Thursday, July 8 (123Km, 1646m)

After a day in San Giovanni and Florence with Kara and her mom, it was time for my last day of cycling before our return to Boston. I planned to travel to Pescara to visit relatives, but San Giovanni to Pescara is well over 300Km, longer than I can ride and still socialize late into evening. So I decided to repeat Tuesday's train-plus-bike routine: I would take the train from San Giovanni to L'Aquila via Orte and Terni, and then cycle the 130Km or so from L'Aquila to Pescara, across the spectacular landscape of the Gran Sasso.

My train arrived in L'Aquila (700m) at 1.30pm, almost an hour behind schedule. I climbed to the old square at the top of the town—quite possibly the only attractive bit of L'Aquila, which is otherwise non-descript—and found a restaurant where I sat out the midday heat and ate a double portion of home-made pasta with mushroom and truffle sauce. I was on the road at 3pm, late but well-fed.

Unfortunately, my sit-out-the-heat strategy had not worked: a few miles down the road, at the base of the Gran Sasso cable car (1000m), the thermometer read 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit)! My water bottles were empty, and I became willing to pay 2.50 euros for a glass of Coke. But the air cooled and the landscape opened up before me as I climbed to the top of Campo Imperatore (1760m): rugged, stony terrain dotted with wildflowers and occasional trees stretched northwest to L'Aquila, while the massive cliffs of the Gran Sasso rose to the east. The Maiella group came into view briefly as I cruised down a shallow grade on the high plateau of Campo Imperatore, and reappeared again after the short climb to Vado di Sole (1630m).

Over the remaining miles the road descended gradually to the Adriatic Sea via Penne and Loreto Aprutino. The small climb to the hilltop town of Spoltore was a big-chainring affair, and from there it was just a brief descent to the congested center of Pescara. I reached my Uncle Silvio's place in great form shortly after 8pm, just in time for dinner. One more beautiful bike tour was over.

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