31st October to 12th November

Saturday 31st October
Flew like eagles into Rome, managed to get there before 1pm and even saw Holly’s Ryanair flight coming into land as were flying past the city traffic. Pretty excited about seeing Holly and Dom was really supportive about us spending some time to ourselves.
In typical TCC style we chucked together some food we had for our lunch today was jam rolls, we ate them in the hostel as we had to wait an hour before they’d let us into our rooms. We were kept amused by the receptionists ridiculously loud ring tone of Celine Dion’s ‘I am your lady’ which kept going off.
After an emotional reunion with Holly we went for a celebratory beer in the city.

Sunday 1st November
Enjoyed a lie in this morning and planned to go and see the Pope. We were told he was on at 12pm by one of the less than helpful hostel staff but in actual fact he was on at 10am. Holly and I still went to the Vatican while Dom befriended some Mexican lads he’d met on the bus and went to go and see AC Roma play. The guys were media students and had won an award for a documentary they’d made which was showcased in Rome a few days earlier- good contact to keep as they seemed interested in doing something for us when we get to Mexico.

Monday 2nd November
Left Dom in the hostel doing some admin stuff while Holly and I went off to celebrate her birthday. We started at the coliseum but decided it was not worth €24 to see a large pile of rubble. We had a walk around the outside and then soon had enough of the tourist zone. It started to rain so we darted into a restaurant for some lunch. Food was pretty dodgy and ironically it cost €24- perhaps we were destined to waste some money today..
I wanted to take Holly to the opera as she’s always wanted to go but it turned out a film was being shot in the Opera house and nothing was on anywhere else.
Not having much luck so far we ventured off to our hotel our friend Silvia had arranged. It turned out we had a suite, luck had finally changed. Drank lots and got reacquainted with my fiancé, the rest of the evening is censored for parental purposes.

Tuesday 3rd November
Dom did some tourist stuff this morning while Holly and I took a bus to find out where she needs to go tomorrow to catch her lift to the airport. We ended up taking the longest possible route but at least we got a city tour although Holly did get stuck next to a smelly tramp!
Dom got talking to a drunk Aussie who gave us €10 for the cause which was a bit of a touch because we didn’t have any money for breakfast.
Another yummy hostel meal for dinner- cold lunch time left overs (or perhaps the previous day) hostel staff still couldn’t give a shit.
Some evening bike maintenance found that I’m missing a really important bolt from my brake lever so we did a bodge job to fix it, fingers crossed it will hold out to Palermo where we’ll try and see a bike mechanic.

Wednesday 4th November
Left Rome after putting Holly on her bus around 12, can’t believe the time went so quickly, missing her already but feeling fully charged again now and ready for the challenge ahead.
Nightmare navigating out of Rome, terrible signposting and roads weren’t great. We followed one of Dom’s short cuts along an authentic Roman road which probably hasn’t been resurfaced since the Roman empire, was like cycling over stepping stones.
Got caught up in some bad weather which cut our journey to Terricina short by 20 miles which we’ll make up tomorrow. Conveniently stopped outside a cheap roadside hotel when we were preparing to put on hi-vis bands as the main road was pretty dangerous and no place for two cyclists, plus there was pot holes everywhere – hard to spot at night. Dinner was a bargain pasta dish, steak dish and a large Peroni for €15. The hotelier who can only be described as a Philippine sumo wrestler offered us salad or veg to go with the steak, we both said veg but got salad. Not to self must practice the lingo!

Thursday 5th November
Waved goodbye to the Philippine sumo wrestler at 7.30am – our earliest start yet, and proceeded to cycle a massive 110 miles to Naples, where we were meeting a warm showers contact – www.warmshowers.org. Dom did the quickest supermarket sweep yet, only to discover the card got declined – not happy, but we ploughed on. Cycling into Naples Dom thought he had found some new cycle buddies, but quickly realised the situation was a little hostile, and surrounded by 6 illegal immigrants on bikes, we had to cycle as fast as we could to escape an inevitable mugging.
We found the meeting spot for Francesco easy, and while we were waiting an older Dutch couple started talking to us and very kindly bought us a beer each – the most deserved one yet!
We met up with Francesco fine, and although we didn’t really didn’t really know how this all worked, we had a home cooked meal in the most stunning 300 year old flat conversion, and a decent shower and bed for the night.

