In Vieste: Day ride to Foresta Umbra - In the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies - CycleBlaze

May 31, 2019

In Vieste: Day ride to Foresta Umbra

Today’s ride is an out and back that takes us up into the interior of the park.  Out and backs are a favorite of Rachael’s, and something we should do more often - especially so this late in a long tour, when she’s frankly getting a little tired of the same old face and would just like to ride her bike without poking along stopping for another damn photo every five feet.  It works great, really - she can ride at her own pace and eventually we’ll meet up again after she turns back, secure in the fact that if she has a breakdown I’ll eventually be along to help.

Before setting out, we look together at the route I mapped out and she loaded to the Garmins.  It’s a loop ride, in case we wanted to do that instead; but we’ll just run up one leg and turn back the way we came.  We space-time box ourselves, agreeing that Rachael will either turn back at a junction where the route turns to gravel (a loop fully on pavement would be too long in this fairly roadless area) or at two o’clock, whichever comes first.

It’s beautiful today.  The sky is nearly cloudless, the sea a brilliant blue.  It’s supposed to be like this all day, although rather windy.  We won’t even need our coats, and decide to leave them behind.  We have a nice short walk along the shore to the parking lot we’ve left our bikes at, unlock them, and we’re off.

On the way out of town, we stop at a shop to pick up sandwiches.  They’re not particularly busy, but for whatever reason it takes fifteen minutes to prepare them - it doesn’t seem like it would take that long to throw a few slices of salami and cheese into a roll, but there’s been a apparent misunderstanding and we get them heated for immediate consumption.  Whatever - it’s a nice place to hang out in the warm sun, and entertaining to watch a small walking group spend about ten minutes getting past the small church opposite - it goes slowly because everyone wants to stop for a selfie in front of it and wants a clear view when they take it.  So, naturally it takes time.

It’s nice. Rachael takes long enough food so that the tour group has moved on, so I can just walk across the street and get my shot in while it’s quiet.
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The ‘out’ half of the ride is a climb, topping out at 2,600’.  After about five miles of flattish ride through olive groves along the coast, we turn inland and start climbing.  Within a few miles we enter a tunnel of green that will enclose us until we leave it on the way back out.  

It is a beautiful, quiet climb - a steady, manageable grade of about five percent, and very quiet.  After a few photo stops I lose contact with Rachael, and won’t see her again for almost two hours.  An occasional car passes by, or another biker - but most of the time the only sounds are the wind in the trees and the songbirds off in the woods. 

The woods gradually transform as I gain elevation.  Near the coast there’s a band of pines; and then suddenly at about 700 feet elevation I enter a dense oak forest.  Gradually the oaks give way to the beeches - they start straggling in at about a thousand feet, and eventually become the dominant species.  We’re in the Foresta Umbra, the protected forest reserve that is the green heart of Gargano.  It’s one of the oldest protected forests in Italy, and the lowest elevation at which beeches grow in Europe.  And it’s wonderful.

Veering away from the coast, we take this quiet alternate road for a ways, lopping a bit off of the main route. Our reward is a couple of quiet miles and a bit of a sharp climb, which is all for naught as the road just drops again on the other side of the ridge.
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Now we’re just in it. Uphill for the next ten miles, with some surprisingly dark clouds ahead. We wonder if we’ll be turned back by weather. I stop for a photo, and fall behind a bit.
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Entering the oak forest, I stop for a second photo and fall further behind. A minute later, and she’s gone from sight.
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Beautiful, with the sun casting mottled shadows across the road.
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For much of the climb the road is lined by this old, moss-crusted retaining wall. In its own way it’s nearly as attractive as the forest.
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When there’s not the man made wall, there’s the natural one.
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Against the green wall.
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Jen GrumbyHandsome!
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2 months ago
We’re up in the Foresta Umbra now, with a few giants like these mixed in with the younger beech trees - note the tiny bike at the base.
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I think beech forests must be my favorites. I love the trees themselves, but also the openness their litter creates. They always seem to rise above a bed of their own leaves.
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Up on top, we briefly leave the forest and enter a more open space - cattle, goats, rocky outcrops. So what’s this beautiful thing growing out of the rocks?
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Andrea BrownWell, it's a sedum, and it may be Sedum caeruleum, which is native to the Mediterranean although the images I see have darker red foliage.
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2 months ago
As we have lunch, I see that Rachael is shivering. Why do we keep making the same stupid mistakes, anyway? We need our coats, up here in the wind at 2,500’. With my layer of blubber I’m more insulated than Rachael, so I lend her my shirt until we get down out of the mountains.
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Jen Grumby"Layer of blubber" is not a phrase that I would ever associate with Scott Anderson ..

