Sunday, July 17, 2016

What?! You don't speak Italian?!!

As soon as we rode off the ferry in Villa San Giovanni (mainland Italy!) we headed straight for the mountains. After accidentally drinking non-potable water (whoops!) - we decided it wasn't that bad after previously eating vegetables that had been discarded in a pile of rubbish on the side of the road in Sicily (haha! wait for our 'food evaluation edition' to hear more detail on this)- we made our way up (literally up to 1300m above sea level!) to the Aspromonte National Park. 

Absolutely beautiful! - felt like we were in a fairytale woodland with abundance of trees, shade and camping-friendly picnic sites... We decided to take advantage of the BBQs and buy some 'real' meat for lunches. After eating what we called 'packages of goodness' which appeared to be pieces of lamb weaved with garlic and wrapped in prosciutto, we then stuck mainly to sausages for simplicity. Butchers (macelleria's) must not have that much business as one gave us a free tub of ricotta (surely it was going out of date!?) and Suppa Antonio = in Fabrizia gave us our entire order for free!! (Ok so it was a total of 4 sausages but hey!)

The general response to two pale, blue-eyed and comparatively very tall (yes even Emily is taller than Italians-both men and women) strangers riding through town was to ask us endless questions about us and our journey. After getting through the basics, conversation often became much more complicated and when we explained that our Italian language skills were limited, locals seemed offended and surprised that we didn't speak Italian. One (possibly senile) man asked us if we were sisters!! We giggled and let that one go as his English was much better than our Italian.

We came across the occasional English-speaker, usually from the north of Italy who pointed us in the direction of the Sila national park... Lots more shady trees and an endless supply of picnic spots and clean water fountains. It wasn't until we by chance walked into the Pollino national park headquarters and met the most useful informational man yet.. His English wasn't great but it was our first chance to pick up some maps and even have one which highlights just the national parks... This has been the foundation of our route planning - hitting the national parks!

We've been critical so far on Italy's pizza (doesn't compare to Melbourne's Lygon St). We did however stumble upon a pizzeria to rival Lygon St nestled randomly in the Pollino national park forest - we were just looking for water and a flat area for the tent and found a family-run wood fired oven pizzeria... Amazing food and genuine hospitality to two sweaty, stinky cyclists. Much better than one-pot-pasta!
Vino = 1.60€ per litre

We made it to Pietrapertosa then Castelmezzano and were excited to get off the bikes and get strapped into a zip line from one mountain village to another (together!!)... Brilliant being able to see just where we had cycled as well as the beautiful scenery... Lucky for us we turned up on a Friday afternoon - apparently the whole town closes down during the week and the zip line is open only on weekends. Eating gelati and limoncello and then waiting for the morning was well worth it!!

Heading west we were a bit tired of hills but knew we only had a small range to pass before the coast. Tim's stand finally broke - he carries a lot more weight than me (gear mainly, not just body weight). We had a delicious lunch in a small town in the valley called Atena Lucana but unfortunately they tried charging us double what we should have paid... Then asked us out opinion of what the bill should be where we then wrote out our own at more realistic prices!

As we head towards the coast we are dreading the tourists but looking forward to Amalfi, Pompeii and obviously civilisation.

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