Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Day 31- Viterbo to ROMA!!!!!- 94km

Our last day of the Via Francigena!!! We always knew it was going to be a tough one.... We had left ourselves almost 100km to conquer, we would have to do it all on the road, and the traffic getting in to Rome is notorious! So Ben spent a good couple of hours last night on garmin connect and strava planning a series of possible routes for us to take this morning. I think the one we settled on was a good choice, although a little.....interesting....at times ;) you will see what I mean!

Last night we stayed at the lovely Orchid B&B. Our hosts were super helpful, and told us that by bike our best option out of Viterbo was definately to take the road up to Lago di Vico, which is a lake inside the crater of a volcano. He warned us it was a good 10km climb, but in his words "a gradual climb". Ha! We think he must have been in a car, because it was far from gradual, with the sign posts labelling it a 10% climb, it was a rude awakening for the morning!


Leaving Viterbo




7km in and coated in sweat!

Once we got to the rim of the crater it was pretty spectacular. A lovely shaded road, mostly new, all the way around the lake. Perfect! Not too much climbing, and a little descending, so we were happy. And relatively car free.

Lovely shaded roads
Still some up....



First view of the lake


Lago di Vico


After Lago di Vico we had backroads all the way to Sutri where we stopped for our final cafe and cornetto second breakfast of the trip (which had become routine- we have now tried every possible flavour of cornetto!). We then had to go onto the dreaded Via Cassia until Campagno di Roma. We had been on this road several times already during the trip and it had always been fine, but we knew that as we got closer to Rome this may not be the case. There was no alternative, so we had to grin and bear it. The traffic was pretty horrendous, with no shoulder available we had to ride on the white line, with thorn bushes growing over onto the road whipping our arms and tearing through skin as we passed. Better than being taken out by a car though. I was happy to get back to quiet back roads after Campagno di Roma. We detoured slightly from the VF to hopefully get a quieter entry to Rome, taking the route through Sacrofano instead of Formello. The roads were great. A little bit more climbing, but I am happy to climb if it means getting away from the traffic and into more lovely scenery. Sacrofano was a delightful, very animated town. The locals just look like they have the happiest life ever! Laughing and talking, drinking coffee and going about their daily buisiness, all on a "work" day!


Entering Sutri




Back road bliss


Very cute Sacrofano

It wasn't long after lunch that things went a little sour.... We headed to prima porta, all good. After this, well, I think the saying "all roads lead to Rome" should be reworded "all roads lead to the freeway that leads to Rome". No matter which road we took it fed onto the freeway!!! And if we tried any other roads they just ended, as in a dead end! We ended up doing many circles back on ourselves, with navigator extraordinaire Ben getting a little frustrated, but he eventually sorted it, with us criss crossing back and forth under the freeway, taking a VERY long detour to avoid the ridiculously high speed freeway (no way we were going on there!). We ended up on the Via Flaminia which was quite good. It pushed us onto the freeway eventually, but luckily, at a point where the speed had reduced. The rest of the way to the Vatican was smooth sailing, we even had a cycle way the whole way down Viale Angelico.



Cycle lane along the Tiber



First Roman water tap


Cycle way to the Vatican

And so, we arrived in ROME! Our final destination! It's incredible! After 28 days of riding, 3 rest days, 2100km, 22000m of climbing, we have travelled, powered by our own legs all the way from Canterbury UK, through France, over the Swiss Alps, through Italy, to Rome!!! At the start of the trip it was hard to imagine arriving here, it was merely a thought, a goal, but to ride into St Peters Square today it all became real, we had done it, it's over. It's an amazing feeling of achieviment. I'm so proud of us. Proud of our physical achievement but also so very proud of how we worked together as a team to get here, to do this. The closing of our trip also brought a very strong feeling of sadness. It has been such an amazing experience to do this together. When I think back, there are so many individual memories and moments, and they all seem so long ago! I will treasure each and every one. It's sad that it's over, but I know there will be more. The world is an amazing place, do something different....get out there and explore it!!!


