Via Roma?

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They say all roads lead to Rome and while strictly speaking of course this is not true as we continue on our journey this is certainly the direction we are heading. Following the Tour de France we continued over the Alps into Italy. We had been heading up hill since Grenoble and it would continue like this for some time.

Leaving Bourg d’osian we made our way up to Le Grave, up to Guilliestre, passed over Col de Vars, passed over Col de Larche, passed over Col de Lauterat and then finally….Italy!

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We had followed the summit countdown posts through France and on reaching the top we searched for the final sign. This marker acted as a finishing line, a congratulations and of course the obligatory photograph. Alas, other than the “respect” and “chapeau” from the male racer group I received (I loved that bit!) it appears the Italian border did not offer the same rewards. Instead, there was a just a closed tax free off licence…..and a fabulous downhill.

Hairpin after hairpin, the road curved at around a 12% gradient. It was early, the road was quiet and the only challenge we faced was getting the balance between stopping for photos or just going whoosh…

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Despite days of climbing our descent downwards, while lasting for quite a few kilometres, would go much faster and our day would still end with the obligatory uphill, this time into camp. Our France trip was complete and we were now on schedule for Rome. The next target being a date at The Vatican on the 5th August. We had prearranged plans for an appointment there, though as far as I’m aware not with the Pope!

With the Alps behind us we were looking forward to a few easier days and some warmer weather. The temperature quickly rose and we have been riding at 30 to 35 degrees ever since…as for the hills…well, they continued!

We headed to the Cinque terre, an area referring to five beautifully positioned old fishing villages. Colourfully painted houses and vineyards perched on cliff edges hugging the coastline and providing dramatic photos and steep climbs. While based on a  great camp site in Lavanto  we were left with plenty time to explore and to watched a fabulous firework show over the sea.

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Climbing out we soon found ourselves in the “rolling” hills of Tuscany. More stunning scenery and yet more uphill.

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It was time to see the coast again to see if it had flattened out yet….

The result? … No.

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We continued on our way only to soon find out that not all roads do lead to Rome – at least, not any suitable for bike travel.

Riding down from Monticello Amiato we were making great progress, aiming for a camp at Talamone, next to the sea. It was 1030 am and we were hoping to reach camp early. No rush, a  cool dip in the sea and perhaps an icecream or so. Then we reached a significant junction.

We have a map of all of Italy with us and while it has more detail than our map of all of India ever had there are of course more roads and more traffic. Thijs, our Dutch friend with us for this section, had a GPS and had  downloaded maps. I had a new GPS but no maps and no idea how it yet works! To date the GPS had provided fabulous alternative and scenic routes (though do remember read hilly into scenic) yet for this section it listed only the highway.

Illegal for bikes and quite frankly way too dangerous this was not a route I wished to take. It was south to Rome and clearly signposted. North led us to Grosetto. Turning round, well that was  a big uphill. While it was in the opposite direction we had no choice. Grosetto was our only option. We would try tourist information to see if they could help. We were stuck.

We had tried to find tourist info points befor having followed signs on three occasions. All to no avail. On the one occasion we were successful we then found a five hour lunch break meant our search was yet again a waste of time. As luck would have it this time there were signs, an office and a really helpful receptionist. Unfortunately she’d met cycle tourists before in Grosetto. Stuck – just like we were. While some had taken their chances on the highway the only other option south was the train.

Bikes loaded we went to Orbetello then Tarquinia the following day. From there we were back on Via Roma.

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With some busier traffic, hundreds of potholes and three punctures we finally arrived at our destination. We were  in Rome.

Now all we need to do is find Via Roma to get out again though we have a few days to worry about that. For now, we have a Collesseum, 40000 fountains and a trip to the smallest country in the world (aka The Vatican ) to go and explore.

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