Florence & Taormina
and much in between
April 30 / May 23, 1992

Michael J. Ferguson
Montréal

Les Publications INRS-Télécommunications, Montréal

Journal Index

Contents

1  Thursday April 30, Montreal & Mirabel
2  Friday, May 1, Fumicino
3  Saturday, May 2, Bracciano
4  Sunday May 3, By the Fiume Senna
5  Monday, May 4, Siena
6  Tuesday, May 5, Siena
7  Wednesday, May 6 to Friday May, Firenze / Florence
8  Saturday, May 9, Messina - almost
9  Sunday, May 10, Letojanni
10  Monday, May 11, Taormina
11  Wednesday, May 13, Taormina
12  Thursday, May 14, Palmi, Calabria
13  Friday, May 15, Gazzeria, Calabria
14  Saturday, May 16, Diamante
15  Sunday, May 17, Palinura
16  Monday, May 18, Spineta Nuova
17  Tuesday, May 19, Sorrento
18  Wednesday, May 20, Licola
19  Thursday, May 21, Circeo
20  Friday, May 22, Lido di Ostia
21  Saturday, May 23, Lido di Ostia
22  Maps

1  Thursday April 30, Montreal & Mirabel

On this trip I am presenting papers at two different conferences in Italy. The first is INFOCOM'92 in Florence and the second one, two days later in Taormina, is Fifth IEEE Workshop on Metropolitan Area Networks. I didn't know where Taormina was either - it is in Sicily, just across the Strait of Messina from Reggio-Calabria. I rode my bicycle directly from Roma's Leonardo da Vinci airport to Florence, went by train to Messina and rode back from Taormina to Roma along the Italian west coast.
I took five days to go from the airport to Florence, with a day off in Siena. The trip from Taormina to Roma, actually Lido di Ostia took nine days which left one day to visit Roma. I covered 1600km (1000 miles) and climbed 12,250 metres (40,000 feet). Italy is indeed hilly.
People are arriving early for flights these days. I was at Mirabel 3 hours before departure (some local transportation constraints) and it was still very crowded. The plane was also full.
Roseanne is a "white knuckle flyer." I lent a soft shoulder and words of reassurance during the entire trip. Little bumps caused her heart palpitations - the turning on of the seat-belt sign a cause for alarm - a small flood on the aisle carpet from an overflowing toilet showed the plane was about to imminently self destruct - then there was the landing gear dropping (a most unfortunate expression) and the flutter of the wing flaps during landing. At times she was so scared she buried her head in my shoulder so she wouldn't have to look either inside or outside. Roseanne was originally from Ottawa but has been living near Campo Basso with her husband and two sons for about 15 years. She was on her way home from visiting her sisters, and mom and dad. This was the first time she had flown since 1986 - I wonder when the next time will be.
Sleeplessness compounded her problems. She had been surviving on 4 hours sleep for about 2 weeks, going to bed at Ottawa time and getting up at Campo Basso time - and then last night's party put her at the 48 hour mark without sleep.
She was wearing large gold hoop earrings which irritated her during her head hiding. I remarked that I thought that she might lose her ear sometime and she said she almost did once in Napoli when a kid tried to, literally, rip them off and steal her gold necklace at the same time.
We arrived at Roma, after passing over some spectacular snow covered Alps, with what I would consider a #5, out of 10, rated landing. There was a bounce possibly caused by a crosswind. The stewardess was more generous and gave the pilot a #7.

2  Friday, May 1, Fumicino

Roma's Leonardo da Vinci Airport is also known as Fumicino for the little nearby town on the coast. It was slightly distressing when my bag's routing tickets said Fumicino rather than daVinci. I didn't really want to land at the Roma's other airport, the one used by the Pope.
The baggage was exceedingly slow but did eventually come. My bicycle even came out on the regular conveyor belt. There was a minor riot, though, while we were waiting. There were no baggage carts and 50 or 60 disgruntled passengers. Then a huge line of carts arrived. The poor cart pusher was then called to exercise all of his crowd control training - shouting and cajoling the crowd back so that he could bring in the entire queue. As the last cart arrived, the maggots descended, my self included, on the row. I laid claim to two carts, in the middle of the row, one for myself and one for Roseanne, and waited patiently for them to make their way to the front of the queue. I suppose one could claim that the actual commandeering of the carts was quite civilized. They all disappeared almost instantly.
I retrieved my hockey and bike bags and pushed my cart outside, interrupted only momentarily by a customs official curious about my strange bag, and proceeded to rebuild my bike. I discovered several things that I had forgotten, including camping gas for my camp stove, and that I still had too much. Someday I shall get organized.
I left the airport on my way to Fumicino looking for a gas station to pump up my front tire. The first two, and almost all, except for the self-service stations were closed. So was everything else. The Italians take their Labour Day holiday seriously. I couldn't even find a "convenience" store open to buy bread and water, My water bottles were all empty. I finally was able to get my water bottle filled at an open bar in Maccarese, about 25km from the airport.
I am going to have to use Landmark navigation for this trip. My maps are quite detailed but there are few highway numbers, on either my map or the highways. Some roads are named, such as the Via auRelia, but these don't make it to my maps. Additional complications arise because of the commune and district structure of the towns that, possibly, might be the reason why the map and actual locations appear inconsistent.
I left the flatland by the airport and climbed through gentle hills to Bracciano. The blue, purple, white and red of early spring flowers, including the crimson poppies of France, covered the hills. This is a delightful old town, high on a hill overlooking the Lago di Bracciano, dominated by a heavily walled castle. This is evidently a tourist town and this was a holiday. A few shops were open, including an alimentari. I got some basics, bread, wine, and salami, and retired to the Piazza IV Novembre to have some supper. The tiny square was an eclectic mix of teenagers, 3 year olds, young parents and grandmothers - quite pleasant.
My map showed a campground about 20km out of town but there was an unmarked one just 2km out. I stopped and stayed. The lingua franca here was indeed French and I was able to get some camping gas from the lady's private supply. Tomorrow it will be toast and coffee for breakfast.

