Archive for the Category Trenta Giorni in Italia


From Siena to Portoferraio

Up early. A ride through the core. An attempt to beat some of the crowds. Only partially successful. The main arteries are pretty jammed, but the side streets open. A couple of misturns which result retraced routes. One ends in a long flight of stairs, the other with a polls and chains restricting traffic to foot.

Over the flagstone cobbles, between people and around cars. A familiar theme. Into the center plaza, where horse racing used to take place. A victory lap.

A shortcut that ended up not being much of a cut. Once down, I had to head back up a stone and brick pedestrian path. Very steep. An elderly man sits and watches my efforts.

A short train ride to Piombino. And then a ferry to Portoferraio. The sun is setting over the island peaks as the ship steams towards the port. We are lucky that this is not the tourist season. We have scored a three star hotel with a balcony, breakfast, and a garage for the bike at bargain basement prices. And to top it all off, a van was sent to grab us with out it being requested. We were our way in the general direction of the Hotel Aquamarina when the green Sprinter rolled up next to us. He knew we were walking with bikes, and headed out to see if he could find us. Which he did.

Lost in the Hills of Tuscany

For 75 miles. A bit of an exaggeration, but I really only had a general idea of where I was. Intentional. I started heading south/south west through and then out of town in search of small towns among the hills.

The morning seems to be full of red accents. Doors, gates, buildings. A gated front yard with five barrels of varying sizes. A smooth shiny crackled finish. Exposing the black base coat underneath.

Another town, replacing red with forest green.

A short cut through a field on an unpaved farm road. At first soft smooth soil. Rich in clay. The back wheel slips. One point is too steep for traction and I walk up the rise. The ridge is more packed and rocky. But still built for tractors and farm equipment. A pile of rectangular hay bails stacked four high. Back onto the pavement.

Riding rollers is a strange sensation. I had grown used to hours of grind. The switch over to a terrain which allows a tempo is wonderful although a bit alien. Smooth assents and descents. Sometimes 10-15% is traversing two packed ridges, but generally gradual transitions.

Nearly every square meter of soil is tilled. As far as the eye can see. A lunar landscape of churned bare earth. Not the brown sandy silty ridges found in the mid west. Inland sea leavings. These fields are full of lumpy broken masses of gray earth.

I feel my legs begin to wear thin. It is time to turn around. One problem with wandering like this is that a good return route may be hard to find. I have already gone pretty far afield and decided to go with the not totally desirable but very direct route. I trade scenery for traffic and speed. Up the SP2 into Siena. Into the core of the city.

Like Rome it has cobbled streets. But different. The surface is more like flagstone. The Roman cobbles are maybe 4 inches square on the road surface. These vary from 1-3 feet. It is hard to tell which is worse. The small cobbles cause lots of shaking. A continuous stream of rattling vibrations. Your wheels don’t roll over the larger versions. They roll down into them or up on top of them. You still get the edge bumps when you transition between stones, but there is much more see-saw action to the ride. I am pretty sure the latter is more jarring. But maybe the first exhausts your hands more quickly.

In the wrong direction you can find your self on the steepest streets I have seen in a city. The historic section claimed the high ground for defensive reasons and many of the side streets show it. Tourists march up them at a slant, a woman struggles to push a stroller. I climb through the crowds.


We didn’t miss out train, six minutes to spare, but we did muss sunflower season across Tuscany. Fields of hacked off stalks, brown and black. Those still bearing heads, after having gone to seed, hang them like mourners at a funeral. Their own.

The age of the train you are supplied with is inversely proportional to your proximity to the trunks of the railway. Siena may be a desirable destination, but it is way out on a branch. Ours is short and stout. Its height out of proportion to its minuscule length. Three cars in all. Three non-matching shades of blue, a faded celeste, and some sort of tope thrown in for good measure. A single track of florecent tube lighting glows behind translucent cream colored plastic. Possible clear at some point in the past.

The visuals could use some improvements, but the heart of the machine sounds and feels well cared for. The first diesel locomotive of the trip. You can feel it rev up, pause, and then change gears. It may even have a manual transmission.