Friday 6th November
Francesco guided us onto the road out of Naples, which was probably the worst road in the world (he did warn us!). They will not repave the roads as they are historic, so we figure that they are authentic Roman roads, unchanged in over 2,000 years. I thought I had lost a couple of teeth, and it was hardly a good way to promote the safeguarding of your nuts!
This continued for over 25km, before arriving in Pompeii for lunch, and then sent round in circles with rubbish road signs (again!), and realised by 2pm, we had done a staggering average speed of 5mph.
Then came the rain again!
Got to Agropolis just before sunset, and luckily the rain held out long enough to pitch our tent and cook a delicious tuna pasta!
Then came the thunderstorms…

Saturday 7th November
Wet tent, wet bikes, wet pants!
Friendly Italian cyclist called Luca helped us navigate out of Agropolis (a futuristic sat nav!), and through stunning mountain scenary. Poor signposting kept leading us onto roads we weren’t allowed on, especially one road through a valley. Thinking we had found a cheeky short cut, we actually ended up shit alley!
Did a keeno racer in all in one lycra after he overtook us (he wasn’t happy), and as the light was fading, Dom got his first puncture, probably one of the most incovient times to get a puncture as we still had 30km to go. Slow cycle downhill in pitch black followed, and we were looking for a left hand turn which couldn’t be missed, else we would have ended up where we were 2 hours before.
Jon felt like the gods were testing us, as it was Holly’s birthday.

Sunday 8th November
Weather looked dismal this morning, I thought it would be a good idea to create some waterproof socks out of a bin liner which were great for about an hour then it was like having my feet in two goldfish bowls! Boy did it rain.. all day..torrential monsoon style.
Dom resembled a pizza delivery guy carrying last nights left overs on the back of his bike in a pizza box which did us for lunch with some cookies.
Horrible headwind and winds along with the rain slowed us down for the first part of the day but we ploughed on and still managed 70 miles by the end of the day.
Found another deserted faulty towers type hotel and climbed out of a window onto the roof to cook some tuna pasta trouble was the gusty winds meant it took nearly 2 hours to cook.

Monday 9th November
We left the hotel reasonably early after managing to get our room for €40 cash – felt a bit guilty with the negotiation, but call it a TCC charity donation! Continued our pikey journey by stopping at MD Discount supermarket, eating our breakfast out of a shopping trolley, and listening to very bad Italian covers of Radiohead’s “creep” and sheeza sisters on their outside PA system. I certainly didn’t feel like dancing!
Made really good progress until a monster hill hit us just after month (basically the boil on Italy’s foot), but once at the top we enjoyed some distance across the plateau. Quick stop for some more camping fuel saw us purchase some very dodgy looking flammable liquid, and while topping up we were amused by a bad Italian driver reversing his Alfa into a CInciquento, reducing its length by another 10cm! The funniest sight was watching him blame the car park, lack of signs, weather and anything else which averted the blame from his cock up!

Tuesday 10th November
Exciting day today, as we were leaving Italy mainland and heading onto Sicily. We had 35 miles to cover first, and got to Villa Giovani in good time to find the ferry. Well typical Italian signposts saw us try a train station, goods yard (where a train was coming out of a ferry!) and cafe before finding the ticket office. And even then we weren’t convinced until we actually got onto the ship. Got pretty tangled up when we arrived in Messina, and I nearly ended up in a Smart car, when a foxy chick opened her car door straight into my path.
Followed the coast road (25km more than required), but it was beautiful scenery, and it was different to see mainland Italy from the other side. We found a campsite just as it started clouding over, and after another negotiation (33% off), got the tent set up & food cooked, just before it started hammering it down. We got about 2 hrs of sleep each as the rain continued all night, but Jon was also worried about slugs and worm juice on his flip flops – tart!

Wednesday 11th November
After a terrible night sleep because of the rain, it didn’t get much better today. The light drizzle when we started quickly turned torrential. I didn’t need a bike now, I needed a canoe! At least the road was reasonably flat. Well until we turned a corner on the cliff edge and a landslide had blocked off the road. A large part of the road had actually disappeared into the sea! We then had to follow a diversion up the steepest hill you can imagine, climbing to 2,500 feet. No chance of cycling, so we pushed the dead-weight bikes to the top! We found a tin shack for lunch, which helped escape the rain, but a flash then a crash of thunder – shit, it had just been struck by lightening!
Just as we were about to leave I jinxed it in typical style saying “what we don’t need now is a puncture” just as that was said Jon got a puncture- probably the worst place and situation anyone has ever had a puncture.
Shivering and soaking, we braved the dripping gloves and water logged socks to another fawlty towers coastal hotel marking it a 64 mile day where we enjoyed a feast of wieners and pasta cooked on our trangier .

Thursday 12th November
Woke up early negotiated a cheaper rate by excluding breakfast and were on the road by 8am. Come rain or shine we were determined to reach Palermo today to the sanctuary of our 4* hotel our friend Silvia had arranged, the buffet ‘fill your boots’ breakfast has kept us going this last week.
The weather actually turned to be good and we nailed the 85 miles to Palermo by 4pm. Found the hotel easy although Dom was disappointed with the poor quality of the room. When I ran a bath to find brown water coming out of the taps, we knew it was time to call reception for an upgrade. We were given the best room in the hotel- sometimes it pays off to be an arse!

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