3  Saturday, May 2, Bracciano

** The greatest inconvenience of Turkish toilets is that you have to take off your shoes first.
The morning mist covers the hills around the lake. Bracciano is shrouded on its cliff. I thought that I would go around Monti Sabatini - no such luck, 250m up and over on to Sutri.
All the little towns in this part of Latium seem to be built on the tops of hills. Perhaps this is because there doesn't seem to be anything other than hills in these parts.
Viterbo
Viterbo is a large walled market town, probably Etruscan in origin. The southern wall seems to be a decent 60 feet high. It has been only about 48km since I started, but has taken me all morning - it has been about 3000 feet of up. I stopped here for lunch and had some Agnelli di scarlati, a delightful small raviolli type dish. The "Terre Fredde" Valdadige Shiava rosé wine is moderately tart, unfortunately.
I think the northern walls are only 40 feet high - maybe I exaggerated on the first one I saw.
I was a little disappointed with Viterbo. I had hoped to get the maps that I needed for the trip from Taormina to Napoli and perhaps the auto club campground guide - but no such luck. The roadside ads imply everything you need for sale is in Viterbo, but perhaps everything is closed. There is always Firenze.
From Viterbo I dropped three or four hundred meters to a broad flat plain - about 16km wide. The other side was Montefiascone, looking like a huge fortified church. It had narrow lanes, especially made for bicycles and kitty cats, surrounding a huge walled basilica. It straddled a sharp ridge, with Viterbo to the south and Lago di Bolsena to the north. I obviously go down to the lake but the ridges at the far end mean that I am going to have to pay for it.
It was down, sharply at first, but more slowly later. It took a very nice 15km of slow down to get to Bolsena. This is a rather conventional semi-modern tourist center surrounded by campgrounds. I could have stopped but I was still about 110km from Siena and wanted to go further. My map showed a campground near San Lorenzo Nuovo at the top of the ridge about 10km away.
It may have been there but I missed it - I shall continue.
The town square in Acquapendente was full - the social gathering spot for an early (6pm) Saturday evening. The old men were playing cards with the strangest looking deck I had ever seen. Four played and fifteen watched. The teenage motorcycles and bicycles were parked everywhere. I had some ???-walnut ice. It is amazing how Italian ice cream revives an exhausted spirit.
The road down from Acquapendente was a swift 50km/hour steepness - even with brakes. It has been reasonably flat from there but it is evident I am not going to find a campground. My campbook says there is one at Castel del Piano but that is 50km away and 700m up - no chance.
I have been going along the relatively main highway SS2 towards Siena. The small road off to Piancastagnaio will perhaps have better places to camp. The road is under construction and I reject what looks like a construction road just before the bridge across the Fiume Senna. The road goes up while my spirit and energy goes down. I give up in the middle of a stretch of gravel potholes - I will check out the place by the river.
One of the reasons I rejected this place first was the small water and mud hole that was the road, and only twenty metres off the highway. I slogged through it and down the dirt track. I am not the first here. A family has set up a picnic by the river. The road split where they were "camped" with the main part disappearing into the river and the side road being used for their campfire. They were getting their supper ready, with one boy and a dog there and two other boys down by the river fishing, and dad struggling to extract a cork from a wine bottle with a knife. I came to the rescue with my corkscrew. They shared their supper with me, some bread, salami, wine and a peach pastry for desert. However, this was only the beginning. Sausages cooked over their fire was the real treat. Again, it was French that was the partial means of communication.
I explored the sideroad and it literally fell off, about 2 metres, into the Fiume Senna. There was no place to camp along it, but down the bank a little way there was a rough, but acceptable place, with my tent opening out towards the river. About an hour after dark, I had a noisy visit from the three curious boys and their dog - it was quiet and uneventful after.
Today has been a strenuous one - 119 km and 1600m up (74 miles and 5250 feet up).

4  Sunday May 3, By the Fiume Senna

It rained last night, was foggy this early morning but the sun is now (8:00am) starting to burn it off - it should be quite pleasant. According to the signs, I am about 80km from Siena, and who knows how many thousand feet.
I stopped for lunch in Buonconvento and discovered that pizza seems to be an evening meal (snack?). I settled for Fusillano sarcotti - a different and delicious pasta. The Los Angeles riots made the news in Buonconvento - I have no idea what they were saying about it. There was also an Austrian bike touring group having lunch and ordering incredible quantities of wine and beer. They were an easygoing group doing 40km circle tours each day and based in a small house in Buonconvento.
I was going through Luciano di Arbia when I was waved down by a man filling water bottles at the local faucet. He said the water came from a nearby mountain and was very good. It was quite good and much better than I had gotten earlier in the day at Rinconcaldo. I filled both my bottles and he continued on his ten.
Siena
The sign announcing Siena was at least 5km outside of the center. The town is only 60,000. I entered the center of town by the Porto Romana. Almost everything is closed and the only people around seem to be tourists - hoards of them. The main Piazza di Campo looked a little like a camp (although Campo means "field"). I wonder if there are any real people. I shall see tomorrow. I must admit, though, that it is sort of fun.
I left the Piazza del Campo looking for a campground. My map showed the general direction but I had no idea where I was. Then I found some signs that said camping, and they actually told the truth. The Colleverde campground is a first for me in Europe. There are toilet seats and toilet paper.
I suppose today has been an easy riding day - but it sure didn't feel like it. I went only 84km and climbed a mere 800m (52 miles and 2600 feet). Perhaps I am just out of shape.
I shall stay here two nights and explore Siena tomorrow. I have not been here before.

5  Monday, May 4, Siena

Siena is remarkable in that its principal building is the Palazzo Publico rather than a church. This is now the city hall. It's hard to believe that the bureaucrats had that much influence.
Peggy went to "St. Catherine de Sienne" school for several years. I tried to find a postcard of the Basilica Cateriniana di San Domenico but there weren't any to be found. I now understand why. The Basilica is a large totally uninteresting brick - not stone - church. Although Cateriniana - in other places they spell it Caterina - is the patron saint of Italy, the market in Basilica postcards is quite weak. The stained glass windows above the alter are very bright, modern and colourful - much deep blue - images of Christ, Mary and Child and some Apostles?. Apparently St. Catherine's head is on display - I shall forego that pleasure.
** Nannini Plus is an absolutely delightful chain of pastry-plus shops. The "plus" is for their wine and liquor section that sells the most originally packaged liquors I have ever seen. The bottles are all works of art. There are some disadvantages of travelling by bicycle.
The Duomo is Siena's zebra basilica. It's built with alternating rows of black and white marble. The floors are portraits in multicoloured marble. The local brown Sienese cat is charming French tourists and Italian kids alike - mommy is chasing a little one to stop him from hurling himself off the steps on his way to say "allo" to the cat.
Yesterday, the Pizzacheria intrigued me, but it was closed. It is a small food, wine, and hot snack - to take out - shop. I opted for a stuffed zucchini, a potato roll, a stuffed, fried "thingy", and a pizza looking dish that turned out to be more like a quiche without the crust. I also bought the cheapest chianti ($5.00) that I could find, and joined the hoards in the Piazza del Campo for a "picnic" lunch. The wine was the best Chianti I have ever had. I wonder what the more expensive ones are like. I suspect that I don't have the discrimination to appreciate them. The "snacks" were quite delicious. This is a thoroughly delightful way to have lunch.
Some Miscellaneous Images of Siena
The square is crowded again with tourists, but half of them look like school groups. The pigeons are still being harassed.

6  Tuesday, May 5, Siena

This morning was beautiful again - clear and dry. My tent was quite dry from the night shower of two days ago. Colleverde is built on the side of a hill - up 100 feet in the morning to get out.
Monteriggioni
It is really the "regional mountain" - a tiny walled village, about 200m in diameter on top of a hill surrounded by vineyards. The Piazza Roma is the centre of activity - a brown and white cat wandering across the piazza and the signora watering the flowers in front of her Ristorante il Pozzo - certainly a nice place to rest.
Colle val d'Elsa This is the "citti di cristal" where Loreno Grassini, among others, carves his designs. It is a joy to see an artist and craftsman at work - very fast and with style. The "citti" is jumble of small streets and squares.
San Gimignano This small walled Tuscan town rates 3 stars in the Michelin Guide. It is the best preserved Tuscan medieval town in Tuscany. The main gate is only about 2m wide, opening out onto a dirt street. Although they have removed the early street-bound sanitary facilities, and the place is wall to wall tourists, me included, the town has much charm. It was even worth the 180m climb to get here. There is much restoration in progress, with holes and board walks in the main piazza. There seem to be very few places in town to sit down. Is this an intentional modern inconvenience? I did find a place to sit, in the shade, in a small park between the inner and outer wall. At first there was only me and a group of French school kids from Annency - later there were three other groups.
Lunch was my usual salami, bread, and wine. The wine is the cheap $1.75 supermarket variety. It's not as good as yesterday's chianti but is better than most in the SAQ.
Some of the "stuff" shops here have an interesting difference. They are direct from the producers, Chianti Classico sellers. I, unfortunately, do not have the space.
Tuscany from here to Firenze is exhausting, intensely rolling hills covered with vineyards. It is quite pretty with the green and brown, the fragrance of mock orange, and a profusion of flowers. I especially like the irises growing on the road banks. It is also lambing time, and the tiny ones are out with their moms.
I linked back up with the main SS2 about 10km out of Firenze and it was, mercifully, all downhill from there. I crossed the Arno on the Ponte Santa Trinita - I missed the Ponte Vecchio by one bridge and found my way to the Hotel Ariston, about 5 blocks (all one way streets in the wrong direction) from the Duomo. I can see why Siena felt upstaged.
Today has been 94km and 1200m (61 miles and 3900 feet). From Leonardo da Vinci Airport it has been 385km and 4300m (240 miles and 13,400 feet up).
For the next few days I attend INFOCOM'92. I left my conference information at home so I shall have to search out its location. There is no one else at this hotel from the conference.

