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Monday, April 29, 2013

Ostuni to Gravina

This was the longest, but not the hardest (stay tuned for that one), ride of the tour. Early in the morning we found ourselves on this wonderful, wide, well paved road. Until it just ended abruptly at the top of a long climb. Dead end. Stopped. This sent us back into the narrow, winding rural roads to practice navigation skills and work on climbing. Later in the day we took a planned detour to ride through a national park on a sand and gravel road, did an unintentional tour of the city of Altumbara and finally rode in to the hotel a few miles outside of Gravina on a road I am sure was paved with broken tile.

Today's ride
Friday, March 23, 2012
Ostuni to Gravina in Puglia
80.5 miles
4,203 feet

We ride just a few miles north of the area around Alberobello and again encounter the Trulli. This a rather impressive new or significantly restored home it seemed...

Riding here, it is hard not to find street scenes like this one. It is so, well, Italian...

The road in the national park was rough and responsible for two of us having flats almost simultaneously. On the way up, we were passed by a tall rider on a mountain bike; I am not sure he even saw us...

The hotel was out of town and served primarily for weddings and retreats. It was nice, in spite of looking a bit like a minimum security prison, but pretty much in the middle of nowhere (the prison thing maybe?)...

We would be here two days, providing an opportunity to catch up on domestic chores.

Highlight of the day Hmmm... There is the whole thing about being the longest day with the most climbing. Or maybe the numerous navigational challenges. But the ride through the park (the excursion to the north of the direct route on the map above) was very pleasant so let's take that as the highlight.

Another day in Gravina in Puglia
Today was a not-on-the-bike-at-all day as we Walked down into town. Here are some bonus pictures from our stay. First, the hotel dining room - pretty fancy for a bunch of bikers...

Every town, it seems, has war memorials. This one is in the center of a nice promenade in the town. Too many names...

Francesco's in the middle caught my attention. Interesting name. And descriptive of the events that led it to appear here...

There was a highlight on this day. We walked back up the rather steep hill towards the hotel watching a gathering storm. It was gathering faster than our progress towards shelter; the hotel was the only option as there was no other opportunity for refuge. Just before the heavens opened in a torrent of wind and rain however, a small car pulled up and the driver asked if we needed a ride. He asked in Italian, but that was not a problem with Julio on board. We replied in the affirmative and he drove us into the hotel grounds and dropped us off near the entrance to our rooms. An angel for sure.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Lecce to Ostuni

And, we are back on the road. If there were a disappointment in the tour, then it would have been that we arrived in Lecce in the afternoon and left early the next day. It seemed a nice place to have had a day to just stroll around and take in. But, it is a tour, so touring we went...

Today's ride
Thursday, March 22, 2012
Lecce to Ostuni
66.4 miles
1,814 feet

Less than ideal roads (for riding) were not unusual, but this one was even a little less than less than ideal...

But it took us through a rural area where artichokes were in full bloom or whatever they get full into...

And, just because there are some good roads - this one was better than most - it doesn't mean we won't have navigational problems to solve...

There were more than a few on the ride in, especially in the town of Ostuni. Where the hotel wasn't. Eventually, we found our way out of town and onto a narrow country lane that led us to this marvelous hotel in a restored church building...

The hotel was run by this family who treated us most gracioulsy. Appropriately, the center of attention here is the bike - it is 1940's vintage and had been carefully restored by the proprietor. He even rode it around the courtyard to give a proper showing...

Highlight of the day
The restored church / hotel, no doubt. Although there may be a few votes for just having found it being the real highlight!

It was a nice enough place that a few bonus pictures are in order...

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Gallipoli to Lecce

The second longest day of the tour, bringing us across to the Adriatic coast then inland a bit to the old walled town of Lecce.

Today's ride
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Gallipoli to Lecce
72.8 miles
1,690 feet

It was not unusual to find yourself on a road like this one - rock walls and olive groves abound.

Still bucking the headwind that has followed us, so to speak, since Alberobello, we get to enjoy a ride along the rocky Adriatic coastline.

"Where's Lecce?" Lecce today is much larger than the older walled town. As we got closer to our destination, the GPS maps kept pointing out turns. Trouble is, the walls were in the way, a fact lost on our navigation devices.

