We turned in for the night basically as soon as it was dark last night, in part because of my imposed “boar curfew” since dusk was when they showed up last time we free camped. It was a bit irrational since the brush was so thick we could barely move around and there were no game trails anywhere to be seen but I didn’t care. I was running on fumes after the day’s long climbs and I had no desire to come face to face with a wild anything!
Neither of us slept very well, largely due to the self-induced free camp paranoia, but also because for the first time since we’ve been here, it got really, really cold. I found myself burrowing deeper and deeper into my sleeping bag and pulling the hooded top over my head. I was grateful with the first glow of purple light began infiltrating the tent indicating that the day would soon begin to warm.
Before long, Ben was up too, and despite the lingering cold, we figured it would be best to get our camp stashed away and get on the road. Our tent had generating quite a bit of condensation in the cold but due to what we thought to be stinging nettle which was pretty much everywhere, we just packed up and figured that we would deal with it when we had a bit more friendly foliage to work in.
The steady sequence of deadly hills yesterday had convinced us that we needed a change of terrain and we were debating heading toward the coast to ferry to Corsica or redirecting toward Rome. Either way, we figured we would head into Siena where we could camp another night or catch a train. As we sat out to eat breakfast on a nice sunny cement block along the side of the road, still chilly from the damp, freezing morning, we decided on Rome. We would head into Siena and grab the first train south, avoiding the rest of the Tuscan “hills”. Plan in hand, we headed straight uphill towards Siena.
Some days bicycle touring feels a bit like being on a game show where every day someone presents you with a new ridiculous challenge just when you thought you had a good strategy down. Sometimes it is stinging nettle, or a broken stove, or needing a power converter, or just plain exhaustion. The last few days have all began with the “ridiculously steep hill” challenge before we’ve hardly been in the saddle for 30 seconds. I don’t mind riding uphill, provided it isn’t so steep my front wheel threatens to come off the road, but it would also be nice to have a few minutes to get my legs warm before the inclines begin! The ride into Siena was short but surprisingly steep and due to some very confusing signage, we rode up and down a few hills just for sport. Just as the day was getting nice and warm though, we rolled into the train station.
Immediately, we were met by a very cranky woman who announced that there was a strike in Rome and there was no possible way to get us and our bikes to Rome until midnight. I was unconvinced. It was 9:00 AM and we were looking at a 3 hour train ride… midnight seemed a little silly. I asked if there were any other options, but all she could do was begin practically yelling that it was impossible. I didn’t get why she was saying that we could get there at all if there was such a strike, so eventually I gave up on the grumpy lady line and got in a different line. The second gentleman kindly indicated that there was indeed a strike, but we could be to Rome by 3:00 with our bicycles. Also, he didn’t yell at me. Perfect.
Ben purchased the tickets and after a little further discussion we finally obtained an actual timetable telling us which trains to take, and then we headed out to Platform 1 to wait. So far so good…we didn’t even have to take the bikes down any stairs!
With now 90 minutes before our train left, we wondered what we ought to do with the block of time, so I stayed with our stuff while Ben ran across the street to what looked like it could be a grocery store. It was in fact, the biggest grocery store we have seen since we’ve been here with a lovely bakery and a good produce selection. He did our shopping for the next few days and came back to the platform bearing really amazing foccacia. We pretty well devoured it and I ran back over to the store to buy some more as well as some bakery treats. We spent pretty much the whole hour and a half shopping and eating and were pretty happy when we boarded the train.
The train arrived 15 minutes early, giving us ample time to get on and get the bikes loaded, alleviating the “train panic” we usually have when trying to get two heavy bikes on the end of a train in a hurry. We had actual seats and everything!
We had one stop to transfer trains and platforms, and I shoved my whole loaded bike, front wheel up, into a tiny elevator where I generated quite a few amazed stares. It was easier than wrangling it down the stairs!
As we waited for the train, we met a friendly bunch of Australians, also travelling with bikes. It was fun to chat with them and hear about their vacation and they were even so kind as to give us their Rome guidebook as they are heading toward home today. How kind!
The second train also arrived with time to spare, so with our new friends, we loaded everything into the bike car (we are getting much better at rolling heavy bikes up and down stairs!) and spent the ride looking at the pictures in our new guidebook and feeling much more informed about Rome than we normally are when we visit a new city!
It was a nice change to watch the hills roll by from my chair, knowing that the journey to Rome would have taken us at least a week by bike, and with the time we have to tour, Rome probably wouldn’t have been a reality for us. Since we had already come this far, we thought it would be a shame to miss all that Rome has to offer and we were grateful that an afternoon train ride made it possible for us to visit so easily.
As we rolled into Rome Termini, the realization that we were going to have to ride our loaded bikes through the middle of Rome in rush hour traffic was really starting to get to me. My overactive imagination had conjured up a deadly picture of how harrowing the ride was going to be. Instead, we rolled out into busy, but certainly not fatal traffic for an exhilarating ride through a new city. Cars here are more used to bikes as a method of transportation and people gave us plenty of room, although our loaded bikes did generate some stares. Seeing such a big city by bicycle actually turned out to be a blast and I didn’t at all mind the 11 km ride out to our lovely campsite.
The campground here is beautiful, and as we were checking in, a sweet woman who was finishing her Roman vacation with her family today gave us the rest of her week long rail passes that are good through Sunday. I have been amazed at people’s generosity today!
All checked in, we cooked a tasty pasta dinner and took some well needed showers and did a bit of laundry. The bathrooms at this campground are nicer than most hotels!
We are looking forward to heading into the city tomorrow and looking forward to a peaceful nights rest…