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6. Bolsena to Bagni San Filippo – Day 4 (May 30)


Yesterday was a sore day. My beloved Brooks saddle is unforgiving, but the scenery was breathtaking. We set off after a hearty goodbye to our nun, and took the back roads out of the crater.

Stopping to view the huge Lake Bolsena, which looked back at us with one grey eye. This place has been a stopping point for travellers over thousands of years.

A plaque along the old Francigena road said:

“In 1505 the Pope Julius ll, asked the Confederates Superiors Alumunae, to give permission to Canon Peter von Sertenstein to guide 200 Swiss soldiers, and their captain Kaspar von Silenen, ” pro custody palati nostri” (look after our palaces). After the climbed the Alps, passed through Lombardia and la Tuscany, Silenen and 150 soldiers entered Rome through the Porta Popolo on the afternoon of 22 January 1506. Blessed by the Pope in St. Peters square, the guards began their work that same day, and still serve in the Apostolic Palace.” That is how the Swiss Guard began.


The tunnel was unexpected, 88m of darkness and very noisy trucks booming along. I didn’t think to remove my dark glasses, which rendered me quite blind, and I wobbled along precariously yelling at Simon for help! He was listening to his music so couldn’t hear me, not that he could have done anything.  I will avoid tunnels at all costs in the future.

We had lunch at a very hidden place, where Galileo Gallilei was detained on his way to Rome. He had been commanded to present himself for the Catholic inquisition. However he was put in quarantine at the border between Tuscany and the Vatican State. The plague was rife in Tuscany.

We had green rice for lunch in that place, which must have been, in those days, a miserable and cold spot to wait from 23 January to 10 February (the coldest part of winter).
With a fast long downhill, and a big pull uphill at the end, we arrived at our sleeping place. Thermal springs called the While Whale, at the little village of San Filippo. On my bike bell that Megan gave me is a White Whale. Coincidence or not?


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5. Freewheeling. ( May 29)

The thing about being a granny on a long bike ride, is one never knows what might conk in. So far so good.
Early morning at the coffee bar in Vetralla you can have a whiskey corretto (in Italy it’s usually the other way around, an espresso with a dash of liquor).
Traffic was quite scary but the drivers are pretty good about giving us a wide birth.

We stick to the pilgrim route as much as we can, mostly gravel. Tricky on steep inclines where the recent storms have washed out gullies. There are no photographs of them obviously. My bike has very thin wheels, and I sit very high…great for looking over fences.

Made it to old Viterbo, which brags a very deep history. We went to the bike shop for a spare tube, one of the many prep things I forgot to do. We are still in Lazio, where the roads are shocking… and I’m not keen to get a puncture anywhere near those large white sheep dogs.

We pass pilgrims walking to St. Peters in Rome and we shout out ‘buon Camino!’  Everybody is in a good mood. We’re the only weirdo’s going north.

This is me looking like a poppy.
Simon is in charge of navigating this week. No warning from him about hills. One is pleasantly riding along and then you’re riding up to Montefiascone.

Awesome on an ebike, Simon had to push. The basalt flagstones are great for breaking in the seat. At one point the hill was so steep I thought I would flip over backwards. Had the battery set on Turbo. We reached the summit in time for lunch at 3pm. That icy cold beer went down in one long gulp! Lunch had to be a panino as all the restaurants were closed.2018-05-29_0009.jpg

From Montefiascone we went down to Bolsena, by way of the Cassia road, down the volcano rim to the lakeside is an exhilarating curvy tarred road through the ancient oak forest. My knees were a bit wobbly when we got off in Bolsena. Slow day, only 54 kms. 172 Kms so far on the trip.


Slept very well in a wonderfully clean Convent in Bolsena. The Mother Superior is 90 years old, and sat us down to tell us a long story about the history of the church here. Il miracolo (the miracle).

A little girl who lived in AD400, a martyr called Christina is buried there.

A priest from Bohemia came past on his travel back from Rome to Prague in 1200 and something, but he had doubts about his faith.

However, he celebrated the mass in the church, and when he broke the Hostie (consecrated bread) it began to bleed.  That expelled all doubt and since then all Catholics celebrate the Corpus Christie.


