In case you missed it, you can start with Day 1 – Florence to Siena
Proceno to Sutri: 108km 1850m
After breakfast but before we begin our ride, the Contessa very graciously shows us around the Castle of Proceno. The apartments in which she lives are full of a collection of furniture and objects from many lifetimes, including an old printing press which, when it arrived in the area, would have been a rare marvel. The tower of the castle includes rooms that are still inhabitable with fireplaces and ancient furniture. On the walls, there are collections of swords, knives, early firearms and objects such as silks from China that a previous Count brought back on his return from an expedition east hundreds of years ago. Clothing from bygone eras can be seen; it is like a fascinating mini museum and a window onto the past of this noble local family. We thank the Contessa and begin to pack our bikes.
A coffee stop after just over ten kilometres seems like a very civilised way to start the third day. Most of that is downhill too. A quick cappuccino in the magnificent main square of Aquapendente and we are off again towards our lakeside lunch location at Lago di Bolsena.
We crest the hill and the sun shimmers off the surface of the lake in the distance. We descend down and stop at a lookout spot above the lake for some photos. A walker asks us the way to Rome. We saw our first sign to Rome yesterday evening and now they are everywhere. More downhill into the town of Bolsena itself and we take a seat by the lake. The rhythm of the journey is starting to become more regular now, it is starting to feel like normality; you have breakfast, get on your bike, have lunch, get back on your bike… The sun is warm and it feels like a summer’s day despite being October. There are even a few people swimming in the lake.
After Lago di Bolsena the next waypoint is Viterbo but before that we will ride through Montefiascone, another town with a spectacular old gate guarding the entrance to the old town. After Montefiascone, there is a downhill but unlike many of the gravel roads we have previously ridden this one is made of large cobblestones. At about half a metre (one and a half feet) across they cause the bikes to buck in a bone-shaking action. These classic Roman Roads were clearly built for longevity although there is the occasional wheel-swallowing hole where a stone is missing.
Leaving the Roman Road behind we are back on hard-pack gravel on a flat plain that extends until we reach a road that is carved into the rocks. Mini statues of the Virgin Madonna adorn small shrines asking for blessing and safety for travellers. Perhaps we did not give her enough heed as one of our group punctures soon after. Our hopes of a quick fix to the tubular tyre are dashed as the sealant, instead of staying inside the tyre, decides to spray out and give us an impromptu foam party by the side of the road. Once that is cleaned up, we add an inner tube and we are off again.
We are treated to the most gorgeous sunset but it is too soon: we still have narrow paths to navigate that would be too treacherous in the dark. The puncture and subsequent foam party has set us back too much and so the decision is made to leave the Francigena and do the last 20km on road.
We arrive at the hotel feeling all three of the previous days in our legs but not before we are treated to the most spectacular sunset.
Read next: Florence to Rome Day 4 – Sutri to Rome
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