Incredible Italia

Bari to Sorrento & Pisa to Genoa

636km ~ 7,855m elevation

TOTALS ~ 3,123km ~ 39,612m elevation


Bari and Flats

The boat ride from Dubrovnik to Bari was pretty uneventful. With bust air con and not much to do other than sit, lie or walk around, I soon became agitated. It’s a weird feeling to just stop still for hours after you’ve been biking day after day. Still, I was thankful for the rest at least.

I arrived in Bari and it felt good to be venturing through a different country. I arrived at night so went straight to my accommodation. The next morning I realised I hat a flat and the culprit was a pin sicking out of the tyre. Not a great start. Repairing it by the roadside I also realised the inner tubes I bought in Croatia were mountain bike valves and too thick to go through my wheel. Double bad. At least I was in a city and quickly hunted for the nearest bike shop.

Carrying just my wheel in I asked for the right size inner tube. The bike shop guy started repairing it straight away. I was just about to say, ‘no, I just want to buy the inner tube please,’ but decided to just wait and let him do the work! 🙂

It wasn’t long before I was back on the road and heading through endless vineyards and farms. It was incredibly flat, which made the riding easy but the roads were in such bad condition. I was used to being treated with the pristine roads of Croatia and Montenegro, so it had been sometime since I had to dodge potholes and missing bits of road. At least the rat race woke me up somewhat…

Alberobello

I made sure I did a bit of research into things to see in the areas I was biking in and Alberobello and Sassi de Matera were both top of the list. First stop was Alberobello to visit the very quaint Trulli homes. Cycling on minor roads towards the town of Alberobello, I spotted a few Trulli homes here and there. They are so unusual and really stand out, like nothing I’ve seen in Europe before.

Arriving in Alberobello I parked up my bike and went for a stroll. The Trulli homes all lined up with their white washed stone and conical roofs are just gorgeous. Makes you feel like you’re stepping back in time. Unfortunately I needed to crack on and didn’t have time to stop for the night. But it seems to get the real Trulli experience you should stay in one, so next time!

Sassi di Matera

Next stop was Sassi di Matera, a settlement dating back as early as 7000 BC. I arrived and parked my bike up outside the tourist info as wasn’t sure how I could visit Sassi di Matera. A quick map check later and it seems the settlement is not bike friendly so much better to view on foot.

Walking from the main road I saw the cathedral first and then turned the corner and saw the endless homes carved and built into the rock. It was just stunning and again another very unusual sight. At this point I was feeling very chuffed about being in Italy, it is steeped with historical beauty to see pretty much wherever you travel.

Potenza tunnels

I headed for a nights stay in Tricarico and it wasn’t long before I was in beautiful Basilicata with lots of climbing! A quick pit stop in Tricarico with some nice chats with Francesco who used to live in Canning Town! I forget that back home in London we have a huge amount of Italians and almost all the Italians I’d met so far had either been to London many times and more often than not, lived there for several years too.

I headed for Potenza and had to go through a lot of tunnels the pass the mountains. I had my lights in my front bag but to be honest they didn’t really do a whole lot. The first few were fine and then they got longer and darker. I’d heard the drivers in Italy were a bit bonkers but so far they’d been ok, not any better or worse than other countries. BUT, when you’re in a 2km tunnel with no hard shoulder, 2 measly lights and drivers driving pretty fast, you basically shit your pants.

This long tunnel had corners which means blind bends and I just didn’t want to even risk riding and not being seen. Thankfully there was an emergency ‘path’ thing to the side about half a foot wide which I trekked on with difficulty. It was grim, hot, dark and pretty slimy too as there was mud everywhere. It took a while to get through a few of these but at least I was safe.

Sassi de Castalda & ‘force of nature’

I decided that Sassi de Castalda was a good place for me to stop for the night and booked the Che Luna because the pictures looked too beautiful online to not! I arrived and realised it was a very quaint village in the mountains of Basilicata. The accommodation was right by this incredible bridge walk through the valley. Giovanni, the owner and his girlfriend, Lucia welcomed me with open arms.

The room was incredible, like nothing I’ve seen before, overlooking the lush valley and this stunning bridge walk. It was honestly like sleeping in the mountains. My mouth dropped open and Giovanni and Lucia were on hand to show me around. They recommended a restaurant to me as the owner was a keen cyclist, so after a shower I headed out for food and drink!

The food I had was delicious, truffle sauce tagliatelle with local white wine. I was in heaven. Lucia stopped by and asked me if I minded being interviewed by a local journalist who was in town. I grinned and was totally up for it, feeling a bit like a local celebrity! Mary Fasano joined me at the restaurant with her partner and it wasn’t long before the tape was on and the questions were coming.