That said, Rachael does have less blubber than most of us.
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2 months ago
Two white cows, obviously.
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Relax, guy. I wouldn’t dream of harming your little friends there.
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I think these are the same two cows as above, which I photographed on the way out. Now, passing them on the way back, they’ve wandered onto the road.
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Back into the oak forest again. I stopped for this photo just in time - seconds later a cloud passed across the sun and the lights suddenly went out in an instant.
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Another beauty clinging to the rocks - a yew, I think.
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I was so excited to see this. The new Cycle365 challenge is ‘something old, something new’. You don’t see many of these old stone distance markers any more, especially ones like this that indicate distance to the next town.
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We’re back in Vieste by mid-afternoon, with time still to have a good look around before dinner.  I don’t have time to write about it though, because we have to check out in a few minutes.  So, just look for yourself and come up with your own captions.  I suggest wow, amazing, incredible, and so cute as appropriate adjectives.

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Jen GrumbyOMG .. those clouds are so cute!
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2 months ago
Andrea BrownTo Jen GrumbyI've never seen such cute clouds.
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Andrea BrownI don’t think I’ve ever seen clouds described as cute. I see I should have added ominous to the list of suggested adjectives. If folks can’t do better than this I may have to go back to supplying my own captions again.
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2 months ago
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Suzanne GibsonThat's a wow for sure!
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2 months ago
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Suzanne GibsonSooooo cute!
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonI thought more perceptive readers could assign adjectives appropriately. Good job!
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2 months ago
Jen GrumbyThese kittens are almost as cute as the above clouds ..
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2 months ago
Andrea BrownThose kittens are... wow. Sorry, I got lost.
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2 months ago
Time to celebrate! 2,000 miles!
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Scott AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonGrazie mille!
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2 months ago
Jen GrumbyCongratulazioni!
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyYou speak excellent Italian!
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2 months ago
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Ride stats today: 48 miles, 4,300’: for the tour: 2,025 miles, 126,900’

Today's ride: 48 miles (77 km)
Total: 2,011 miles (3,236 km)

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Carolyn van HoeveHello, I have just been planning a cycling trip in Puglia for 7 days in October. It's been difficult finding any information on the web apart from the organised cycling trips. I was very excited to stumble upon blog yesterday as I was looking up a loop cycle from Lecce. I have spent this morning very much enjoying reading my way through your trip. I had decided to concentrate on cycling through Puglia North of Lecce, starting in Matera and ending in Lecce. But after reading your posts I wonder whether I should still be including some of Salento. Where were the best roads you had for cycling? After having done the whole area what would you recomment as a 7 day itinerary? I must admit I love the thought of becoming a cycling vagabond. How wonderful and thanks for the great read!
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Carolyn van HoeveHi, Carolyn. Thanks for following along, and for your generous comments. You’re in for a real treat - Puglia is such an amazing region, with so much of interest and such diversity in a small area.

My favorite roads here are scattered apart, too far apart for a reasonable seven day tour - the north Salento coast from Leuca to Lecce; the Alta Murgia; and right here, in the Gargano. You could do worse than to spend your whole week here on this little promentory.

You haven’t said how you’ll manage logistics or what distances you like to cover, but here’s one idea. It’s based on averaging about forty miles per day to allow enough time and energy to see something at the end of the day. I would make it a one way trip rather than a loop, and then find a way to get back to your starting point. You could bike from Lecce to Trani, with overnights on the way at Ostuni, Alberobello (the famous trulli town, which we biked through the first time we were here), Matera (I’d stay two nights), and Altamura. From Trani you could take the train back to Lecce (very easy to do, in our experience), but unfortunately it doesn’t run further east past Lecce.

And, thinking outside the box, you could steal another four days from your schedule somehow and add in a loop from Lecce east through Salento, staying at Porto Cesareo, Santa Maria di Leuca, and Otranto. Ten years from now, you’d remember these four days far more than whatever else you were planning to do with them!

Have fun with the planning, and have a wonderful tour! I’ll bet it’s beautiful in October. I hope you’ll blog your trip so we can have a look.
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2 months ago
Carolyn van HoeveThanks so much Scott for the great tips and I have adjusted our itinerary accordingly, not going quite as far as swapping for the Gargano, but have now definitely included your other suggestions.

From the South of Italy we are heading to the South of Spain for another week of cycling from Granada to Seville. Have you cycled here also?

