DAY ONE 24/12/2014
I had a mind to go out early in the morning and then go to the office later on. Yet a change of schedule and the habit of working during the first half of the day on Christmas Eve have me wait till the afternoon.
Just the time to come back home and change my clothes. The afternoon is sunny, about 15°C.
It is the first time I get on my bike after the "pit stop" at the bike garage. Cicli Marangiolo made a good job, my bike responds very well, the gear poses no problem at all, the pedal thrust is precise and "agile"... Thanks!
I take the road to San Donato and then cycle up to Roccaforzata. I try to go faster in the pinewood, but I'm far from my better times, I'd better reach the viewpoint and enjoy the panorama for a couple of minutes.
I take the road to Monteparano, cycle down the quarries along a white road and then, on the provincial road leading to Lizzano, I find myself at the beginning of the service road to the Arneo area (one of my future routes).
Still cycling on provincial roads I reach Pulsano, then Leporano where I stop to sip a cappuccino with chocolate.
Talsano, Lama then San Vito again, while the sun goes down.
My day one of FESTIVE500 ends at 58 km (more than last year). A smooth bicycle trip, although I’ve been mislead by the sunny afternoon and have put on light clothes ending up feeling a bit cold during the last hour and a half of the trip.
At home I have to help with the last preparations for the Christmas Eve dinner, which I will spend peacefully with my family.

festive500 DAY ONE
With no hurry, being able to enjoy the beauty of a bicycle trip
Getting home at sunset is always enthralling
DAY TWO 25/12/2014
Dinner at home was good, I ate a bit of everything, neither limiting myself nor exaggerating. I disguised as Santa Claus to please Emma, opened the presents and then went to bed well after 01:00 am.The alarm clock sounds at 05:30 am. I have a very light breakfast and at 07:00 I am already on the road. The sky is cloudy, it is not very cold but could rain. I head for the "litoranea", the road running along the coast.
The sea is constantly on my right and when the houses make way for the vegetation, I can make out its wonderful colours: light-blue, turquoise, transparent hues... It is a flat sheet over which my thoughts can slide away.
At Torre Sgarrata I allow myself a further pause for reflection! Then I cycle straight to Campomarino, where I have an "espressino" and a cream bun, a conversation with signor Ettore at the pay desk and a glimpse of the first cyclists of the day as they pass by.
I cycle further to Monaco Mirante before coming back.
As usual, on my way back I meet a lot of cyclists. My legs respond very well and I cycle at 30 km/h.
The water still shows its enchanting beauty; when I cross the dunes, I hear the shrill cry of a seagull planing over the sea.
By the time I'm near Baia d'Argento, lunch is waiting for me.
I close the day with a total of 142 km and the first intermediate sprint at 125 along the way to 500!
festive500 DAY TWO
I can't give up comforts on Christmas day
One feels fine here
The sea in December is enchanting
DAY THREE 26/12/2014
When I leave home it’s still dark... The light under my saddle flashes in the dark and I can see its glare on the cold asphalt under my wheels.
The sky is cloudless over the hills surrounding Taranto. I decide to head for Martina Franca. I cross the sleepy town and enter the Circummarpiccolo, a recently restored road where biking is easy. The sun peeps out behind the clouds over the south-east horizon and the sheet of water fills up with shades of gold. The birds take the flight towards the marsh.
The first 20 km are intense... I start riding uphill to Ipercoop, then overtake the hippodrome and head for Montemesola. I cycle under the “Statale” road and set off to Crispiano. A winding road takes me to San Simone where I start cycling uphill on the Pilano slope (a must-do in this cycling celebration). I go on alone as far as the “masseria”, then I am overtaken by four cyclists who say hello. I quickly accelerate, engage the 53 and follow them. Their rhythm is good and the one leading the team rides at a constant speed of 18 km/h. After less than one kilometer the least trained of them breaks away from the group. The rest of us go on united, I ride behind and manage to take a picture.
We reach Pilano on top of the slope in 7 min. and 23 seconds. The three cyclists suddenly slow down to wait for their friend while I set off to Martina along the usual undulated road, between dry walls and the pinnacles of the trulli.
I bike uphill to the old city centre on a road made of stone slabs (called “chianche”): when in Crispiano I had decided to stop at Caffè Tripoli!
A flat TV set standing out among the black and white photos on the wall is the only detail out of place there. Yet, breakfast is excellent! A cappuccino and one bocconotto with ricotta and pears!
Before leaving the old city centre I can’t help taking a couple of pictures of Santa Claus’ unfailing village.
I ride downhill to San Paolo. It is impossible to describe the lucid, suspended air, pervaded as it is by the smell emanating from the chimney tops. I spring down the hill of Spacca Montagna, I could still accelerate but at 65 km/h I start applying the brakes, I bit frightened.
I decide to come back to Taranto by the “Statale” road. I dodge the usual carcasses, a fox is there as well, and pass through the quarter of Tamburi, then the old city and the seafront. I enter the cycle lane and ride as far as the naval base. At last I am home again.
The tripmeter shows 110 km.
By now 20 km will be enough to close the Granfondo 12. I leave the session open since I will take part in a Critical Mass in the afternoon!!
At the end of the day I am at the watershed for the festive500 and close the Granfondo 12 (which I dedicate to my friend Gaga) at 131 km!

