2013 - 2014


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Many years ago, Italy had a completely unreasonable attitude towards on-line gambling, but Spain was not too bad. Their positions seem to have reversed recently, to the extent that my favourite bookie has stopped accepting bets from Spain. So, in stead of going to Andalucia to get away from the British winter, I decided to try Italy for a change.

Technical data is not from my usual VDO 1.0+ Cycle computer. Due to old age and unreliability (its, not mine) it has been replaced by a CatEye Adventure computer, which does more or less the same thing.

Time on Road

Total Distance

Metres Climbed

Metres Descended

Time in Saddle

Also all times on this page are GMT, not local Italian time.


Saturday 7 December

For over an hour I couldn't think of anything I'd forgotten to pack so, at 13:00, I set off. No problem on the motorway so, when I stopped in some service station in Kent to fill up, I booked my ferry too. I managed to catch most of the UK soccer results on the ferry using my mobile wi-fi device, before the boat took me out of range. The last time I crossed Dover -Calais there was free wi-fi on board, but I can't remember which boat or which ferry company that was. Driving down through Gent, Brussels, and Aachen was fairly easy, and nothing new. In Germany I took the wrong fork and, short of fuel, I had to take to the towns to find some petrol. I eventually found some and navigated back to the motorway I should have chosen originally. A small picnic area soon appeared.


Sunday 8 December

I started at 08:00 and headed South. It's a few years since I've driven anywhere on a German autobahn and, having got accustomed to British motorways, I'd almost forgotten what a pleasure it is to drive in Germany. It's also strange to be doing 90 mph up the slow lane, pulling out to pass the occasional lorry and quickly pulling back in again because there are ten times as many cars passing me as there are that I'm overtaking. Even Germany has one or two dawdlers doing 80 mph up the middle lane but the vast majority of drivers are very courteous and considerate. Their motorway services are also good, so eating was no problem. I crossed the Fernpass over into Austria. It was dark, under a foot of snow although the road itself had been cleared, and about -5 Celsius. I chose to aim for the Reschenpass in order to reach Italy but, as I had never used it before, I thought it would be near-criminal not to do it in daylight so I parked up at the bottom, in a village called Prutz.


Monday 9 December

A really early start at 06:30 got me over the Reschenpass into Italy. The weather was good, and I'd almost forgotten how beautiful the Alps can be in the winter. Who fancies a skiing holiday? I reached Bozen where, while trying to avoid the toll motorway, I met a policeman who spoke English. I asked if he knew of a large mobile phone shop, or a computer shop, in Bozen and he seemed surprised that anybody should look for such things in Bozen. Trento would be much better. So 30 miles down the road I found a parking place so I could cycle, with a small rucksack, into Trento. Outside my house, I can get the bike on and off the carrier on the roof with no problem as I'm generally standing on the kerb. In a flat parking area, especially now the carrier is a couple of inches nearer to the centre of the car, I'm no longer tall enough. I moved temporarily to a higher kerb and removed the bike but, while I was doing so, somebody nicked my parking place. No problem I just waited ten minutes until another one became available, parked again, and cycled into town. I found the shop at about 12:35, about five minutes after it had closed for its lunch hour. This is Italy. Lunch hour goes on until 15:00. I asked in Tourist Information and the girl there found a computer shop for me, but that was closed too. I had a long lunch. Eventually the shop opened and I bought my dongle. I can't test it because first it has to be enabled, and then it won't work until after midnight. I cycle back to the car, move the car again so I can get the bike back on the roof, and continue to Verona which, like most Italian cities, has no road signs. After two hours, totally lost and getting nowhere in rush-hour traffic, I turned south from the Milan - Venice motorway as I thought that was the best I could do. Another two hours in the middle of nowhere, in freezing fog so no star was visible, I stumbled across a roadsign to Rovigo. I was looking for Modena but Rovigo will do nicely, thank you. From there the roads, and roadsigns, were OK through Ferrara, Ravenna, Rimini, and Pesaro, where I parked in a very quiet holiday village. After midnight I tested my new dongle: successfully in spite of the Italian instructions. On the Dover ferry, I bought a mains travel adaptor It has a UK plug on one side and an EU socket on the other. I would have thought that it was a simple enough device not to need an instruction sheet in 16 different languages. An Italian pay-as-you-go internet dongle is generally used by tourists who might also need more instructions, and in more than one language.


