Ah, Italy! Fantastic coffee, even better gelato, stunning mountains… what more could a cyclist ask for?
Well, how about plenty of fields to relax in (see the picture), ancient history around every corner and a joie de vivre in every day life.
Italy was a very enjoyable camping experience and we were there twice – once crossing from France to Slovenia and a second time going from northern Europe towards Greece.
Two mountain peaks, two countries…. was it too much for one day? We started out fresh after a great night’s sleep; it was so peaceful camping in a field full of Alpine wildflowers and beside a rushing river. By mid-morning we’d covered 10km of switchbacks and found ourselves cruising over the Col du Lautaret at
We made the most of our luxury night in the hotel, sleeping in late, eating a huge breakfast (coffee, juice, croissants, bread, jam, nutella, museli, bananas and cherries) and taking two showers each. Then we practiced the art of dawdling as we packed up, waiting for the skies to clear. No such luck. The rain
The sun finally came out and followed us throughout the day as we rolled through Italian farmland and the vineyards that produce some of the country’s great wines like Barolo. Now out of the rainy Alps, it really felt like we’d arrived in Italy: the houses covered in red clay tiles and frescoes, the turretted
So far we’ve had a reasonably wet ride across Europe but today we got a taste of what we could have for the rest of the summer, and we’re not sure which we prefer! The part of Italy we’re in at the moment is sweltering; hot and muggy. A sign in one town we passed
When we started out this morning, cycling from the wine city of Asti into the surrounding fields of wheat and corn, the last thing we expected to be doing was sharing a tagine with a Moroccan family. We thought the hospitality of that wonderful country was far behind us but we were wrong. Today, we
We struggled to find our rythym today. Maybe it was the late night with our new friends, too little sleep or just the heat taking its toll again, but by the time we got to Pavia we were shattered. We fought traffic the whole way into the city and the weather – once again hovering
We set a route straight north today, in our quest to get away from the muggy weather around the river Po and the hordes of mosquitos breeding in the region’s rice fields. This took us past the Certosa of Pavia, a monastery where we stopped to admire incredible marble front and thousands of sculptures. Then
After a bit of a struggle finding a spot to wild camp the night before, it was a nice surprise to find the perfect place in the afternoon today. A grassy corner, flanked by a corn field on one side and tall trees on the other was the perfect place to stop early, read a
Where in the world can you find the Virgin Mary overlooking an amusement park? In Italy, of course! We are now making our way up the eastern coast of Lake Garda, a holiday spot that’s extremely popular in the summer with Italians and Germans. It’s packed with restaurants, luxury campgrounds and all forms of entertainment,
Today we played the Italian tourist, pedalling along the shore of Lake Garda along with the masses of other visitors. The towns we passed through offered an odd mixture of posh cafés, expensive boutiques and, at the same time, shops selling inflatable pool toys and cheesy souvenirs. We enjoyed it though as we hit the
We put the bikes into high gear today and sped along the smooth and vineyard-lined bicycle path that links Trent and Bolzano. The trail was well done in every respect – paved, well marked and with lots of water and picnic tables – and this meant it was also heavily used. We saw dozens of
“There can’t be many more corners,” we said to each other over and over again today as we slogged our way up the Dolomite mountains. Switchback after switchback appeared as we rose steadily into the sky. Halfway up we stopped to wet our t-shirts in a mountain stream and then kept on climbing. Bolanzo, the
Of all the places we’ve slept since our trip began, few have been more tranquil than the little spot we found high up in the Alps. Only the sounds of cow bells jingling in a nearby pasture came to wake us up. The field around us was filled with wildflowers and was truly beautiful to
We flew down the mountain that leads to Cortina this morning – doing a steady 50km an hour as we cruised into the valley and still racing cyclists were passing us. Zoom, zoom, zoom. Every couple of minutes another group sped by on their way to the bottom. It was a great feeling coming into
It was time to move on today, after a weekend of curling and partying. For seven years now we’ve come to Cortina in June for their curling tournament and when we discovered we could make it this year on our bikes we weren’t about to miss our chance to get back on the ice and
If you cycle in Italy, you can almost count your distance by the number of roadside chapels and offerings to the Virgin Mary. In the Alps, when we first crossed into Italy, we saw a picture of the Virgin attached to a tree. More common are little shelters made of stone or wood with candles,
“Why are we going up this hill?” That was what Friedel wanted to know as we pushed and sweated our way up a gruelling hill. “Because we like it,” came the answer from Andrew, not entirely convincingly. Ah. Of course we like it…. this is what we gave up our jobs for, right?!? We’d heard
One day, three countries. We woke up in Austria, had lunch in Switzerland and went to sleep in Italy. Our mini one-day tour of Europe was thanks to the Via Claudia bike path, which uses one of the easiest paths over the Alps for cyclists. None of the border guards were interested in our passports.
Our hard work climbing yesterday paid off today as we hopped on our bikes for a roller-coaster ride downhill and out of the mountains. It really was the bicycle equivalent of being on a theme park thrill ride as the bike path led us around swerving corners, through narrow alleyways in tiny villages and down
After days of complaining about the rain and cold temperatures, now we can comment on the exact opposite. What a difference in the weather since we descended from the Alps, through Italy’s German speaking South-Tirol region and into the start of the plains that surround the Po river valley. It’s no longer chilly and wet
We’ve started feeling the heat again so we made an extra effort to get up and rolling early before the sun began working its magic. Cloudy skies helped us along and we made good time along the wonderful Via Claudia cycle path, which meanders along the Adige river and through plenty of vineyards, growing grapes
We had a cat to accompany us at breakfast this morning, purring by our sides as we sat at the picnic tables in Verona’s campground eating our cereal. She looked like a city cat who’d found a good thing; a spot where plenty of passing tourists will give her food. We started her day off with
When in Italy, do as the Italians do. This time of year, all the Italians are at the beach so we set a course for the seaside as well, first rolling by more farming fields outside of Ferrara and down a busy road into Ravenna, a town known for its many stunning early-Christian mosaics. We
We continued our tour of the Italian seaside today. Despite yesterday’s warnings from the Ravenna tourist bureau we had a very easy time making our way along the coast. Small local roads run the whole way along the beach and we didn’t have to revert to the busy and narrow Adriatica SS16 once. Most Italians
We started and ended our day with seaside climbs, first waking up with a rolling coastal road which took us up and through groves of vineyards and pine trees to the picturesque town of Fiorenzuola, where we stopped for a cappuccino with several other racing cyclists. Coffee finished, we quickly dropped back down to sea
The screaming downhill that ended our day yesterday turned into our early morning workout. We huffed and puffed our way up the two kilometers or so of twists and turns and topped the summit, rewarded by fantastic views over the sea from the top. From there it was nearly all downhill to the coast, where
After a month in the beautiful rolling-hilltop region of Italy called Le Marche, it’s time for us to move on once again. We have truly had a wonderful time staying with the Wills family, earning our keep by doing lots of painting and household chores for them, while sampling the local wine, swimming in the
We hauled ourselves out of bed before the first light hit the skies and by 7am we were speeding down the hills of Le Marche towards the town of Pedaso, where we caught a train to Ancona and then boarded our ferry for Greece. We briefly considered retracing our steps to Ancona by bicycle but