Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Italy - Dust, Dolls, and Delightful Mineral Pool

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Itri with castle, part of Appian Way. Photo credit: African Institute Information
80 miles – Wednesday, October 19

We set off inland, pedaling long hills with buffeting winds to the coastal mountains. Hillsides are rocky and dry. I'm glad I recently gave up wearing contact lenses in favor of prescription sunglasses. I observe the locals tending olive orchards. And, once we gain altitude, sea views are spectacular. We ride an undulating narrow road, arriving in Itri. It's an agricultural hub for local olive oil production. As we cruise through town, the smell of fragrant olives, wine, and fresh-baked bread emanate from doorways. For ambiance, a Roman fortress hangs above Itri, serving as a reminder of it's importance on an ancient road, the Appian Way. Again, we are back on its path.

Tower of Castellon, Formia. Photo credit: Wikipedia
From Itri, Andy and I roll next to the south bound trains, passing through a long tunnel. Then it's a downhill struggle, pedaling into headwinds to coastal Formia. We take out more Lira at Banca di Roma and buy groceries. From Formia it's a cruise within a few kilometers from the Mediterranean south towards Naples (Napoli).

Early afternoon, an English speaking man cycles next to us, introducing himself as Annibale. He is Sicilian and raised in London. He is with a NSA service contingent in Naples. His role is a military policemen. We ride together for an hour. Annibale is a wealth of information. We were unaware that NATO and it's Mediterranean fleet are based in Naples. Therefore a large American presence of 10,000 or more service personnel reside in the region.

As we near Naples, trash litters roadsides. We constantly swerve around piles of glass, wandering mongrels, or frost heave-type blisters in the asphalt. The concentration is taxing.

Castel Volturno central square. Photo credit: Wikipedia

Much like outside Rome's walls, prostitutes linger. All are mostly wearing short red skirts and black fishnet stockings. They are often too young – possibly teenagers – and mainly young women of color. They posture, standing, picking their nails. Each woman is alone, sometimes miles from a town. Andy and I maneuver around vehicles, their drivers examining the merchandise, asking questions. A hooker may open the door and get in. We pass 10, 20, 30 prostitutes. I've been told it's the oldest profession in the world, yet it's difficult to digest, especially the young ladies who may not have known another life.

A prostitute walks a road. Photo credit: Doxy Spotting
By 4:30 p.m. we roll into Pozzuoli, just shy of Naples, exhausted. The campground is along a busy street. Unfortunately, the 30,000 Lira (20.00 USD) fee is more than we want to pay, however, we're in no position to argue. A hostel in Naples is the only other option. We adapt quite comfortably, though, soaking tired muscles in a warm outdoor mineral pool, bake in a sauna, and relax at a picnic table overlooking lighted clay tennis courts. It's actually a relief to enjoy a well-lit campground after dark, for once not hunched in the tent, reading and writing by flashlight.

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