Birds Sing As He Cycles By

By Stephen Ewashkiw | April 10, 2013

Today was almost all downhill. Everyone had warned us about riding through the Apennines, but our route today took us through a valley and avoided most of the extreme climbs we had been warned about.

We headed out of the Apennines, out of the incredibly quiet town of Cantiano, and towards the coast. For about 30 km this morning we barely had to pedal, winding our way past gorgeous view after gorgeous view of the aqua-colored river below.

The kilometres flew by. Before we knew it we were in the Gorge of Furlo, which is reminiscent of Yosemite, except without the tourists and traffic. The river was mineral blue, the cliffs were immense.

gorge of furlo italy

Gorge of Furlo.

We even passed a couple of school groups being led by the Italian equivalent of Park Rangers around the area, no doubt explaining to them the various geological miracles, and the immense power of the river that had, over millennia, cut this deep gorge we were fortunate enough to be riding through.

Our goal was Urbino, a town the hotel owner in Cantiano had recommended. What she failed to tell us was that it was at the top of a horrendously godawful steep hill.

As we approached Urbino, we started to climb. And climb. We were going so slowly a little old Italian lady on foot could easily have passed us. And then, what every bike-traveller has warned us about happened. One of the few large dogs in Italy decided I was its enemy.

It came running across the road I was slowly climbing, away from its owner who didn’t seem to care at all (which is usually the way with owners of biting dogs) and went into attack mode. I got my foot our of my pedal’s Power Grip, lifted my shoe and stuck it in the dog’s face. It only managed to bite my shoe before the owner came over, gave me a half-hearted apology, as the dog ran into traffic and tried to eat a passing car’s tire. Seriously. This gave me enough time to start pedalling again and get the heck out of there.


And we climbed some more.

A light rain had fallen for a few minutes at the bottom of the hill and the air was thick with humidity. As we climbed we got hotter and stickier with each pedal stroke… Lonely Planet recommends a campsite “only 2 km from the city centre” of Urbino, so this was our destination. What LP fails to mention is that those 2 km are practically straight up. Backpackers beware, do not attempt to get to this campsite on foot. You will not make it.

The “luscious surroundings” LP promised were non-existent, and the welcome from the manager was cold and surly, as though we’d disturbed his relaxing day in his empty campground. To Jane, the whole place felt like a likely setting for a Stephen King novel.

Despite the hard work it had taken to get there, we made the executive decision to not get axe-murdered in our tent, and went to find a hotel in Urbino instead.

This meant riding back down the very steep hill and then climbing into town.

The streets of Urbino are not the quiet cobbled byways we’ve found in most hill towns. These streets are all steep and packed with students. Packed. There must have been several thousand students wandering through the city when we arrived. The culture shock was immense, having gone from the quietest town we’ve ever been in to this noisy buzz of a place in just a few hours.

on the road to urbino italy

Still, it was much better than the “luscious surroundings” of Camping Pineta, and we were glad to finally be done climbing.  


  1. Comment by michael moldofsky

    michael moldofsky April 11, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    Run Forrest Run!

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