7  Wednesday, May 6 to Friday May, Firenze / Florence

My hotel room has a private bath - down the hall - very strange.
On Thursday night we were treated to a private organ concert at the Santa Croce Church. The setting was magnificent and the music was stunning. The organ is split into two equal ranks on either side of the church, about 100 metres apart. The church is not small. We sat in between and the organist, P. Ermanno Vandelli, played from a console near the alter. The sound was crisp and clear - I think I shall be forever disappointed with my CDs. Vandelli added a new dimension to the concert by carefully controlling the location of the sound in the opposing ranks. The effect was enchanting in Mozart's Ave Verum as the music faded from one side to the other. He finished with Bach's Tocatta and Fugue where the sound overpowered rather than lulled. It will be a memory forever.
INFOCOM'92 finished at about 5:15pm and I made my way over to Santa Maria Novella station to dismantle and fold my bike. My train for Messina - it's actually going to Palermo - does not leave until 7:30pm but I wanted to fold my bike with plenty of time. It took only about a half an hour so I have spent a lazy time sitting in the station having my salami, wine, bread, and liquid butter for supper.
I just met Abdul Karim, on his way to Milano to stay with friends. He is from Somalia but lives in London. He pops around from city to city, reducing the very expensive tourism by staying with friends. Perhaps the major anomaly in his story is that he flew from Amsterdam to Italy because the train took too long.
** I needed a cart and started walking beside a man with one, hoping he would stop. He didn't so I stopped. Then he came back and gave me his cart.
My couchette ticket says smoking, but I have been assured that there is no smoking after 10:00pm. We shall see. I must find the correct car. I really can't carry my junk too far.
The train to Palermo has just arrived but it says Paris, Gare de Lyon. Everyone waiting is mystified. The track has just been changed and the entire platform is emptying. According to the timetable the train has already left. - It has just come - I am way down at the far end. We are leaving, about 20 minutes late. My bike and bag are at the end of my car. There has been no hassle from the conductor but my passport and Eurail Pass have disappeared until domani. My compartment seems to be made up of non smokers - quite nice.
The train seems to be spending a lot of time in tunnels on its way to Roma. I had only one while riding to Firenze.
We just stopped in Roma Tiburna station and I had to move my bags away from the door. One of my companions warned me to guard them when we got to Napoli. I guess I don't get too much sleep. I woke about a half-hour north of Napoli Centrale to watch my bags. There was not much activity at 1:00am but we did get two new kids next door. There was no problem since the train door was not opened.
We only stopped twice ( Roma and Napoli ) on this express train to Messina and both times I had to move my bag and bike from the door. Imagine the hassle on a local.
The Calabrian coast, looks incredibly rugged in the early morning haze. There is a coastal road down by the train and huge bridges arching hundreds of feet above us. I wonder where I shall be going.

8  Saturday, May 9, Messina - almost

The train was split into two pieces and shunted into the ferry. We were able to go upstairs to see the passage and get some breakfast. The Messina harbour is flat and filled with ferries and torpedo boats. We were stuck below waiting for about 10 minutes while they pushed us around.
Messina station is just off the ferry. I pulled my bike and bag off and started to put it together right there, much to the delight of my compartment companions who were continuing on to Palermo.
This is indeed an ocean climate. The early morning mist has burned off and the sun is bright, but not too hot. The market has a much more fishy face than Firenze. Some guy tried to sell me a sword fish head. He also had squid, octopus, prawns, and many unrecognizable (to me) standard fish.
In one of the back courtyards in San Gimignano, there was a sign, "Please speak in a low voice". In Italy, inside or out, I have yet to hear a low voice. The fishmonger here was one of the least low.
Messina, perhaps the key entrance to Sicily, is an old Greek city. It is pleasant but not overly exciting.
** A Messina park policeman came to my rescue while I was looking for a bathroom. I followed the signs to the back of the police station, and of course the bathrooms were closed. He saw me riding back and invited me to use the one inside. As I was leaving, he tried to convince me that I really wanted to completely wash. I declined, even though the shower facilities on the train are quite limited.
The road south to Taormina was flat and right by the shore. The Autostrada that ran parallel to it climbed, bridged, and tunnelled. The hills rise straight up, about a 1000 feet and the Autostrada insists on riding part way up. The flat seashore for my road was too good to last though. After about 45km, the Capo San Alessio got in the way and I climbed several hundred feet around the corner. The Autostrada just punched through the ridge.
The campground for which I was aiming, the one affiliated with the Colleverde in Siena was very dead. Perhaps the fact you had to approach it through a dump contributed to its demise. Several more down the road were also closed but finally the Campground Paradise, a slight exaggeration, in Letojanni was open. My tent is pitched in a small patch of yellow daisies and burrs.
After a short siesta, I continued south to Taormina. It was only 8km but two more Capos, up and over. I found the Albergo Capo Taormina - it is indeed elegant but there seems to be another conference going - ours starts tomorrow.
One of the two main roads to Taormina starts from the Capo Taormina. It is a very narrow residential switchback road climbing 200 metres up the cliff. Taormina has even more tour busses than San Gimignano. The first two I met, one after the other, were hugging the cliff so closely on my side of the road there was not even enough room for my bike. I reverted the other side of the road. Taormina is a delightfully spectacular town.
** This is artichoke country. My "house special" pizza had, among other things, peas, artichokes, and eggs. It was wood-fire cooked and quite good. It bears a strong resemblance to its North American cousin.
Today was a lazy day - 73km and 480 metres.

