwind in this leg after Lucca. Then a heavy rain and.u have to take refuge before Altopascio. I thought it was a supermarket but it turn out to be a store for restaurants and other hospitality business. The prices there are dirt cheap. I guess they need to mark up for their customers. So I started late today, spent some time in Lucca, then an hour out of the heavy rain. Beginning to doubt if I can get to San Gimignagno today. The climb up to San Miniato.was especially gruesome. I thought the Apinnese mountain side two days ago was bad, but this stretch was even worse. It's not high but the ups and downs plus the extreme gradient means lots bike pushing for me.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Day 6 - Lucca center

A beautiful walled center. You can ride and walk in top of the wall. Stopped at the bike shop for a spare tube. Now at a cafe with WiFi writing this. About tI start today towards St Gimignagno.

Day 6 - Towards Lucca Centro

Late start today after breakfast. Here is Mattea, the owner of the b&b. She speaks excellent English. This would make this b&b an excellent place within Lucca's township..

Day 5 - Lucca (outside the city)

Just my luck again. The rear tire struck a large screw (bottom left near the tire lever for size reference). How that got in ( its not even sharp) I have no idea. The hole is large enough there is no point to patch it up. I have to use my spare tube and had to remove the whole rear wheel. Then I found that my tiny spanner keeps slipping. The two guys (Moroccan) that just happen to walk by was so helpful one of them just went back to his place 50 meters away and gave me a socket for the wheel nut and even let me keep it. As I was fixing it I realized that the house I parked my bike next to is actually a b&b. No one was home but when I checked the internet for the number and called a lady picked up and told me she will be there in 5 minutes. Great! It was already 6:30 pm and it was getting late to finish the job and go another in Lucca to find the ostello. The even when grocery shopping with the owner of the house so I can by my dinner at the supermarket. So my stamp for today on the credential is the b&b. A little luxury today after a long and tired ride. Besides, I still need to readjust the brake clearance after taking out the rear wheel. That I will do tomorrow morning. Fingers crossed no more bike issues tomorrow to the walled city of Lucca and onwards to San Gimignagno.

Day 5 - Pisa

I know. Pisa is not on the road to Francigena but after seeing the signs on the road to Pisa decided to make a detour, then another 20 km to Lucca. Took an hour to relax on the grass, have a gelato and just enjoy that weird building again.

Day 5 - Pietrasanta

After the morning decided to keep going on the road and just around lunch time got into Pietrasanta. Incidentally there is restaurant by the same name in Singapore. Quite a number of tourist here.

Day 5 - Leaving Aulla

The trail up the hill towards Sarzana was not passable for bikes. Too narrow, steep and two fallen trees blocking. Had a hard time even pushing the bike up. Decided to just go down and take the road instead.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Day 4 - Aulla

Finally today at Aulla I have stayed with other pilgrims. The first 3 days was alone in the ostello. 2 walkers (Italian and American) and a group of 4 cyclist just started today from Pontremoli. Had a wonderful meal nearby at the restaurant that has a pellegrino menu. For like 13 Euro, wine, water, local pasta, meat, cake and coffee. I must say that the food in Italy is way better than in Spain.

Day 4 - Forvono di Taro - Aulla

Quite a day. First I got locked out of the Parish Church for more than half
hour as the keys to the gate does not work. Then on the way across the
got on the wrong turn and had to do an extra 5 to 7 km on SP15 instead to
Berceto. I think that road is harder as I see many cyclist on lycra racing
up and down the road. Now I know how it feels to ride on the lowest and
second lowest gear for a long time. The weather is cold and cloudy and it
even drizzle a bit. My legs are like rubber after the climb. Now I know how
it feels like to cycle in the mountains. Very different from driving. Just
before Passo della CISA I stopped at the ostello for lunch. This is a very
nice private ostella and the couple is so nice. Only ordered a coffee but
they gave me a postcard and a via Francigena sticker.

Immediately after Passo della CISA the road is downhill all the way to
Pontremoli for like 22 km. I think I did that in half an hour which means
that I must be averaging over 40 km/h. The feeling is bloody exhilarating.
I was praying all the time that my brakes don't fail me. I was hoping to
make it to Sarzana but just before Aulla I got a flat on the rear tire. Got
to a gas station but it was closed on Sunday. Took me an hour to figure out
where is the leak and patch it. Then test to make sure it is the only leak.
In the end stopped at Aulla. It was good choice as the ostello is nice,
water is hot and pilgrims. An American and an Italian walker plus a couple
of French bikers. The ostello also host a museum of pellegrinos and is also
the crypt of Saint Caprasio.

They have internet here but just on a PC (no wifi). Takes 10 minutes to
boot up Windows Vista and bloody slow. At least I've managed to learn how
to get the pictures off the new phone onto the PC.

Tomorrow I will just be happy if the tire is still okay and I can make it
to Lucca.