They call sex workers “women of the night”, but in some parts of Italy their hours are not so restricted. It must of been around noon that we passed the first one, in the countryside outside of Napoli. At first we though she was just waiting for a ride, albeit with a ridiculous amount of makeup on. But then we passed another. And another. Women with revealing clothes and crazy heavy makeup, just chillin’ in lawn chairs on the side of a secondary highway. Keep in mind that this is a straight-up rural area. There was nothing around but grain fields, buffo farms, and women of the… well, of the afternoon, I guess.
The ride from Napoli to Rome was surprisingly beautiful. The two cities are fairly close, and with Italy’s population density being what it is, I thought it would be all sprawl. Instead we saw calm agricultural land, sandy beaches, and stunning seaside cliffs. At one point we ran into a pair of touring cyclists who warned us that the upcoming stretch was ugly and bland. Thank god we ignored them. We cycled the same stretch of coastline on an adjacent road. It was the sea on one side and the lake on the other, with reedy sand dunes, pristine ocean views and hundreds of cyclists enjoying the perfect ride.
Rome’s sprawl zone was smaller than expected, but still substantial. It too was dotted with sex workers. We must have passed at least ten on the way into town. One drew particular attention by (I’m not making this up!) strutting around an industrial park in transparent lingerie, flexing her butt-muscles.
Rome, too, was full of surprises. First of all, it was less hectic than I’d expected, and much cleaner. I expected something grittier, but instead we found the city to be clean and well-maintained, with a decent amount of green space.
This is going to sound kind of silly, but I was also surprised by the grandeur of the tourist sites. I guess I shouldn’t have been. I mean, that’s why people go to Rome, right? Still, there’s something about the scale of it all that can only be appreciated first-hand.
I was equally surprised by the sheer volume of tourists. In some parts of town you can walk for kilometres and scarcely see a local. Still, the views are stunning enough that it’s worth braving the swarm for at least a day or two.
Still, the crowds were exhausting. After each day, we couldn’t wait to get back to the calm neighborhood of Ostiense, where our host, Davide, took us in with open arms.
Our stay with Davide was arranged by our friend Iman, who grew up in Italy, and whose parents we stayed with in Calabria. Needless to say, we owe her one.
Davide runs a bed and breakfast, and agreed to let us stay in an unbooked room. When that room was booked up he invited us to stay at his apartment instead. When we arrived, we learned that he was giving us his own bedroom, and that he was sharing the bedroom of his roommate Francesco. This was an incredible gesture by both of them, but they played it off like it was nothing, and even encouraged us to stay an extra day.
On our first night, we were treated to an incredible dinner with Davide’s roommates and friends. When we left, we baked him a thank you pie, which was really the least we could do.
The bike ride out of Rome was another pleasant surprise. A beautiful cycling path runs along the bank of the Tiber River, escorting us from the metropolis to its exurbs. From there we set out for the rolling hills of Tuscany.