9  Sunday, May 10, Letojanni

It is a beautiful, dry day and the yellow daisies are opening in the morning sun. There is also small pretty horn-like purple flower that is offsetting the burrs. In front is the sea and to my left the goats are enjoying their breakfast.
After a small delay hunting for my glasses that fell out of my pocket into the flowers, I was on my way. I arrived at the Albergo Capo Taormina and much to my delight, my room was available. The Albergo is built on the top of the cliff and the elevators go down to the rooms and the beach. It is exceedingly pleasant.
Mount Etna
Mount Etna has recently broken through a side-vent and threatened the village of Zafferana. I have always been upset because Halemaumau on the big island of Hawaii has been silent while I was living in or visiting Hawaii. I had seen it active once and wanted to again. Since Etna's vent is "low", or so I have been told, I won't have to ride all the way up to the 3323 metre (10,900 foot) summit - which is beautifully covered with snow from about the 7000? foot level. Etna is active near its peak - you can see a huge pillar of cloud rising.
Yesterday, I asked a travel agent specializing in Etna tours whether there were any to the new flows. He said that no one wanted to go so he had none. Someone else advertised seeing Etna at night but this was from the air and there was no price. Seeing it from the air is much like seeing it on television - no heat or smell.
So I started down - all directions, except into Taormina itself, are down from the Albergo - although the "down" lasted for only a few minutes.
** There seems to be much more open here on Sunday than last week in and around Siena. You can buy the essentials - bread, wine, fruit, and fish, and flowers (no meat). I don't know whether this was a special Sunday (Mother's day?) but lots of people were carting armloads of flowers.
My route took me slightly inland, south through a wide coastal valley towards Mascali and Giarre. There is at least one high ridge, and possibly two between me and Etna. I carefully studied the map to see where I should start up. Although my tourist philosophy of never being lost, just seeing different things, still holds, the penalty in this instance is considerable sweat and pain. At Giarre I start up towards Macchia, and Milo. All roads seem to go principally to Milo, where I don't want to go, and then, perhaps other places, such as Santa Venerina, which is on my way. I must navigate with some faith.
I am now south of Etna climbing through lemon and orange groves, trash heaps, terraced vineyards, and hundreds of discarded advertisements for Madame Sahara - Occultiste and Advisor. The last little section into Zafferana is quite steep, sufficiently so that I get smiles of encouragement from some of the pedestrians.
I can see plumes of smoke rising from the hills just above the town. That must be the sight of the new vents. Unfortunately I must go down a bit before I go up. The road says Etna, so I guess that it must be right. Just down a small side road there is a Carabinieri road block. I just ride my bike through - bicycles and pedestrians are allowed - and continue to climb through the vineyards. I go up about another 100 metres, stopping once to refill my water bottle with refreshing cold water, to be stopped at a second roadblock. This was, indeed, relatively low, only 700 metres (2300 feet), but not without strain.
At this point only people with permits are being allowed to pass. I can see the flows just up the hillside. So close but so far. Several groups of people try to talk their way past the Carabinieri to no avail. Then a small family with grandfather and two kids try, with apparent success. They tried to leave the little girl behind with grandfather while mom, dad, and older five year old brother walked up to see the flows. This didn't work. She burst into tears and ran for her mother. I attached myself to the family during the confusion, and started up towards the flows with father, grandfather, and older brother. Father had obviously been this way before. He turned into an olive grove, past a small stone house, right by the termination of the flow. It had stopped just above the house on one side and went down past it on the other. It was quite cold. He continued up the far side about 50 metres where the lava was still alive and very slowly moving. We were about 10 feet away, just across a fire break, where we could feel the heat, and see the cooling lava face fall off showing a red hot interior. My binoculars gave me, and several others, a very close look at the activity. There were a few shrubs on the lava side of the fire break that burst into flame while we watched. While we were watching, a couple of Etna park rangers came to take heat measurements. They were closely monitoring the slow progress of the flow. Overhead there were helicopters on constant patrol.
While I was watching, I saw young couple that had been turned away earlier by the Carabinieri. There are obviously several ways to finesse the restrictions.
The lava is rather standard, lumpy and rough, not smooth and glassy like Hawaii. I would guess that the reason is that it comes out much cooler and doesn't flow anywhere nearly as fast. Why it should be cooler is for someone else to guess.
I walked back to my bike, waved at the Carabinieri, started down a different direction, and passed the initial roadblock on this access. This seems much steeper than the way I came up. My wrists are sore from the scrunching the brakes but I am glad the braking works well.
I went back along the ridge towards the Etna Nord. I made a wrong turn and went down and back up towards Milo. I climbed out of town, past a very busy Sunday afternoon picnic area in the woods, that was so crowded that families were forced to setup on the low stone fence that lined the road.
The summit for me today was about 865 metres (2850 feet) at Fornazzo. I stopped for lunch - it was now 3:30 - and watched the kids test out their new mountain bikes in the piazza. Lunch today was some wine and chocolate - it was really snack time.
From here it was mostly down, very carefully, towards the coast. Taormina and its companion towns on the ridge about 15km across the valley were beautifully formidable.
** The last 10 pay phones that I have tried have not worked. The most recent phone booth was entirely missing its phone - I didn't try too hard in that one.
I arrived back at the Albergo at about 6:30. My excursion was about 80km with a total climb of about 1200 metres (50 miles and about 4000 feet). I am ready for my shower.

10  Monday, May 11, Taormina

It is a beautiful early morning on my balcony overlooking the Mediterranean. A cruise ship has just entered the harbour just south of us at Naxos. I made my early morning coffee and enjoyed the roses, cacti, and orange tree.
** The orange juice here is a tomato juice dark red. It evidently comes from red blood oranges.

11  Wednesday, May 13, Taormina

We had a banquet in Taormina last night, and in true Italian fashion, dinner didn't finish until 11:30pm. Then I walked with Bill Burr down the hill to the hotel. It was pleasant, warm, and smelled of honeysuckle and mock orange. I didn't get to sleep until about 1:00 and got up early to "break camp." It was so early that I went out to see if there was any red on Etna. I didn't see any. In fact it was so hazy, I couldn't even see Etna. Any way, I am tired.
This morning the workshop finishes and I will be off north towards Roma. The Autostrada distance is about 800km but it cuts off the coastal cliffs of Calabria. It should be pretty and interesting.
I started out with a strong headwind. This is the prevailing wind and I think I had it at my back on the way down from Messina. That was one of the reasons the road appeared so flat. The capes appeared to be more frequent and more up on the way back. It was a pretty ride up to Messina but I am very tired.
The signs in Messina made it very easy to find the ferry dock, and I bought a ticket for my bike ($3.50). Apparently I just missed a ferry and had to wait about 45 minutes for the next one. There were no cars waiting when I started but a few came. The ferry backed out of the harbour and we were on our way.
The ferry ride is about 30 minutes and essentially without strain. I am about to find out what the Calabrian coast is like. I wonder if I will still have a head wind.
** The cliffs are covered with large wire mesh to prevent avalanches, but the shrubs and flowers are doing their best to disguise it.
Scilla I have been running along the cliffs for about 3/4 hour now and reach the delightful little town of Scilla. It fills a small bay, with a beach, a waterfront line of very active gathering spots, and a castle at the far end. It is about 7:10pm and my map says that there is a campground. There are no signs nor can I see anything. Perhaps it is beyond the castle. The road goes right through the cliff under the castle and opens up on a small harbour where the fishermen are busy mending their nets. This is a real fishing village. The road narrows and becomes a 5 foot wide lane. I think I am being discouraged by a local fisherman from continuing but I do anyway. The lane narrows some more. The kids are playing with their toy trucks and the old ladies smile. It is a very social place on a Wednesday evening. After dodging two motor scooters, I got out to a section that is almost wide enough for a car. Then in a little while I joined up with the main highway - still no sign of a campground.
The SS-18 is running about 100 feet above the water here but the Autostrada is running about 1000 feet higher. That's an ominous sign. At Bagnara, the map shows a line of squiggles (switchbacks). The next campground is beyond this section.
** The main social gathering spots in Bagnara are the auto repair shops, almost private house garages, working far into the night.
The highway starts out above the main part of town and then switch-backs up through tightly clustered houses and shops. The switch backs keep on with no respite except when I rescued a soccer ball for two kids. They were playing on the second floor of a partly constructed new building and kicked down into the street and partially down the hill. As I sweat my way up, I get smiles of encouragement and the occasional friendly greeting. As the sun sets, I am only part way up, and the village is spread out below. Way up the cliff I see a road - is it mine? It was. Now it is getting dark and the bats flit around - hunting. About halfway up, I see several groups of people filling water bottles. This was obviously a special trip for them so it must be good. I fill my almost empty water bottle. It's quite dark now but the full moon is casting my shadow. Except when I get into the shade of a tree or the cliff I can see almost decently - but I still am going up. I get to the top but it isn't. It still rises slowly on a high plateau. Perhaps this is a good time to ride through this part of the country. The moonlight is very forgiving of the trash heaps. The top turns out to be at 550 metres (1800 feet). I really would have liked to do this when I had more rest. I look carefully at all intersections for a sign leading to Palmi. I see one pointing to a campground at Palmi and decide this must go down. It goes up for a while and then deadends at the side of cliff that must have been at least 1500 feet straight down to Palmi. I went back to the main road. It did go down. I hit construction through a small, poverty-struck town and thought I must be there. Then there was a sign to the mare. After some more down, with aching hands from clutching the brakes, I decide this must be it. However my altimeter says I am still at 250 metres (900 feet). I continue along the road that claimed there was a Mr. Fantino's Camping and finally find it. It is about 10:30 now. I ring and am greeted in English. I think I am the only one here. I am shown a decent spot under a light and make camp, have a very good hot shower, eat some supper, and go to bed. Today, mostly by mistake, I went 99km and climbed 900m (62 miles and 3000 feet).

