Stage 17: Ascoli Piceno to Pineto

Distance: 69.03 km

Time: 3 hours 17 minutes

Speed: 21 km/h

Ascent: 42 metres

Total distance: 978.2 km

Total time: 52 hours 13 minutes

Wordle scores: Captain 4, X, 4, 4, Stoker 4, 5, 2, 5

Word of the day: “foratura” (foh-ra-toor-ah) – puncture

The Captain writes:

We realised, after we’d arrived at Ascoli Piceno, that we’d been cycling along the Via Salaria, the ancient salt road which connected Porto d’Ascoli to Rome.

Ascoli Piceno has been around for a very long time – it was established approximately 1600 years before the foundation of Rome. Once called Asculon, it was Julius Caesar who gave it the name Asculum Picenum.

If you’d prefer gastronomic information in this post to ancient history, then I can also tell you that it’s also home to the famous Olive Ascolane – olives with a soft savoury meat filling, coated in breadcrumbs.

In fact, a lot of fried food options seem to be available here – deep fried Pecorino cheese in breadcrumbs was also on offer. Perhaps the oddest option is Cremini. These are effectively deep fried custard, also coated in breadcrumbs, and are served as an antipasto. Curious, and strangely delicious!

As for the town itself, well it’s remarkably lovely. Piazzas paved in polished travertine are surrounded by buildings made in the same material, and a network of narrow alleyways (an alleyway here is a “Rua”) connects everything together. There’s a Roman amphitheatre (or the remains thereof), a castle sitting above one of the two narrow valleys which surround the town, more churches than you can count and some handsome public buildings.

Inevitably we gravitated to the trenino on day one of our three day break.

This took us on a half-hour tour and helped us to get our bearings. Comfortable it wasn’t – these things never have suspension for the passenger carriages, and it’s very hard to take photographs when the whole carriage is rattling and shaking. On subsequent days we visited the amphitheatre, one of the city gates and the castle. It was fiercely hot, which hampered our desire to explore to some degree, and we must’ve quaffed a gallon or two of water while we were here. We took advantage of the fontanini too, which provide potable water emerging from a horse’s mouth!

It was a fine choice for our rest days (both planned and temperature-enforced), with some excellent cafés and restaurants, and our hotel provided a cool haven of comfort, including a spa pool we visited each day. As we have more photographs than are practical to include in this post, here’s a collage of some other places we enjoyed.

After three days off, though, we were keen to get moving again. We have re-planned the next few days so that we can cope with the remnants of the Charon heatwave. Excursions inland have been eliminated (it’s much hotter away from the coast), and our days are considerably shorter, allowing us to complete our planned kilometres in the morning. We hope and expect that by the time we reach the Gargano peninsula the temperatures will have returned to normal summer levels, and we can cycle as originally planned.

After a final delicious breakfast at the Palazzo dei Marcanti we rescued the tandem from the hotel garage, loaded the panniers and bidons and pedalled off towards the bridge leading out of Ascoli Piceno. Our first destination was the slightly comically-named Brian’s Bike Shop, a few kilometres out of town. Here we borrowed a track pump to top up the tyres, and bought some supplies.

Our route back to the coast took us down the southern side of the Tronto river, the opposite side from our ascent a few days ago. The road was fairly busy, but a slight downhill gradient helped us to set up a cracking pace for the first twenty or so kilometres. There wasn’t much to see, frankly – a succession of industrial estates and the odd vineyard, but after the visual delights of Ascoli Piceno we didn’t mind too much.

Then, just a few kilometres before we reached the coast, I became aware that it was difficult to keep the tandem in a straight line. Odd! The Stoker looked down at the back tyre and confirmed that it had a somewhat flatter appearance than normal.

So we wheeled the tandem into a shady spot, drank a full bidon of water and set to work. There was no obvious reason for the puncture that we could see. Some of the rim tape had slipped, and I sorted that out, but there were no holes in the inner tube or tyre. I suspect that the valve (which had misbehaved for some time) had finally given up the ghost.

Anyway, the replacement and re-inflation went well, and we set off for the coast. Once we reached it we turned right and entered Abruzzo! We popped into a cycle shop and borrowed a track pump for the second time today, to ensure the tyre was fully inflated, then set off down the coast.

Today we were largely blessed with superb cycle paths – one of them a veritable motorway, and there followed an enjoyable section adjacent to the beach, where the sea water looked very tempting. The heat of the day was steadily rising, and we stopped at a beach bar for an early lunch of arancini and large quantities of water.

…and we did spot this superb sandcastle!

The pattern continued for the rest of the day – long stretches on coastal cycle paths with occasional excursions inland to deal with obstacles (railway lines, rivers and the SS16).

In the early afternoon we found our accommodation in the modern resort of Pineto, which is characterised by an abundance of pine trees. We parked our tandem in the underground garage, dumped our bags in the apartment, dug out our swimming gear and set off for the beach.

The sea temperature was more like the Caribbean than the Mediterranean – the Stoker didn’t squeal once when entering the water! I cannot ever remember having encountered such warm water in this area, and it is a worrying sign that global warming is accelerating.

Tomorrow we have a short day to Ortona – only 48 kilometres, but we will be tackling it early, before the heat of the afternoon.

Here’s today’s route and a short video

Leave a Reply