In stations, when we stop to pick up new passengers, or to leave old ones behind, you can feel your seat gently knock in time with the idle of the engine.


It is a balancing act. Enough pressure to protect the rim; enough to avoid a pinch flat. But still some give to absorb, at least a little bit, the chaotic accelerations being force fed to you by the block faced road. This is the second ride on the Roman cobble stones.

It was slick this morning, raining intermittently all week. But, most surfaces are dry, dry enough, for me to take a chance. The time worn stone is dangerously slippery to walk on when they are wet. I am not yet ready to take on that challenge on my bike.

North north east to Lazzerti. A bike shop with ninety two years of history. Design, fabrication, and full builds through out the decades. Keeping pace with the advancements of the art, they now create with carbon fiber. Only available though one shop. Theirs.

An extended route back to the apartment. Up through the roundabout in Piazza Vieniza, at the foot of L’ Altare della Patria. Onto the Via del Muro Torto, ruffly translated as “the curvy broken walled road”. A good chance for another video. Once up to speed, the scooters drop behind. Left through the Porta Flamino, the gate to Piazza del Popolo and the cobbles beyond. Into the central district.

The cable connectors chatter against the frame. My tricepts shutter under the skin. I try to stay light on the saddle and light on my hands. The sharp impulses are too much for my GoPro’s mount. The static friction of its clamp is overwhelmed. It tilts and drifts as the front end is tossed around. The video ends with a surprise.

Tomorrow we leave for Tuscany and just hit a minor snag. Bikes are not allowed on the subways until after 9pm. It is only 4. I could brake mine down and try the same trick I used on the way back from Milan, but I don’t have my electrical tape and Hannie would still be stuck. We go stash the bikes at his old school and will just pick them up tomorrow on the way to the train. Hopefully they will remain untouched. I have been sketching out an ultra-light short pack bag, for trains and busses not planes. Maybe I will actually create it when I return now. A way to make these stumbling blocks non-issues.

2009-09-21h-200x150Juan, an Italian cowboy. From Sicily. In love with the southwest, a deep desire for country music. Inspired. By the 50’s. Hank Williams Sr. and Johnny Cash. Two giants, both, in many ways, still alive. Still speaking.

“Real country music, not the stuff on the FM, is raw. They take their harts onto the table and slice it into ten pieces.”

We head to Hosteria de Corredo for some fantastic pasta and wine. The Mago Guarda, the Look Magician, appears for a surprise show. More physical humor than magic. Half functioning equipment, exaggerated acts. A Roman institution in his own way, 10 years working the circuit. A Pakistani transplant.

Noche de Sevilla

This city is good for random walks. You can get lost for hours. Disappearing into random neighborhoods only to pop out at the foot of a monument, cathedral, or grandiose fountain with out warning. It has been raining all week and today is no exception.

It is only sprinkling, but that is plenty to separate the natives from the tourists. The first head towards their destinations with purpose. At most, a jacket and a hat. If no hat, a folded newspaper. The latter enveloping the sidewalks. With their umbrellas cheaply made and cheaply bought from the random walking street vender. Slapping faces and endangering eyes. Desperate to figure out how to get to their next destination. Desperate to figure out exactly where they are.

My Rapha Stowaway and Cycling Cap. Enough to keep out the damp. A comfortable stroll. Testaccio, the 20th district. Up, through the ghetto. To Trastevere. Back down along the river. Shielded by the leaves and branches of the trees. The Tiber is looking a little more natural. Increased clarity via increased flow.

Bolognese leftovers and then back out into town. We b-line for the Piazza Navona. There is a special outdoor Flamenco performance. Noche De Sevilla. The piazza is crowded and the stage is hard to see. We climb up onto part of one of the surrounding buildings for an unobscured view. Classical guitars, clapping hands, stomping feet. Multilayered dresses. Bright colors.

After the concert we take a side trip to see the Trevi Fountain and the Ponti Cestio, the oldest bridge in Rome, at night. Ponti Cestio is one of two bridges connecting the only island in Rome. Tiber Island, housing an abby, hospital, and a church; disconnected from the shore by a moat made of the Tiber river.