12  Thursday, May 14, Palmi, Calabria

The signs I saw yesterday said that Salerno was 477km away - and that is on the shorter non-shore route.
It is another beautiful, dry, sunny and cliffy morning. I am not the only people. There is a German couple from Kassel who had almost decided that Sicily was too dangerous. I suggested that Taormina and Etna were worth the trip and did not think there would be any problems. There was even an open campground.
It turns out that I was still not down to the water yet - about 250 feet (75m) more to go. It also appears that Mr. Fantino's campground was the only one of the 4 or 5 around that was open.
The Lido di Palmi is getting ready for the summer - and really needs to. The road went along water for a while and then climbed, mercifully only about 200 feet, up to the main highway. The smell of the orange groves is a delight.
** Many of the olive groves have the ground under the trees covered with fine nets. I guess that's how you pick very ripe olives.
Nicótera is a 700 foot high Calabrian hilltop village with a magnificent, although hazy view of the Golfo di Gióia. The hills that I came down last night look like mountains in the distance. There is a lot of new construction. This is a new/old town. In some places the new concrete looks more like sand. The road from here to Ióppolo is lined in green - a sure sign of sweat ahead. The road rose to about 1000 feet as it went around the point on its way to Tropea. The train just blasted through to the other side.
Tropea is a fairy-tale like town on 200 foot cliffs that surround wide beach that has a breakwater at one end and chateau on an the top of an isolated rock at the other end. You stare down at the beach and a field of yellow daisies from a small square at the edge of the cliff. The beach has lots of activity but no one is in the water. I guess that it does rate its green underline (of tourist interest) on the map.

Some Images of Calabria

I continued north from Tropea along this beachy coast to Pizzo, another small high cliff side town. My map showed a campground near here and indeed I found it just up the road in the Lido di Pizzo. It was closed, but it did say there was one open only two kilometres away. The sign neglected to say which direction. I continued up the road, and at exactly two kilometres I was going under the Autostrada. Nothing here at all. Another 3km up the road I found the Pinotamare campground. It was closed too and they were getting ready for their June opening. The director was there but he was worried about liability and refused to let me stay. My map showed another pair of campgrounds about 20km away and he thought that one of them might be open. It was now about 6:15 and I wondered if I would be up to 20km. I had some trepidation as I could see some huge mountains just to the north. Fortunately they were more than 20km away and the route was flat, even for a bike, coastal plain. It took me about an hour to find that the campground in Gazzeria was also closed. This one looked so seedy that I am not certain I would have stayed if it had been open. I started north along the coast as the sun started to set.
This is flat coastal plain with very few trees. Although it is sparsely populated, there is no protection for "free" camping. I decide that I will probably have to indulge in a hotel. The first one I found was also closed. The second one, the Hotel delle Sirene was open, and quite empty. They obviously had space, and I managed, through the help of a bar patron to ask them, in French, for a room. It was $35.00 (a bargain compared to the $175.00 in Taormina or $80.00 in Firenze. Their rooms had been newly rebuilt and were clean tile, in the bedroom, bathroom (with shower), and balcony.
I stayed. Today was a long 133km and 1000 metres up (80 miles and 3200 feet up).

13  Friday, May 15, Gazzeria, Calabria

It is overcast this morning as I look out to the Mediterranean from my balcony. There is a broad beach about 200 metres away with flat grassy clumps in between. The mountains on my right look as though they rise about 5000 to 6000 feet. I hope I go around them.
At about 9:30 I arrived in Amantea, an easy and flat 25km. I stopped in a Super Mercado to reprovision and got some fresh rolls. This is the first light Italian bread I have had so I stopped to have a second breakfast before the rolls went stale. Amantea is at the base of a small, (300 foot?) hill with the remains of an old castle on its top. The entire istorico centro has about 40 buildings. The cool overcast adds to the charm.
There are a lot of small towns, such as Belmonte Calabro, perched behind their walls on hills about 100 to 300 metres above the shore. I shall be content to look from a distance. The flowers are a delight, and there is the occasional beach decoration such as a WW2 bunker. This one had an old bedspring communing with it.
I just met a German bicyclist going south to Sicily. I thought because he had one of those neat Dutch map holders, he must be Dutch. He had bought it in Holland. He had come down from Northern Italy, was going to Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, and then back home. I told him I was on my way to Roma, and he told me of his experience at trying to avoid Napoli. He went way around Napoli but found himself in one distressing town after another. He said that next time he would go right through. He also warned me of mountain passes, that he estimated at 1000 metres just north of the 3 starred Golfo di Policastro. I hope to get there today and that I will find an open campground.
At about 1:30 I found the Ristorante-Pizzeria-Bar Scirocco "Mitus 2" open and went in for lunch. I tried to order a 1/4 litre of white wine to go with my Linguina agli scampi and the waiter came with a huge pitcher half full. I tried to send it back but he insisted that it was the smallest version of the house wine. This is a family establishment. The waitresses split their time between their several month old babies and the tables ... two others of which were filled. It is now 2:15 and the family is having lunch. I doubt that I shall be able to get my waiter's attention for sometime. My scampi was single, in shell, and on top of the linguini. It was quite good. I think I am going to have a slow afternoon.
The road has become a more typical shore drive, popping up and down with some regularity. Bridges, all of which are sized to the nearest metre, reduced the downs, and tunnels the ups.
I don't know whether it was the road or lunch, but it was slow going. At about 6:00pm I saw the Mare Blu campground, with the first open gates that I had seen today. They are barely open and the girl at the desk (French again is the language) decided that things were so complicated that she wanted to wait for the director. The 92 rates only started at May 30. The director said I could stay, and turned on the hot water for my shower. I am the sole occupant tonight.
I got a very early start today and thought that I would get to the Golfo di Policastro but I am at least 35km short. It was a mere 102km (63 miles) and 500 metres (1600 feet) up. This was an easy day. According to my German friend, tomorrow will be much more difficult, and prettier.

