Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Italy July/Aug. 2010

After reading the book Lonely Planet: Cycling in Italy, it looks like we have an itinerary and we have our bikes boxed and are ready to go. This will be our 4th trip to Europe cycling, twice in France and once through the middle countries Austria, Czech, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary.
   Our trip will take us over 2000km and 66,000' in elevation gain. Italy we have found is not flat at all.
Camping in a small tent would be our only home for over 1 month and we carry a complete kitchen and we prepared our meals in over 98% of the time. Seems pretty easy.

To get into shape before the trip, we rode over 1000km on sometimes very hilly ground, mostly with out packs but towards the end, a 2 day shakedown on our new tri-cross bike with packs. Should have mentioned our trusty steeds which have been changed from front suspension mountain bikes with semi-slicks on our first 3trips,to 27" wheels,32C tires, upright bars, mountain bike gearing ,touring bikes.

Our trip starts in Milan mid July and ends in the same place Mid August. Let's go.

Pat ready to take our gear into the Kelowna airport on our way to Milan, Italy. We will fly to Calgary, Frankfurt, Milan. Hope our luggage arrives and not like our trip to central Europe 2 years before when BA lost our luggage and we had to replace a lot of cycling/camping gear in Vienna.

Here we are at the Milan airport hoping that our baggage has arrived.
Dave unpacking our cross bikes. They are Specialized  and have 700mm wheels,Schwalbe Marathon 32C tires with liners, mountain bike gearing, upright bars, front and rear racks, V-brakes(wish they were disk), fenders, panniers- 2 large rear, 2 smaller front, handle bar bag.

Pat standing next to the canal which runs out of Lago Maggiore. We are travelling 20 KM's up to the lake from the airport as this is the closest place for a campground.

Our first night at the lake. Pat is ready to prepare food. The campground is typically Italian with a swimming pool, bar, restaurant. This is roughing it.

Dave having a cooling dip as we bike along the canal. It is a dedicated bike path so the going is easy. Very humid indeed. Don't know about the water Dave is swimming in but I hope he won't get the curse.

After that hot and steamy cycle along the canal from Lago Maggiore, we pull into the municipal camp ground in Pavia. We immediate sidle over to the outdoor bar and order 2 large ice cold beers. This was followed by another and another... Pats got that grin on as she  rests in the shade and slowly melts. Dave still has a fever and will tap her cool this evening as Pat goes into town to buy stuff for supper.

Here is Pat preparing our evening meal. One nice thing about tenting in a small back packing tent is there is always room for you. As there are a lot of wet lands close by, we started to have biting bugs in the evening. Glad we have a no see um netting. Dave has picked up a bug on the flight over as the first day's trip of a flat 20km just about did him in and we had over 1000 hard and hilly km's under our belt before we started the trip. The MSR dragonfly works well on regular petrol which is much easier to get than white gas. Great little stove.
Pavia is situated along the Ticino river. From here we cross the Po river and head west up into some major hills. Headed for the town of Bobio.
Pat ready to tackle the hills on our way west over some higher farm country.

This is typical of the hills and farming in Italy. Dave started feeling really sick as we chugged up the hills and at one point he said that was it and so we set up the tent and stayed for the night. Next morning we rode over a small pass and went down into Bobio, a cute little town that has a small river and a campsite close by.

Pull into the campsite at Bobio
and look for shade. Set up the tent and rest over a bottle of red Italian wine. Dave's starting to feel better so one more day here and then its pedal to the metal.
Pat relaxing on the river. Temperatures were still smoking, around the mid 30's. Decided to stay here for a couple days and let Dave's strength get back to normal.
What we are finding out is Italy is quite rugged. Today we head out of Bobio on our way to the coast and to do this we follow a narrow canyon that has a nice little river flowing by it. Dave is carrying 2X 1.5 L bottles of water in his holders and spares in the panniers. We go through a lot of water when climbing in this heat.

We have reached the top of the pass. From here we can see the Ligure Sea south of Genoa. It will take us 21 KM down to the town of Rapallo with out hardly cranking a pedal.

We must pass dozens of small villages where everything is rock and cement as we make our way to the coast. What we notice is the antiquities in Italy are much older than the ones in France.

Pull into the campground and get setup. This one has a pool, restaurant, everything. I don't think the Italians like to rough it.

Look who's cooking tonight. He's already half cut. Did I already mention that there is a lot of good cheap wine here? When we first started out in France a few years ago, 1 bottle a day was normal, then 1.5, then 2.

Have a tough, hilly  ride along the Mediterranean on our way to La Spetza. Pretty developed area and all of Italy is at the beach

Do ya think we found a secluded beach? This is Lerici just down from La Spetza. We made it through the town that was quite busy. Having ridden for a number of years, traffics doesn't bother us too much. This where we will stay for a few days as it looks kinda funky. And it has a fort on the point too.

