zondag 25 augustus 2013

GR2013 Day 5 & 6: Florence & Montefiascone

The night at Lago d'Iseo proved to be a challenging one. Because of the stony ground my outside tent hadn't been fastened down (there was no wind, so I figured it didn't need to), but during the night Murphy brought his old friend Thor the thundergod out to play. A lightshow ensued, and after the gazillionth gust of wind blew off my outside tent for the gazillionth time I just put it on the ground and crossed my fingers for a rainless night.

And thankfully, it stayed that way... but I was in for another surprise when dawn came. Waking up, the first thing is ofcourse to go about the business of toiletries. And I was greeted by this:

You might notice there's no toilet papier to be seen anywhere. That's because in this camp site, they used something else.

Can you guess where this is heading?


Ofcourse, yet again I was ready to leave before the gate would open, and what awaited me was my first taste of Italian tollroads.

You see, the system works easy. When you enter the Autostrada, you get a ticket. On the ticket is the name of the place where you've entered, and when you exit the Autostrada, you hand over your ticket and you pay the appropriate amount.

But ofcourse me being the ignorant tourist, I didn't know any of that yet. So when my entrance to the Autostrada had a gate which offered me a nice gap to slip through, I did, so no ticket. In Italy for 1 day, and I was breaking the law already... this was going well! At the next exit, the penny dropped, but with some chisel-jawed charm (most of the toll attendees are in fact women, so lucky me!) I passed through without problems.

The Autostrada itself though was mind-bogglingly boring. If you ever ride from Milano to Bologna, just stay away, because it's just an endless straight. Just outside of Bologna I pulled over for a break and a fill-up, and that's when everything changed. Because I met Elvis.

Elvis and Monika to be exact. On their TDM they were heading toward Florence as well, and soon enough we agreed to ride together. And that's when the roads started to look different.

Because pretty soon after we'd set off, I saw a strange sight on the horizon. Wait... are those... hills?All shook up, we plowed on. And things got even better!

Look, a bend! But a little less conversation, a little more kneedown. Time for twisties!


Needless to say, this made for some spectacular riding, zooming through traffic, and nicely hanging into each corner. Time flew by.

And soon enough, we were at the outskirts of Florence. I asked Elvis whether he couldn't stick around for the rest of the trip, as ever since I met him, the roads were awesome!  But sadly, he couldn't. Time for a map check, a few pictures together, and go on on our merry way!

My way went deep into the city. The centre of the city, that is.

Now, ofcourse I'd heard alot of people warning me about Italian driving, but as I got deeper and deeper into Florence, I started encountering more and more scooters. And soon enough, you're riding like one as well!

You can easily undertake people, go to the front of a queue... people don't really care. I learned that Italians adhere to the credo of 'Screw the rules, respect eachother' - most of the signs and road marks are just there for decoration, but they will always see you coming.

From the map I'd seen I had to follow the river, and then I'd run into my camp site soon enough. And this proved to be far less difficult than originally anticipated. So before long, I'd arrived!

The campsite was beautiful - it was right on a side of a hill overlooking the city. Nice breeze, good facilities... I even had two Turkish riders as neighbours. It was perfect! The night was spent exchanging stories and drinking deliciously cold beer.

The next day was full of surprises. And not the "there's a big cake in the living room I wonder what's in it"-surprise, but slightly more worrying than that. The first jumped on me right away: one of my Turkish peers had a pressure gauge with him, so I decided to do a check-up... and the outlook was grim, to say the least. Ever since the Netherlands I hadn't checked my pressure, so when I checked it I probably got what was coming to me: 1.35 bars, where 2.4 is the minimum. Damn.

Got the tires pumped up at the next station, and then onwards! I then proceeded on the fun roads to and from Siena, towards the little town of Montefiascone. I enjoyed myself that much that I taped most of it, other than running the timelapse as usual. So here's a clip of the road leading from Siena to the next town, Isola d'Arbia!

Eventually though, I enjoyed myself a little too much on them Tuscany roads. Stopping for gas, I got my second surprise of the day. Can you see what's wrong with this picture?

As it turned out, the bumps in the road had managed to unscrew the locking pins of the right pannier, and it was now hanging by the binders used to keep the tent in place. In other words, if I hadn't brought the tent, the pannier would've fallen off. Let's have a hurray for camping!

I fastened down the locking pins as tightly as I could, and went on my way. This day felt really short, which was not only due to the distance traveled (a mere 204 km) but probably also thanks to the roads being so much fun. Time passed really quickly, and before long, I was in Montefiascone!

Now you have to imagine, this town (as its name suggests) has been built right on top of a hill. And because of this, pretty much all of the roads and streets are on an incline. It was like Switzerland, but with worse tarmac and less cows.

The city centre though is pretty spectacular because of this. There's a (very echoey) cathedral at the very top, and lots of topsy-turvy streets which are more like stairways.

Here's an example of a walkway in Montefiascone, coming right from the very top near the Cathedral:

Let's head down, shall we?

There we go.

Nice and cool, here in the shade.

Ah, a junction. Wait, this is a street? (there was an actual car parked further down this side street)

Anyway, onward. Almost there!

Quite a view.

And remember, where I was standing was an actual street, like, for cars and stuff. You can see the tire marks.

I'd like the next episode of Discovery Channel's 'How do they do it?' to feature this town. Because this is just mental. Just like the entry street to the B&B.

I really didn't think the Beast would be able to climb this, but it was no problem at all.

Taking a rest in the sun!

And me too. Sort of.

I was a bit dubious on my plans for the next day. Sulmona (the birthplace of Ovid) was the next destination, but would I go to Rome as well? Because of all the stories of its mental traffic I was a bit apprehensive.

But I decided to go - I mean, you can't be this close to Rome and then not visit it. Tomorrow you'll see what happened!