On this trip we traveled to Rome and headed south towards Monte Cassino as the main point of interest. As usual the focus of the trip was historical as well as a fun few days away with the boys. The trip lasted 4 days including travel, with some harsh outbound travel and of particular note, the van took two days to travel to Rome each way. However the trip was justified because of the fantastic recipe of history, both ancient and modern, food and wine from the region and the incredible sites and sounds of Central Italy.
Group landed in Rome at Fiumicino Airport. Took taxis to meet van with bikes in Ostia by the pier. Cycling started at 1200 following the very flat route along the coast road.
Lunch: The American Cemetary at Nettuno
Afternoon via Borgo Grappa to Prossedi
Hotel: Golden Palace
Dinner: Fantastic Restaurant
The trip starts for real today, heading out from Prossedi into some lovely remote countryside with a very gradual incline for the morning section. Unlike Day 1 traffic is very rare here and we cover 40miles in the morning heading towards Monte Cassino, the focus of the trip. As everyone is aware there is a sharp climb to the top of 1,000ft in only 3 miles. As you can imagine it suddenly rears its head as you begin to approach the central mountains of Italy. The Abbey rears its head in the clouds and is approached from the town of Cassino. Completely destroyed in the war, the town and Abbey have since been rebuilt. After a quick drinks break at the bottom, the group head up to the top and take between 30-40 minutes. Once at the top an hour is spent admiring the Abbey and the Polish Cemetary on the opposite hill. We had lunch about two-thirds of the way down with magnificent views overlooking the surrounding valley. The restaurant is on the road down from the Abbey on the right-hand side.
After lunch the real climbing begins with 2,100ft climb over 20 miles. Its fairly gradual but takes its toll in the heat, so be prepared to gather more water in hilltop towns along the way. Once you reach the top, the whole trip begins to have new meaning, with views as far as Rome one way and the sea the other. You really get that top of the world feeling, the peak is littered with ruins of castles from days gone by. The final 5 miles is a fast descent into the town of Arpino for one of the finest beers ever experienced. In a roadside cafe on the edge of town you watch the sun descend on a place that looks like it has been lost in time.
Heading downhill for the first 10 miles is a luxury barely believable after the previous days climbing. As the clouds and fog clear, you sweep downhill towards the capital city. The roads are pretty busy here and as you approach Rome only get worse. There is also a fair bit of climbing still to do as you head towards the main attraction of the day (excluding Rome of course). The Pope's summer palace at Castel Gandolfo is a marvel. Perched on the edge of a 2,000ft volcano overlooking Rome, there is a cobbled main street surrounded by touristy cafes. Take your pick and enjoy the chance to get a group photo with the lake in the background.
Once you have filled your stomach it is time to head into the spectacular depths of Rome itself. Of course the traffic is busy and very dangerous indeed. So we found a way of weaving through the outskirts avoiding the main dual carriageway past the airport. You then join the Via Appia at its source. Quite literally one of the oldest paved roads in the world. Originally the road to Brindisi from ancient Rome this paved marvel lances into the heart of Rome like a spear. Some of the road is fairly well paved, other bits, however, have not been repaired since before the birth of Christ. With cobbles the size of large rocks, or which are large rocks, it soon becomes unbearable.
The joy of this route is no traffic and it leads you to one of the cities best-preserved gates, The Porto San Sebastiano. Head straight across and ruble down into the very heart of the eternal city. Passing the Baths of Carcalla, The Circus Maximus and of course finish underneath the Colloseum. We took the obligatory photo and headed into Trastvere for the evenings celebrations.