Cycling in Sunny Puglia, Day 4

The sun has returned to Puglia!  But this post as well as the next 2 are delayed because we lost wi-fi here.  There are so many old, thick, stone dwellings in this part of Puglia that most people access the internet via hard wire, not good for updating posts with my i-phone!   After the cold rains of Day 3, we awoke to a beautiful, clear and sunny sky, and we are packed up and ready to bike from Martina Franca to Ostuni, the beautiful white town near the sea.

Yummy cheese for a picnic lunch

On our way out of Martina Franca, we stop at the local mozzarella factory for local specialties like buratta and scamorze and the local salumeria for parma ham, wine and water.  Then we head northeast out of town into the heart of the beautiful Itria Valley. Our ride today is on agricultural roads surrounded by orchards of ancient olive trees and nut trees in varying degrees of bloom. Trulli dwellings (click to see UNESCO video) dot the landscape and their unique appearance makes my mind wander. All I can think of is hobbits coming out the front door!  The magnificence of the ancient olive trees and trulli is overwhelming.

Trulli alongside our cycle route for the day

Even though the roads are much hillier than I anticipated, the beauty of the landscape takes my mind off the hills–up to a point.  We had been riding uphill through a beautiful trulli area for close to an hour, looking for a connecting road to the hill town of Cisternino.  With each bend in the road, I was certain that the turn would appear, but the ascent continued.  Finally, the road appeared and we begin a five minute descent….until the road seemingly disappears in front of us, covered with about 3 feet of water from the recent rain!

My heart stopped, as there were really no alternatives.  Walking uphill for a mile did not interest me one bit, nor did getting soaking wet from head to toe.  The only choice was hopping a stone fence with our bikes and panniers and walking through private farm land for about a quarter of a mile.  There didn’t appear to be any killer watchdogs around, something very common in these parts, so it was worth a try. My husband and I got our bikes over the stone walls and made it through to the next break in the fence just as two German Shepherds came tearing towards us. My heart was pumping so hard I could almost hear it!  We made a note to bring a can of pepper spray on our next trip!

After that adventure, we stopped to eat our picnic lunch of local burette cheese, parma ham and Primitivo wine.  We laughed because no matter how well you plan your route and itinerary, you always seem to encounter some type of unplanned challenge that you need to work around. We thought that this was our adventure for the day, but such was not the case.

For the next three hours, we were unable to find any road signs or markings to indicate that we were on the right road or that we were making the right turns. Agricultural roads aren’t usually through roads, and they make a lot of twists and turns along the way, so it’s really easy to lose direction.  Even our trusty GPS was not able to help us out this day.  Luckily my husband has a great “nose for direction” that ended up being our GPS for the day.  We ultimately found our way to our home for the next two nights, Masseria Il Frontoio, but not before a totally hair-raising 1 mile+ steep downhill descent on a winding two lane road with no guard rails outside of Ostuni! I swear that my brakes were smoking as I was going down the hill clutching them as tight as I could.

A photo of Ostuni I bravely took before descending down this busy road!

When we pulled into the Masseria late that afternoon, I was tired and exhilerated.  This day had been full of so many sights, challenges and adventures I was almost afraid to think of what the next day would be!

I was overjoyed to see the entrance to Masseria Il Frontoio at the end of the day!

Posted by Maggie LaCoste

I love the adventure and unpredictability of experiencing France by bike. Cycling in France is the ultimate slow travel adventure, an opportunity to see it through the back door in a way few tourists experience. One week on a bike in France and life takes on a different meaning! I created Experience France By Bike to inspire recreational cyclists to visit France the slow way....by bike, and to be the best source of information for planning the perfect bicycling adventure. I encourage readers to embrace the uncertainty of the road ahead and to take the path less traveled, exploring roads, towns and villages that you would never experience traveling by car.