14  Saturday, May 16, Diamante

It seems that the favourite location for campgrounds is wedged between the highway and a main train line. Here you went under the track to get to the beach. It was still very pleasant though to have the olive trees and honeysuckle all to myself.
The custodian did get up early and open the gates. At 7:00am I waved goodbye and left. Other campgrounds that I passed still had their gates closed.
Scalea is the southern entrance to the Golfo di Policastro. Saturday is a school day in Italy. It's 7:30 and the kids are waiting in clumps for their busses. By 8:00am I am being passed in both directions by semi-full school busses.
Just north of Scalea, I cross a 630 metre (2200 foot) bridge that is sitting at least 300 feet above the valley and 450 feet above the water. A road switchbacks down this side and back up the other. I am quite happy to be on the bridge. About halfway across, I take advantage of the fact I am riding a bike and stop to take a picture.
The Golfo is ruggedly beautiful with sharp ridges driving into the sea. The morning sun coming over the hills and the slight haze adds to the peacefulness. Práia a Mare with its long arching beach is laid out far below and in front. The highway seems to run about 500 feet above the water affording marvelous views.
I needed to reprovision, and I wanted to buy some postcards so I decided to go up to Maratea. It seemed like a bigger town on the map so I thought that I would have a good choice. It was a long way up and I knew I was in trouble when I saw the vegetable trucks making home deliveries. The streets seemed to be getting steeper and even the herd of goats and sheep did not improve my spirit. But I did see some ladies coming back down the hill with full bags of groceries so I vowed to push on. Finally I reached the main square. The "Super Mercado" was all of 30 by 40 feet. However, the Saturday farmer's market was in operation. It was small, but I did manage to get some oranges and piquante salami. I was able to get my bread in the "supermarket." I went back down the hill, and, as one might expect, there was a large, by Italian standards, supermarket about 100 metres from the intersection where I started up to Maratea.
I stopped for picnic lunch at a small overlook on sheer cliffs about 100 metres above the water. After what happened yesterday, I thought that a picnic would be safer. The clouds kept it cool while I stared at a small speck fishing beside his own secluded beach. This one you could get to without rappelling but some of the others seemed accessible only by rope or by sea.
I continued around the corner down to Sapri and met a middle-aged German couple, bicycling up the other way. They had started in Firenze and were on their way to Reggio Calabria. They insisted I not miss the Amalfi coast, that I should miss Napoli, if I could, but they didn't know how, and gave me some advice on how to get through the mountains that I am about to enter. They also said that, as of May 1, you no longer could carry bicycles with you on Italian trains but must ship them at exorbitant cost. They were also appalled at how expensive everything was in Italy, but they have loved their ride so far - except for Napoli.
** I was just passed by a Ferrari tractor.
There has been grass and more trees since I left Sapri and started up towards Torre Orsaia. I just checked the map and have left Calabria at Sapri. Perhaps the border was based on a vegetation line.
This is now cattle country, and the cows look well fed - after all, there actually is some grass. On the way up to Roccagloriosa, I saw three farmers admiring what looked like a young prize bull.
Roccagloriosa lives up to its name. It is set high on a ridge and can be seen in all its glory from all over the valley. This was the end of my uphill for today. It was all downhill to Palinura, just around the corner of the Golfo di Policastro. The road goes down along the side of a broad valley with several thousand foot ridges on both sides.
The little towns of Celle di Bulgheria - strange name - and Poderia are the nice clean Italian hill towns that you read about. The kids are friendly and excited. I appear to be the most exciting happening on a Saturday night. It is supper time and the good smells are common.
At San Severino, the town at the end of the valley, the road splits and goes up the ridge through town, or continues towards Palinura through a short tunnel. San Severino has extensive ruins of an old city high on the top of the ridge high above. These are the largest set of ruins (post Roman) that I have seen in Italy.
Beyond the tunnel is the gorge of the Fiume Mingard. This a spectacular cut in the rocks with cliffs rising at least 1000 feet on both sides. I would guess it was about 500 feet across. Looking back up the river, you could see the back side of the ruins of San Severino. Photographs could not do it justice. The road wound down, through a few more tunnels, to the coast just a few miles south of Palinura.
The gorge widened as it approached the sea and I was disappointed. I had just remarked to myself that the countryside had been remarkably free of trash heaps. Here there was an abundance. Although there is some flat, semi-public, land in Italy where you could "free" camp if necessary, almost all of it seems to have been hit by the trashers first.
Right near the end of the valley, I passed about a dozen teenage+ boys who motioned me to stop, wanting a bottle opener? so they could start their party. I ignored them and rode on. A few minutes later, a kid on a motor scooter rode up beside me, showing some anger that I hadn't stopped. I insisted that I "non comprende" and eventually he gave up. I really don't know what they wanted but nor do I know why they felt I could help - or be victimized.
The first two campgrounds that I found were closed but the third was open. It is quite crowded and tight but I found a spot where I am presently watching and listening to the waves roll on to the beach with the Capo di Palinura and its lighthouse, off to my left.

15  Sunday, May 17, Palinura

It is a clear cloudless day by the Mediterranean. Hopefully the rain, a few dribbles only, that was predicted has passed.
The coast here is parched, but not quite as extreme as in Calabria. The coastal mountains are high enough to drop rain in the interior valleys. They certainly are lush compared to this.
This road has a distressing number of scenic sections. My first, only 6km from the campground climbed 100 metres. It has a beautiful, slightly hazy, view of the entire Capo di Palinura. - I hadn't even reached the official scenic part when I wrote this; that started two kilometres away and another 90 metres higher. The official scenic section is the village of Pisciotta and its marina - pretty but ...  Pisciotta probably used to be a fortress town. It is on a pinnacle of rock, facing the sea, separated from its surrounding cliffs where the road runs, and just barely attached to the end of the valley. It was a Sunday morning with the old ladies walking to church and the old men congregated in the piazza. Even the boom-box did not seem so offensive with the Italian music. Sunday seems to be "flower" day in Italy. The florists were all open - and nothing else - and several people were carrying bouquets. The road hung on the side of the cliffs for about 20 more kilometres.
I am now down to sea level for the second time today, having lunch in a small restaurant in Acciaroli. This is a small town but there are very few tables for small groups. The average table size appears to be 20 and there are several groups here and assembling. The babies are brought in their baby carriages. This must be close to the entire population of the town.
The road continued along the coast with two more scenic sections, one 100 metres high and the other 132 metres high. Then it cut inland behind Monte Licosa a mere 350m high. This was not high enough to create the lush interior valleys that I had seen outside of Sapri. The road briefly passed the beaches, all Sunday afternoon busy, of Santa Maria di Castellbate before turning inland towards Agropoli. Castellbate itself was high (300m) on an interior mountain. Again I avoided the scenic detour.
The officially non-scenic road to Agripoli rose to 150m. After all, you can't call a high interior road winding up through a wide valley to with soft ridges and fields scenic, can you?
From the top of the pass the road followed the side of the ridge all down to Agropoli. This is a rather nondescript town, more so because nothing was open on a Sunday afternoon.
From here north to Salerno, the road is almost perfectly flat, on a very wide coastal plain with the mountains far off to the east. At Paestum I saw my first Roman ruins on this trip to Italy. There were several large columned buildings, and even more souvenir shops, all of which mentioned that they could "Sprechen Deutsch". There were also several Antiches Terracotta factories. I continued up the road, missing my turn and adding 4 or 5 km.
The road along the coast is split from the shore by a wide swath of trees, proudly noted as being the Paestum forest preserve. The trees were preserved but the fish were hunted. On several rivers there were huge, 50m by 100m nets with large center weights suspended above the river. They looked like the river version of ocean drift nets. I have not seen any deployed yet.
I stopped about 10km south of Salerno in Spineta Nuova at the Central Campground. It was only 6:30 but I didn't want to go into Salerno. The owner has a friend in Canada so he let me stay for free. His friend is a "horse professional" and he wanted to go visit him. He was anxious for information but we found it difficult with no joint language. One of his employees was supposed to speak French but it was 80% Italian and 5% French. His friend told him it took 17 hours to fly to Canada. I said it took 8 hours when he asked. As is usual in these circumstances, everyone is telling the truth. Apparently his friend flew to New York in 8 hours and took another 5 hours to fly to Canada. I presume this was someplace out west but the man did not know the name of the town where his friend lived. If his friend was working on a ranch, the place probably didn't have a name.
At about 11:30pm I was awakened by a huge fireworks display. I wonder how the people here knew it was Montréal's 350th birthday.

