In case you missed it, you can start with Day 1 – Florence to Siena
Sutri to Rome: 73km 750m
The morning of day four greets us with the view of the hotel which we could not appreciate the night before. Housed in a former convent, the large property is right next to the Francigena so it is a simple few hundred metres of road until we are back on track. Though today is the shortest and therefore should be the easiest day of the trip, the fatigue of the last three days has built up and we pedal with tired legs.
Our first stop of the day seems perfectly named: Cascata di Monte Gelato – the waterfall of ice cream mountain but there is no ice cream and no mountain. There is, however a very relaxing stream and waterfall. The bikes look at home leaning against the trees as we take a moment to relax and refresh.
The landscape of Lazio is different again from what we have seen so far. Shallow climbs and false flats abound with the occasional crazy steep ramp. It is up one of these that we must go to enter Campagnano di Roma: 200m at 16% which with the bags on the bikes feels like more.
We descend down out of the town and come across some horses grazing by the side of the road. When we try to give a horse one of our bananas an amused local explains that they don’t eat bananas. At that point, as if to prove him immediately wrong a horse hoovers up an entire banana in one go. With that theory disproven, we move on.
Today is the day that best displays how the paths of the past sit uneasily against (and often lose out to) modern development. At one point the Francigena is a hidden narrow footpath, running next to a highway behind an old wooden fence. Then we are riding on an old potholed road, long-forgotten by most motorists until we must use a large modern roundabout. Shortly after we are back in the old road again. Our immersion in the old is interrupted by the new. As we begin to edge closer to Rome, we use a criss-crossed network of paths on the side of the road, carry our bikes through an underpass and emerge out of the other side; travellers from a different era whose way has been built over by merciless progress.
On some bike packing trips, you suddenly arrive; your journey abruptly ending but not here. the last 20 or so kilometres of flat cycle path allow a long moment of reflection and also satisfaction. You have as good as arrived in your mind and all there is to do is soft pedal, take some advantage of the draught of the riders in front and observe how rural Lazio becomes first newer Rome on the periphery with its tower blocks and slowly, older and older Rome and you approach its centre.
As the cycle path meets the Tiber, we roll under bridges, the reflections of the water shimmering on the underside of the arches. The drivers of cars and scooters above, hammering along the road are oblivious to such things. We have come far and seen much but this city is the crowning glory of the trip; the imposing Castel Sant’Angelo looms over the river, dwarfing us as we cycle past.
There is a short staircase, the bikes must be carried and then just a kilometre of Roman road to contend with as we are ejected back into the modern world. we turn a corner and the immense, arrow straight road to Saint Peter’s Basilica is immediately in front of us. The wide avenue is an opportunity for reflection, congratulations, back slapping and, this being the modern world, a selfie or two.
Photos (and yet more selfies) in front of Saint Peter’s and then we cruise through the city street to our end point, the Portrait Hotel Roma where a cold beer awaits accompanied by a view over the city. Satisfaction in the moment and memories for the future; it is a privilege to ride a route so steeped in history. It is truly a personal pilgrimage, even for those without religious convictions. If you tell people you ride from Florence to Rome, they will immediately have some idea of what you have achieved but as to what you saw, what you felt and what you experienced, the only way to know those things is to experience it for yourself.
If you would like to experience cycling from Florence to Rome, we have options for Self Guided Tours or our fully supported Pro Tour