Day 47: Paestum – Marina di Casalvelino

Distance: 55.3 km

Time: 3 hours 13 minutes

Average speed: 17.2 kph

Cumulative distance: 2439.37 km

Cumulative time: 122 hours 15 minutes

Word of the day: ‘cima’ (chee-mah) – summit

We decided to have two days off in Paestum to avoid the ‘Orvieto mistake’. That’s where we took a rest day, but there was so much to see that we didn’t do any actual resting , and found ourselves not entirely restored when we set off again. This time, then, we planned two days off, one to see the sights of the area, and one to rest.

We have Simon and Dianne, our friends and fellow tandemists to thank for the tip to visit Paestum, famous for its archaeological sites: three Greek temples and the ancient village, which includes an amphitheatre, debating/council building, baths and much besides. All of this is supported by a very well laid out museum, currently also showing an exhibition featuring the ‘Tomb of the Diver’.

We mainly concentrated on the Greek temples and the extensive Roman village around them, an amazing number of excavated buildings, with research still in progress. It was like going to Pompeii or Herculaneum, but with far fewer people around. The Greek temples were particularly striking, enormously well preserved, but distinctly different in style to the later Roman buildings. Here are some pictures.

After spending the morning looking around thoroughly, we returned to the hotel, and then had a little trip to the beach. The red flag was flying, so we couldn’t swim, but we dipped our toes in the sea to officially complete our journey from the Adriatic coast to the Tyrrhenian.

Our second rest day was just that – resting, and enjoying the enormous pool at the hotel. Well, we enjoyed it in the afternoon – in the morning there was a huge thunderstorm! It soon passed over, and we were able to resume alternately vegetating and floating around in the water. Yesterday evening we had booked ourselves into the Tre Olivi restaurant, which had excellent reviews, and it didn’t disappoint – we had a fabulous meal, accompanied by some lovely local Aglianico wine recommended by the friendly and funny sommelier, Valentino. And there actually were three olive trees in the restaurant’s outside terrace.

This morning dawned hot once again, and we packed up and left with the usual post-rest day mixtures of nerves and excitement to be off again. It’s a strange thing, it happens every time, like you think you might have forgotten how to do it! Fortunately, we had not, and we made a good early start along the coast road, first towards Agropoli.

There were four significant climbs in today’s planned route, so we were expecting it to be a considerable effort. The first climb started straight after Agropoli, gently lifting us and giving great views inland on the peninsula.

We were following the route taken by a cycling blogger who’d recommended doing the whole climb up to Castellabate for the views, so it was a long haul but what an incredible panorama at the top. The sky, the sea, the terracotta roof tiles on the houses below, it was well worth the effort. We received ‘complimenti’ from a local lady at the top, when we stopped to have a drink and take some photos.

The descent was quite something too, steep at first, and then a more manageable series of hairpins, back and forth, giving alternate views of where we’d been and where we were going next, all the time dazzling us with the incredible azure colour of the sea.

We were making good progress, and were pleased with how well we’d managed the first hill, especially as it was twice the height of any of the others. Our second climb came up quickly, and again it was a gentle slope, we got into a good rhythm and found ourselves at the top pretty quickly.

We stopped at a roadside restaurant for lunch, where we were served by Italy’s saddest-looking chef. It was one of those places where there’s no menu as such, he just reeled off a list of the day’s pasta, and we chose from that. The Captain selected gnocchi, whilst the Stoker went for penne arrabbiata (“angry pasta”!) although when it arrived it was Very Angry Indeed, extraordinarily spicy, so we swapped over. Something to remember, that – the food is likely to be more highly spiced the further south we get.

Climb number three loomed up almost as soon as we left the restaurant, but we were fortified now, and it posed no great challenge. As we descended we noted huge numbers of prickly pears on the roadside, something we didn’t see in the north at all. The roadside vegetation is much more arid in general, aloes alongside the prickly pears, and palms of various types.

Our last climb was the shortest and least challenging, and before long we could see Marina di Casal Velino, where we would find tonight’s lodgings.

Our host had expressed some concern about our having chosen his chalet when we told him we were arriving by bicycle, because the chalet is set high above the marina, which would have meant a bit of an excursion down and up by tandem to go shopping tonight. He suggested we swap to his other place at the marina itself, so that’s where we are. It’s not nearly as nice as the chalet would have been, but it has pretty much everything we need, and he’s definitely saved us some additional vertical work today!

After our couple of days cycling in the grot at the foot of Vesuvius, it was wonderful today to be riding in the countryside and enjoying the spectacular views. We’ll be on this lovely peninsula for the next couple of days too, and tackling plenty more climbs and descents. Tomorrow we head to another marina, Marina di Camerota, where we will have the incentive of a pool to splash about in at the end of our ride.

Here’s today’s track.