Friday, January 13, 2017

Otranto and the Adriatic, Hills and Spectacular Views

Saturday Oct 28

After a nice breakfast we are off on our ride for the day. The rain has passed bringing cooler weather and brilliantly blue skies. We do most of our riding in the morning out in the countryside stopping at little churches, town squares. For the morning snack the clementines and plums are so so sweet! Old men are sitting on a nearby bench and Debora tells us they are making comments about us. I mispronounce the name of the next town - Cannole - I say cannoli like the dessert. Debra tells them we are Americans and they say to her (in Italian of course) "we know they are Americans!" Yeah we are very obvious.

At one point a flock of sheep blocked our way!

This ride is a bit hillier than previous days. At one place there is a short very steep hill, what cyclists call a "wall". There is no shame in walking it but of course I have to try to ride It. I make it, zigging and zagging and huffing and puffing mightily in my lowest gear. Lee walks and he's not very far behind me!

At the top is a small church. We stop for a moment to admire the interior and the minure, a stone obelisk outside that dates from ancient times. Then down a big hill and through an area of farms and olive trees. 

Soon we are in Otranto along the Adriatic Sea. It's cold, windy and brilliantly blue and sunny. We eat lunch in a seaside restaurant and then walk up the hill to see the castle. At three we go inside the cathedral and gawk at the amazing mosaics and the gruesome skulls of 800 martyrs that refused to convert to Islam behind the Virgin Mary. 

The post lunch ride is very short, but hilly. Before long we are back at the masseria. There's a little time to rest and relax before a wine tasting. The wine is excellent and we're trying to figure out a way to get some sent to the US.

We could go into Otranto for dinner tonight but we are tired and decide to stay at the masseria instead. We have a quiet meal with antipasti and pasta and more wine. Now it's time for bed.

Sunday Oct 29.

It's our last day of biking. The sky is a brilliant blue and it's a bit warmer than yesterday, at least in the sun. We make our way south along the Adriatic coast, each turn revealing a view more spectacular than the last. Our morning snack stop is at a cafe in a little town. Sondro tells us to order a caffe lecceza- almond syrup in a glass of ice, espresso and milk. It's delicious, like drinking candy. We stop at churches where little boys play soccer in the square, medieval light houses, villas with mosaics and orange domes.

Lunch today is a picnic along the ocean in a small park. Sondro and Debora have made us salads, antipasti, pizza, drinks. Dessert is gelato from a cafe across the street.

After lunch a fairly steep and long climb (6% grade, 1.4 k) leads to jaw-dropping views of the coastline, with the mountains of Albania visible only 72 kilometers away. Then we can go downhill as well but a strong headwind prevents us from getting much rest. The wind is so strong that at times I’m a little afraid it will blow me off my bike but we make it through unscathed.

It's only a few more k until we're back at the masseria. I'm sad that the biking part of this vacation is over. We have a farewell dinner tonight, and then it's onward to Lecce, and Rome.

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