Stage 25: Baia delle Zagare to Manfredonia

Distance: 35.67 km

Time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Speed: 14.3 km/h

Ascent: 513 metres

Total distance: 1291.4 km

Total time: 69 hours 54 minutes

Wordle scores: Captain 4, 2, 4 Stoker 3, 3, 3

Word of the day: “faraglioni” (fa-ra-lyee-own-ee) – sea stacks

The Captain writes:

Baia delle Zagare proved to be an inspired choice for our two days at rest. From the balcony of our room we had a superb view out to sea, past one of the two sea stacks in the south bay, towards the Puglia coast which curves down towards Bari. From just below the room a panoramic lift took us down to the shingle beach, which was protected by dramatic white limestone and sandy alluvial cliffs. A small bar and café served for lunch, producing delicious food from a small (and very hot-looking) kitchen.

Walking on the shingle beach barefoot was uncomfortable, to say the least – getting into the sea was quite a painful experience, but once in there the water became deep very quickly, and the temperature was just cool enough to provoke squealing from the Stoker!

Kayaks were available too, and we spent a happy hour paddling around and through the faraglioni, though not getting too close as they looked fragile and liable to crumble at any moment.

In the evening we’d have aperitivi at the terrace bar, which was set between the two beaches, followed by dinner in the restaurant below. Service and food were both excellent. In fact the only bad thing about the whole place was the WiFi in our room, which was unable to provide reliable access to the Cricinfo site so that we could check the score in the Ashes test at the Oval. Unforgivable! Still, England won…!

We particularly enjoyed the night-time views of the sea stacks in the moonlight – the moon was waxing fuller each night and the resulting pictures were atmospheric.

Leaving the hotel this morning was a bittersweet experience – the ‘sweet’ part being that we will remember the place with great affection. The ‘bitter’ part was the ridiculously steep drive which led back up to the main road -we had to tackle this without any warm-up, first thing after breakfast!

Once on the main road we settled into a familiar rhythm. It was immediately obvious that the Stoker’s normal pedalling power had returned. This was officially a good thing, as we had four hills to tackle today before leaving the peninsula behind and reaching the coastal plain at Manfredonia.

What a stunning stretch of coastline, though – to our right the deep green ‘Foresta Umbra’, to our left the limestone cliffs and sculpted bays, largely unspoilt and little-populated. All of this served as a useful distraction from the effort we were putting in, but in all honesty the gradients of today’s ride were easier on the legs. All of the climbing was in the first half of our day, and after the final climb up past the town of Mattinata we could see that the landscape was changing. Below us in the valley were huge numbers of olive trees.

I remember this having been a feature of our previous visit to Puglia – olive groves protected by low limestone dry stone walls.

Our three days of cycling (and three days of leisure) on the Gargano peninsula will live long in our memories. This is one of the joys of long-distance cycle touring – without having planned this trip we would probably never have heard of this area. I’m so glad we did – it was sublime.

There was just one more hurdle to overcome today, then – a rocky, gravelly section of track on the way into Manfredonia. We’d chosen the route willingly, to avoid busy roads elsewhere, but it was slow going, avoiding the potholes and large rocks which littered the surface of the track.

We stopped in a shady spot for a drink, whereupon we were greeted by an elderly couple, returning to their house. This proved to be an interesting test of our Italian skills, as the couple wanted to know all about our trip, but they also spoke over each other all the time! We had to listen to two conversations running simultaneously and try to provide appropriate responses. I think we managed quite well, considering!

It was with some relief that we left the gravel track, turned onto a metalled road and pedalled the last couple of kilometres into Manfredonia. Here we’re staying in a comfortable AirBnB a few steps from the sea. Tomorrow’s destination is Foggia – we’ll be inland for a few days after today.

Here’s today’s route and a short video

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