to Sovana (60 kms)
It was a hot humid night in Orvieto and neither of us slept particularly well.
It had needed to rain. I was feeling much better thank goodness, and after some breakfast
in the hotel, we left at around 9:30am under an overcast sky bound for Bolsena - by 10am we had to stop to don our wet
The road (No 71) climbs for about 16kms so
considering the humidity, the breathable jackets that don't (well I don't think they do)
and the rain which got heavier the higher we climbed, we were well and truly soaked.
As we neared the top, it got decidedly cooler and infact it was beginning to feel
down right chilly by the time we reached the top and commenced the descent into Bolsena.
we took the descent very slowly. The road now resembled a river and the rain
was absolutely belting down. By the time we reached the bottom, to say that Konrad's teeth were chattering would be an
understatement. We rapidly needed to get some dry clothes on, but where? We
eventually plumped for a bus shelter in the middle of the town, just outside the post
office. I think it may have been 'pension day'. I don't think we could have
picked a busier time! As we were stripping off, and donning thermal vests, and any
other dry bit of clothing we could find, we got some odd looks, but an old lady came to
have a chat with us. We couldn't understand her at the time, but on looking odd
words up later it turned out that she was saying something like 'You look like you need a
hot bath'. It was about this time that we found that our handlebar bags were
decidedly not waterproof, and some silly people (well two actually), hadn't put
their airline tickets in a plastic bag, had they. Very carefully, I pushed the
ticket (now resembling papier mache) into a plastic bag, zipped up the bar bag and stuffed
it all into a pannier. Out of sight, out of mind. I'd sort it out somehow when
we stopped for the night I thought to myself, but I couldn't come up with the 'somehow'.
Once suitably dressed against the elements, we headed
for the nearest cafe and downed three or four coffees each (no doping controls you see
;-), then we headed off for San Quirico. Of course after a few kilometres, the rain
stopped and we began to heat up alarmingly, so, we both performed that well known ritual
of jumping around on one leg in the road while
trying to take off your overtrousers 'without' taking your cycling shoes off trick.
So, minus several layers of clothing, we headed off again for San Quirico, up a long climb
through Gradoli and on to Cant. At La Rotta, we turned right for San Quirico.
At first we thought the town was deserted, but we found a bar, and on entering the back
room, it was packed with people (all men of course - the only woman in there was the one
serving!). We had a brilliant pizza each (or was it two), more coffee and then off
we went again feeling much better, in the direction of Sorano,
a few kilometres away.
brilliant, and must not be missed if you're in the area. Some places look at their
best in, shall we say, less than sunny conditions, and I reckon this is definitely one of
them. Half of the town appears to be literally hanging on to the tufa that makes up the
hillside. Some houses have sadly not quite managed it and are deserted and in a very
precarious state, looking as though they could crash into the gorge below at any
moment. Apparently the town is prone to landslips, which puts what's left in even
greater jeopardy. The road down from Sorano to
the River Lente is cut through steep walls of tufa.
Just before you reach the bridge at the bottom, on your left is a metal stairway, the sort
of thing you see on buildings as fire escapes. This leads you to some caves which
were used in the 12th/13th century for breeding doves. The walls of the caves are
honeycombed with 'nest boxes' cut into the tufa.
I was amazed how 'soft' this tufa was. Heavy rains must cause havoc.
From Sorano, we
climbed out of the valley headed for Sovana, a 'one
street town' which was to be our base that night. This is a very 'old' town. Hardly
any of the buildings date from later than the 14th century. Sovana's main claim to
fame is that it was the birthplace of Hildebrand, who became Pope Gregory VII in 1073, and
it's craft shops selling reproduction Etruscan jewellery and artefacts. Hildebrand's
house is still there and is now a museum (unfortunately closed by the time we arrived).
We booked into the Albergo Ristorante Scilla which
was very nice, but at L140,000 for a double, rather pricey! If you do happen
to be in the area, then there are also hotels in Sorano and Pitigliano, so it may be worth
shopping around. Having said that, I had what I regard as the best meal of the trip
in an excellent Trattoria there. On the menu, it was called Aquacotta and translated
read as 'Vegetable soup on toast, with an egg'. Now that may not sound too good, but
believe me it was absolutely divine. So, after an excellent meal and probably a
little too much red wine, it was back to the hotel, where the clothes were drying out
nicely on the heated towel rail in the bathroom. It was about this time I remembered
the airline tickets. I took them out and carefully tried to separate the two flimsy
sheets of paper (surely airline tickets should be laminated!). I couldn't read any
of the writing on them at all, so I used the hairdryer (kindly provided in the bathroom)
and started drying them off gently. As they dried, the text began to re-appear, and
after about 20 minutes, although rather crinkly, were almost legible.
All in all, a really enjoyable day. It's funny
how you can enjoy a day when you got cold and thoroughly soaked. My queasiness had
totally vanished, my appetite was back and I felt back to my old self. Things were