Tuesday 10 December

At 07:30 I started the long drive South along the East coast road, which was fairly boring to start and it got more boring. Lots of small towns, traffic lights, traffic, suicidal mopeds and pedestrians, and speed limits. The plan was to go 80 miles further, to Termoli before crossing to the West coast but, by Giulianova, I'd had enough. I headed for the hills, through Teramo, and L'Aquila, and loads of scenery, to Avezzano. Italy has a real problem with road signs, or rather with the lack of them. I drove through Avezzano, without seeing any signs at all, and came out of it pointing North, which definitely wasn't the plan. A quick, and probably illegal U-turn, for another try. This time I came out pointing South, which was an improvement, but still no roadsigns to anywhere. I gave up, and asked a man at a filling station the way to Sora. "Continue along this road" he said "and at the third roundabout, turn right". I continued along the road and, almost immediately, I saw a sign to "Sora". At the third roundabout there was no further sign so I continued until it became obvious that the road was going nowhere. I re-traced my path and, from the other direction, the junction was properly signposted! I turned left. Approaching headlights forced me to concentrate on the crash barrier, so I didn't drive off the road, and when I could see again, I could see a sign "Avezzano" above me. I had accidentally taken an exit from the road to Sora. Reversing, with a car behind me, was out of the question so I continued into Avezzano centre, but this time I knew roughly how to get out. Using main beam makes the signs, above the road and not illuminated, much easier to see. The road to Sora is about 30 miles long, and single carriageway all the way. It's terrifying. The locals don't give double white lines and speed limits even "Government guideline" status. The road, through Isernia, to Benevento was similar and reasonably signposted but getting to Avellino was a nightmare: hills, bends, and few signposts, but I reached Avellino centre where, again, the signs disappeared. Fortunately the stars had appeared so simply driving South and hoping became a possible plan. I found the motorway to Salerno, and parked up about 10 miles south.


Wednesday 11 December

An 07:45 start. There had been an annoying squeaking noise coming from somewhere for the last day or two. A creaking floorboard, or the front door in a horror film. I had re-arranged the stuff on the back seats, and in the boot, but the noise continued. A sudden stop, with the sun behind me, caused the noise to start up again but this time I could see the shadow of the bike on the road ahead, swaying slightly from side to side in time with the noise. Shaking the bike by hand caused the same noise. A minute's work with a couple of spanners and ... problem solved! The motorway from Salerno to Reggio di Calabria is toll-free so a simple day, apart from the road works, contra-flows, and diversions. It's easy not to pay too much attention and, when a surprise diversion hits you, you end up parked in front of the first big road sign you find, trying to match up the names on the sign with the places on the map, and failing. Eventually, I thought: it's midday so the sun is in the south. The sun is to my left so ... left it is. Reached the ferry to Sicily at about 15:00, crossed over and found somewhere to park, in daylight, on the North-East tip of the island.


Thursday 12 December

The plan was to cycle back in to Messina to find a cash machine, a map of Corsica, a meal, and a supermarket. First I found a kerb so I could get the bike off the roof, then I found the cycle computer (which tells me how far I've gone, how much I've climbed, and how long I've been in the saddle) from its place in my saddle bag in the boot. Finding some Euros in the saddle bag prompted me to transfer them to my wallet, after which I couldn't find the cycle computer! I had it in my hand only a minute ago but now ... it's not in any of my pockets or on the ground ... it's just disappeared! Forty quid for a new one is no big deal but I would imagine they are hard to find in Corsica. I cycled the 7.5 miles into town and found a cash machine. On the way back I found a sandwich shop, and a map (not a good one but it will do till I find a better one), and finally a supermarket that I'd noticed on the way in to Messina. Then I carried on reading while my computer digested the midweek soccer results. My internet dongle gives me only three hours per day so, in the evening when it's too dark to read comfortably, I did most of the on-line work necessary to prepare for my weekend bets.


