Bike Across Italy - Day 3 - Urbino to Genga (32 miles)

Towns: Calmazzo, Furlo, Acqualangna, Cagli, Frontone, Serra San Abbondio, Sassoferrato, Genga Stazione
The spectaular Gola di Furlo river gorge, in the Le Marche region

May 14, 2007:


NOTHING like a museum visit to start the day. The Duke Federico da Montefeltro, one of the five bigwigs ruling Italy in the 15th century, lived in a 365 room house decorated with stupendous inlay, sculptures, tapestries, and paintings. This old house is now called the Museo Palazzo Ducale, and is considered a relatively small but significant center for the kind of art within. We got to cruise a lot of the rooms thanks to a special guide who came all the way from Fano.

I marveled at doors and entire walls paneled with intricate inlay, using 47 different kinds of wood. When I say intricate, I'm talking the eyebrows, nosehairs, and various folds of cloth are rendered in different kinds of woods.

Our guide told us how a school party defaced one of the paintings which had to be restored - 'scribbled on it with a pen,' she said. It was treated as a local disaster and the school principal was fined. The incident reminded me of the elderly lady who fell against a Rothko canvas at an Australian National Gallery many years ago. A pop group sprang up the next day called 'Elbow Through My Rothko'. One of the rooms contained a frescoed alcove or 'room within a room' where the Duke welcomed his 'concubines'. The room was painted with trees signifying abundance. Aside from a duty statement requiring them to look alluring, concubines were the only women allowed to use the library, as part of their job was to be an intelligent conversationist - but never a wife. It was certainly a man's world ...

Today's ride also included a spot of retail therapy. A small group of us took a detour to visit the Mondo Bici bike shop, home to its own cycling team, and a jersey-buying frenzy erupted. Everyone wanted to get their hands on a Mondo Bici jersey, except me. The last thing I needed was another jersey, especially at 55 Euro, and especially when Ciclismo Classico just gifted us with one. But somehow, I got all caught up and ... now I am the proud owner of an extra jersey.

And then the riding started - a wonderful spin along the Furlo river valley, with three significant hills to keep us on our toes, literally. Along the way I chatted to John who'd done 9 Ciclismo Classico trips, and had booked himself on three just this year. He compared the company to other high end tour companies. "Butterfield and Robinson - ride 20 miles on comfort bikes, make sure you take a sports coat to sit down at the $300 per head meals. Backroads - prices not quite as stratospheric, groups getting a bit large for my liking, food very Berkeley, very granola, very healthy." It seemed that CC suited him just right - moderately challenging riding (though not enough to have you swear under your breath 'never again' as you crest the nth hill) but great organization, meals and luxury hotels at the end of each day.

We stopped at a place called Bar Chicosa for crecia, a kind of pastry-bread filled with various fillings. I must admit that with everyone raving about them, I decided I really didn't like them - the bread reminded me of the kind of fatty pastry they use downunder for sausage rolls and meat pies. Once this neuroassociation was established I couldn't finish mine and had to discreetly give it away.

Nearby we checked out part of an old Roman road, in fact, the main drag that once went from Rome to the coast. Centuries from now, pointy headed people may well be standing (hovering?) over what were once ancient bike paths, along which man made his epic commutes ...

After three big hills we ended up at Hotel Le Grotte do Frassassi, a three star hotel but you wouldn't think so judging by the finish. Star ratings are different in Europe compared to Americal; they indicate to the number of facilities offered, rather than the overall 'niceness of ambience' of the hotel, though in many cases they go hand in hand. In this case the hotel was previously known as a restaurant, but had expanded its offering.

The evening meal in the hotel was as good as it gets: antipasto, lentils, mixed grill, veal, roasted veges, gelato, and my favorite kind of pasta, papardelle.

My stomach is still rebelling against being thrust in a far away place. One of the riders, a doctor, told me not to eat any dairy until I was completely better. This, of course, was immediately after I'd just eaten a giant chocolate gelato ...

Dana with our waiters. 'Serving is a profession people go to school to learn,' she says. These guys were pros!

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Copyright 2007


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