Rishi and Ben

Thank you to everyone who has been following our blog! We hope we have inspired you to push your own personal limits and achieve something new :)

The hoardes!!! We must be in Rome!


So so happy




We did it!


These legs are made of tough stuff


Monday, July 7, 2014

Day 30 - Radicofani to Viterbo - 83k

View down to lake Bolsena

It was strange to stay in the nice little house overnight, as it felt like somewhere you would stay a few days. It was nice to just cook some pasta and relax on the couch for the night though.

Our little house in Radicofani

After the long climb into Radicofani yesterday we enjoyed the long descent to start the day, it was almost 10k of down, starting with 4-5k of fairly steep sweeping bends, and once again I am glad we climbed the slightly flatter side the day before.

Early morning light on the descent
Looking back,up to Radicofani
Through the valley
Smooth via cassia
Not so smooth via cassia

We started the day mostly on the road, as the offroad descents are described as strenuous which means not good for bikes. With the mostly downhill start which ticked off the k's in quick fashion. Looking at the map it was easiest to stay on the via cassia most of the way to Montefiascone, as from Bolsena the trails would climb and descend from the lakeside, which would make very slow going.

The via cassia was mostly great, only a little traffic and mostly they passed with plenty of room. Much of the road is smooth, although you will often get 500m which is terrible which makes me wonder what makes them choose to repave or just plug the potholes, as it can mix and match every 500m.


The views were spectacular most of the day, starting with the descent, which had us riding through the valley with hilltop castles surrounding us. Then approaching Bolsena, the lake came into sight, which was spectacular as well, with intensive farming all around it.

Lunch in Montfiascone was fantastic, after riding through the entire town with nothing looking good, we arrived at the spectactular viewpoint looking out over the lake just below the castle. On the ride out we could smell something amazing , and then I notice a little billboard advertising a trattoria. Winding up into the backstreets we find the source of the smell and take a table out in the tiny street. What a find, one of the best antipasto plates we've eaten, and THE best lasagne I've ever eaten, with the perfect balance of handmade thin pasta in multiple layers, delicious sauce and light meat not too oily. Rishi had a traditional carbonara, which means no cream, and made with raw eggs. Very rich and a bit unusual if your used to the bastardised version you normally get, but this was made the traditional way and Rishi loved it. Washed down with a mezzo litro of vino rosso and it was one of the best Italian lunches of the trip.

Antipasto heaven, local meats, buffalo mozzarella, still warm roast veg.
This is what carbonara looks like
Lasange, so good could of eaten another of these!
View from Montefiascone
Look out! Luckily he turned off!

Having knocked off 60k already by lunch, we had less than 20k to finish the day to Viterbo. With mostly flat riding in store we hit the trails, with a seriously steep descent out of town we joined up with the old via cassia, which had long sections of original roman road. Huge bluestone pavers, rounded at the edges with huge gaps, making quite a bumpy ride. Some sections were quite steep and you really had to choose your line well to keep the bike upright and the panniers safely on the back. Eventually we arrived to the gravel roads again with 10k of fairly flat riding into Viterbo, which is surrounded by hills and a dormant volcano which we will climb to low on our final day into Rome.

Trails into Viterbo
Back to the trails
Old via cassia, roman stones
A little bit bumpy
Main gates into Viterbo



Day 29- Siena to Radicofani- 83km

We didn't get the best nights sleep last night. Siena was in the full swing of an Il Palio party with church bells ringing continuously (and I mean continuously....with no stopping!) from 5pm till midnight, drumming, wahooing and parading going on. It sounded like fun, but not for two pilgrims with a big day ahead of them that needed to get up early. And so we got up at 6am and headed out. It's amazing what a day off the bike can do for your legs! I felt like someone had gifted me a new set! So thanks for that whoever you are.

On the way out of Siena
The road to Rome


Bye Siena! You've been fun!

