Stage 23: Rodi Garganico to Vieste

Distance: 38.44 km

Time: 2 hours 36 minutes

Speed: 14.8 km/h

Ascent: 568 metres

Total distance: 1229.5 km

Total time: 65 hours 19 minutes

Wordle scores: Captain 3, Stoker 4

Word of the day: “calcare” (cal-carrr-eh) – limestone

The Captain writes:

We spent much of the afternoon at Rodi Garganico at the pool-side or in the pool – it was our first outdoor pool of the trip and just the right temperature.

The hotel was up a steep drive from the main road, which was hard work when we arrived but the resulting height gave us superb views to the west, looking back towards the town of Rodi Garganico and beyond to Torre Mileto. We did consider going to the beach but the waves were piling against the shore, and frankly the pool was just too convenient!

In the evening we had aperitivi around the pool, and then an excellent four course meal, with a very good bottle of Nero di Troia which was matured in terracotta amphorae, all the while watching a glorious sunset over the Tremiti islands.

Now that the weather has settled down we no longer have to set an early alarm, a welcome development which meant that we set off at about ten o’clock after a leisurely breakfast. As always on a “climbing day” we were both a little nervous, but we settled into a steady rhythm for the three kilometres of warm-up before the first of five climbs.

We had read about the beauty of this peninsula, and they weren’t exaggerating. The roads hugged the contours of the fractal coastline, meaning we were constantly turning corners and seeing new vistas.

To the west all was thickly wooded forest, in all other directions we could look out to the sea, which today ranged from duck-egg green (on the sandbanks) through sage to emerald, then switched to a deep navy blue towards the horizon. Looking at our pictures we’re rather disappointed that they didn’t really capture the depth of color we could see with our own eyes, but perhaps they will give an impression.

On almost every headland stood a square tower, built from the autochthonous limestone, one of a range of watch and defence towers, a response to threats and assaults from the Ottoman fleets between the fifteenth century and the Treaty of Tripoli in 1785.

We needn’t have been nervous about the climbing – after a very steep start we settled readily into climbing mode and the first two climbs were dealt with swiftly. The third climb was the biggest, so we stopped to drink a bidon beforehand, but it took us only thirty minutes or so to climb through the streets of Peschici to the summit, after which we sat outside a café and consumed two delicious bottles of cold water.

Our reward was quick to arrive, a swooping descent through wooded valleys with fine sea views and occasional limestone bluffs, ranging from cream to pure white in colour.

For a while we seemed to be in relay with a very gregarious group of three Italian cyclists – they would overtake us and stop for a rest, we would overhaul them for a while and then the cycle would repeat!

Scattered all along the coast were camping villages and lidos – in fact we headed into one of these and acquired a lunch of panini, accompanied by the usual vast quantities of acqua frizzante. Never has water tasted better than it has on this trip!

We had originally planned to cover the Gargano peninsula section of this trip in one day, riding over the hills from Rodi Garganico to Mattinata. We’re so glad that we looked again at our options – the coastal cycling today has been one of the most enjoyable sections so far on our journey, and there’s more to come in the next two cycling days.

With a scant twelve kilometres remaining to complete we set off along the coast to the south, and before long we turned around a headland to see Vieste in front of us, dominated by its hill-top castle, built at the same time as the coastal defence towers.

A swift climb to the Piazza Castello followed, and there we met our host for the stay, Giulio, and checked into our lodgings in the old part of town beneath the castle.

It’s an attractive building of multiple levels with low barrel vaulted ceilings (better keep the helmet on!) and a fine terrace overlooking the sea. No doubt we will drink some wine on the terrace later this evening.

We’re taking a rest day here, because we want to explore Vieste. The day after tomorrow we’ll be heading south to Baia delle Zagare, the beautifully named Bay of Orange Blossoms.

Here’s today’s route and a short video

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