festive500 DAY THREE
The sun over Mar Piccolo (the Small Sea)
Along the road to Martina Franca
Down the slope of Spacca Montagna
work in progress
DAY FOUR 27/12/2014
Today too it is still dark when I go out. There’s a strong northerly wind blowing, which means it is bitterly cold.
I cycle towards Taranto and after the "double bend" I can see its white and yellow lights shining in the distance.
It is the first working day after the Christmas holidays and the town has awaken from its sleepiness.
After my negative experience at the Critical Mass last night, I feel bound to call on the Wolf’s ghost bike... Then I leave the city centre crossing the still empty parking area of a megastore, and take no further notice of this Saturday morning made of queues, hurly-burly, false greetings and best clothes, things which don’t belong to me!
My wheels turn quickly towards San Giorgio Jonico, driven by a favourable wind. I go up the hill biking along side roads with challenging inclines, and discovering demanding côtes as well. I reach the viewpoint and have a look at Taranto, by now flooded by the sunlight and busy with the morning activities on this first Saturday after the Christmas holidays.
I keep on cycling uphill across the village, then go down in a depression from where I go up again to Roccaforzata. I stop in front of the feudal castle, then go down crossing a pinewood and finally enter a secondary road which leads me to Leporano.
So vivid in my mind is the memory of my break at Caffè Tripoli yesterday that I can’t spoil it by having a simple “espresso e cornetto”.... so I stop to buy a fresh egg at a poultry farm along the road.
I come back by the litoranea road. Now the headwind blows right against my face. I slow down, enjoy the day and clench my teeth because of my inner thigh slightly aching.
I am back home after just 55 km, and I start feeling a bit tired.

festive500 DAY FOUR
Lethargic Taranto at the first light of down
Long live to wolf (The Howlers)
From the viewpoint at San Giorgio Jonico
DAY FIVE 28/12/2014
Going out when it’s cold, in the pouring rain, is not madness, nor a sacrifice, not even a proof of one’s courage... Biking in this weather is showing consideration for those who are facing festive500 in far worse and more challenging weather.
I don’t have much time and 20 to 30 km will be enough. Whether I manage to total 500 or not, I don’t want to have to wonder "What if I had gone out that afternoon??"
I cycle quietly, an almost leisurely ride. The road is wet and slippery. I choose the closing route as last year, which I rode in the rain as well. First I try to get overshoes. No way: I can only find one, and cannot keep two feet in one overshoe (a rule of life indeed!)
I cover the whole of the “litoranea” road up to Saturo and then come back.
I don't meet any cyclist, only a few cars, even fewer people.
The sky is grey and the roaring sea makes itself be heard.
I get home, wet of course. I quickly change clothes and then run to the launderette to wash and dry the technical clothing used during the last 5 days.
Quite a few kilometers to ride remain, and the weather forecasts are not good at all.

festive500 DAY FIVE
Saturo beach
w a t e r
Back home
The road is wet
DAY SIX 29/12/2014
Today, back to work. Of course I go to the office by bike. Last night I went to the office to leave my bag with a change of clothes.
From home to the desk there are little more than 8 km... too few! I go out in the dark and start a wider tour: I go to San Giorgio Jonico passing by the cemetery of Talsano. The morning is very cold but the sky will be clear. I turn at the roundabout and take the large road which will lead me straight to Taranto. I have seen the sun rising many times, on my bike as well... but when the sun hits my back I can’t help feeling as if it were the first sunrise of my life. Cold, tiredness and the desire to reach my shadow which stretches towards the target of 500 km.
I reach the town and pass by the office. It's still early so I go for a ride round the centre, then finally go to the office to change and start working, having already totaled 30 km.
My colleagues ask me what stage I’ve come to and they say they are sure I will reach my target.
At 12:00 I wear the cyclist clothes again, once more ready for the road. The 8 km road to home being too short, I take the same road as before after struggling a bit in the city traffic. I reach the industrial area of Faggiano and then start my last ride of the year uphill to Roccaforzata.
I go down the Madonna della Camera road, reach Lizzano and then, driven by the strong wind, reach the litoranea at Bagnara.
The coast road is upwind. While I bike at low speed I can see the water nebulizing at the crest of the waves.
The road from Bagnara to Torre Sgarrata is covered with sand, which makes me go on paying more attention.
After a small spurt to reach Fatamorgana, I find the right rhythm to go on upwind. Cycling while the sun lightens my face is a real pleasure.
I also have the time to call on Lucia’s house where I find her and Enzo busy cleaning after the flood.
I reach home after 91 km. Have a shower, a hot meal and then go to the office again.