Friday 13 December

The weather, so far, has not been too good: the temperature has been comfortably in double figures, and it has not rained yet, but it's cloudy most of the time. Every hour or so, I'm on-line for ten minutes but, generally, I carried on reading for most of the morning. Then I got bored and drove about twelve miles West, to a beach near Villafranca Tirrena, just for some different scenery. While getting a fresh book out of the boot, I found my cycle computer: it must have fallen out of the breast bocket in my shirt while I was leaning forwards to get something else out of the boot yesterday. I'm now much happier! Who said Friday 13th was unlucky? I also been looking at my new map and I have a cycle trip planned, possibly for Sunday.


Saturday 14 December

A very quiet day: Saturdays can be busy but most of my activities, as a gambler, were sorted out yesterday. I spent most of the day reading in the sun. During a short walk on the beach, I found an abandoned block of polystyrene: strong enough to take my weight, and ideal for standing on while I manhandle the bike on and off the roofrack. I could have gone cycling but, as sunset is at about 16:00, it's best to be well prepared for any trip. I drove West to Terme Vigliatore because it looked like there was a reasonable ride up in the hills starting from there. I spent the evening checking the details of this proposed ride on Google Maps.


Sunday 15 December

It had rained overnight and, in the morning, it was overcast. It seemed pointless hanging around, waiting for the weather to improve, so I headed West. The North coast road is very slow: lots of small towns, hills, bends, and very slow traffic. I reached the small town of Acquedolci, and parked on the beach.


Monday 16 December

After watching several thunderstorms overnight, I came to the conclusion that the South coast was a better bet for decent weather. The North coast is very scenic, and probably much more scenic on a sunny day but, on a cycling holiday, good weather is pretty much essential. I drove west on the motorway until I reached Marsala, on the Western tip of Sicily.


Tuesday 17 December

The good weather has arrived! I was out on the bike at 09:00 and did over a kilometer before I realised that I'd forgotten my camera. Back to the car, and start again! Down the coast road to Mazara, north on some quiet country lanes to the SS-188, which I followed back to Marsala where I had a quick lunch before reaching the car.

What I would normally call a "flat" route, so at the car I was surprised to find that I'd climbed over 300 meters: explains why my legs were complaining a bit. The last trip where I thought it worth wearing cycling shorts was over 4 weeks ago, so I suppose I'm not as fit as I should be. I drove to Porto Palo, and found a nice place to park near the beach area where I watched the sun set. Then I discovered that there was no mobile coverage there, so I drove in the dark to some place in the town of Manfi, in order to plan tomorrow's ride. There were lots of dogs there, who objected to my parking on their patch, so on to Sambuco di Sicilia at which point I was virtually out of petrol. I had to wait ten minutes for somebody who could explain how the unmanned automatic self-service pump worked.


55.89 km





Wednesday 18 December

A couple more clouds today, but who's complaining? I was out on the road at 09:10 for the long slog up the SP-69 to some pass whose name I can't remember. I can remember its altitude: 800 meters. I spent all of yesterday on the middle chainring but today I was on the little chainring fairly soon. I also noticed, on one of my frequent stops, that my cycle computer wasn't working. I mentally ran through things that could have gone wrong with it then, on a subsequent stop, I also noticed that the little magnet on one of the front spokes had turned itself around the spoke a bit. Easily fixed. The roads on the ascent were in fairly good condition, but those on the descent were atrocious!

I've never seen even a forestry road in South Wales in worse condition. Grass growing on a tarmac road can be excused, but a whole bush? The road became even worse lower on the descent but cycling through the problem quickly, without stopping, seemed a more sensible option than getting the camera out again. I'm never going to complain about the state of the roads in Maesteg again! Back at the car at 12:35 for a quick change and the first food of the day, a couple of ham and cheese sandwiches in a cafe in Sambuco, and a short drive past Giuliana and through Ribera to the beach resort of Seccagrande, which was fairly deserted.


