Stage 41: Policoro to Trebisacce

Distance: 61.21 km

Time: 3 hours 13 minutes

Speed: 19.1 km/h

Ascent: 419 metres

Total distance: 2093.5 km

Total time: 112 hours 15 minutes

Wordle scores: Captain 3 Stoker 3

Word of the day: “polveroso” (pol-ver-oh-soh) – dusty

The Captain writes:

I have to confess I can’t tell you much about Policoro! It has an excellent supermarket, which provided us with all we needed for last night’s dinner. Add to that a helpful bike shop owner, who lent us a pump, and a very acceptable café which furnished this morning’s breakfast. The trouble was that we were slightly too far out of town to explore the place with any thoroughness, given our fairly weary state, so we settled into our digs, munched on some fennel-flavoured taralli that we’d smuggled in from Puglia, discussed future route plans over a plate of tagliatelle con funghi and turned in for the night.

Refreshed by sleep we set off along urban roads to start with, aware that just a few kilometres away was the only real climb of the day, a reasonably tough one. In Italy’s Mezzogiorno (their term for the relatively impoverished south) the car seems to reign supreme, and bicycle routes are a long way down their list of priorities. So in order to head south towards Trebisacce in a car one need only set off down the SS106, which occupies the only bridge available. And doesn’t allow bikes. To get across the same river we had to cycle inland for nine kilometres, climb a big hill, turn back towards the coast for another nine kilometres… You get the idea. This was what forced our diversion onto the busy SS106 yesterday. Today we had no choice in the matter!

Once we’d crossed the river we settled into a long climb, averaging about seven percent, but remarkably constant in its gradient.

The sun was already beating down, and there wasn’t much of a breeze to cool us down. Nevertheless we got up it without a break, found a bit of shade at the top and sat down in the dusty verge to drink some water. In the distance was a striking hilltop town, Rotondella.

We were just discussing how relieved we were not to have had to climb up to it when a female cyclist arrived and stopped for a chat. She had ridden out from Policoro fairly early, climbed up to Rotondella and was now on her way back! Bravissima!

Remounting we took our reward, which was a thoroughly enjoyable rolling descent back towards the sea, surrounded by olives, fruit trees, fig trees and kiwi fruit. The gradient was ideal for descending and we gained a little speed to make up for the slow ascent of the ridge.

Once back down by the sea we crossed from Basilicata into Calabria, then followed a route designed to keep us away from the SS106. In doing so we caught up with a man and wife touring on solo bikes, who were clearly trying to achieve the same goal. We stopped in a café in Rocca Imperiale for water, and a few minutes later they turned up and sat next to us. They were from Switzerland, on an extended tour, and had arrived in Bari from Albania. Since Bari they had followed some of the same routes as us, and we shared photographs and reminiscences.

Once back on the tandem we had about fifteen kilometres to achieve before lunch. We had spotted a potential closed road on part of our route, but we had decided to try it anyway, as it kept us off the SS106. So we gaily ignored the warning signs, as so often in Italy there is an unofficial way through closed roads for bicycles.

Not today, though. The barrier crossed the full width of the road, with no gap to squeeze through and a substantial-looking padlock preventing entry. There was nothing for it but to go back two kilometres to join the SS106. Hang on, though – while cycling up there the Stoker had taken note of a spot where we might be able to climb over a barrier onto the main road, and save ourselves a detour.

We took all the panniers off and lifted the bike over two substantial obstacles, refitted the panniers and found ourselves on the margin of the dual carriageway.

This was our second piece of criminality in two days! Once again there was a wide margin at the side of the road in which we could ride, and after a couple of kilometres the road stopped being a dual carriageway and we resumed a crime-free life. For now, anyway!

Shortly afterwards we turned left onto the lungomare (coast road) by the striking Castello Federiciano di Roseto Capo Spulico and found a café for lunch.

It’s the first time we’ve been on the coast since leaving Gallipoli almost a week ago, and it was good to enjoy sea views again. Lunch was tramezzini – a slightly strange Italian phenomenon. These are sandwiches, made with very high-quality ingredients and sliced white bread (think: Mother’s Pride). Whatever possessed the Italians to mimic the British Rail sandwich I don’t know, but the delicious ingredients more than made up for the blandness of the bread!

Only fifteen kilometres separated us from our destination, and we spent most of these on the Ionica – the ‘old’ SS106, now superseded by the modern highway. This proved thoroughly enjoyable, and before long we turned onto the lungomare at Trebisacce and found our hotel, a few yards from the sea.

Tomorrow’s destination is Mirto Crosia, and once we reach there we shall award ourselves a day off!

Here’s today’s route and a short video

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