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4. Francigena – the old road. (May 28)

Simon and I left Nonna Loreta to clean up our breakfast dishes, and rode up into the hills, passing a pretty sanctuary for a blessing. It is Brandon’s 30th birthday today!

Madonna del Sorba
I met Doris, a very nice lady from Bremen who is walking the pilgrimage to St.Peters.

Flocks of white butterflies are doing their thing. Chickens are popular out here on the farms, I hear them crowing across the fields.
Two little dogs ran out to nip our heals.

Excellent lunch of what looked like worms, with mushrooms…they are called bighetti pasta.

Power bar stop. The roads changed from gravel, to dust, to high speed tarmac, but always always full of holes and rough patches.

Simon phoned ahead to Vetralla for a room. He used the Francigena guide book for a recommendation. Especially for Pilgrims from the north.
The place is rustic. Our beds are raw mattresses with a bit of paper down the centre. It’s a little loft with plastic walls, and as hot as hell. I lay in the heat for a while then gave up and came down to the lobby where I took the chair seat cushions and lay them in a row and lay there with achey joints all night. We only rode 56kms, but it was mostly very rough and steep. Mountain bikes would be more suitable.

Highlight of the Day. In the village of Campagnano there was a market in the square. A little boy of about 6 years, came up to me while I was pushing my bike along. He stopped me and reached up to gently stroke the handlebar bag, looked up at me with huge brown eyes and asked if my bike was all new? I said it was. He traced my bike picture with his finger….. until his mother dragged him away.

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3. The Jitters – Day 1 (May 26)

What a lovely surprise to see so many friends pitch up to see us off. Simon said he wanted a cappuccino at Wunderkaffe, and there they were! Thank you everyone, for the great send off.



A little wobbly along the Appia Antica, still getting the hang of my panniers. They weigh about 14 kilos all together.

Someone with a sense of humour placed a rock in the middle of the bike path. It catapulted me horizontally into the bush. I was quite pleased with my elegant landing though – no injuries!

Birds and bikes, poppies flopping in the heat, the wet smell of sheep… the Appia is so ancient it transports you into the Eternal City with big stoney bounce. Perfect for breaking in a Brooks saddle in record time.

We can’t skip lunch. On the Flaminia Vecchia we plonked down to a gourmet pasta. Paccheri with creamed aubergine, mint and sun-dried tomatoes. Simon had Amatriciana of course.


A long afternoon under the sun, along the cycle track and then on all sorts of little tracks, hills, big roads, and steep corners. I can only photograph the tranquil spots, for the rest it’s full concentration. Thank goodness for my battery! love that thing. Simon is doing very well without one.


Arrived in Formello, feeling various aches – wrists-back-bum-neck….. but nothing that a Spritz and the lovely company of Alexandra couldn’t cure. Dinner in the square where a drag queen suddenly exited the giant door of the municipality and proclaimed her existence with with a loud haaeee!!! (Dressed in black lace and a massive wig).

For my photographer friends, these images are unedited due to complete exhaustion. I will do better tomorrow.

Happy Sunday to you all. We pedal on…


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2. Arrivederci Roma! (May 24)

Appian Way

Arriderci Roma!    Goodbye Rome

“You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.”
― Dr. SeussOh, The Places You’ll Go!

Packing up this heap of stuff into my 2 panniers. My wardrobe for the next two months.


My Brooks saddle arrived, and is as hard as a rock, but I’m very happy to have it.

I think.  We shall see…


Shimano gears and disk brakes, Bosch battery et al. I’m still learning how to get the max out of shifting gears on an ebike. My computer tells me all sorts of things as I go, from speed to distance to how long my battery will last. My whale Bell is perfect for warning off wolves.

Short test trips around home have helped to build my confidence (which is quite wobbly). Hopefully the only rain I will see on the trip will be from a fountain…



Simon will be giving me some backup for the first week. Then off I go solo…

“Out there things can happen, and frequently do,
To people as brainy and footsy as you.
And when things start to happen, don’t worry, don’t stew.
Just go right along, you’ll start happening too!”
― Dr. SeussOh, The Places You’ll Go!