29.54 km





Thursday 19 December

Today it was totally overcast, so I waasn't too enthusiastic about cycling anywhere. Apart from checking up on the bike: oiling the chain, taping up the front wheel sensor magnet, and adjusting the pedal cleats, I caught up with my reading. The hill where I'd planned on cycling looked like it was being rained on at about midday. I did cycle into town which is really dead. There is one bar/cafe in the middle of the prom which was open, and I was the only customer. I might have been the only customer all day.


Friday 20 December

Still totally overcast, so I tidied the car a bit, and drove around looking for a supermarket: these are still a bit rare in Sicily. I found one near Ribera where I topped up with food and petrol, then drove back to Seccagrande. It's as good a place as any to sort out my bets for the weekend, and to relax and read. The sky did clear a bit, late afternoon, so I might be out on the bike tomorrow.


Saturday 21 December

The weather has certainly taken a turn for the better, so a ten mile drive in the car so I can cycle up the hill through Santa Anna to to Caltabellotta, then down the hill to the North, before taking a fairly rough track back to the car.

Today's rough track, unlike Wednesday's, doesn't claim to be anything other than a rough track. Back via the supermarket in Ribera to Seccagrande, where I know there's a restaurant that's open and mobile coverage for my internet so I can check up on the soccer results and plan tomorrow's action. I'm getting to like Seccagrande: it's quiet, nobody bothers me, the sea is 20 yards from where I park, and there's good mobile internet coverage. What more can a man ask?


33.15 km





Sunday 22 December

A reasonable look to the weather, so I drove down the coast road to Siculiana, then through Raffadali to my prepared parking place near a bridge over a river near San Angelo Muxato. I can plan most of my rides using Google maps and Google Earth but, even so, the bridge took some finding! From my bridge over the river it was a long slog to get up to the road between San Biagio to Casteltermini. Today, I was really happy that I'd brought my mountain bike, and not the "hybrid" road bike.

After this a fairly easy descent, through San Biagio, back to the river near San Angelo. Unfortunately, I'd forgotten about the 100 meter climb, near San Angelo, before I got back to the car. I tried a short cut, but this was so steep that I had to dismount and walk the bike down the hill for about 300 meters. Had I researched the ride better, with Google Earth, I would have discovered an even better, and flatter, short cut! I drove down to Agrigento, around its ring road,and down the coast to a place called Marina de Palma, where I parked on the beach.


27.80 km





Monday 23 December

I had planned to do an almost circular round trip, on the bike, starting from Marina, but Google maps suggested that navigating through the town of Palma di Montechiaro would be none too easy, which I definitely confirmed fairly soon in the car. Also the weather wasn't too promising, and I had to stock up for Christmas when most of the shops would be shut. I set off in search of a supermarket. Sicily hasn't discovered out of town shopping yet, and the first supermarket I discovered was in the centre of Canicatti. With nowhere to park I did what the locals did, and double parked. Fifteen minutes later, nobody had even noticed so I just drove off to a nice quiet spot in the middle of nowhere, ready for tomorrow's ride. Then I noticed the total lack of mobile internet coverage. I drove up the nearest hill to Montedoro mainly to find somewhere else, with internet coverage, to park. On the way I saw a picturesque village which I'd first noticed on Sunday. Ten minutes on the internet told me where it was, so I found a place to park (on a bit of old road, unemployed since a new stretch has been built) just below the town of Milena.


Tuesday 24 December

Excellent weather again, and at 08:30 I was off: up to the town of Milena followed by a long descent to the valley to its West. I chose the higher road through Campofranco, rather than the main road up the bottom of the valley, but it turned out to be very steep in places: I was forced to get off and push several times before I reached the road which climbs up to the picturesque city of Sutera, which is built around a prominent rocky hill.

The road around Sutera has suffered from a serious land-slip so there is an diversion through a field which, in anywhere other than Sicily, would probably be considered unusual.

After a long descent, there was an unusually long (especially for one of my rides) flat stretch on the road to Bompensiere. It makes a pleasant change not to be in either bottom gear or top gear! In the evening, a police car called by: some local had reported a strange car, so they were investigating. They weren't particularly worried about me and, after we'd wished each other a happy christmas, they went away again.