I honestly felt pretty taken aback by the whole experience but was also revelling in it. They were so interested to hear about my bike packing trip, where I’d visited in Italy and about my stop in Sassi de Castalda. The interview was much longer than I expected but I just felt overjoyed being in their company and was so thrilled that they were so interested in my journey! A few days later when Mary sent me with clipping I had no idea what it said, but a few friends replied to say the headline was, ‘a force of nature!’

I paid for my meal and needed to hit the sack, it had been an overwhelming day! I said goodbye to new friends made and wished them well, very much hoping I would see them again someday. As I was leaving the waiter ran up to me and gave me my €20 back from dinner. I was puzzled and he told me that Giovanni had paid for my meal as a thank you for the interview. I was so chuffed! We then did a quick photoshoot with me and my bike, including in the bedroom of the Che Luna, surreal or what.

To the Amalfi Coast

I had two days to make it from Sassi de Castalda to the Amalfi Coast. I decided that the town of Eboli was pretty much in the middle. Leaving Sassi I was climbing high again, passing some of the tunnels I’d cycled through the day before, realising how high up they were.

I was on a rough road (note, ALL the roads in the southern Italy had been really bad) and after a moment of day dreaming I hit a rock and swerved clear to not fall. I had my fingers and toes crossed for no post puncture and about 10 minutes later heard that familiar hissing sound. Here we go. I had time on my hands and had stocked up on the right valve sized inner tubes in Bari so was fine. 30 minutes later and I was set to go again but had noticed a small tear in my tyre from the rock, just hoping it would be fine!

Eboli in my view wasn’t too much to shout about. That said I didn’t venture into the town much and just found a Lidl to stock up on some basic food and drink, I was too tired to eat out. The next morning my tyre and inner tube were thankfully both good and I set off for Vico Equense with a pit stop scheduled in Salerno in a bike shop to see if I can get it all checked out.

Passing through Salerno I knew I had to stop as had located one of the few bike shops I’d seen in many weeks. I needed to buy some spare inner tubes, cleats and see if they could tighten my breaks up, after all they’d been hammered with the miles and climbs! The bike mechanic saw me straight away despite us only being able to communicate via google translate and he said it would take 20 minutes to put new brake pads on. I was happy to wait as knew I needed these brakes to last another month.

Setting off with my bike sorted it felt brand new and the brakes were super responsive, made me realise how much they needed fixing. I headed for the Amalfi Coast knowing that any climbing (and downhill) coming up I could tackle. My stop for the night was Vico Equense, sort of in the middle of Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast. My ride most of the day had been flat and hot, so it hit me hard when the last 20km or so was just up, up and more up!

Arriving at the farm I was staying at, the owner sat me down, gave me a cold water and some cake, I think she knew I needed it and was telling me how brave I was cycling around this area! The next morning I headed for Sorrento and was there within a few hours, taking in the beautiful coastline and stunning scenery along the way.

It’s like entering a different country..

After my wonderful 9 night holiday (no biking!) visiting the sights of Sorrento, Rome and Florence, it was now time to get back in the saddle. I started in Pisa and had a few days to meander towards Genoa where I needed to get my ferry to Barcelona. Riding in the north of Italy honestly feels like being in a different country compared to the south. The roads are pristine, there seems to be order, systems and the like, so it made for some very different riding indeed!

Pisa, Pietrasanta and Marble Mountains

I didn’t stay in Pisa but visited it simply to do that thing where you all take goofy pictures of the leaning tower! The area was actually prettier than I had expected and made for a lot of entertaining people watching checking out everyone poses (me included)!

I then headed for Pietrasanta where the pristine roads matched with the beautiful countryside made for some very sweet riding indeed. I was heading near to the Cinque Terre National Park and after going on an day trip their had been told that the mountains you pass en route look as if they have snow on them. Instead it is marble and this area supplies a vast amount of the worlds marble. There were endless quarries there ready to extract and made me wonder how on earth they differentiate themselves from one another.

On my way to Genoa with plenty of Kudos

I left a cute farm in Bozzolo for my penultimate stay before Genoa. I struggled to leave the place as this cute little ginger cat I’d made friends with was following me around as I was getting my bike ready. The cat then decided to snuzzle all over my stuff, I had to then have a few cuddles to say goodbye!

The terrain seemed to just get hillier and steeper towards Genoa, something I did not expect as I was heading for the coastline. Still, with the fab roads and my brakes sorted I just took it all in my stride. I saw so many other cyclists, a lot looking like pros and every one of them was giving me kudos as I rode, putting a smile on my face for the elevation I was covering.

Heading into Genoa was a tad difficult at times as the sprawl around the city seemed to be never ending and I was stuck on this enormous ring road with multiple lanes. Still, they were no signs to say I couldn’t be on the road and all the cars were giving me plenty of space so I felt safe. I finally got to the port and bid farewell on my incredible Italian adventure. The country is both brilliant for sight seeing and cycling and I will most certainly be back soon!


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