Day 22: Castel San Pietro Terme – Forlì

Distance: 63.96 km

Time: 3 hours 5 minutes

Average speed: 20.7 kph

Cumulative distance: 1211.19 km

Cumulative time: 56 hours 26 minutes

Word of the day: ‘piacere‘ (pea-a-chair-ay) – pleasure

Our giorno di riposo was a very relaxing affair. We strolled through a park into the centre of Castel San Pietro Terme for lunch, admired the porticoes and Piazza XX Settembre, ate some piadine and panini and then returned to our hotel, via the park, for an afternoon in and by the pool. The hotel was clearly aimed at business people working in nearby Bologna, but it was fine, the pool was deliciously cool and in the evening we had a fine meal at the restaurant opposite.

Back to the cycling, then. Today the cycling was an absolute pleasure – it was our last day on the flat, at least for some time. Again we were cycling through crops – vines, maize, wheat, potatoes, plums, cherries, apples and, for the first time, kiwi fruit.

We had plotted a route through the back lanes, avoiding town centres, so the traffic was sparse. It was thoroughly relaxing, and brought smiles to our faces as we pedalled along. There was a hint of a hill or two – just a hint, mind. Looking to the right, though, we saw the ever-present foothills of the Apennines – a reminder that tomorrow we leave the Po Valley and head uphill. Oh, and the day after tomorrow we have about twelve hundred vertical metres of climbing.

We did need to find a bike shop. This was mainly because one of the Captain’s pairs of cycling shorts was becoming somewhat disreputable. We managed to locate one, in the interestingly named Piazzale Ayrton Senna de Silva. This made more sense when we looked on the map, to find that it was in the town of Imola.

So, after passing through the centre of Imola we attempted to find the shop. It seemed to be placed at the start line of the Formula 1 track. After approaching it from several directions and being denied entry by closed gates, we had cycled right around the perimeter of the track before we finally gained access. It was indeed at the start line.

We purchased shorts, energy gels for the big hills, electrolytes for our water bottles – the shop had everything we needed, and they were very helpful and friendly. Better still, now we can discard the tatty old shorts!

Off we pedalled, then, for another hour or so before lunch, which we took in the attractive town of Faenza. The café/birreria was the sort of place where they reeled off a list of available dishes, but we both stopped listening when we heard him say Tortelli con burro e salvia! Two plates, please, and lots of acqua gassata. It was very good, of course.

After lunch it was more of the same – quiet lanes, distant church towers and looming hills.

The temperature was creeping ever upwards – thirty degrees Celsius seems to be the daily average high at the moment. It doesn’t feel too hot when we’re cycling along and generating a breeze, but when we stop at traffic lights or wait at a junction then we immediately become aware of just how hot it is. It has already been necessary to increase the amount of water we’re drinking each day, and on arrival at our destination we invariably down a few glasses more.

Our arrival into the town of Forlì was serene.

Nearer the centre we had to cope with a laggy GPS device, which led to a little confusion. Soon enough, though, we turned into Piazza Aurelio Saffi, and then into an adjacent street where our B&B host was waiting.

The Piazza is large, open, and surrounded by lovely architecture.

We popped into the Abbazia di San Mercuriale, a simple building, senza frescoes. It also had the merit of being delightfully cool inside.

One of the main attractions here is the Raveldino Fortress. This is the place from which Caterina Sforza allegedly fought off the forces of the Orsi family who had killed her husband Giacomo. This she did by means of a strikingly feminine display!

The fortress is on our way out tomorrow, so we’ll take a look at it then. Tonight we’re having a quiet night, eating in and building up our strength for the challenges immediately ahead. Tomorrow’s destination is the town of Popolano – firstly we must retrace our tracks to Faenza, before turning south-west and heading up into the hills.

Here’s today’s track.