Dual Wed 03 October 2018

BETWEEN TUSCIA AND THE WEST

Definition of “Local”: local is a person belonging to the motorcyclist category, willing to organize bike tours for friends from other regions at the discovery of his territory, to be the guide of the tour or to supply tracks and suggestions for the itinerary.
The locals’ task is never easy: they must organize the tour for all the participants - which must be hard enough to give the sense of adventure but not too much as to wear the participants down, while including as many natural and cultural beauties of his area as possible - and organize tempting meals whilst hoping for constant good weather! In other words, something worthy of a Harvard graduate!
On a warm summer weekend, it’s my turn to organize a tour of Tuscia for my Icelanders friends and I’m immediately overcome by stage fright!
The territory of Tuscia has a lot to offer: history, landscape and borghi. The group also includes a friend from Piemonte who is used to high-altitude military dirt roads with magnificent landscapes, how can I compete when there are only hills and farm roads in the province of Viterbo?
Wrong! Under all points of view our splendid Italy has no competition worldwide, one only needs to exploit the uniqueness and characteristics of the territory to organize a two-day tour to die for!
I start planning aiming for surprise.
I courageously suggest we all sleep in a cave instead of the usual agriturismo or tent; as expected, the novelty encounters different emotions from curiosity to incredulity, from desire to perplexity.
But I don’t stop here … 

Meeting point at my farmhouse for dinner; I send everybody the coordinates and incredibly they all get there without difficulties. The dinner is an extra-ordinary one.
Tuscia is rural and I Iive in a little town where everybody (including me) has a vegetable garden and barnyard animals roaming free, a life logic that escapes who lives the big cities in the north. So more than a “KM 0”, dinner’s menu is a “100 meters” which means that everything comes from my farm including a delicious chicken roasted in a wood-fired oven, which was still flapping its wings the previous day (no offense to vegans).
On a full belly we leave the table, it is dark outside but our headlights and the moonshine illuminate the way to the place we are going to spend the night at.
Unfortunately, the week’s heavy rains ruined many roads, so we decide to take a few shortcuts passing through fields with grass as high as our fenders. The headlights illuminate the sparkling green tips of the stems right to the moment they are gently lowered by our tires as we pass, slowly since we do not know what hides under the grass.
We keep going until we reach the last section, scattered with insidious muddy puddles, which climbs to the “Corviano” cliff, a 30-meter high terrace made of peperine which dominates the Tiber Valley, but it is nighttime, and we can only admire the lights in the distance.

Better to enter the caves, thousand-year old hypogea dwellings that will shelter us even if rain isn’t expected, to the contrary! I guess the star dotted night sky will only watch over our motorcycles.
We lay in our cave and turn off the lights amongst the incredulity of some and the excitement of others.
Since I sleep like a log, in the morning I’m the last to get up, the others are already out taking pictures from the cliff edge; dawn is crystal clear and beautiful; beyond the Tiber, in the background, there is Umbria with its hills and clinging borghi.
We are relaxed: the tour is easy, measured on our skills and bikes, but still it’s about 200 km with not 30% of paved roads! We climb the sides of Mount Cimino to the paved road that looks over the Lake of Vico from where we head for Capranica through a magnificent, shady, beech forest.
After we stop for gas, we go to the rail station and take a railroad. Yep, if Piemonte is the land of military roads, the center of Italy is the land of abandoned railroads!
The old Orte-Civitavecchia railroad is the typical Italian unfinished project: despite having been cleaned up and renewed in the nineties, the rails have never been laid; so, we now have an 80 km dirt track on good terrain that practically reaches the sea.
We ride along this track through tunnels, trenches, bridges and beginning of the century rail stations, it’s like being in the Far West.
When we reach the steel bridge over the Mignone river the road is closed by a fence that must be bypassed to proceed, but a more engaging trail is planned for our tour from Monteromano so we won’t ride along the whole railroad, at least not this time.
Before reaching the town, we stop for lunch on the top of a hill from which we can see the sea under us; two slices of salami and a piece of bread and we are off again through the military firing range of Monteromano.
However, the heavy thuds of mortar fire in the distance tell us that the gates are closed for maneuvers, so we change our plan taking farm trails through fields of crops that lead us to the Lake of Bolsena in the afternoon; here - tired, satisfied and content - we stop for a drink and a few hours of relax on the grassy lakefront of Montefiascone before heading for the borgo of Vitorchiano, where we will stay overnight in a comfortable “conventional” bed.
Sunday, after a good night rest, we take it easy while we head for Civita di Bagnoregio on paved panoramic roads between Umbria and Lazio.

Civita is an ancient Borgo positioned on an hourglass of friable clay that every year eats away a piece of it and this is why it is also known as the “dying town” since it will finally die due to the erosion of its base.
The view of it bewitches the thousands of tourists that visit it every year from all over the world, every one of them, reaching the terrace that dominates it, enchanted by this tuff and clay mushroom that rises above the fog in the valley of calanques, doomed by the rain that washes away a piece of it every time it falls but that makes it more and more fascinating as if to apologize.
The tour finishes and I haven’t been able to include everything Tuscia has to offer like the Thermal Baths, but a “local” must keep a few aces up his sleeve to lure the group to come back, right?