Stage 22: Lesina to Rodi Garganico

Distance: 53.9 km

Time: 2 hours 28 minutes

Speed: 21.8 km/h

Ascent: 190 metres

Total distance: 1191 km

Total time: 62 hours 43 minutes

Wordle scores: Captain 4, Stoker 3

Word of the day: “fresca” (fress-cah) – fresh

The Stoker writes:

I wasn’t expecting much of Lesina. I think that I was so focussed on the need to get there before the heat of the last gasp of heatwave Charon, I couldn’t think of anything past that. So when we walked out for a second breakfast just after 10am yesterday, having showered and changed, I was surprised at how lovely the centro storico was. First breakfast had been a couple of chocolate chip cookies in Campomarino at 5am – enough to fuel the cycling, just, but leaving us both rather empty by the time we arrived. We walked to the Lesina waterfront, and along past the walkway. It was built in 2016, but quickly deemed unsafe. A shame, as it leads to the remains of a Roman villa.

A little further round we found a café and quaffed water, tea and coffee, and a small pastry each. We both felt extremely dazed, quite drained, I think as much by the mental strain of keeping up with the changing weather and planning round it as by the physical effort of getting here. And the very early start, of course, neither of us is even remotely of a ‘lark’ persuasion at the best of times.

We wandered into the Lesina visitor centre, and spent a very interesting hour learning about the town and the area around the two lakes, Lago di Lèsina and Lago di Varano. They were formed by an earthquake in 1625, before which the now brackish lakes were seawater lagoons of the Adriatic. They are full of wildlife, both aquatic and land-based, including wading birds, turtles, snakes, martens, foxes, otters, lots of (delicious) fish, and the eels. Salicornia, a form of samphire, was a massive food crop here, and the museum had a fascinating film showing the harvesters heading out to collect it in boats called a ‘sandalo’. They also fished extensively, using a complicated but effective system of three coordinated boats and a circular net.

We also recognised our lodgings in an old photograph!

With the heat rising as forecast, we headed back to our air-conditioned lodgings for a cool, much-needed nap. In the evening we strolled out to a lakeside restaurant for dinner. It was incredibly windy, still extremely hot, the full hairdryer treatment, but the wind made it feel like there was definitely a change of weather in the offing. The local speciality here, as mentioned by the Captain, is eels. Having seen a picture of the dish, I decided to be brave and try it.

It was really good! Very like white fish, but slightly more earthy. It was served with some of the salicornia, which had been lightly pickled, and was less salty than samphire. The Captain had a fish burger in a black bun, coloured with squid ink, which he pronounced delicious. We watched the sunset over the lake, finished with a gelato, and headed back for an early night.

We rode out of Lesina at the incredibly civilised hour of 9:45, in temperatures under 30°C for the first time in many days. It was lovely to be cool, and we tapped along on a tiny road alongside the SS road, with only a very occasional car or truck to be seen. Alongside the road were fields full of tomatoes in varying states of ripeness. The reddest fields were being harvested by some clever machine and its minders.

They must be for local consumption, I think, otherwise they’d have been harvested green to ripen on their journey.

We caught occasional glimpses of the Lago di Lèsina to our left, but we were mostly riding through the agricultural land between the lagoon and the mountains of the peninsula to our right.

At one point a couple in a car drew up alongside and engaged us in conversation. They were very taken with the tandem, and offered to swap places with us! I told them about our trip, where we’d started and where we hope to get to. “Wow!”, they said, which does seem to be an Italian word, but with many more vowels. “Oooo-owwwww-oooooo”. The gentleman also did the Italian gesture for “I’m slightly horrified by what you just said”, a sort of chopping, fanning motion with one hand. They drove off, wishing us ‘buon viaggio’. How lovely.

After the end of the lagoon we threaded up between the two lagoons, catching a glimpse of the Tremiti islands just off-shore.

We arrived at the start of the strip of land which divides the second, more easterly lagoon from the sea.

Weirdly, we could see neither lagoon nor sea as we crossed the strip. It was straight, very straight, with a pine forest to the left. There were regular paths through to the beaches, and lots of campsites and holiday villages. It looked very peaceful.

At the end of the strip we crossed above the marina at the lagoon’s eastern inlet, and rode next to the sea for a few kilometres. There were a lot more waves here, the sea looked quite lively, perhaps as a result of the wind.

We had a quick pit stop lunch at Lido del Sole, a rather strange white town arranged around two concentric roads. The pizza slices were good, though.

Just eight more kilometres to our destination, along the seafront, and then up into Rodi Garganico. We stopped for a quick chat with another touring cyclist taking a rest under a tree. He had also been finding the temperatures challenging, even more so as he was camping. No air-conditioning in a tent… Our chosen hotel for the night was just the other side of Rodi G., as it’s depicted on the signs, and our turning soon came up, taking us across the railway and putting us at the bottom of a big hill. It seemed strange that the only accommodation signposted was a nudist resort, which we didn’t think was what we’d booked! A quick Google confirmed that our place was a little further along. Phew!

We’re checked in now, with a lovely view of the sea from our balcony, and a gorgeous pool for a cool afternoon swim. Tomorrow we set off for Vieste, a shorter but pretty hilly day. The route looks very frilly on the map!

Here’s today’s route and a short video

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