We are at Camping Maralunga in the sea side resort/retirement town of Lerici.

This is the view from our campsite. It is a short walk to the water which is rocky but beautiful. Decide to stay another day and check out Lerici as it is such a cute little town.

The waterfront and the steep hills of Lerici.

We walk to the waterfront in 20 minutes from the campground through narrow steep streets which seem ancient to us. Looks like this is a bit of a retirement town

Leaving the town for a trip up in the interior mountains. Had 2 very nice days in Lerici.

Leave Massa on the coast and head up the mountains passing lots of small red tiled roof villages. It's a tough chug up but the weather is cooler as we climb.
This is a view of one of the mountains in the Parco Regionale delle Alpi Apuane.
Pat with her full kitchen preparing the evening meal. This has been such a nice campground. Sort of out of the way and quiet compared to say Florence.
Decided to take a day and ride a loop in the mountains above Castlenuovo di Garfagnana. Pat passing an 18% section that will run for 1 km. Lucky we have minimal gear or we would be pushing it.
Make it to the top. A lot cooler here in San Pelogrino de Alpe.

On our way back to Castle Nuovo, down a few mountain slopes we drop in on a walled town were the streets are very narrow.

As we head down the Serchio river, a beautiful old medieval bridge comes into view. It was part of an ancient trade route and at one time carts, animals would cross but now only foot traffic is allowed.

This is a campground above Pistoia which is run by Dutch people and everyone in the facility is Dutch. It is stinking hot. Nice that they have a pool. Florence is only 40 KM away.
After loosing our way and having to negotiate the narrow streets of Florence, a long climb up a hill over looking the area gives us our campground and this view of Florence.
Ya thing that the campsite is a little crowded? That is what we have found on our many trips to Europe is the outlying areas are generally quiet and low key but when you go the the more popular places which means cities, there are a lot of tours, and the types that are doing Europe in a week, moving every day to some different antiquity. Lots of different nationalities in this place. Lots of younger people.  The old city of Florence is only a 10 minute walk down the hill from our tent. Tomorrow, a trip through Tuscany and Sienna is on our radar.
Classic Tuscany with vines and fields of wheat for pasta.

Pat is already well on her way to the second bottle of red wine not to mention that beer. It is never flat in Italy although the trip on secondary roads to Sienna was fairly routine compared to some of the mountainous areas we have already riden. The idea was to get a few weeks of hilly riding in before heading north of Venice and the Dolimites.

Took a day walking around the old city of Sienna. Of course lots of tour buses etc. Glad we have more to do than just walk around church after church after church. Going further south towards some fortified, walled hill towns.

Spending the night at the lake. It is interesting how peaceful the back country of Italy is compared to the major tourist places. We will head our tomorrow and make our way to Venice.
Dave working on his tan as we peddle along the lake on our way to Arizzo. Mostly flat going and a tail wind kicks us along at 20KM/hour.

We catch a train to Venice from Arezzo. This is not something we ever do while cycling but because of the long range forecast for rain and we were ready to ride the mountain passes of northern Italy, it was decided that lets get to Venice ASAP. Getting on a train in Italy means that from the main ticket area, you have to carry your heavy laden bike down 20' of stairs only to carry it back up the next set of stairs all within minutes. The train pulls up and not knowing which car to get your bike to, and only having a few minutes before they leave without you, a lot of sweat is produced getting yourself and your bike into anywhere as long as it is on the train. Here is Pat resting after about 10 minutes of bike shuttling, carrying hell.

Arrive into Mestre which is the on land part of Venice during a drizzle as the evening gets dark. Have to peddle aways out of town to find our campsite. Take different directions from all sorts of people and eventually set up our tent. Drizzles all night. Next day however, is sunny so we hop on a bus for Venice. We have heard it is touristy, expensive, and crowded. I guess we will find out soon.
We were fascinated by the fact that everything travelled by water. The few roads that people walked were jammed with tourists. This is one very quiet scene with a gondola navigating a narrow street.
This was a busy campground with backpacks, caravans, little cabins for rent. We just setup on the table our cook stove and prepared our regular meal. Mostly we were alone. Everyone else went to restaurants. Tomorrow its time to head to the big passes of the Giro d'Italia. Venice was so interesting but the crush of tourists left a mark.
St Marcos square. Everything happens in this area. Bands, tours, food, and lots of people including all of the Chinese ladies on tour with their eye poking umbrellas.
After 3 hours of travelling through flat lands below the Dolemites and stalking up on supplies in Feltre, we arrive at a campsite on Lago di Corlo which happened to be 10KM out of our way, that has the white limestone rock cliffs all around us. Should be a fun ride as from now on its either up or down. Welcome to the mountains.

