Good morning Roma! It’s been a lovely few days with family. Today we will part ways. My brother to his first day of classes this semester, and my parents to Firenze to catch a big fat boat. I strolled up the hill about 1km to the San Pietro train station. There I caught a regionale train North.
I think this is a good time to discuss the tangled rail options available in Italy. The regionale looks like a commuter rail similar to Chicago’s Metra Rail. Except it covers the entire country. They accept bikes onboard. That’s why I’m here. City connector trains do what they say on the tin.
Then there’s the Frecce, high speed trains that go up to 360km/hour. Riding the FrecciaRosa helped me understand that despite its clear superiority here, high speed rail isn’t optimal for the United States with our lack of density. It would still take 4-5 hours to go from Chicago to New York and only after subsidies that our congress is totally not into these days would it approach the same price as airfare.
Sorry for the rant. My local train went North to Viterbo, a charming town that retains medieval architecture all over the place. I rode weirdly to the East out of town. Weirdly because I’m in a foreign place doing a familiar thing with strange equipment. I borrowed my brother’s city bike. I spent today getting accustomed to the feel of such a different ride. Anyone who’s familiar with a typical bikeshare like Bixi, Divvy, or Citibike would find my riding position familiar. That upright posture isn’t only good for 8-80 year old accessibility but also for low impact long distance riding. Maybe I looked like a doofus, but my wrists felt great doing it.
As I climbed the hills from train station and out of town, I gradually shed layers and resembled the other lycra-clad recreational cyclists I saw. Viterbo is a small town, within moments I was in postcard bucolic splendor. Olive gardens seemed to grow wild roadside, so I picked up some breadsticks for carbs.
There’s a slight incline at the border from Lazio to Umbria. The secondary and tertiary roads were light on traffic and heavy on scenery. Plenty of twists and not very steep switchbacks. This was the first ride I used absolutely no paper maps. My GPS enabled mobile device asserted all my navigation. This proved to be fantastic 95% of the time. Roads almost always went where they were indicated to, and bridges were always bridges. Except when they weren’t.
My routing directed me to a crossing of the Tiber river that could save me a solid 10km. The route took me through a fallow field turning golden in the evening light. Then a peaceful canal where a father bounced his young daughter on the handlebars of his bike. We rang our bells in convivial joy. A serene canal was my first water crossing then I’d take a left and cross the actual Tevere. But in fact it wasn’t really a bridge. It was a hydroelectric dam. :/ I turned around and grumbled past that beautiful evening light.
Another 10-15km down to the next bridge, darkness had already settled in. I lit my lamps and rode the last uphill section in the dark. When I at my host’s place I knocked the front door, unannounced. They were supremely friendly despite our lack of shared language. They sent me to the only restaurant open at this hour in town where I had some Gnocchi al agniello, and spinach swimming in hazelnut oil. Very rich. Lucky for me the ride back was downhill. I slept soundly that night even though it was a short day.