festive500 DAY SIX
On the bike, dawn is always soul-stirring
The wind blows hard
Sand on the road
DAY SEVEN 30/12/2014
This morning it’s very cold and I’m not used to it. The weather forecast is about possible snowfalls. What’s more, I have to go to the office. I was not sure I could ride almost 100 km yesterday, only 50 now remain and despite the weather conditions I have a mind to ride them all today. While at my desk I can see it starts snowing heavily, but it doesn't last long and the sun peeps out again after a short time.
I stop working for the lunch break and at 2:00 pm I’m on my bike on the litoranea road again.
It’s really cold: I’m wearing two pairs of socks and have the neck warmer pulled up on the nape of my neck. Yet on my right the sun is shining.
I pedal with no hurry, observing the sky above me. My idea is to reach Bagnara and come back, exactly 50 km from home, a distance I cover at least once a week.
After Torre Sgarrata I become aware of a big cloud getting nearer. Just one kilometer before my turning point, the snow starts falling in flakes... When I turn back at the 25th km, I take notice of the scenery around me:
the sea, the sand, the blue sky, not far away an ice grey cloud. It’s snowing in the sun and if I turn to the other side I can see the moon as well.
I witness an atmospheric phenomenon I have never seen before: the difference in temperature between the sea water and the air coming down from the cloud to the sea - which by now looks like
crêpe paper - makes the sea “smoke”.
On the litoranea road a crowd of amazed and interested people huddle together ready to immortalize this surprising phenomenon, and I too can’t help making it everlasting and enjoying this natural event.
I cycle home with my feet freezing in the bitter cold and my eyes watching the asphalt strip running quickly under the wheels while the clouds fill up with
iridescent highlights. As the sky gets slowly darker, I reach home having covered a bit more than 500 km one day ahead of time.

festive500 DAY SEVEN
“Nuvolerapide” (Subsonica)
The difference in temperature makes the sea “smoke”
Towards home, reaching 500!
DAY EIGHT 31/12/2014
I have covered my 500 kilometers one day ahead of time, so no biking today, seems almost strange to me! I went to Ciccio’s yesterday to celebrate his fortieth birthday; he is a friend, a fellow-cyclist in so many bike adventures.
It has snowed all night but this doesn’t prevent me and Paola from going to work, half a working day today.
Emma has woken up too late and couldn’t see the garden covered with snow, so we set off on the snow mission in the afternoon. She is over the moon, it’s the first time she sees the snow and dips her hands in it, despite the icy cold... Once more I can see the spark of happiness in her eyes, that happiness children feel for simple things, really important ones; I believe it's the same spark I have in my eyes when I do the simplest things… such as riding my bike!
Emma, Paola and I stop at a bar to order something. The service is slow, at last we get our two “espressini” and a hot chocolate. In the bar garden we build a small snowman.
We go back home to get ready for New Year’s Eve dinner, which we are going to have with the rest of the family. My 2014 couldn’t end in a better way.

festive500 DAY EIGHT
Best wishes Ciccio 
Emma and the snow for the first time
Emma and Paola 
The country at San Donato as I have never seen before
Welcome 2015
THE DAY AFTER 01/01/2015
What are the sensations when you meet your goal?
Tiredness, pain, joy... excitement.
I like #festive500 because to cover 500 km by bike between Christmas Day and New Year's Eve - when it’s cold and you’re still working, have to see many people and visit relations, have to sit at tables and open gifts - not only do you need good legs but also time, you need the luck to find time, spirit of self-sacrifice and patience to pay everything and everybody the attention they deserve... You have to be alone on the road but need the company of someone who listens to you when you go out and it's still dark or raining and is ready to hug you when you come back home.
You need friends who look at you skeptically and ask "what makes you do that?", you need friends who understand your self-sacrifice and encourage you to go on.
You need the strength to cross the finishing line without thinking of those who have crossed it before you or of those who have got off the bike along the road. You need the strength to master happiness and satisfaction, the strength to close your eyes, get on the bike and pedal, ahead, towards a new goal!!
Thank you Paola and Emma for your time and love, thank you CICLI MARANGIOLO for your assistance and expertise, thank you Lalla for your precious friendship too. Thank you Ciccio for your support, thank you Silvia for your enthusiasm, thank you Gaga for biking with me for some kilometers during this adventure, thanks to my colleagues, thank you Gabriella for the English section, thank you HOWLERS and long live the WOLF.
Thanks Rapha and Strava for indicating the last kilometer and for letting anyone be free to put themselves to test and enjoy their route to the finishing line.



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