37.84 km





Wednesday 25 December

Early in the morning I felt a bit cold I so started the car engine for a while. I was surprised to see an unusual orange light on the dashboard: it was the frost warning light. It also seemed darker than it should have done, because of the thick fog. I decided to move nearer the coast, but I started with a bit of a climb towards Milena and, after a couple of hundred meters, I was in bright sunshine, which continued as I drove down to the coast and then on to Licata. I parked the car in a layby, changed into my cycling gear, and prepared to leave. My cycle computer had chosen to take a day off: It merely said "sleeping" on its display and refused to wake up, regardless of which buttons I pressed. As a last resort I took its battery out for a couple of seconds. This did the trick: after I'd told it the time it seemed quite happy, so I disapperared up the road. My preparation, from Google Maps, told me that my first junction was 5.5km up the road, and although my computer seemed to be measuring my speed OK, my distance travelled was increasing at about 4 times faster than it should have been, which made the measurement of 5.5km a bit tricky. I found the correct junctions anyway, and wondered what could be wrong. It was only when I'd stopped for a rest, and took my specs off, that I notices that I was actually looking at "time in the saddle" and not "distance travelled". Back to concentrating on the road which was, as usual, of very variable quality and badly signposted. At one point, three quarters of the total width of the road had disappeared, which explained the earlier roadsign which probably said "Road closed" or something similar.

My first major junction was extremely well signposted which was a shame because, as the road is now closed, I'm probably the only person who will ever notice it. After turning right, the descent was quite pleasant: most of it at a gradient of about -2% which makes pedalling optional. While getting back to the car, on the main coast road, I noticed a couple of restaurants so, after changing back into my normal clothing, that's Christmas lunch sorted. In the evening I found a beach near Falconara.


33.89 km





Thursday 26 December

It had rained overnight and, in the morning, it was still totally overcast and raining gently now and again. I sat in the car, read a book, and checked the soccer results. A really boring day but, in the evening, a patch of clear sky appeared so there is hope for tomorrow.


Friday 27 December

The weather had not improved much. Nevertheless, I decided to move just for a change of scenery. I tidied the car and set off. It became clear after only a couple of yards that the ground on which I was parked, although solid enough when I'd arrived, had been transformed by the rain into a horrendously soft muddy bog. I managed to turn around OK but, as I headed for the safety of the tarmac, the front wheels were spinning and I was slowing down. Finally I stopped. While I was wondering what to do, a man appeared from nowhere and advised me that the hotel just up the road had a tractor, and would be open at 09:00, so I waited. The hotel receptionist said that their tractor had no diesel in it, but that she had a friend ... he arrived after 10 minutes with a small pickup truck. He didn't want to venture out on the mud himself in case his own truck got bogged down so, after we'd tried pushing my car around and failing to achieve anything, he went in search of some ropes. Meanwhile I emptied the boot so we could find the tow-hook which normally lives under the spare wheel. Eventually, with a tow from my friend's truck, my car managed to slither its way to the tarmac. My shoes and the floor of the car, on the driver's side, were absolutely covered in mud.

I crossed my friend's palm with some Euros, reloaded the boot, said goodbye to my receptionist friend, and headed off: my first task was to find some petrol, and I found a filling station in Gela. Next was a search for a cash machine, so I headed for the city centre: the usual nightmare with suicidal pedestrians and mopeds, drivers double-parking, no road signs, unmarked one way streets, and no cash machine. After 12 miles I passed the garage where I'd filled up 90 minutes earlier. I parked outside a block of flats and got the bike off the roofrack. So much easier to get through traffic jams, cycle up one way streets, or simply turn around. I took 20 minutes to find a cash machine, and then another hour to find the car again. I called in a supermarket which I'd discovered on my travels, filled up with food, and drove out of town so I could just park somewhere quiet, and read a book. The weather had improved but I'd had enough excitement for one day.


