Umbria rides (Colin)
AssisiSpello. Spello is an attractive town if slightly overrated. Three gorgeous frescoes by Pinturricchio in the Sta. Maria church at the low part of town are worth a visit; its a shame about the plate glass doors which protect them.
An equally enjoyable ride, this time on tarmac all the way, slinks round the back of M. Subasio through Armenzano, even dinkier than Collepino and currently under restoration. The views to the north are very good.
Nocera Umbra. Not a good trip. It begins well along the beautiful wooded Téscio valley from Assisi in the direction of Gualdo Tacino. A signposted road climbs steeply through oak forest to Sta. Maria Lignano, 740m, where tarmac stops. Follow along gravel through unsignposted junctions, guessing wildly at each one. If you make the same guesses as I did you end up at a high point of 830m, with good views of M. Subasio to the south, and at last catch a glimpse of the preposterous new stilted Via Flaminia below to the east. Drop down and youre soon at Nocera.
Nocera is a sad place, badly hit in the 1997 earthquake, with temporary accommodation around it and the old centre a building site. I rode to the horrible quarry town of Bagnara and made a circuit of M. Verguglio, a route easily seen on the Kompass map but affording no pleasure, returning to Nocera to have another belated lunch in a family-run hotel restaurant. For the return journey I followed the old Via Flaminia as far as the steep gravel zigzagging climb up the Sentiero degli Ulivi, dropped mistakenly to Foligno and flogged along the valley to Assisi, where my beloved having gorged herself on icecreams informed me that I was late.
Monte Nerone. A good ride, but a long way from Assisi. There are 3 routes up the mountain, all tarmacked in spite of appearances from the map: the main road from Serravalle, another from Pióbbico, and a third from Pianello which seems to be the sporting climb with 19 numbered hairpins.
I took the car as far as Apécchio and then rode cheerfully down the gorge to Pióbbico (339m). After the village a right turn is signposted for 3 destinations one of which is Rocca Leonella. Take this turning, and after a couple of km another sharp right; the direction Monte Nerone is painted on a retaining wall. This road carries almost no traffic. Climb and climb until you reach the masts at the top (1535m). There may be views, but not in the weather we enjoyed. Retrace a little and take an obvious right turn along a road which stubbornly refuses to lose height until you hurtle down the zigzags to Cerreto and proceed to Pianello (399m) where you may get a snack lunch from a café.
Now climb to Serravalle along a valley whose high reaches are very attractive. At Serravalle treat yourself to a little more climbing by turning left to Acquapartita before another helter-skelter descent to Apécchio.
Umbria rides (Tracey)
The quickest way between Assisi and Gubbio is via the N.298, which is a tolerable road. The N.219 past Gubbio is flat and busy. There is a good café at Mocaiana.
The minor road via Pietralunga to Città di Castello is lovely, scenic, and quiet.
From Città di Castello to Pióbbico, on the N.257, is pleasant and fairly quiet, and there are some restaurants along the road. I stopped at a cafe in Apécchio. There is also a spring here a little way out of the village, on the Pietralunga road, which is another lovely route.
On the N.257 there is a gorge after Pióbbico. Now we reach the main feature, the climb of Monte Nerone. This is a wonderful road, a road made for cyclists, narrow and it goes without saying scenic. In the entire climb I didnt meet a single vehicle on the road, though there was a parked minibus belonging to a party of geologists. The clouds did me out of the view I deserved, but even in the mists, the mountain top with its peaceful green meadows felt like heaven.
After descending I returned to Gubbio via Pianello and Pietralunga. There is a substantial climb on the road to Pietralunga of which the map denies all knowledge.
From Gubbio to Assisi, there is a nicer but harder route than the N.298, via the minor road to the east. At first it seems terribly busy with lorries, but theres a cement works at the end of the valley, and once you are past this, it is quiet. I remember it as being a hard ride, but I had already been riding for hours. It is certainly very hilly. My route went through Casa Castalda and S. Presto. The map marks part of this as white road, but in fact its all paved, and at some point becomes clearly marked to Assisi. Its very beautiful indeed as you approach Assisi. Finally you meet the N.444 and enjoy a long descent. This back approach to the town is thrilling, which partly compensates for the torture of yet another climb. Prepare grovelling apologies for lateness.