We left france about a week ago and our progress through Italy has been pretty quick and certainly enjoyable.
Lets face it while cycle touring cyclists just want good roads and afterwards great food and Italy has plenty of both. It is a friendly country with nice mountains, stunning towns, great beaches and did I mention great food? It might well be the best place in the world to cycle!
We crossed into Italy via the Mt Blanc Tunnel and a big thanks to Sam who gave us a lift through the tunnel as cyclists aren’t allowed! We then followed the stunning Vallee D’Aosta with its spring flowers, beautiful mountains and the abundance of unexpected castles perched on every prominent rocky outcrop. We followed this to the vast flat agricultural plains that were the grain supply for the mighty roman army centuries ago. There maybe some more modern farming equipment but the ancient barns and farmsteads looked almost untouched for centuries.
We stopped at a beautiful small lake enroute to Milan. It was a funny campsite, the kind of place that had many permanent ‘shacks’ that the Italians were all busy upgrading ready for the summer. These shack encampments consisted of a caravan hidden by wooden shed extensions surrounding it, they looked a bit like gypsy houses but were the pride and joy of the owners. The flat arable lands with a gentle tailwind boosted our progress and we were soon into the heart of Milan. The GPS unit with maps preloaded was fantastic, there’s no way we would have made the centre without it. Even with it we ventured the wrong way up streets, dodged trams rattled along cobbles and did a few circles.
From Milan centre we got the train out as the traffic was a bit dodgy, sadly our highly organised prebooked train ticket seemed to be on an express train that didn’t take bikes! We waited around for a cheap slow one that could dump us out the city later the same day, that evening we cycled for miles looking for a place to camp. This was after getting directions from a “helpful lady”, we found that quite oftern people wanted to be helpful, but didn’t actually know the correct directions, so they didn’t want to lose face and had a guess, sending us on wild goose chases. This time we eventually stayed in a hostel we found well after dark and having to retrace our tracks along a dual carriageway.
A great surprise was arriving in Vicencia a beautiful city, apparently the gold capital of Europe, when we arrived it had a huge gay pride event going on with an amazing party in mid flow. THe event seemed peaceful and the hundreds of police poised for trouble seemed a big contradiction to the party atmosphere. The town is beautiful with stunning architecture and great ice cream, we could have spent days here wandering the alleyways and exploring the museums.
Next stop Venice, we cycled as far as a campsite on the mainland but this is one place we had to accept we couldn’t cycle around. There were too many steps bridges, narrow passages oh and a few canals. Good ice cream (again) and the spectacular architecture throughout the island, details such as hidden statues or dark decorative alleyways make it truly unique, sadly over priced food and lots of tourists also come with Venice! The next morning I woke early and cycled the causeway to Venice at sunrise the light over the city was fantastic, with no luggage I rode the narrow passages and ran up the steps of the bridges, no one but rubbish collections, linen delivery trolleys and the odd drunk from last night. It was a lot of fun riding around, two wheel drifting around quiet corners and exploring a place that in the early dawn was totally different. I had a croissant then headed back to the mainland on my own, just as the buses of early tourists and workers started pouring in. The cycle path back ended suddenly leaving me facing a busy dual carriageway in the wrong direction, I had to bash through bushes along the road to get to a safe pass 400m further down. This place is not set up for cyclists at all!
Trieste was the next stop of note and final place in Italy, a coastal town with more of the same in terms of culture and food, the grandeur of the main square here has to be seen to be believed.
In fact we had already completed a loop in the mountains of Slovenia before dropping back to sea level and into Italy. The proudly affluent and well preserved coastal city was a pleasant place to stay and explore for a few hours before we then crossed back into Slovenia by the coast to camp by the sea.
Italy is a great country to cycle across, beautiful scenery and fabulous food, sadly we did find ourselves on a few too many busy roads that took the edge off an otherwise fantastic few days cycle touring.
At the time of writing we had progressed to Croatia near Zadar. We have averaged about 120 km a day with few big hills. It certainly seems more of a challenge than the beach holiday I thought it would be. The main challenge is the heat it has been roasting hot we have been leaving at six am then riding before lunch. It was 33° at 8.30 in italy! Drinking about 5l water luckily lots small shops. Hopefully we will leave Croatia in 4 days not sure on the route yet but looks like the riots in Turkey have settled down!