I see you've also cycled New Zealand (where we are from) which I thought was hugely courageous given the mountainous terrain and the disregard of motorists towards cyclists (not to mention the food offerings back at that time). It's much improved since you were there (not the attitude of drivers) and there is now a fantastic rail trail in the South Island as well as other numerous cycling trails in the country.

I downloaded a cycling app called Komoot which looks very promising. What do you use to do your mapping?

Looking forward to your next post! I'm not sure we would be game to cycle the amalfi coast!
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Carolyn van HoeveYou’re a Kiwi! We keep debating whether to head down there again some winter. I’d love to ride the Otago Trail and experience it at a slower pace than we did the first time.

We use RideWithGPS. It works really well for us, but we don’t use it as a dynamic navigator. We draw and then load our route to our Garmin devices and then follow it more or less like a paper map.

Yes, we’ve been to Andalusia - twice, and we’re going there again late this fall on a ride from Santiago to Valencia. We love Andalusia, obviously. Our last time there ended in Granada and is blogged on CycleBlaze as Iberia 13. We also were there back in 2004, in a tour that was aborted when we somehow lost an entire pannier north of Granada. Not the best, since it contained our passports. Unfortunately it was back in the dark ages hen I didn’t keep a blog.
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2 months ago
Carolyn van HoeveI am very much enjoying reading your Iberia 13 report and I've only just seen the long list of other trips you've done! Wow! What an inspiration you both are. I want your life! There are a ton of questions I would love to ask but I will work my way through all your trip reports and a lot of them may get answered along the way.

Unfortunately we are a few years away from retiring yet as we are supporting our son through university. My dream for the last couple of years has been to buy a little place in France or Italy but I think it's just been replaced by the cycling vagabond idea. It really ticks the boxes of everything we love.

I haven't finished reading the Iberia report yet but some of that landscape sounds gorgeous. Is the Via Verde de la Sierra Norte de Sevilla still one of your favourite cycling trails? We are missing that. My plan was to head more north from Granada and go via Alcala la Real, Priego de Cordoba, Zuheros, Baena, Cordoba, Ecija, Carmona and finishing in Seville. Also toying with the idea of heading over to Faro or Tavira for a day or so by bus. We were going to head straight up to Barcelona for 3 nights for our return flight to NZ, but looking at the cost of accommodation there (and we've spent time there recently). Another possibility Valencia on the way which you're going to do! Any suggestions always welcome!

Of course you realise I'll be stalking you both now :-)
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Carolyn van HoeveFinally getting back to this. It’s funny about that Via Verde. Yes, it was a wonderful ride; but no, it doesn’t stand up as one of our favorites now that I look back on it. I’d ride it if it were on route to somewhere, like up to wonderful Extramadura; but it’s well off route for what you’re planning.

Your route sounds great, and very like part of our first tour to Andalucia. We took the arc from Seville to Cordoba to Granada too, although from Baena we went south through Iznajar. From Granada we biked to Alcala on the way to Jaen, but I have mixed feelings about it - Alcala is where we realized we had lost our passports and started planning the new end to our tour - we had to rent a car and drive to Madrid to get replacements.

We might cross paths! We’re going back to Andalusia ourselves this fall, going the other direction - Seville, Carmona, Cordoba, Granada, and on to Valencia. We expect to be there in mid to late November. When will you be travelling?
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2 months ago
Carolyn van HoeveHi Scott,

Hope you're both settling into life back in Portland. What a great trip you've had. We're going to be in Andalusia in October so we'll be back n NZ before you even begin. It will be fun to read your report. I suppose you'll be planning that one for the next couple of months. I do very much enjoy the planning part personally.

I finished reading your Iberia report and your NZ report! Such fun to read - worth the effort you've put in. Someone like me on the other side of the world stumbles upon it and is inspired. Looking forward to reading more.

Did you write a trip report on your 2004 trip to Andalusia?
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Carolyn van HoeveSo, not in Andalucia apparently. Maybe down your way some winter though - New Zealand was our first overseas tour, and we keep threatening to go down again and see what 25 years and Middle Earth have done to the place.

Sadly, I didn’t keep a journal of our first tour of Andalucia - at least not one that survived the ages. I went through a period when I quit keeping them, because I always ran out of steam along the way anyway and no one but me was reading them. Posting them on the internet changed everything though and helped me find a bit more discipline. It’s too bad, because this one had a lot to talk about. One of these times maybe I’ll piece something together from the photographs.

Thanks again for following along, Carolyn. Have an awesome time this autum!
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2 months ago