16  Monday, May 18, Spineta Nuova

Today I am aiming for Pompei and then down to the Amalfi coast. Everyone I have met says that the Amalfi coast was the highlight of their trip. Before this, I need to reprovision and look for a new bicycle tire in Salerno. My rear tire has a slight bulge and I am afraid it might burst. Burst tires are unfixable.
** The UFO Bar just south of Salerno looks like a mushroom with blisters.
Salerno is a large small town with all of its traffic concentrated on its two narrow main streets. There never seemed to be a break in the traffic and I decided several times not to visit a shop on the other side of the street. I had seen very few bakeries in any of the towns that I have gone through but here there seems to be an abundance. I found a bicycle shop and bought a new tire. Although they had the right size, they had only, what a friend of mine calls tires with "aggressive" tread. I shall carry it with me. Hopefully I won't have to use it.
I am going to go from Salerno along the Amalfi coast. It is marked as scenic on my map and gets 3 star from the Michelin guide. I am sure it will not be flat. Pompei is too far out of my way. I will try to go instead by ferry to Capri, Ischia, and then to Pozzuoli, hopefully avoiding Napoli altogether.
The road went up its customary scenic 100m right out of Salerno. I managed to make it a little more difficult than necessary. I went down by the port, hoping to avoid the climb but was forced up the huge truck ramp that ran all the way up the cliff to the Autostrada. It had a sidewalk, on both sides and I picked the wrong side. My exit to Amalfi was halfway up and I had to get my bike over the guard rail that protected the sidewalk. The only way I could do it was to completely dismantle it and carry my stuff across the road. It took a while and it even amused the Carabinieri.
** The ceramic shops and factories just outside Salerno specialize in tiles rather than the toilets that were the main product in Calabria.
The Amalfi coast is living up to its reviews. It is more sheer and lush than Calabria. You look straight (really) down to the water 600 feet below as I am now doing while eating lunch. The gulls are far below. The terraces here are lemon groves and you almost need a ladder to go between them. The lemons are the size of grapefruits. The towns each have their own castle and are quite a delight. Some beaches are very private. I am not quite yet to Maori but can see it at the bottom of the next bay.
Amalfi is a delightful clean tourist town with much charm. It climbs up the cliff with a ruined castle on top. I shall be content to sit in the piazza café with my Alsace beer writing. Today I am being a tourist.
Amalfi was pretty but Positano is quite unbelievable. It is built into a jagged 1000 foot sheer cliff gorge, which happens to have a small calm beach front that is its harbour. The houses are built one on top of each other with the roof of your neighbour your front "lawn". They are not apartments, just clustered. As one might expect, a bicyclist pays for this beauty and great view.
To get to Sorrento, you need to cross the peninsula. The highest point, about 1000 feet is on the Amalfi coast side of the mountains. The last little section switch backs to the top. The peninsula is like a wedge with the thick side being the Amalfi side of the coast and the thin edge being Sorrento. It was nice to have the last 7km down, even in the slight drizzle.
This "tourist day" was only 78km (49 miles) and 800m (2600 feet). It was spectacular and well worth a detour.

17  Tuesday, May 19, Sorrento

This morning is gloriously sunny and cool after last night's rain. I got up early to catch the 8:00am ferry to Capri. Sorrento is an old resort town with immense charm. The port is at the bottom 100 foot cliffs with the grand old hotels like the Excelsior Vittoria staring down. At the moment I am sitting on the ferry waiting to go to Capri. It looks like the remnants of an old castle has become the Victorian resorts of literature. I understand why the English feel that Sorrento, Amalfi, and Capri is their part of Italy.
Capri is a delightfully sanitized island view of Italy. Capri and Annacapri are its two main towns. Capri is the center of the island with a real pedestrian zone covering almost half the town. The only vehicles in this part are electric delivery carts, and some of the streets are so narrow that it is a real squeeze when you meet one. The streets and shop windows are squeaky clean. Most of the shops have windows just slightly beyond the reach of the lady trying to clean them. Capri is only 200 metres above the Marina Grande where the tourist boats come, while Annacapri is about 300m (1000 feet). Annacapri has its tourist piazza, but is a much more real town. The back streets (alleys) are alive with people, and full of motor scooter barriers. These are quite effective too for messy bikes like mine. I had to back about 50 metres down an alley before I found a place wide enough to turn my bike around. A little bakery on one of these streets sells the best bread I have tasted in Italy. I had it as part of a picnic lunch on the top of Monte Solaro. This is reached by a single chair that starts in the Annacapri tourist piazza. The top is almost 600m (2000 feet) and looks straight down to the sea in one direction and overlooks the town of Capri, and that whole end of the island in the other. The view is unforgettable and warrants its three stars. It wasn't crowded but it wasn't empty either. Two Australian girls, one of whom is studying for a year in Firenze were discussing the problems of being too structured while enjoying the view of Capri, and trying to figure out if they could ride back down the chairlift. They had only bought a one way ticket. A couple from Colorado described the joy of exploring Capri on foot. One joy of this chair was that it was not in the middle of a blizzard - there were wild flowers in red, blue, yellow, and white, and grapes barely starting, along with the ubiquitous lemon groves. I left too soon. I must catch the ferry to Napoli.
Everyone I saw looked in utter disbelief at me riding a bicycle on Capri. I did not see any other bicycle on the island. Daily attacks of those hills would result in superb condition or death. After being on Capri, I can understand why Tiberius traded the larger island of Ischia for it. I think it would be easy to spend a week.
The ferry across the Golfo di Napoli was larger, and plusher than the one from Sorrento. It was also quite uncrowded - just one large German tour group. I wonder why they had to leave Capri so early. Vesuvius looks like a very dangerous mountain. Its crater dominates the skyline and must have really created reverence when it was alive. The Sorrento peninsula is very high and formidable at the Salerno end and drops down to a broad collar (colle) just above the town of Sorrento. It rises again at its tip for a very marked headland. I suspect that I crossed it at its lowest point, a mere 1000 feet. Capri just floats like a huge steamer off our stern. This is a very pleasant way to ride north.
The Castel Nuovo (1282), the New Castle, controls, or used to, the entrance into the Napoli harbour. It suggests that Napoli does have some charm. My slice of Napoli was along the waterfront past the Palazzo Reale (Royal), and through the 500 metre Galleria della Vittoria (Tunnel) towards the Capo di Posillipo. Except for a mostly vacant, paper littered park, Napoli was not much dirtier than some other big cities.
I reached Pozzuoli, my original destination made impossible directly by the ferry schedules, in the late afternoon. This was an important Roman port but now is a small fishing village and the terminus of the ferry from Ischia. It is in the middle of the volcanic Phlegrean Fields but I didn't see any activity. It is a pleasant little town.
I passed through several long dull industrial sections, with traffic choking construction. The red lights that were supposed to control traffic flow in each direction seemed to be ignored, with deadlock results when the culprits were busses. I followed the shoreline of all the way to Bacoli which marks the end of the Golfo di Napoli. This was a vacation and spa area for old (and young) Roman emperors and nobles.
I continued around the Capo, Lago di Fusaro where the campground I was looking for did not materialize, and continued north. Cyrus Camping and all of its surrounding restaurants, about 3km off my road, were closed. A little later I saw that the main gate to Ideal Camping was open. This was the only part, other than the cold water that was open. They are really a camping village with store, bar, water park, and restaurant, all of which were closed. They did let me stay, although their little dog insisted on yapping at me all the way to the little slot where I put my tent.
It poured rain all night but now has stopped and the sun is almost out. I left my smelly shoes outside the tent all night and now have water shoes. My new Gore-Tex socks are about to get used.

