Distance: 60.89 km
Time: 2 hours 55 minutes
Speed: 20.8 km/h
Ascent: 143 metres
Total distance: 634.76 km
Total time: 32 hours 20 minutes
Wordle scores: Captain 6 Stoker 3
Word of the day: “Afa” (A-fah) – sultriness
The Captain writes:
We hadn’t originally planned to have a day off in Ravenna, but when we did the research it became apparent that there was plenty to see. Not only that but it’s a perfect anagram of another place we’ve really enjoyed visiting this year (Varenna, on Lake Como), so we felt obliged to have a full day off. On the first evening we relaxed in the spacious lodgings we’ve rented here, ate a simple meal of bruschette and strozzapreti with mushrooms, and enjoyed a bottle of the local romagnola wine.
The temperature is on the rise at the moment, and on our rest day we were walking around in 32° heat, keeping to the shady side of the road wherever possible.
We walked through one of Ravenna’s many gates, past elegant streets, churches and baptisteries, finally arriving at the Domus dei Tappeti dei Pietra (House of the Stone Carpets).
The mosaics on this site were discovered in 1993 during the construction of an underground car park, and are perhaps the best-preserved mosaics we’ve ever seen. Some restoration work has obviously taken place, but it has been done with great sensitivity and care. Here are a few highlights.
We found a shady square for lunch, I particularly enjoyed a taglieri romagnola as it introduced a cheese neither of us had encountered before: Squacquerone (pronounced to rhyme with maccheroni). It’s a soft cow’s milk cheese particular to the Romagnola riviera, and it complemented a selection of salumi perfectly. Afterwards, in baking heat, we went to see the tomb of Dante Alighieri, in a corner near the Piazza del Popolo.
In the slightly more comfortable evening temperatures, we wandered from our lodgings back through the Piazza del Popolo for a very good meal at I Furfanti, and took the opportunity on the way back to capture some atmospheric night-time pictures.
We set an early alarm this morning, wanting to get some kilometres cycled before the oppressive heat set in. Once out of the confines of the city we were rolling along very nicely. For me, at least, today was the day when I became aware of the increased fitness we now have as a result of cycling more than 550 kilometres. Everything seemed just a bit easier, though the lack of a headwind contributed too.
Our departure from Ravenna was on the SS16, a busy road which we now realise will form at least part of our route all the way down to Italy’s heel in Puglia. Our main intent will be to avoid it, of course, by using quieter roads and cycle paths. Once out of the city we did just that, and maintained our good progress for the first 90 minutes or so. We began to see signs of seaside holidays.
A succession of cycle paths slowed us down considerably. There’s a huge variety in the quality of Italy’s cycle paths, from the sublime (wide, well-surfaced, well-signposted) to the downright ridiculous (potholes, manhole covers, hidden or absent signage, tree roots, anti-car barriers, delivery vans blocking the way). The trouble is, you don’t know which variety you’re going to get until you are actually on the path! Today, as always, we had a mixture of both – sometimes it’s a huge relief to get off the road and onto the path, and sometimes it most definitely isn’t.
After the first hour we stopped for a drink, and while we were refuelling a woman climbed off her bike and stopped to chat. To our relief our spoken Italian is coming back quickly, and we were only caught out by her use of the term “afa” to describe the humidity – she was happy to spell it out for us so that we could translate it later on. Another useful word learned.
We pushed on, with some excitement, towards the town of Savignano sul Rubicone. The clue to our excitement is in the name! Here, just below a more modern bridge, is the ford used by Julius Caesar to cross the Rubicon river.
It’s more of a stream, actually, but significant nonetheless, and it was interesting to see the place where this commonly used phrase entered the language. Obviously, as we too crossed it today, we are now obliged to take our armies onward to Rome. If only we could remember where we left them.
We only had about 14 kilometres remaining after seeing the Rubicon, so we decided to finish today’s journey before lunch. We’re now in lodgings formerly used to house members of the Italian air force, on the outskirts of Rimini.
While this doesn’t really give us much of an opportunity to see Rimini itself, it does leave us well-positioned for tomorrow’s long uphill climb to San Marino.
Incidentally, we’ve been cycling parallel to the Adriatic for a significant part of today’s journey, but we have not as yet seen the sea. We’re unlikely to rectify that until we have descended from San Marino, but it will be a constant companion for a while thereafter.