Status Update:

Current location: Bochum / Germany

50 countries, 1226 days, trip mileage: 124200 km

2 Jun 2008

Italy (2) - Rome and Siena

Roman Gladiator

A quick look at the weather forecast tells me it’s a good time to go to Rome. The Youth Hostel there is right next to the Olympic Stadium, and just as I arrive there in the evening, it’s the biggest match of the season: Cup Final, AC Milan against Rome. Literally all the streets are covered with parked-up scooters, using every inch of space. Half an hour later I got my bike parked up safely: straight opposite the police station.

The Youth Hostel in Rome isn’t the greatest: no electric plugs in any of the rooms (‘for security reasons’), a really lousy breakfast (with the worst instant coffee I’ve had years), and no toilet brushes in any of the toilets (I mean: in a Youth Hostel with shared facilities? You got to be kidding!).

The next few mornings, I catch a bus into the city to visit the main attractions. There’s so much to see here – I’m sure a week wouldn’t be enough, and I’m trying to put everything into 2 days… The highlight for me were the Colosseum and the Forum. Just like Pompei, they give you an idea about life in ancient Rome & give you a different sense of place. I still can’t fathom how an important ancient site such as the Roman Forum – the centre point of the Roman Empire, with Caesar’s grave – could disappear off the map for such a long time before being re-discovered: according to one of the guides, even 5m high buildings had completely gone.

I did a lot of walking in Rome, and I’m glad it’s all over now as I don’t think my legs would have taken me any further: one of the compromises of this journey was done on shoes: I’ve only got bike boots and flip-flops with me. I might get some cheap sneakers before I do another 2 days of city-walking.

Tuscan panorama

Luckily, the next stage takes me away from big cities into the heart of Tuscany, where I stay on a beautiful campsite just South of Siena, with a stunning valley view and even more stunning roads: lots of bends & curves again – a welcome change after the endless city walks and yet another boring straight stretch on the Autostrada.

I do a quick service on the bike (clean & adjust the chain, change air filter, change spark plugs) and visit Siena and its surrounding countryside for a day. Siena is a very pittoresque and charming medieval city, with lots of Gothic architecture and, thanks to banned traffic from the city centre, a very calm atmosphere. “The heart of Tuscany” is no exaggeration at all, and it’s a shame I didn’t pencil in more time – but I’ll definitely come back here one day.