Amalfi Coast

We left Rome under a foggy morning sky. Pedaling past the Colosseum, and south on Via Apia Antica, (literally the oldest paved road in the Western World) to Anzio.


The first day out on any tour always makes me a bit anxious since we almost always get lost leaving a unfamilair city. Fortunately we made it out of Rome with only minor directional mis-steps and soon we were pedaling through the coastal hills with sea breeze in our face.

With Anzio as our first port of call we stayed just outside the city in a small beachside hotel. One of the great things about biking through Italy in the off-season is the low-priced accommodations. Normally Italy can be one of the most expensive places to find lodging as a tourist. This time of year, Inn keepers are just glad to see a face at the door. The morning sent us into the center of Anzio, a quaint seaside fishing town with a big welcoming center square. While Carolyn and Casey snacked on Pizza, I went in search of a bicycle repair shop.
It seems this trip was to be plagued with minor mechanical issues from day one. That morning, I had snapped my seat binder bolt while making a slight seat adjustment, although I usually have spare, this time I didn’t bring it. Oooops! Italy, of course is rife with cyclists, roadies mostly, this time of year, training for the upcoming season. But in smaller towns it’s difficult to find a bike shop. Fortunately, scooter shops are on almost every corner. A stop at Anzio’s closest scooter shop yielded a suitable replacement bolt, and soon I was back on the bike.
From Anzio we ambled along the sunny coast, stopping for pizza and coffee more than once, snapping pictures and pedaling a terrific coastal gravel road section for about 10k just before our final destination of Sabaudia. This small town is a cycling gem, known mainly to Italian Cycling teams who train here in the winter due to the mild climate, beautiful location and proximity to some great climbing routes to the south of town. We stayed in the center of town at a charming Inn, Mini-Hotel Saporetti. Far from being a proper hotel, this was a charming old beach villa turned Bed & Breakfast with lovely, friendly hosts, who didn’t even mind that we responded to their Italian with Spanish, (hey- it’s close, right? ). And this being Italy the fact that we also had bicycles to store didn’t a raise red flag. Quickly our bikes were spirited to a locked cellar that also housed the host’s homemade wine stash and recent backyard harvest of pomegranates. We love Italy.
The section of coast between Anzio and Sabaudia had been fairly flat. Ok, more like completely flat. Like a chessboard. Not much in the way of challenges, although beautiful, sunny and pegged right along the seaside, we were itching for some climbing. Fortunately for those who like long slow climbs with a sea view, just south of Sabaudia is the winter training ground of many Italian Cycling teams, Monte Cirello. Leaving town in the golden morning sun, we were passed by no less than 100 training cyclists headed for the summit. Peloton after Peloton. At one point we were engulfed by a large Peloton of about 30 cyclists. Suddenly surrounded on all sides by lycra-clad roadies we felt the Italian cycling vibe as shouts of Ciao! and Bravo! came in our direction. Again, we love Italy!
The next day found us stopping in Gaeta. This was our first ever Air-BnB lodging and we really scored a great spot. Davide, a local designer and graphic artist hosted us in his apartment home right on the beach. We had our own space in the small apartment behind his studio with a kitchen and great dvd collection. On this trip we only booked our lodging one day ahead, so we could be flexible about distance and routing. Normally Air-BnB hosts require more advanced booking, but in this case Davide was willing to be flexible for us. It really makes all the difference to be able to chat with locals about where to go, what to eat, etc… In this case David turned us on to the local favorite pizzeria. In Gaeta they do a special kind of deep-dish pizza, with a top crust; Tiella di Geata. If you visit check out L’arte della Pizza de Ciccio on Corsa Italia. Trust us on this one, it’s worth the trip.
After Gaeta the route moves away from the coast a bit and although interspersed with Roman antiquities, in some points becomes less than picturesque with the open areas between towns covered in industrial junk, the beaches strewn with garbage and the odd enclave of rural roadside prostitutes. We didn’t stop much until we reached the outskirts of Naples, in the small town of Pozzouli, home to the ancient Roman town of Cuma. We spent the next morning climbing around the ruins of Cuma and sunning ourselves.
The approach into Naples was exciting to say the least. Traffic moves at a pace which we were not accustomed. It was like a baptism of fire. Soon we were surrounded by scooters, cars, vans all zipping from lane to lane with barely a notice of our obvious fear. After ‘safely’ arriving at our hostel in Naples we went out in search of the perfect pizza. The next day we jumped on the local train for Pompeii and spent most of the day scouring the ruins, snapping pictures and wandering the streets of the ancient city, returning to our hostel in the center of Naples for more pizza and an early evening.
Off in the morning for Sorrento. Again, just like the northern outskirts of Naples, the surrounding area was not the loveliest place we’ve ever seen, but soon we were pedaling into charming Sorrento. The small town sits as the entrance to the Amalfi Coast and the home of world-famous Lemons. If you’ve never seen a Sorrento Lemon, imagine a child’s small football covered in a lemon rind, not kidding. It’s easy to see why they make almost everything from them. They’re huge! Lemon Ice, Lemoncello, Lemon curd, Lemon Pie…. you get the idea.
The next day we were out early as the Amalfi Coast waited just outside of town. Surprisingly the weather had changed quickly and soon we were pedaling into clouds and rain on the horizon. Climbing for what seemed like an eternity we took the long route around the tip of the Amalfi Peninsula to Termini then back around to Positano and then the village of Amalfi. This was some of the most breathtaking cycling we have ever done. Shear cliffs carved with a narrow serpentine road, perched several hundred feet above the sea, winding along the coast for mile after mile.
Although the rain began early in the day we continued cycling on until Amalfi, stopping only once all day, for coffee in Poistano ( hey- it’s Italy… coffee is a right.). We found a room just at the edge of town and the kind folks running the place were so helpful, in our rain soaked state. They invited us into the restaurant, which wasn’t open yet to warm up with coffee and the offer of Cognac, which we declined…soon, they were cutting up oranges for us and offering to fix food to warm us. This generosity has been commonplace the entire way down the coast. Folks have gone out of their way to be helpful and generous at every turn. Passing cyclists, Coffee baristas, Inn Keepers, even a taxi driver who recommended a restaurant and when it wasn’t open found a suitable substitute without batting an eye. Grazia, Salvatore.
Sun graced our second day cycling the Amalfi Coast and we left Amalfi with smiles on our faces as this was our final day on the bikes. We wound along the cliff sides, village to village, around the terraced lemon groves and eventually arriving in the less-than stellar city of Salerno in time to catch the 3pm train back to Rome. Again, being Italy, bikes were no problem. At least on the Regional Trains, which are slower than the High Speed trains operated by Tren Italia and NTV, but then again they’re about 1/3 the price. 3 hours later we were back in Rome for a couple of days poking around the city and relaxing before heading back to the snow.

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