Dave heading up the valley which will take us up to the left of the pointy ones ahead and almost above. Hey, nice tan. Notice we don't were helmets cuz when you are in Italy, the last thing you need is to have messed up hair.

Pat at the top. The mountains are spectacular. These are some of the passes that the some major cycling races go up. 
Roll down the hill to Belemondo where we find a campsite that is quite woodsie. Very different to the browns of Tuscany. Lots of trees flowers and green grass. Air is much chillier.
Pat putting up the tent as we get ready to spend a few nights in the mountain resort town of Canasei. It is very busy in this steep valley. Middle of summer. Lots of roadies riding the passes of the Giro d' Italia.
Another great evening meal. There is a nice rushing creek just below us. Lots of trees. Feels like home except for all of the people in the campground.
Nice morning view of the Dolimites. We plan to ride around a loop which has 4 passes around these rocky mountains.
The second of 2 passes. Dave has stripped off his clothe cuz the grade is quite steep. Time to put everything back on . Its cold going down the other side. This is just a day trip so minimum amount of gear. Actually, a nice relaxing trip.
Yet another pass in this beautiful Italian alpine area.
Another classic Dolimite cycling shot. Heading down from a pass into a cosy little ski village.
And the flowers. Cute architecture on this hotel.
Another fun pass. Only one more before heading down the valley into Canasei.

We are getting ready to fly down the hill into Canasei. It has been a wonderful day cycling the Giro d'Italia passes. Tomorrow we will head out to Cortina Dempezzo and climb over more Dolomite cols.

Canasei where our tent is at the bottom of those green pastures.

Pat travelling down one of the numerous switchbacks on our way to the valley. We sometime go through a couple sets of brake pads by the time the trip is over.

