Ljubljana, Slovenia to Cinco Terra, Italia

So for the next couple weeks I’ve got a new cycle partner. Several weeks ago, while hanging out in Maribor, Slovenia, I’d seen people post their cycle trips on couchsurfers. I decided to do the same, and received a response from an Australian woman who was interested in tagging along. I honestly didn’t think anyone would be silly enough to cycle Italy in it’s wettest month of the year. So far it’s been great, she doesn’t complain about camping in wet fields or climbing big mountain passes. Earlier this summer, she’d cycled from Bratislava to Istanbul and back with another Canadian girl. I guess she’d try her luck with me. So without further ado, here is my new companion for the next couple weeks.
Anita in a field

The remaining bit of Slovenia was nice, we managed to make it to Predjama Castle, which was well worth it. Slovenia remains one of the more beautiful places I’ve visited on my journey, definitely a place to return to.
Castle in Slovenia

The rest of the journey to Venice was largely uneventful. It’s mostly flat, and uninteresting. It rained a bit, and since it is a flood plain, there is water lying every where. This makes wild camping difficult, as there really is no higher ground. However, there are always hidden jewels in the countryside, always something to make the ride enjoyable.
En route to Venice

Arriving in Venice was interesting. A 6km bridge leads you to the city centre, where you promptly realized your bicycle is confined to the bus station. In fact, cycling in Venice is strictly forbidden, and the fines are apparently several hundred Euro. I even managed to get warnings from a police officer. Despite this, we found a budget hostel which we could roll our bikes over to and promptly deflower the place with heaps of wet gear. The staff were kind enough to lend us some rubber boots, so we could walk around the flooding city. Rubber boots are totally a must if you’re planning on visiting Venice. In our adventures in the streets, the clouds broke and I was able to take some reasonable pictures. It was worth spending time in this city.
Gondola in Venice

Venice

Venice

Leaving Venice was a bit of a challenge on the steel horse. Sitting around for several hours waiting for the rain to stop, we finally caught our break at 14:00, which is tight considering it gets dark within three hours. As we were leaving, I noticed a lack of side road or sidewalk on the outbound side of the Venice bridge. Thinking we could cross at the other end of this 6km bridge, we rode on the opposite side all the way, only to realize there was no possibility of getting across. We turned around, and cycled in freeway like traffic out of the city, not particularly nice, but we made it. The Italian drivers are not as bad as the stereotypes make them out to be. In hindsight, we ought to have taken the train.
Trying to leave Venice

A short day and we were in Padova, where we had a warmshowers host, Matteo who provided us with a place to stay, and even cooked for us. I enjoyed this young physicist, his calculus scratched on the wall, giant telescope, good taste in music, and even his computer… running Linux. He’d done a cycle trip along the south coast of France with his girlfriend. I love staying with people who understand the thrill of adventuring on a bicycle.
Matteo

We passed through Ferrara, and had planned a longer day. Cut short by the rain again, we were lucky enough to find shelter along the river in a “beach house”. Funny, only the Italians would have Louis Vutton seat covers on a shanty by the river. I was thankful for it, as it continued to pour all night.
River shanty

The heavy fog and clouds never seems to lift. It’s getting a bit depressing, however, it’s what I expected for November here. For the first time in nearly a week, it hasn’t rained, although we rode through a heavy fog for most of the day. Near the end of the day, we ended up in Modena, looking for a grocery store. Unfortunately, it gets pitch dark at 17:00, so we opted to camp in the park. Given the heavy fog, it wasn’t really a problem. We cooked a meal on the tables in the park, getting a lot of looks from people out walking their dogs or running.
Modena park camping

Heading west, the terrain has started to become a bit hillier. We are in Liguria/northen Tuscany now, and the rolling hills are becoming increasingly larger. There are few roads to choose from in this part of Italy, if you’re going east to west. Most of the roads run north-south. We zig zagged across the countryside, taking some steep roads. We came across a road that must have been 12-15% grade, almost steep enough that it was required to walk. Anita became quite tired after this, and we pulled over at the next town. We managed to find a campsite, perched a hill above the valley. Waking up in the morning, we were privy to a beautiful sunrise. It’s well worth it to wake up at 6am.
Wild camping sunrise

We get sunny skies and warmth for the first time in two weeks. Riding in a short sleeve shirt, and shorts has never felt so good. As I ride up the valley, the snow capped peaks of the Italian hills taunt me. At some point, Anita and I lose each other on the main road, and we both end up cycling 10km wondering where the other is. We meet at the top of Passo del Lagastrello, which turned out to be higher than I had anticipated, at 1200m.
Passo del Lagastrello

The east side of this pass remained gloriously sunny, while the west side favoured purple and black clouds. Heading down into this storm, we were greeted with 60km/hr gusts, and rain. We managed to get 40km out of the downhill, which brought us within 10km of La Spezia. A quick visit to Decathelon (big Italian outdoor store), and a grocery store, and we are again camping along the river. It’s noticeably warmer now, keeping well above 10C at night. Even the water in the river was warm enough to take a swim.

On our last day to the national park, we got fair weather, and soon found ourselves at Monterosso al Mare, the first village of the famous five earths. We haggled ourselves a cheap room (40E for two), and stayed indoors for the first time in 6 days. Damn, a shower has never felt so good. Clean clothing, everything dry again….. we are ready for another week.

Monterosso al Mare

Cycling to Cinco Terra was well worth it…. the highlight being Vernaza 🙂
Vernaza

It took me a while to upload this blog posting. I had a great deal of difficulty with the photos, I’m not really sure why. We’re currently in Florence, trying to figure out what to do next. The forecast calls for heavy rain, however, it rains quite a bit, so it may not be worth it to wait it out……

Peace, love, and bicycle grease 🙂
-jb