2014 France / Italy Ride Continued
After breakfast I retrieved the bike from the ancient garage, we loaded up and were off up through the olive trees towards the forest on our way to the Adriatic Coast road north. A word about the olive trees; our host and owner of the old (the building is over 1000 years old) inn at Vieste is part time rancher and part time innkeeper. In 1740 his ancestors sold part of the large (a good part of the “spur of Italy) farm holdings and bought the Vieste monastery from the monks who had just competed a new one; it has served as their family’s home ever since. Since then, everyone before our host’s generation was born in the house (which takes up the large part of a city block). They are slowly renovating the structure, living in part of it, renting some of it out to local merchants and (now) use the remainder as a guesthouse. During our conversations (with our host) he described some of the family farming activities at the ranch, mostly the harvesting of olives. He explained that since they had approximately 50K trees it took from October to April to complete the harvest which was done using three crews consisting of a tractor driver/air compressor operator, pickers and fellows who managed the netting laid out under the trees to catch the olives. The leader of the three part team was the net captain who would determine when a particular tree’s harvest was complete and signal when it was time to move to an adjacent tree. The olives, after being collected in the netting, were taken to boxes stacked nearby for transport to the building where the olives were pressed. One of the reasons, he explained, the harvest takes so long is that after a few a few boxes have been filled, they stop and press the olives to make sure that the fruit is fresh and the oil in the best condition possible before picking more olives. He explained that this was inefficient, slow and costly, but that it produced the best oil. Many of the trees on his farm/ranch are, he told us, over 700 years old and have enormous trunks. After crossing the mountains and dropping down on the the east (Adriatic) coast, we rode up along the small road next to the seashore hoping to see the coastline.Unfortunately, it was mostly hidden from view by native vegetation or, in more inhabited areas, by buildings or in farm land by vast fields under cultivation with vegetables which extended to the coast. There were a few spots where we could get a glimpse of the ocean, but, for the most part it was out of view. So later in the day, we took an inland loop through some villages Ethel had learned were established by immigrants from Albania during the 15th century. These folks have, according to the Lonely Planet, assimilated for the most part, but retain some distinctive cultural differences (e.g., having bull chariot races each spring), use some unique architectural characteristics and have retained some of their native language forming a composite dialect that most Italians find unintelligible. We continued up the coast to Vasto where, across from the old castle, Ethel spotted a sign for a Zimmer (German for room) we so stopped, secured a room and got the bike parked in the courtyard and took a stroll around the old town. We’d had a big pasta lunch rather late so just had a beer and an appetizer before walking back to our room and working on the route for the next day. We had been a little disappointed with the seaside route to Vasto so elected to head west tomorrow and set a route back into the mountains through rural areas and a couple of national parks.