Had a lovely day today. I set off a bit later than usual at 8:30am, along the coast a bit and then inland to meet Giuliano from the Brompton Groups. On the way I met a French cyclist, Charles Robert, who was coming back from India (via Iran) and had by the look of it far too much luggage. Panniers from and back, with stuff piled on top of the rear panniers, and a trailer the size of mine.
In the main square of Ascoli I met an English family on holiday, who enquired about my ride, and promised to donate money to Camfed, the charity I’m supporting while riding. When Giuliano and his wife, Diana, turned up on their Bromptons we set off for a tour of the town, with Giuliano riding mine with luggage still attached. I think he had a bit ofa shock at the weight!
After the tour I got to go in a car to a house were I’ll be spending the night in a bed. It has quite a novelty value now! Giuliano and his family fed me a very filling and delicious meal, with lots of fruit and veg grown in the garden there. I must say thankyou once agan to Giuliano for his generous hospitality – it was just what a tired English cyclist needed!
Well last night was fun. The Italian chavs from the campsite got back from the beach at about 7pm, to get ready to go out on the pull. They spoke no English, me very limited Italian, and it seems it’s not just the English who think if you talk slowly and loud enough people will understand a different language. After explaining I’d cycled from London they said I was crazy. When I said I was going around the world they upgraded that to insane!
Anyway, darkness came, they left for the clubs and I went to bed. As the sun was rising, they were getting back, and I was packed up ready to cycle (and I ddn’t pay the extortionate fee!)
The cycling was nice today. Italy seems to be full of guys in lycra on racing bikes imitating road pack cycling from cycle races. They either cycle alone, or in groups of 5 to sometimes over 50, and go very fast. But usually they all cheer and wave and say ‘Inglese!’ as they pass! One guy on a normal bike today stopped be, and said he was planning on cycling from Italy and along the French coast to Barcelona next summer, but that he needed a new bike first. I sid why if his worked and was comfortable. He said good point!
The campsite tonight was up a very steep hill (the type with grooves cut across the road to give cars traction, and which no bike could possibly hope to cycle up), but had a very nice pool!
Good day. Very good day. In France cycling 40km by lunch was good going. Today I did 30km by breakfast, and 70km by lunch! Rimini however is awful. Tacky seaside resort. Not my kind of place. Only here for one night though. I did manage to see the Adriatic – I caught a glimpse through the rows of beach umbrellas. The campsite is not so good. They want 22 Euro for a muddy patch surrounded by chav hell. They also want me to pay tomorrow before I go, and don’t have any of my documents. I can see this being a free night!
The GB sticker and Union Jack on the trailer are fantastic. Several times today people have talked to me because they’ve seen it. In Forli, a guy called Paolo admired my trailer, saying he wanted one himself. He was amazed I’m going around the world, and offered to pull me a few km’s with his scooter! I politely declined!
The internet cafe here used Linux, which I don’t understand very well anyway, and this version is in Italian, so I can’t work out how to upload photos. Give me a mac and I’ll have them all uploaded!
I cycled along the Via Emilia for 90km today, without leaving it once – the Romans certainly knew how to build roads.
Just past Imola, in Castel Bolognese, the thunder clouds moved in. I quickly saw a spot between rows of vines, and put my tent there. The only place people can see me from is the end, where cars are moving very fast, so I should be ok!
I found another war cemetary today, in Bologna, and it was so nicely kept. I ate lunch on its shady grass and peaceful quiet. Imola is a really nice city. The Via Emilia in has a really nice cycle lane, with benches in the shade and drinking water fountains. The city centre is clean and looked after, the people are friendly. It’s the first Italian city I’ve been to that I could live in and not be frustrated with!
However. I think I may have reached the end of my tether. The trip isn’t worth this. I’ve had the Spice Girls stuck in my head all day. Please, just kill me now! Cycling around the world is easy compared to having the same part of the same Spice Girls song stuck in your head all day.
I started on nice country roads today, then got to the Via Emilia. This is the old Roman road from Milan to Rimini on the Adriatic coast, that goes in basically a straight line. At Parma (of ham fame) I ended up on the by-pass with thundering trucks going by. At Reggio (of parmesan cheese fame) I found the right way, and went in a straight line through the middle of the town. At Modena (of balsamic vinegar and Ferrari fame) I found the campsite. The weather was hot today. The lowest temparature I saw on a thermometer was 35C, with the highest 39C. But the campsite had a pool, which was fantastic.
