Day 32: Arezzo – Castiglione del Lago

Distance: 55.46 km

Time: 2 hours 43 minutes

Average speed: 20.4 kph

Cumulative distance: 1675.56 km

Cumulative time: 82 hours 30 minutes

Word of the day: ‘polveroso ‘ (pol-vair-oh-so) – dusty

Predictably enough, Arezzo turned out to be stunning, too! We walked around a short section of the city walls, then went up the scale mobili (alright, escalators) to the Cattedrale dei Santi Pietro e Donato which sits atop a hill overlooking the rest of the town. There’s a small plateau up there, but apart from that the streets slope steeply down in all directions.

Inside the Cathedral, we found fairly austere levels of decoration, and ridiculously high levels of grisly relics. Ah well, each to their own. Outside there was a viewpoint over the northerly aspect, and partially to the west, from whence we came. We walked on, feasting our eyes on a truly beautiful centro storico, eventually coming to rest in Piazza Grande, where, under the porticoes, we drank water and admired the view.

Twice every year in the piazza the Giostra del Saracino takes place – a jousting competition between the various quartieri of the city. It last took place in June, and the piazza is still festooned with the emblems of the quartieri. Even without this characterful addition, the square is exquisite…

…which is more than can be said for the traffic on the ring road as we left this morning! Still, everyone gave us a wide berth, and the Stoker managed an on-the-fly re-routing which took us onto quieter roads until we were out of the city. The weather was unusually cloudy and somewhat cooler, which made for more comfortable riding, although the humidity was high. After a few kilometres we stopped, took a picture of some grapes (one of the Stoker’s projects!) and had a drink, whilst admiring the view to the west.

For a while the cycling was idyllic, and we encountered many other cyclists making use of the same quiet roads. It was somewhat reminiscent of our journey through the Po valley, as once again we were surrounded by arable crops – notable additions today being zucchini and globe artichokes.

Unfortunately our planning software doesn’t distinguish very well between different road surfaces, and we ended up on long sections of dusty gravel tracks – some acceptably level, some ruinously potholed. These weren’t much fun, and some more re-routing was required to get us back onto metalled roads.

All of the time we were running parallel to the Apennines, to our left, and through the clouds we could see the odd hill-top town, and eventually Cortona, a much more substantial town, clinging to the steep hillside at an elevation of about six hundred metres. It would definitely merit a visit, some other day!

We took lunch at a roadside restaurant in Riccio, along with heroic quantities of fizzy water. By now the sun was emerging, and we were back to the high temperatures of recent days. We didn’t have far to go, though, and after a few kilometres we left Tuscany and entered Umbria, soon catching a glimpse of the turquoise Lake Trasimeno, surrounded by green hills.

We continued south down the side of the lake until we began to see the fortress which dominates our destination town, Castiglione del Lago. A short steep climb brought us up onto the ridge, and then we dropped down to find our lodgings near the lakeside. Before checking in, we stopped to admire the view.

After checking in, our very friendly hosts gave us beer and fizzy water – how civilised! Here we have a pool, too, always a bonus after a hot day on the tandem.

After passing one thousand miles yesterday, we completed some more milestones today. We surpassed the one thousand and thirty-one miles we cycled when travelling through France. Tomorrow, all being well, we shall exceed the one thousand and forty-five miles we cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats, making this our longest trip ever (and we’re not even halfway yet).

Oh yes, and our total climbing on this trip so far amounts to eight thousand, eight hundred and sixty five metres, which is seventeen metres higher than Mount Everest.

Our next four planned destinations (Perugia, Assisi, Todi and Orvieto) are all hill-top towns. There’s nothing like a steep climb with which to end the day!

Here’s today’s track.