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Parnell Fund Challenge 2018

The Challenge

This Year’s Marcos Mamma’s House challenge where 17 cyclists predominantly from the medical world specializing in the treatment of urology conditions with a wide range of experience who gave up their time to spend 4 fabulous days cycling through the un spoilt region of Puglia in the south of Italy to help raise funds for The Parnell Fund, a charity that raises awareness of urology conditions and raises funds to enable a Bursary to be awarded each year for medical professions. We were also honored to have joining us professionals from the orthopedic, oral and maxiifacial and physiotherapy fields. Fuelled by plenty of lovely fresh Italian food and of course the odd glass of locally produced wine from the region, we cycled along quiet country roads, sun-drenched olive groves, and gorgeous coastal routes.

The route….
…typified Italian beauty. The beginning of the week was spent cycling through rural countryside covered with ancient olive trees and fields separated by stone walls. Scattered amongst them were the pretty white-washed trulli, traditional dry stone huts with a conical roof built as temporary storehouses or as permanent dwellings for farmhands.
We passed numerous small towns which most tourists would not normally stumble across, all with beautiful squares, Baroque churches and plenty of pavement cafes for a coffee break.

The towns and cities…
… Conversano a beautiful ancient town and commune in the Metropolitan City of Barthe. The first afternoon was spent setting up the bikes and then setting off on a warm ride to the Grotte di Castellana, a fascinating underground experience of the biggest Italian caverns. The Caves measure 3.348 meters in length, 122 meters in depth from the surface and have a constant temperature around 17°C.

Polignano is famous throughout the world for three things. First of all it is, as hinted above, cliff diving. In recent years the town has hosted the Red Bull diving competition, attracting crowds of 45,000 people in 2010! Second is its outstanding ice cream, which you really cannot afford to miss on a hot summer’s evening. The third and possibly most famous export of Polignano a Mare, however, is the great Domenico Modugno, who wrote and sang numerous classic songs, including the massive international hit, Volare.

The beautiful village of Alberobello, home to the famous “Trulli” houses. The amazing little rounded structures with cone shaped roofs are made out of limestone and date back to the 14th century. Closest thing I’ve ever felt to being in some sort of fantasy or fairytale world

Sitting on Puglia’s Adriatic coast around 30km south of Bari, Monopoli is a lovely town.
Like so many towns on the Adriatic, Monopoli’s history has been thoroughly influenced by its east-facing position and its fortified sea-front walls and castle tell many a story.

The old town of Bari provides a fantastic display of historical architecture. In early years, Bari was part of the Roman Empire and served as a major gateway to the Adriatic Sea, The combination of old and new is ever apparent in this wonderful coastal city.

The Italian drivers…
…were most courteous, once we worked out that their honking was just a friendly “Hello, just wanted to let you know we are here” rather than an aggressive “Get out of my way!” To be honest, I hadn’t been entirely sure what to expect, despite having had a pleasant surprise in the north of Italy on our Mantua to Venice tour. However, all cars gave us a respectable berth when passing, or held back if there was a bend. In fact we encountered very little traffic on the roads, which was wonderful, and the majority of our time was actually spent on cycle routes or tiny roads where we would occasionally encounter a tractor or a tiny Cinquecento.

The Parnell Fund would like to say a huge thank you to all those who participated in the challenge, the people who sponsored us and also to Alexandra, our long suffering guide.

We wait in baited breath for news of the next challenge…..