12.25 km





Saturday 28 December

I'd parked some way along my intended route: Any place which, on Google Maps, looks suitable for a night's sleep stands a good chance of becoming a rubbish dump, so one has to be flexible. I was on the road at 07:20 and heading for Butera, another town built on the top of a hill. Having spent some time criticising Sicilian road signs, I was surprised to see one today specifically for cyclists although, to be honest, I could have worked out the correct road from the normal signs. Setting off on a bike ride involves a long mental checklist: Do I have the saddle-bag, a lock, the cycle computer, the camera, etc. I was in Butera today before I realised that I wasn't wearing my usual crash helmet. I was back at the car before 11:00 so I had time to check my bets before setting off to San Pietro, the starting point for tomorrow's ride. The weather has been perfect all day. Hopefully more of the same tomorrow.


41.46 km





Sunday 29 December

It had been a cold night, and a cold morning. I started the engine, for a bit of warmth, at 07:00 so I was ready for another early start. I was on the road at 07:30 for the slight descent towards Niscemi before heading North to Caltagirone. This is another hilltop town but it's also at the top end of a long ridge, along which I was cycling. As a result, there is no spectacular view of the town: suddenly, I was there and a town centre street is much like any other. Maybe it's spectacular from other directions. On the descent I was surprised: not only by my first view of Mount Etna, impressive even though it was still over 40 miles away, but also by the quality of the road and the roadsigns. This was one of the few days, so far on this holiday, when the road/hybrid bike would have been useful. One of the good things about doing a hilltop town every day it that it's very easy to notice more of them. When I got back to the car at 11:00 I headed back North to Caltagirone, then North-East so I could park up below the hilltop town of Mineo.


37.45 km





Monday 30 December

A quick look at Google Maps in the evening had shown me that I could do two hilltop towns in one day. The morning was a bit overcast so, with an extra jacket and leggings, I was away at 08:00 down the road I driven along yesterday. A 300 meter climb brought me to Grammichele which, like Caltagirone yesterday, was invisible until I actually arrived there, although I had a good view of Caltagirone on the climb up. Grammichele had an extremely mediaeval look to it and they are probably a couple of thousand years late for any road widening action. I carried on through the town then along high and gently undulating roads to my other objective: Mineo which is not camera shy, and knows how to make an entrance. I was back at the car at 11:40 for a drive to Siracusa. I needed a beach, and a tidy supermarket.


38.92 km





Tuesday 31 December

A quiet day! It had rained heavily overnight and, although I'd planned to cycle in to Siracusa, the morning's weather still had an untrustworthy look about it. I just drove South to the most Southerly tip of the island, calling at a small supermarket on the way, and spent the day relaxing in the sun before the rain returned in the evening.


Wednesday 1 January

First I drove to Modica, where I parked just outside the municipal cemetery. I cycled over the Ponte Irminio which, according to Wikipaedia, is visible at the start of every episode of "Inspector Montalbano". It's a big modern bridge, 150m high, but it's difficult to get a decent photo of it. It's the blue thing in the centre of the first photo. I continued to the first junction, 10 km up the road, and it was a full clover-leaf. I don't think I've ever cycled through one of those before. Ragusa is a fairly modern city, and deserted. They take their bank holidays seriously here.

The descent, back towards Modica on the lower road, goes through the more ancient parts of the city: these, and Modica itself, are extremely picturesque. In Modica I tried to find my way up to a different bridge, the Viadotto Guerrieri, which is visible in the photo below on the right, over which I'd driven on the way in, and from which there are some really good views of Modica.

After totally failing to find out how to get to this bridge, but getting some decent exercise on the 10% hills in Modica, I returned to the car and drove to a quiet spot near Enna in the centre of the island.


45.55 km





Thursday 2 January

I found that I'd parked about 3km East of my planned start. No problem, just a bit of extra exercise. I cycled back to the Railway station at Guticchi and turned North towards Agira, in absolutely beautiful weather, on a reasonable road which gained 200m altitude gradually over 20km. I stopped for breakfast, two chocolate doughnuts, at a petrol station just before the shorter but more brutal 150m climb up to Agira itself, where I just turned around. Mission accomplished.

