Friday, November 14, 2014

Cycling the old Appian Way

Years ago we rented some junky MTB's on one of Rome's "car free Sundays" and headed off to explore the Appia Antica, the ancient Appian Way out of Rome. Despite the crappy bikes we had a blast bouncing over the old stones and exploring this ancient Roman road.

Heather added an excursion here to a philosophy conference she produced in Rome later and thought the Fellows here at the American Academy might enjoy it as much as her fellow philosophers did.

She booked a tour with Top Bike Rental & Tours for the group this past Sunday.

Sundays the Academy bar is closed, so the first order of business this morning was cappuccino and ciambelle. We're lucky that the Bar Gianicolo is just around the corner and was pretty quiet at 8 AM. We lucked out with sunny, clear skies after some serious rain earlier in the week. The Top Bike folks assured us it wasn't too muddy or wet to enjoy the ride. This time we had our own bikes so off we went down near the Colosseum to meet the rest of the group, about 20 in total.

Above you see Heather with her group. They broke us up into two groups and Larry went with the other, acting as sort of deputy tour guide by riding at the back so our leader could see when everyone had arrived and he or she could then head off again after a stop to describe something along the way.

Here we stopped for drinks and Heather bounced over the stones for a photo. Supposedly these massive blocks once formed a smooth surface with room for two chariots to pass and sidewalks for pedestrians on each side. The stones were pulled up in recent times and not replaced with the same care as the Roman soldiers who built these roads had used, making for a pretty rough surface. Our friend Mauro Mondonico told us the old Giro di Lazio used to run over some of these roads, but these blocks are even tougher than those of the famous Paris-Roubaix classic so eventually the practice was dropped. Now the reborn Roma Maxima event runs only along the more modern (and much smaller) cobblestone streets of central Rome.

This used to be the main entrance to Rome from the Appian Way. Here we're going out and off to that bar in the previous photo. Most ordered cappuccini here, but Larry had already had his this morning and thought this beautiful ride and great weather called for a toast with prosecco! There were a few "geez, why didn't I think of that" looks as he clinked his glass against everyone else' coffee cup. Soon enough we were back on our way.

Most of the Fellows and friends were pretty much novice cyclists. Top Bike provides user-friendly MTB's in good condition though Larry the Mechanic did put a few chains back on and made some adjustments here and there. These bikes take a beating all day from novice riders, we pushed a few up a hill or two when they couldn't seem to find the right gear. We veered off the Appian Way to tour the acqueduct park before looping back to the Top Bike HQ. We started around 9:30 AM and finished around 2:30 PM, almost too late for pranzo!

But never fear... we had reservations! Heather called the folks at LUZZI to tell them we were running late so we didn't wait too long in the mob of folks outside without reservations and were soon enjoying classic Roman dishes, though they were already out of the famous oxtail stew, which brought frowns to a lot of faces. But after mixed antipasti, various plates of pasta followed by sausage, pork chops or grilled chicken, everyone was stuffed and happy!

If you find yourself in Rome and want to see some ancient things very difficult to see any other way while getting a bit of exercise in the process, you'll enjoy this tour. The standard version includes a visit to the catacombs and a wine and cheese tasting, which we skipped to keep the costs low enough for everyone to join us.

This was a Buona Domenica in every way!

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