Bellisima Italia: Irsina to Muro Lucano: Then to Monte Corvina (Tue 18 & Wed 19). - Lookin For John Fairweather - CycleBlaze

March 18, 2014

Bellisima Italia: Irsina to Muro Lucano: Then to Monte Corvina (Tue 18 & Wed 19).

I answer nature's call shortly before six and see the full moon setting, but its too cold to be getting up yet, so I return to the warm cocooned sleeping-bag. And because its cold, the tent is soaked with condensation. I'd like to wait for the sun to dry it a little. Though at the same time would like to be on the road by eight, meaning the sun is still low and weak and I end up packing the tent away wet. Breakfast is muesli and the last of the milk, so I'm hoping to find a shop in a village ahead.

Still rolling green countryside, but that is soon to change.
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I'm on the road as planned before eight. Its another cloudless sunny day and soon I pass Irsina, a few houses on a road splitting off to the right. The next place on my map is Oppido Lucano. I'm presuming it is it about seven kilometres ahead crowning a prominent high hill. I don't want to climb that if I can avoid it. And beyond I see more hills and the blue outline of mountains. Shortly I come to another split in the road with the left turn south-west to Tolve and onwards to the city of Potenza, so turn left instead of facing the climb straight on.

Looking back at Tolve. This is from one of the long serie of switch-back climbing away from town.
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The way ahead climbs gently round the side of a hill, then drops down into a narrow valley and goes up another short incline before beginning a long descend; wherein, the road passes across a viaduct, then drops steeply, winding down into a great hole where of course, I see the road ahead climb up and up the slope on the other side.

At the bottom there's the turnoff for Tolve; across a bridge followed by a stiff twelve per cent climb up the opposite side of the valley. I see tenement blocks among the tree-cover of the hillside and once in town riding up the slope, I see a sign "Supermercato" for a shop on the ground-floor of a block. As I lean my bike by the trolleys, the shopkeeper appears at the door and calls after a man passing "Buongiorno Paulo!" So far I'm finding the communication easier than in a long time. The language sounds familiar with Spanish. At the display counter, I ask "cuanto es?" pointing at a small piece of cheese, which is understood, as the woman writes how much it is on a slip of paper and shows me. And I want tuna, but don't want to buy a can looking like tuna and find out its something else, perhaps pate on opening it; so, I hold up a can and ask "pescado?" and she confirms "Si. Pesce."

Southern Italy's mild climate means Spring comes over a month earlier than in Ireland or the UK.
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With enough food I ride through town and continue the climb which is a lengthy series of switch-backs up along the valley, but then stop for a forenoon picnic lunch on the grass-verge looking back on Tolve crowning its hilltop. Riding on again, it is a good five or six kilometres uphill and soon the new road come into view. The old road re-joins it on the final crest, from where its all downhill towards Potenza in a narrow valley. The city-centre on a hilltop too. While descending, I dread this road with not too much traffic will join the motorway, a system of viaducts and partly elevated along the valley. But on reaching the motorway, my road remains parallel. On the edge of the city, I pull in at a petrol station for a much needed coffee, where the woman kindly writes "Ciao" with chocolate in the froth of my cappuccino. Then come the long climb through town in early afternoon sweat and grime.

Another hilltop village.
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There is also a hell of a climb onwards, in which I see the climate change from Spring to Autumn, such is the altitude; then a steep climb up to another hilltop village around three o'clock. The road the other side winds steeply down to a river-valley in which the road is kind for the next twenty kilometres until a brute of a climb at the end of the day to Muro Lucano, which I see a long time ahead of me: a lofty hill at the head of the valley with a medieval citadel on top and terraces of houses of more recent centuries cladding the slope. I just about climb up above the town-centre by sunset where I stop at a viewpoint to take a photo. Luckily I'm finding stealth-camping easy in Italy, as only a couple of kilometres on, I come to a woodland copse which has sheep in it as I can hear bells clanging somewhere a good bit away.

The following day can be summed up as more of the same until I come out near Italy's west coast.

View from afternoon stop....
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....which is down a little laneway. Notice the bloom of White Thorns.
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Oh!!! More climbing.
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Muro Lucano.
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A climb on Wednesday.
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Today's ride: 168 km (104 miles)
Total: 12,433 km (7,721 miles)

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