The descent was along a road which, in theory at least, was closed. Not according to Google Maps and, once I have a plan, "Sat-Nav says turn right" means I turn right. This plan has worked OK so far. The descent is very "up and down" so it's not just a matter of relaxing and admiring the scenery until the car appears. There is still work to be done, and besides this there are good reasons why the road is closed.

When it is possible to take one's eyes briefly away from the road surface, the scenery is just amazing. Mount Etna, on a sunny day, and wearing white for winter, is guaranteed to brighten up any photograph. Fortunately, since the invention of the digital camera, the thought "How many shots do I have left on this roll?" is now history.

Back at the car I decided to return to the North coast, hoping that the weather would be better than when I arrived. The drive past Etna was the usual navigational nightmare but again very scenic. Whenever I've been driving a car on this holiday, I've thought "This is a brilliant road for a bike ride" but when I've been on the bike, then "Thank God I didn't bring the car up here!" has been a much more common thought. I reached the spot in Terme Vigliatore, where I'd parked up on December 14th, just as it was getting dark.


49.59 km





Friday 3 January

Although the night had been clear, the morning was a bit overcast: no problem as on Fridays I'm generally busy with the computer. Paddy Power surprised me by refusing to take any bet bigger than a tenner, which is a shame bacause they've always struck me as one of the friendlier and more honest of the on-line bookies. Probably something to do with all of that money that was once theirs. I cycled in to the nearest big town, Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto, in order to get some food, as supermarkets are always easier to find on two wheels. Then, back at the car, as the wind had dropped it was possible to sit in the sun and read a book quite comfortably. I have no idea why, but the sea water on the North coast is much warmer than that on the South coast.


18.06 km





Saturday 4 January

The weather looked good early in the morning, although it was a bit chilly. I was on the road at 08:00 and I cycled to the centre of Terme Vigliatore, then up the valley through Rodi and Milici to Fondachelli Fantina. The road generally follows the river but goes up to each village, then back down to the river, making a fair bit of unnecessary climbing.

There's enough hard work anyway as Fondachelli, at an altitude of 650m, is higher than anywhere in Glamorganshire, and from there there's a further climb of 350m to reach the pass of La Pertusa. It's always a problem to know exactly how many clothes to wear as, at the moment, I have no means of carrying spare clothes: I have to wear them. Today I found that, as I take off my crash helmet anyway for steep climbs, in order to keep cool, the helmet itself can be used to carry spare clothes when it's dangling from the handlebar. At the top of the climb, the spare clothes and the helmet go back on for the 30km descent, along a fairly good road apart from Novara which is stuck in the middle ages, back to the car.

In the afternoon I took the car into Barcellona PG to top up the petrol tank, my food store, my wallet, and my mobile broadband dongle. Enough cycling for one day.


63.95 km





Sunday 5 January

An early start again because I'd planned another long ride. I moved the car a mile West, to Tonnarella, mainly to reduce the cycling distance, and I was on the road at 07:00. The climb started easily enough through the villages of Furnari, Campogrande, Casale, and Tripi. The sky was overcast but, when the real climbing started after Tripi, it was warm enough for me to remove my helmet and then later, like yesterday, my rain- and wind-proof jacket.

Soon it started raining gently and, a little later, I was surrounded by a fog which slowly thickened. I was tempted just to turn back but, as there was about 250m to re-climb on this descent, I continued towards Montalbano, which I knew to be about 900m altitude with a relatively straightforward descent, but the road just went on and on and on. I was on the point of turning around as, after six hours on the road, there was a serious chance of my running out of daylight. Suddenly, at an altitude of 1150m, a road sign finally appeared so I continued, as planned, towards Montalbano.

As soon as I started my descent, the heavens opened, and the next two hours were just a nightmare! Any descent on wet roads demands care, and this is especially so in Sicily where any simple puddle can conceal a serious pot-hole. Also, on the way down, the wind picked up and I was getting uncomfortably cold: to the point where my thumbs could no longer comfortably work the gears. Even short climbs were welcome as the excercise has a certain warming effect and, once I'd reached the coast road, I was glad of a mile or two of the flat stuff. I was even happier to reach the car and, after two hours with the engine running and the heater on full blast, I started to feel warm again.