I’ve discovered two side effects of all the cycling. The first, while my legs are strong for cycling, I think they are the same strength otherwise, and I keep pulling tendans and muscles when not cycling. The other is, turning lots of fat into muscle has made me denser, and less able to float easily in a swimming pool. Oh well, can’t be good at everything!
I left the campsite at 9am, and it took me 3 hours to find my way out of Milan. The signposts are great if you only want to go to Pavia (south) or Monza (north east), but anywhere else and you’re on your own. Another thing – I can’t remember ever having seen a prostitute touting for business by the side of the road before (sure, I’ve been to Amsterdam, but that’s different). Coming out of Milan I saw 9. I’m not trying to say what a sheltered life i’ve led, just making an observation. I’m not impressed with Milan at all, dirty, smelly, badly signposted, badly maintained, confusing, unfriendly people. I’d be surprised if I ever find a reason to go back.
Anyway, the rest of the day was good. I stopped for lunch in Tavazzano. There I met a fantastic old guy. My Italian isnàt really conversational – I can order stuff in shops – and his English was poor. But we found a way to communicate. I said Ferrari eccelento, I said McLaren (he didn’t like that), he said in Italia, “bella donna” (beautiful women), well I could hardly dissagree with that!
Got to Cremona and stopped there. The problem is not my legs – they can go for ever now – it was my bum. Far too sore!
Rest day in Milan. In an internet cafe where I can’t plug my camera in, so no more pictures yet – you’ll just have to be patient! Loving Italy, my Italian is coming back already!
In Milan I lost my water bottle, but literally a minute later I saw a Decathlon sports store. I also bought a smaller backpack to replace mine, which is too big really.
Back at the campsite I met Guido and Robert, and then Frank and Linda (apologies if names are wrong, my memory is awful!), all from the Netherlands. We made dinner as a group, and drank lots of beer. It was a most enjoyable evening, but I had to leave them in the morning to carry on the trip.
Today I had a choice. Cycle 80-90km to the last campsite before Milan, or cycle 180+km to a campsite in Milan. I did the 80km by lunch, so decided to get to Milan today. Cycling for 9 hours at an average 20kph is not easy, especially on a Brompton towing lots of weight. But I did it. I’m now a day ahead of schedule, so having a rest day in Milan tomorrow.
This is the big day where I have to get over the Gd St Bernard pass, and I did it. I set off at 7:30am at 1000m altitide. 25km later at 1pm I made it. I’d risen to 2.5km altitide. All the cyclists that were on speedy racing bikes and passed me on the way up congratulated me – it was reassuring to see even them struggling on the best suited bikes!
Coming down was scary. The Italian side is being resurfaced and in some places is just gravel on tarmac – not the best combination with small wheels, slick tyres, a trailer and overheated brakes. So I took it slowly and made it to Aosta. At the campsite I met English Dave, who is driving around Europe and cycling all the mountain bike tracks. I went for pizza and beer with him and a couple of French girls also from the campsite. Good day.
Today managed to roll trailer twice. I realised it’s because the design is not perfectly balanced, and my packing was making it worse. When turning left into a corner on an adverse camber and braking it has a tendancy to shift its weight and roll. I broke the flag on one roll, so it’s now a bit shorter. I’ve also re-packed it, and know what situation can cause it. Hopefully it won’t happen again.
Now my computer and internet are working again I can start making regular posts again, so here’s my plan for Italy.
The Romans certainly knew how to build roads. Anne Mustoe describes the Roman roads in Italy as being engineered for a human scale, in that they may be long and wind around mountain sides, but the gradients are slight to allow a much easier passage for human and animal traffic of 2000 years ago. For this reason and others, I’m really looking forward to the Italian leg of the trip.
Italy will start by freewheeling down into Aosta from the Great St Bernard Pass, and on to St Vincent that day. I’ll have a rest Day there to recover from just having cycled over the Alps, before continuing on to Milan and then along the Via Emilia, a perfectly straight Roman road going all the way to Rimini. Travelling will be 70-90km a day, depending on how fast I feel like going, or where I feel like stopping, but I do plan on having another rest day in Bologna.
From Rimini I’ll cycle up to San Marino and spend the night there so it counts as a country visited, before cycling back to the coast and heading south along the coast road, taking about 10 days to get from San Marino to Brindisi in the ‘heel’ of Italy. Once in Brindisi I’ll stay in a hostel (relative luxury) for a night, before getting a ferry to Greece.
So that’s Italy, a country I’m really looking forward to cycling through with the culture and food and scenery, and the generally laid back attitude that I’ll do my best to join in with! Next up, Greece…