Ride On, Until We Get There: Cycle Touring Orvieto, Italy

By Jane Mountain | April 4, 2013

Stephen riding uphill

Misty swirls decorated Orvieto this morning, giving the whole city a romantic (and slightly gothic) feel. It was easy to imagine gallant heroes on horses clattering through the streets on their way to defend some poor helpless maiden.

Misty swirls decorated Orvieto this morning, giving the whole city a romantic (and slightly gothic) feel. It was easy to imagine gallant heroes on horses clattering through the streets on their way to defend some poor helpless maiden... click to read the full story.

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But it was only our bikes clattering through the streets, shaking and rattling as we rode across on the cobblestones.

The weather forecast was for highs of 16 degrees Celcius, which is positively balmy compared to what we’ve seen so far, so we were optimistically dressed in our shorts and fewer layers than normal.

As we wound down the steep streets back onto the valley floor surrounding the city, we realized we weren’t dressed for the occasion. Even though it was already 10am, what had been pretty swirls of mist up above was a deep thick blanket down below, obscuring the hills we had ridden down two days ago and rendering everything around us almost invisible.

We stopped about a kilometre out of town to add some clothes and switch on our lights.

Stephen had spotted a fresh pasta shop as we’d been coming into town the other day, so we stopped to buy something for dinner this evening. We bought 200g of umbricelli and a jar of tartufo salsa for just over 5 Euros. It would be so easy to eat well (and get fat) living in Italy.

Hill Towns Are In the Hills

It’s not exactly a surprise to us that the hill towns of Umbria are situated amongst the hills of Umbria, but the realities of this are starting to become more clear to our bodies. We spent the first few hours today climbing up away from Orvieto, which was a blessing, because even with our sweaters, jackets, and hats on, we were just barely warm.

stephen cycling near lago trasimeno

I got a chance to work on my hill-climbing technique, knowing that Stephen would jack-rabbit up the hills twice as fast without me.

First trick? I pedaled much faster. Sounds obvious, right? But, when you’re climbing a hill and your legs feel like lead, trust me, pedaling faster does not seem like a wise choice. But, when I managed to do so, it gave me a little forward momentum, which then made each progressive pedal stroke a little easier.

Second, and more importantly, I added The Beastie Boys, very loud, in my headphones. I danced in my bike seat as we attacked the hills like no one was watching (which they weren’t, because we were in the middle of nowhere).

We had a picnic lunch of pizza (that we’d picked up this morning at Galleria del Pane, our favorite bakery in Orvieto) at the height of our ascent, 574m. It tasted pretty great after the two-hour climb to get there.

Jane eats pizza

This lunch break also marked my first time trying out a device called the Whiz Away Whiz Freedom, which is made to enable ladies to stand up with the men when answering a call of nature. It might take some practice to get used to it. The first try was a little, um, wetter than I’d have liked.

Oh, the indignities of outdoor living.

What Goes Up

We quickly sped down the other side of the hills, covering the same distance in 20 minutes that it had taken us all morning to climb. Our eyes watered, fingers were numb, and our toes froze as we sped effortlessly down towards the valley. We were so happy to get out of the hills and to start pedaling again just to keep our blood flowing.

We got to our “maybe” destination around 2pm, so decided to push the last 30km to our stretch goal, a campground by the shores of Lago di Trasiemeno. Those final hours were rough. Some would say we were in the zone as we sped forwards, only looking a few feet in front of our tires. But I’d call it zoning out. I didn’t notice much except the wind from huge trucks that blew by us at frequent intervals.

And then finally, finally, we arrived at a cold and cloudy campground. It is insanely beautiful here, but very hard to enjoy when we’re bundled up and shivering.

We had bought some red wine at a store nearby and Stephen had to put the bottle in his pants while he was updating our new online map, replying to email, Facebooking, to get the wine near drinking temperature.

Despite the cold, we used our little stove for the first time this trip to cook a delicious dinner of pasta with fresh tomato, sundried tomato, and chick pea sauce, seasoned with some of the spices we’d brought from home.

Luckily, the rain held off until we were snug in our sleeping bags. Then it pelted down around us, but we stayed dry, if a little chilly, through the night.

Still, I think we’ll move on to some indoor accommodation for tomorrow night.

Today’s Soundtrack: The Beastie Boys, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two | A.C. Newman, The Slow Wonder | Benji Hughes, A Love Extreme | William The Contractor, William The Contractor  

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