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  • Jamie Shannon

Perugia, a party by a lake and a ramble on a vespa!

It was extremely nice to see Francesca as it had been a long time since we last met in Amsterdam. She looked like some kind of angel, being dressed head to toe in the most brilliant white but which I later understood to be her way of mourning for her dog. We walked through town, stopping for pizza on the way, and upon seeing where she was living, parted my mouth in that way you sometimes do when you see something that catches you off guard. I was awe struck as it was simply the most beautiful house I had ever seen. Nestled around a tiny courtyard and overlooking the surrounding streets and historic buildings, it looked like something out of a fairy tale. It was that beautiful. I couldn’t believe people actually lived there.

After a quick shower, we were on our way to small festival by a lake some 40km’s away to meet some of her friends and this was to be only my second time on the back of a scooter. I think I had my helmet on ridiculously early, perhaps ten minutes before it needed to be but I was very excited at the prospect of cruising through the countryside the Italian way.

I tell you now that it was just a little nerve racking speeding along the roads, at times, in complete darkness, owing to the lack of street lighting but it was exhilarating. What a ride! I realised later it was her first time giving someone a lift too which troubled me a little but I was safe all the same. I do find it a little strange though that I’m willing to speed along at seventy/eighty km/h through darkened country roads on a scooter but I’m not willing to catch a plane. That’s just the way it is though.

We spent a wonderful night there, drinking, chatting whilst listening to regee in the background. Later on, we drove a short distance to a house that belonged to one of Francesca’s friends, a very old and secluded farm house of the very kind you associate with Italy. The best thing about it though, were the views. Stretching out for miles in every direction were the parched but forested and surprisingly green hills of Umbria. It was a beautiful sight and one that Nadia could call her own. I was thus left very envious indeed.

Anyway we didn’t leave the next day either. We were about to, however we stopped off at the village bar on our way and not surprisingly found ourselves still sat there at eleven. I was talking mostly to a retired English guy, Clive. I was enjoying it immensely as I hadn’t spoken to anyone English in over four months, well at least not in real time.

I had wanted to get moving the next day as I knew I would need at least one and a half days in order to cycle to Ancona where onward transport would be waiting. We didn’t get back to Perugia until late and I still hadn’t properly seen the city and so another day here it was. I would awake bright and early and cycle as hard and as fast as I could all day in order to get to the port by seven.

We enjoyed some good food, well I thought it was good but it gave Francesca stomach cramps. I think my stomach can take anything you throw at it to be honest. Having walked around and discovered the city a little, I made my way back to Francesca’s house to put my head down for the night, hoping that I would manage to drag myself out of a comfy bed early enough to make it across to Ancona.

I wasn’t awake until eight and it was ten am by the time I felt like moving the next morning. After helping Fra with some very odd translations into English we said our goodbye’s and I made my way down to the station to book a ticket to Ancona. Having done that quickly and very effortlessly, I found myself walking around the train station looking for some kind of lift to take me and bike across the platforms to number three but I just couldn’t find it anywhere. After asking I was told that it didn’t exist and with a sudden despair realised I would have to haul my bike down the stairs into the subway and up again. It’s difficult enough to get the thing onto the train let alone two pretty steep staircases. I managed to get it down fairly easy and without incident but going back up was murder. Two guys had to help me which I was extremely grateful for.

Whilst I was sat their on the train and looking out the windows and seeing the stunning scenery I was missing, I got an urge just to get off as I simply didn’t want to miss it being even more spectacular than when I arrived three days before. This is exactly what I did.

When the Train rolled into Fabriano I thought to hell with this and got off. I was still perhaps 70km’s from Ancona and thought this was a doable distance as it was still only two but it would be a close call that’s for sure.

A young guy on the platform helped me to get the bike off the train and with that done, I looked around hoping there was a lift somewhere and when I spotted it in the distance, I was made a happy man indeed.

The strange and annoying thing about getting out here was that, as I began to cycle out of the city, the landscape changed dramatically. Whereas before it consisted of beautifully rugged mountains covered in forest, now it began to change into one of rolling green hills and farms. I had missed it completely and I had now gotten off the train. Nevertheless, I still had some way to go and just put my foot down as it were in order to make it to Ancona on time.

Luckily for me, the last 60 km’s or so had been mostly flat or downhill as I neared the coast and so by seven, I found myself in Ancona where I immediately began to make my way to the port. Fortunately, this stood pretty much by the centre, and having made my way there, began to queue up with the other cars that were waiting to enter the boarding area.

I was told then that I first had to go and check in which of course I knew, it’s just that I hadn’t seen anywhere to do this on the way through. The officer told me to go back about 2km’s to a small roundabout where it was signposted. Man alive, it was already half past seven and the boat was due to leave at 8:15. This was not good.

I cycled back as fast as I could possibly go and found the building where I was to book in. There were quite a few foot passengers waiting outside for buses to take them to the ferry, mostly backpackers. This was a complete contrast to the ferries I had taken before where it seemed vast majority of queue up.

I was a little worried they wouldn’t accept my ticket as it was simply downloaded onto my kindle whereas everybody else were clutching paper tickets. I hoped that this wasn’t a Ryan Air affair. Sure enough, when my turn came, the guy said it was the first time he had seen a ticket on a kindle. They really are the most useful of things I thought.

It was getting worryingly late now and with my ticket procured, I got out of there and began to cycle back towards the port with the immediacy of someone who’s about to miss a flight.

I arrived, dripping with sweat as the last of the cars were being driven on and waited but five minutes until I called myself forward. I had made it with minutes to spare and I vowed to sink a few cold beers when on board to celebrate the fact. In ten hours I would be in Croatia, Eastern Europe and I could not have been happier. A new journey awaited!


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