18  Wednesday, May 20, Licola

I do believe the day will be sunny. I am off north towards Roma along the coast as usual.
** Mozzarella di Bufala: Many places make and sell this Mozzarella and the name was a mystery until I saw herds of Water Buffalo.
The road has been flat, following the coast for about 50km until I reached the Golfo di Gaeta. It was only then that I was able to see some hills (mountains?).
** Formia/Gaeta - A sure sign of a tourist area was several Grand hotels on the edge of town.
Gaeta is a pleasant change from the characterless (excluding, perhaps, the black ladies of the day, one or two every kilometre, that were working off the edge of the highway) flat and straight highway almost all the way here. The mountains are real but gentle compared even to Calabria. The official centre of attraction in Gaeta is its fort. The real charm is the old city and the waterfront. I stopped for lunch at La Lampara a very nice Ristorante/Pizzaria just off the waterfront. It looks again that the Vina Locale comes in full bottles. I am going to have to decant some and take it with me. The wine is white and quite good. The lettuce, oranges, and fava beans for today's meals just arrived in wooden crates, carried through the front door to the kitchen. The bread here tastes vaguely like sourdough bread. Was San Francisco sourdough bread originally Italian?
Gaeta is the home town of Giovanni Caboto, naviatore and they are having, and advertising a celebration in 1997.
** My tire burst going up a hill in Gaeta. I replaced it with my new one with the help of an old man, who attentively made sure I didn't forget anything.
Just around the corner of the bay, the road becomes scenic. I stopped at little outdoor restaurant to try the Mozzarella di Bufala. It is a mild, barely ripe cheese that spends its life underwater. To this point the road has reached only 68m, but it is quietly pretty with some for the best beaches I have seen in Italy. I just passed the Spiaggio Ultima.
After several gallerias, I reached Sperlonga, where I put more air in my tire. As is usual with a new tire, especially one with "aggressive" tread, it rubbed badly on my fender. Sperlonga has a pretty little park right on the water's edge, and down 60 metres from the town's southern highway entrance, where I stopped to take my bike apart again. It was quite pleasant in the sun, with the kids playing on the swings and the old men curious about my travails. I fixed the problem by throwing away one of the fender brackets and continued on my way. It was a pleasant surprise to find that the northern highway entrance to town was at sea level.
The coast flattened a bit towards Terracina, where I stopped to indulge myself with a 500gm (1lb) carton of ice cream. It unfortunately was half melted by the time I was able to eat it - just after sunset.
There were three campgrounds just beyond Terracina. The first two were so insignificant that I missed them. The third was closed. I continued towards Santa Felice Circeo and its Monte Circeo hoping to find either a campground or a place to "free" camp. The main street of Santa Felice Circeo was very alive with kids - not a good sign for free camping. The road then continued on the north side of Monte Circeo, the most heavily wooded slope I have seen in Italy, and south of the Parco Nazionale del Circeo, where I hoped to find a place to camp. This national park, though, had roads leading to restaurants, and physiotherapy centers. There was no chance to camp.
The coast was very private and built up. Just after sunset, I found the Camping Marelago Lilanda whose main gate was closed but whose pedestrian gate was open. I went in and looked hard for someone but found no one. Although their sign said Aperto tutto l'anno, they were not. The washrooms were working so I stayed.
Today I went 137km (80 miles) but only climbed 364m (1100 feet).

19  Thursday, May 21, Circeo

While packing up this morning the direzione, that I couldn't find last night found me. He asked how I got in and I told him the gate was open. He insisted on taking my passport, said that I was there without permission, and threatened me with the Carabinieri.
I finished packing and rode up the hill to the gate. As I expected, the gate office was closed and the direzione was no where in sight. I walked around the entire campground looking but could find no one or the car. I went back to the gate and sat down to wait. After a few minutes, a lady appeared on the balcony of one of the turistico bungalows and then appeared with my passport. She explained that they were closed, gave me my passport, explained that I should have rung the (unmarked) bell, and refused payment.
I unlocked my bike and rode about 50 yards to sit down and listen to the waves as I wrote.
I walked down to the beach - they are much prettier from a distance - and just before I left, removed a snail from my front gears.
All roads may lead to Roma but the Mediterranean is fighting with one of them. The shore road just south of Anzio runs on a narrow strip of sand between inland Lagos and the sea - at least it does in some places. There is a short section that has been eaten away. It is bicycle and four wheel drive passable but large sections have disappeared into the sea and others are covered with sand.
The beach just south of Anzio is a large military base. Some of the houses look like they are being used for assault practice. The firing is continuous and the smell of gunpowder is in the air.
The road from Anzio to Torvaianio ran right along the Mediterranean, but all you could see, on both sides of the road, were houses and overflowed communal garbage containers. The Italian garbage collection does not work. In theory, you put out communal garbage containers in many convenient places, and then send around trucks to empty them - efficient and inexpensive. In practice the containers are not big enough and everyone just drops the garbage beside them. The containers also encourage people to deposit unpackaged or poorly packaged garbage, sometimes (usually?) on the ground beside the containers. Although the cleanup crews seem to remove overflowed and packaged garbage they do not pick up (all of?) the loose trash. Since the containers are in public places no one feels responsible for keeping the area clean. It is possible that this reliance on institutional cleanup, that does not work, results in a complete disregard for trash in other public places. Italy has more trash in public places than any other country I have seen. Other countries have local embarrassment but not the general malaise I have seen here.
I arrived in Lido di Ostia at about 1:30, and found an open campground, not the one, of course that was on my map. I spent the afternoon exploring Ostia while searching for the airport. Hopefully I have saved myself some grief on Saturday.

20  Friday, May 22, Lido di Ostia

The Via Cristoforo Colombo is a fine pine-lined road through the rolling hills from Ostia to Roma. It is quite pleasant until it enters Roma, where it becomes busy and crowded, especially after the point where the Autostrada empties on it. Even at 7:30am it is jammed.
At about 8:30, I discovered that you can't go to church, at least St. Peter's in shorts. This is, in fact, the rule all over Italy but it did not seem to be enforced except here - of course, this is not Italy. I had left my long pants and even my red rain gear, two and a half hours away in Ostia. I went in search of some long pants and found a black sweat suit at the Super mercado abbligiamento Standa for $20.00. After I appeared civilized they let me back into St. Peter's. Now that I have jogged my memory, I must go back and look at Montréal's 1/3 replica, Mary, Queen of the World.
I don't know whether they would have let me pay the 10,000 lire to see the Sistene Chapel if I had been wearing shorts since I didn't try. I must admit that I can't really remember what the Sistene Chapel looked like in 1958, but I think I would have remembered the stunning three dimensional effect that Michelangelo achieved, and now revealed by the cleaning. I do believe that he knew how to exploit the curve in the ceiling, just as it's done now with wide screen movies. Isaiah and Daniel were especially impressive. What I remember most was the Creation of Adam. It looked alive now but not nearly as much as the side figures. The cleaning is not quite complete. The Last Judgment remains covered.
I left the Chapel and the Vatican Museums just as they were shutting down for the day, at 1:45 in the afternoon. I walked back to my bike and started towards the old center of Roma across the Tiber.
I have spent a very pleasant afternoon visiting the back streets, markets and the some of the monuments that I saw in 1958. It is strange but, except for the Coliseum, they all seem larger than I remember.
** A Tavola Calda is, literally, a "Hot table". It is actually a little cafeteria attached to a bar. The Tavola Caldas I tried in Firenze and Roma were lukewarm at best but the one in Ostia served good, hot, Italian snacks, such as Ripiena, a pizza like sandwich of potatoes, peppers, and other exotic vegetables.
I rode the last 10km into Ostia with a Roman out on a bicycle (health) training run from Roma to Ostia and back. We said goodbye as he saw the sea and I went into central Ostia. Tonight is dry, sunny, and not windy, quite different from last night's rain and high winds. The beaches should be crowded for the weekend.

21  Saturday, May 23, Lido di Ostia

The road to the airport passes by Ostia Antica with its large 2BC ruins. I looked in from the outside. Just as I was arriving at the airport, I met a New Zealander, with a very loaded bicycle, about to start four weeks riding around Northern Italy and Austria. We exchanged stories and I directed him to the blue Roma signs.
I took about 40 minutes to get to the airport and arrived a comfortable four hours before departure. I was not the first. Roma airport has Carabinieri with automatic rifles all over but quite less thorough security checks than either Heathrow or Frankfurt. Here they just ask you about your bags. Unlike other airports, Rome seems to have one central location for handling bicycle size luggage. The passenger is responsible for transporting the piece there. When I arrived, the belt was not working. I waited.
The duty-free shops are varied but expensive. Just before I left, to keep Agriculture Canada happy, I finished my Napoli salami. The plane left almost on time.

Some Random Thoughts and Images

22  Maps




File translated from TEX by TTH, version 4.03.
On 10 May 2013, 09:32.