Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Day 8 – San Lorenzo Nuovo – Viterbo

We had a lie in til 7:45 as Lou’s bottom didn’t wake us. After a good breakfast of cheese, bread, yogurt, honey and an unpleasant croissant with hot marmalade in the middle we packed the bikes. A Swiss chap came to tell us what our route should be. He explained that all the Etruscan men and boys in the neighbourhood had been slaughtered and the women and girls had been rounded up and shipped off, so we should cycle up a nearby volcano which was too steep for cars, then go to the coast to see some nice Etruscan tombs. We listened politely and thanked him. Another old bloke came along to boast about his wines being made from original Etruscan grapes. It was time to leave.

There was a strong side wind, I didn’t mind though, it wasn’t so bad that stability was a problem and there wasn’t much traffic. There was a fabulous view of the lake. We passed the German couple who we’d seen at San Quirico on the hill. They’d stopped for a chat. It was a long slow climb for ten miles or so before we reached the last steeper climb into Montefiascone. We could see the dome of the church for some distance.

The traffic in town was manic and the signage poor. We abandoned our bikes by the tourist office and took a look at the Church. It had plenty of art and was perfectly round with little altars all around, but like a lot of the churches here it lacked warmth or character and felt more like a gallery.

We stopped for Est! Est!! Est!!! . It wasn’t very good, but at least I’d had some here. We braved the traffic to set out of town. It was a glorious ride out downhill for five straight miles and gently downhill or flat for another five. Just a short climb from here to Viterbo.

We headed straight to Santa Rosa and the convent. Lou had a fag outside whilst I went in to ask if we could stay. There was no-one about but the door was open so I ventured in looking for an office – I found Santa Rosa! – preserved in a glass box with silver and gold angels all around. I scurried out as fast as my legs would carry me. I went back in with Lou – a bonus body, but still no room. We could hear the nuns singing and the sign said open at 3 so we went for an ice cream and waited.

At 3 we went back and pressed the buzzer. I couldn’t make myself understood in Italian so they found a nun who spoke English as well as I spoke Italian. They called us through and enthusiastically showed us the body, very proudly, gave us our prayer cards, and sent us on our way.

We set off to find somewhere else to stay. The tourist office found us a room at the Leon d’Oro which claims 3 stars at €57. It’s grim but had cycle racing on TV so we watched the rain in BeNeLux. After getting cleaned up we set out into town. The internet point on our map was closed so back to the tourist office. We found one, eventually, and Lou blogged. What we couldn’t find was a place to eat. There were occasional pizza and hot dog type places, but no restaurants or even bars serving actual food. We walked and walked but found nothing. Eventually we stopped at the BlueAngel café. Lou had a curious prawn and ham sandwich and I had a courgette, cheese and aubergine panini that got stuck on the grill – stuck in the bacon fat. It was foul but I was so hungry I ate ¾ of it just to get some sugar to my brain so we could find something real to eat.

We went back to the place we’d had ice cream earlier and I had a tuna and artichoke sandwich. It was clean in there but I didn’t like it so we mooched up to the take away pizzeria where I had cherry tomato and mozzarella pizza, sold by weight and warmed up, served with beer. It was the most vegetable I had had all day. We picked up a couple of beers and juices to take back to the room, and we walked back, past two perfectly good restaurants which would have sold us good food. Boo.

The ‘orange’ juice turned out to be orange, carrot and lemon – a mix that sounds terrible but was lovely. I drank it and watched some of the athletics in Helsinki whilst writing postcards and chatting.

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