Heading in a new direction but we will still be in the Dolomites for a few more days. Passo Fadaia is the first pass that we climb from Canasei and great views of the Marmalada glacier.
Villigrande I think. Stop for lunch getting our strength up for Passo Giau, with grades of 12% or more. Nice to hear the creeks tumble along in their beds on the way to the ocean.
Dave, bagged after that climb. Had to get out of the saddle a number of times cuz it was that steep. Wind is pretty cool up here. So after a beer in the lodge, time to scream down the valley.
After almost 3 weeks of generally hot and sunny weather our luck is about to run out. Dark clouds are moving in as we head to Cortina.
Coming through an arch above Cortina. We will drop dramatically down to the campsite and be too tired to cook do
so it will be Italy's nation food, pizza and beer.
Cortina d'Ampezzo. Olympic winter games venue. Climbing area. Tourist town. Campground is down the hill to the right.
The rain and I mean rain started up in the night and continued on into the late day. Never really got out of the tent. One nice thing was preparing a great meal under the vestibule and drinking  with the climbers who were all weathered in also.
Next morning the rain stops and we can see the mountains. Fresh snow and temperatures have dropped. Gather up our wet gear resupply in town and head for the South Tyrol area to get rid of this crumby weather.
Out of Cortina is an old railway right of way that has been made into a bike path. This is one of the bridges that we crossed on our way out of the valley.
The mountains were grey as the weather continued to be cool and wet.
We continue on the bike path through the south Tirol area which was taken from Austria after they lost the first world War by Italy. It still retains the German characteristics including language, architecture, and food.
Some of our riding is off pavement as we look to avoid traffic and to explore the small trails and lanes which are prevalent in Europe.
Stop at a campsite east of Bruneck on the Rienz river. Such a dream dropping from the mountains on a paved bike path. 
Dave cutting through the bush on a seldom used trail as we enter. Brixen.
Pat heading through Bruneck dodging tourists.
Still rolling down the bike path on the way to Bolsano. How's the tan coming there super Dave?
Dave already into the wine as we cook up the evening meal at the campsite in Bolsano. We will stay here and check it out before heading out to Merano and the Alps tomorrow.
Pat on the bike path going to Morano. See lots of families cycling here and why not when the conditions are so much fun.
Was pretty thirsty when we arrived in Merano during a big beer fest with um papa bands. This is more associated with Austria than Italy. I try ed to find a way into that stein where all the beer is but some security people dragged me away. Heading west  instead of going into Austria .
We are coming up to Prato which is just at the beginning of the road up to Passo Stelvio the 3rd highest pass in the Alps. I think this looks like a good spot to camp. Fresh snow in the mountains.
Had a huge lightning storm that night with lots of rain. Morning dawns with sunshine. So nice to have a small tent as the campsite was full but we can pitch our tent anywhere which in this case was next to a vacant trailer.
Dave has been climbing for more than an hour but the grades are usually not more than 8% and our legs are strong from all of the previous climbs. At the summit we will have gone up 48 switch backs which is a record for us.
We will soon be almost at eye level with those snowing peaks in the background
Some of the 48 switch backs.
Made it. 4 plus hours of steady going from Prato. Started at 3000' and ended at 9114'.  Not bad for an afternoons work.
Have a bit of lunch and then it is 5000' down to Bormio. Whoo Hoo.
Have to put on the wind jackets and the brakes will be smoking by the time we reach the bottom of the valley. Lots of tunnels to negotiate.
Pretty beat and wanted a shower so stopping at a campsite in Bormio made sense.
Bumped into the weirdest shrine as we peddled down from Stelvio. Across the valley used to be a village that was buried by a rock slide in the 90's? All of the people were dug up and their bones were interned in a stone building as a memorial. WOW!!!
This is where the mountain came down and buried the town.
Don't get to get a picture of the 2 of us together so I thought I would ad this schmaltzy one. Decided instead of continuing down the road to our eventual destination Milan, to take a train into Switzerland and stay at St. Moritz which is where the Engadine Lopet is. It is underneath the Bernina glacier. Spectacular country.
Dave riding from the train station on the way to St. Moritz. We have stopped at the Bernina glacier for a peek .
Pull into the campground and it is an absolute zoo. Almost an hour wait for a shower. .
Pat riding along a bike path by the Engadin Lakes. This where the skating loppet goes.
Beautiful old bridge across this river that runs down in the steep walled canyon. Rain has started and the clouds are dropping. Wetness  is going to be our partner until we leave.
Lots of clouds in the mountains as we ride towards Lago Como. This is a very steep walled valley, with a number of waterfalls in the area.
Pat passing another small village on the downward way to Lago Como. Soon the temps will start to rise a bit. Houses here are made up almost entirely out of stone.
Pat below the limestone cliffs on her way to the lake.
Looks like an old ferry/tour boat for lake Como..
Camp on the lake shore for a few days and cycle around the local area sightseeing. Rain is intermittent with clouds sometimes quite low but the temps are fairly warm.
Cycling and exploring around Domaso. Lago Como has tons of small villages up in the hillsides and of course all around the lake shore. Smells like money around here.
Ferryboat heading across the lake as we take in the wonder full European scenery. The bikes for the last month have caused us 0 problems and switching the standard touring gearing to mountain bike gears has enabled us to tackle the toughest Italian mountains.
Not much traffic along the lake as we head into Lecco. We have found that generally, the Italians are much more aware of cyclists than in N.America for the obvious reason that there are a lot more. Having said that, they are aggressive.
Lecco. We will travel to Como which is on another arm of the lake.
Camping on Lago di Pusiano. Looks like Pat's becoming a real wino. She started out with a few glasses before and during supper, now she crushes a couple of bottles a day. You can see the evidence around her.
The rain came down in buckets. Finding a tree to have lunch under as the drops kept falling on us.
Head out towards Switzerland with full rain gear. This is a WW11 memorial.
Heading into Switzerland at Chiasso for a camping spot on Lago Laguno.
Set up the tent at campsite on Lago Laguno and it started to rain and rain. It got steadily worse. Found this empty little tent and moved our little tent underneath on the wooden platform. All night long it rained hard. In the morning, luckily still dry, we headed overland to Lago Maggiore. There were number of mud slides that the authorities were trying to clear. We could carry our bikes over them but wow in that mountainous terrain, things happen after a all night rainfall.
Follow a bike path through a tunnel which was from an old working narrow gauge mining RR. Climb over some high country and then on down to the lake.
Another bench lunch meal. We ate a lot of high caloric foods including lots of chocolate during the trip. Sure nice to burn those calories every day.
Find a campsite in Sesto Calente north of where we first made camp over a month ago. Very wet every where. We are a few days ahead so the first bit of business is to ride to the airport and make sure our reservations are in order. Their is a bike path all along the lake and then on the canal which we travel to from our arrival. 
Milan International airport. Those are the Alps in the distance with fresh snow. No wonder we felt it has been very cool and wet since leaving Tuscany.
The last time we will be headed to Sesto Calente from this direction. Our flight leaves early and as it is over 20km to peddle  and we must get our bike and luggage ready 2 hours before the flight, it will be an early start for us.
Milan airport checking in our bikes and luggage. What we did not know when we arrived was the 150 E each for our bikes as apposed to$ 75 when they were transported by Air Canada. This is because our outgoing carrier is Lufthansa even though they only will take us to Frankfort and then Air Canada takes over. Complained to London AC office to no avail but when we checked in Frankfort for our AC flight home, first class tickets for the two of us. Hey, did I eat and drink? you bet. Still have a hangover 2 years later.

No comments:

Post a Comment