63.64 km





Monday 6 January

Time for a rest day, while my clothes were drying out. I drove into Milazzo, a small city on the North coast. I could, and did, cycle around it in 30 minutes. I couldn't see anything worth stopping for, apart from some food at a small cafe, so I hit the road. Etna here we come! Over the hills again, through Novara and Francavilla, to San Marco on the Ionian coast which has lots of nice parking places along the beach.


5.79 km





Tuesday 7 January

There is a road, on the North East flank of Mount Etna, between Fornazzo and Linguaglossa, whose high point is at about 1600m altitude. This is further than I had climbed, in one day, for quite some time so, to give myself the best possible chance, I was on the road at 06:50. Unfortunately I took a wrong turning and lost, as a result, about 200m altitude which considerably reduced the chances of the day's being a success.

It was a shame to waste such good weather but, never being one to take any unnecessary risk on a snow-covered mountain, I decided to photograph the spot before taking the most obvious descent to the coast, and discovered that my camera was out of battery power anyway. I was back at the car at 10:35.


37.48 km





Wednesday 8 January

After some time with Google Maps, finding out where I went wrong yesterday (I turned left in Vena, distracted by the sign pointing to San Alfio, rather than staying on the straight climb which gets to San Alfio via a higher road) I decided that trying the same high road in the other direction was simpler, at least on the ascent. Another 06:50 start got me to Linguaglossa before 09:00, so time for breakfast. After my two slices of apple tart, and a Coca-cola the climb was fairly simple, if rather boring. The problem is that, once in the forest, the scenery disappears and all I had to keep me occupied was my watching my altimeter ticking over, and worrying about what the road conditions would be like on the descent. The weather was absolutely perfect and the roads started off dry but, in the forest, there are areas where the sun never shines and these parts are very slow to dry out. Towards the top, the occasional sparkly bit makes it clear that they also slow to thaw. There is more than a sprinkling of volcanic ash which makes a peculiar noise when I cycle over it, and some salt and grit, presumably delivered by some council wagon. The trees think that it's still Autumn so there are lots of oak leaves and pine needles to add to the mixture. And some snow.

When a gap in the trees does finally appear, the scenery is truly stunning ...

... the more so after being hidden for so long, and all of it delivered in silence. There wasn't a breath of wind and it seemed strange my cycling around, surrounded by snow, in just cycling shorts and a tee-shirt. On the higher parts of the road I didn't see, or hear more than half a dozen cars.

On the descent, once the road conditions had improved to the extent that I could concentrate on something else, I started to consider cancelling my plan to do more on Etna tomorrow. I'll be back in Sicily at some time, probably next Christmas, and I want something left for me to aim for. Also, I couldn't imagine that tomorrow would possibly be better than today, and it's best to end a holiday on a high note. I got back to the car and started driving. Home. The coast road just North of where I'd spent the last two nights came as a spectacular surprise. I'll add it to next year's list. While driving, to a lay-by near Salerno, I realised that there can't be many places where I can park my car on a beach, ride a bike until I'm a mile higher than when I started, then get back to the car well before sunset.


64.25 km





Thursday 9 January

Driving home is never as cheerful as driving on the start of a holiday, but it has to be done. The worst part was driving past some more snow-capped mountains, without stopping the car and getting the bike off the roof. I'm not addicted. I can stop at any time. I drove as far as Pesaro. Just the Alps to go, now.


Friday 10 January

A fairly quiet day: I just had to reach Trento, where I could stop overnight, place my final bets for the weekend, give my internet dongle back to the shop and get my deposit back, then make a dash for home in the afternoon.


Saturday 11 January

I reversed my original route, back over the Reschenpass. I wasn't tempted by break for the Stilsferjoch: it was closed for the winter. I got as far North as a lay-by near Koblenz.


Sunday 12 January

A cold and clear morning. The sky was a mixture of light blue and pink when I started, and it stayed clear all the way to Calais. It was overcast and dark in Dover and, at the Severn Bridge, it started to rain. Welcome home!


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