[the blog is being written on an iPhone and the picture upload is wonky. Working on getting it to behave asap]
The clock ticked over to midnight somewhere when I was on the plane heading to Rome. It was probably in Italy, but in my groggy state it could well have been back in Boston too. The 7.5 h flight was delayed by an hour due to a flat tyre (!) which made a whole 8 hours in a comfortable yet uncomfortable seat - I could never find the exact compromise between my bottom, my legs and my head. Two would be comfortable, one would not. As a result, I think i got some sleep - and the fact that I’m typing this at 10 pm Italian time suggests I did.
The rest of the flight and car ride to the base for the Giro d’Italia were unremarkable. Long, yet unremarkable. Hot, yet mostly unremarkable. And humid too. But when you travel forward in time you just have to keep going, heat, humidity or Italian driving be damned. The tightly packed bicycle had survived a TSA search and two flights from Boston to Italy, with no visible problems. It rebuilt well with nary a problem that I could spot.
So that meant ride, right? Right. Nothing too long since it had been a long day and it was close to 30C outside. A climb followed by some flight riding in the valley was the plan, so off I went.
A link to the ride is here. The climb to Alvito and the Castello at the top is relatively straight forward if you take the road (which isn’t busy), but for some reason my Garmin was sending me up the old roads. You know the ones 2 m wide with cobbles and overhanging balconies, where someone screams, hangs out the washing or berates a child daily. And also have a 10% gradient.
So the climb wasnt completely straightforward- there was some medieval flavour too. The castle itself is run down and a large ruin, but you don’t come up here to look in. You come up here to look out.
The reward is the view across the valley to San Donato, Settefratti, Gallinaro to name a few. A quinitissential Italian view, which would be mobbed if there was better access to water and more tourism.
After every climb there is a descent, and whizzing through town before riding the valley floor was a great payback.
Many of the roads I’d mapped on the Valley floor I had not ridden before, and so when they went from tarmac to cement to gravel and dirt and stones, I was mildly surprised. But after 10 mins of laying the power down and feeling the back wheel just slide around, I realized I had stumbled on the Southern Strade Bianche.
Before this realization could sink in, I was pedal-deep in sheep and their guard dogs.
The Valle di Comino is actItaly famous for having its own PDO cheese - pecorino di Piconisco. These were the sheep whose milk created this cheese, and to ride amoung them, their protector Pyrenean mountain dogs and their shepherds was a thrill. Bears and wolves are still occasionally active in the area so protection is important.
When I ran the shop I did try to get some Pecorino di Picinisco into the counter - its mild but slightly tangy taste would have sold well. But it was not to be, since I was the only one who wanted it. Sometimes it’s not good to be ahead of the curve.
A final 20 miles before heading for dinner and bed made a satisfactory end to a long day.
Tomorrow, 70km leads to Avezzano as il giro works through Abruzzo. There will be climbs. There will be dirt roads. There will be potato fields.
How can one not want to visit all these things??