The riding today was just spectacular! Given that we had a big day in store- as per our route 90km with 2000m of climbing, we decided to try and stick to a bit more of the road where we could which would cut a few km off, be a lot quicker, and also take out a bit of the climbing (which on dirt is pretty bloody hard work). So we powered down the road for the first 40 or so km. There was definately still a lot of climbing, but it's just so much easier when you are on the road. Lucky for us, leaving early and it being a Sunday meant very little traffic, so we got to admire the amazing views all the way to Montalcino. Montalcino wasn't on our route exactly, but we really wanted to stop there to try the famous Brunello wines. The climb into the hill village was beautiful. The area is just so gorgeous. So many vineyards! And lush green compared with the other parts of Tuscany we have been through so far. We arrived into Montalcino at about 10am, had a quick coffee and coke (it's now my cool down drink- the heat in Tuscany kills me) before setting off to find an Enoteca where we could sample some Brunello. We found the best place! They had 100 wines on tasting! You just got a card, which you could then put into a slot and press the button for which wine you wanted to taste and it would charge the amount to your card. Brilliant! And so we got to taste about six excellent wines which would just be ridiculously expensive back home. What a great pit stop for the day!


Wine country


In my happy place





View from the top


Enjoying some Brunello di Montalcino


Just one wall of what you could taste

After a quick road descent from Montalcino we went back to the dirt trails for about 10km to San Quirico D'Orica. It had started to heat up considerably, and there was little shade on the trails, making the gravel climbs seem just that littttllleee bit harder. We had a quick lunch there and then kept going towards our destination, Radicofani. Back on the road and back into the sun and we were now topping out at 39degrees and I was sweating like a mad woman. The views either side of the road were just amazing! We took over 100 photos today!! Selecting which ones to use on this blog is hard work! ;) There was absolutely no shade on the road, so when we saw a bar only 10km out from Radicofani we quickly pulled over for a cold beer in the shade. Here we met the first group of cyclists we had seen on the trip. Four young guys for the UK who were cycling from Geneva to Rome. Didn't look like they would be moving anywhere too soon though...looked like they were struggling with the heat more than me, most of them shirtless, drinking cold drinks sitting in their bib knicks. There was also an Italian cyclist there seeking shade. He didn't speak any English, but gave us a smile, and his ears pricked up every time he heard us mention an Italian town.


Down from Montalcino


Back to the gravel






Rolling hills


Vespa club who passed and gave us lots of waves and toots

It was then a 10km climb to the hill town of Radicofani where we had pre-booked a little house to stay for the night. The climb was actually really beautiful. If it hadn't been so hot it would have been easier! But the gradient was really nice and the views were awesome. You could see the castle on top of the hill the whole time, although it always looked like it was still ages away! And the surrounding land is very volcanic, so very different to what we have been through on previous stages. We had pre arranged to meet the person who would let us into the house in front of the town church at 3pm. We got there a bit early at 2:30pm so settled down for a beer to wait. It got round to almost 3:30pm when I started to get concerned. Ben went looking around the town to no avail. I decided it was action time and saw some locals I thought I could approach. My intuition paid off. I approached a group of three people and tried to show them the name of the person we were supposed to meet and ask if they knew them. The older lady of the three started rapid fire Italian and I was immediately lost. Then hurrah for saviours, the man in the group starts speaking to me in Spanish "do you know a little Spanish?" "Yes!!!!!". So we have a conversation, he translates into Italian to the lady and she calls our host to find out what is going on. The owner of the house is actually in London and the contact name she gave us was incorrect, but thanks for Spanish and a VERY lovely lady, after several phone calls, a bit of waiting around, we were IN! I thanked her from the bottom of my heart, such an angel to take the time to help us out, using her phone and taking us to the actual door and waiting for the right person to come before leaving. It was a bit of a schamozzle, but we are now in a very comfortable house. She has left an incorrect password for the WIFI so this blog will be uploaded late. No shops open Sunday but we managed to find a packet of pasta and a tin of tuna in the house so that's dinner, and we brought a great local Sangiovese from the enoteca, so we are sorted :)

Climbing time!


Radicofani in the distance


Still a way to go!


From the top




Our house and our saviour