Excavation of even older parts of Lecce - these on the walk to dinner.

Highlight of the day
It might have been the shepherd with his goats we rode by on the coastal highway. But I'll have to go for the late afternoon walk through the old town, to the cathedral. In addition to the interesting architecture and winding, narrow streets, we saw paper mâché carvers at work on their masterpieces in one of the town squares.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Gallipoli Rides - Day 2

We enjoyed a short afternoon ride after spending the morning exploring the interesting town of Gallipoli.

Today's ride (red on the map)
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
To Nardo and back
28.5 miles
617 feet

We encountered fishermen repairing and arranging their nets in several areas around the waterfront.

There were fish for sale here that I had thought only made appearances in National Geographic specials on exotic creatures found in the deepest parts of remote seas. Apparently I was wrong. In fact, there is a good chance that I encountered some of these at the dinner table.

Another load comes in...

A tool collectors's treasures spill out onto the walls. He must have been at it for quite a while.

The afternoon ride was pleasant, though not quite as short as planned. Navigational mishaps, you know. But, the detour was through yet another area with olive groves, narrow roads and stone walls. As has been noted about many a potentially unfortunate experience, it could have been worse. And maybe, could not have been much better.

HIghlight of the day
Let's go with this: Julio arrived and joined the tour. A welcome addition to our already diverse group.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Gallipoli Rides - Day 1

A couple of days here provide a chance to explore the southernmost part of the heel of Italy's boot and to explore the city of Gallipoli.

Today's ride (orange on the map)
Monday, March 19, 2012
To Santa Marina de Leuca and back
70.4 miles
1,646 feet

There is work done here - olive groves, fields of artichokes, fishing. Here is a farmer finishing up in a field. And it is only 10 a.m.

Lovely small towns abound.

In Santa Marina de Leuca.

And... Orecchiette for lunch!

Highlight of the day
The time trial worthy sprint back to Gallipoli. Because, just because.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Lido Azzurri to Gallipoli

Today we get ferried in the bus across the busy port city of Taranto, where Italy experienced a Pearl Harbor-like blow to its navy in 1940, an engagement referred to as the Battle of Taranto.

Today's ride
Sunday, March 18, 2012
63.8 miles
1,709 feet

This first of several metric centuries provided a ride along the coast into a steady headwind, something that would be with us for the rest of the tour.

Taranto is a large container port, but is obviously home to a number of small fishing operations as well.

As you would expect when following the seacoast, we find evidence of long forgotten pirate haunts.

Christian had purchased a sack of oranges in Alberobello and shared some with the group. After being in the saddle for a few hours and then encountering the only climb of the day, it was a sweet treat to have found one in my pack. Salud, Christian!

Riding through a coastal town. Not a place I would have ever expected to be on a bike. But this works for me.

A nice ride into the mainland part of Gallipoli. Later, we would cross the bridge to the old town on the island and enjoy the sights of a working fishing town.

Highlight of the day
The orange. It has to be the orange.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Alberobello - Lido Azzurri

It has been just about one year since the end of the 2012 Southern Italy ride. It would follow that reporting get wrapped up as well. The plan? I'll just put up a map of the ride and provide 5 pictures covering events of that day. Commentary may or may not be provided. Depends on my memory, motivation and the quality of the notes in my journal. I would not set my expectations too high, if I were you...

Today's ride
Saturday, March 17, 2012
37.1 miles
1,407 feet

Riding out of Alberobello, enjoying more of the trulli that are common here.

What happened here in the old town of Martina Franca? A flat. Coffee. And some GPS challenges as the narrow, winding streets and multi-story buildings confused our modern technology.

There be olives here! One of the group grows olives in California and we were treated to discussions of trees, groves and, of course, olive oil. One piece of advice, do not go for the "light" olive oils...

Ho hum -- just another field of flowers.

Lunch at the hotel on the beach in Lido Azzurri. There was always an interesting lunch, it seems. Yes, it is octopus...

Highlight of the day
After making it through Martina Franca, it was a very pleasant ride through olive groves and down a long, gradual descent on a tree lined road. And at the end of it all, that refreshing seafood salad!