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Long report of first few days on European tour

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Long report of first few days on European tour

Old 05-14-19, 10:42 PM
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raybo
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Long report of first few days on European tour

Iím sitting at an outdoor table in Corniglia, the middle of the 5 Cinque Terre villages, sipping a thick hot chocolate and taking my first day off off the bike. It is a cool, clear day with blue sky and sea views all around. My plan for the day is to walk 2 villages north to Monterosso and then take a train back to Chiavari, my nightís stop

The ride started last Friday (May 10) from Florence. Iím riding to Bern, Switzerland over the French Alps.

I rode separated bike paths all the way out of Florence and along the brown, churning Arno toward the Tuscan hills to the northwest. The day was heavily overcast and the views across the valley whose edge I was skirting were obscured. I passed Etruscan sites dug into the hills and eventually up the hills in the first sustained climb of the trip. I was passed by many bike riders (I never pass anyone), two of whom were sandwiched between two cars and driving a very hard pace. A bit further up the hill I would learn the reason: the Giro díItalia would come by this way on Sunday (it would start on Saturday). About halfway up I started seeing the pink bows and banners welcoming the riders. Like last year, Iíll be dodging the Giro as I make my way north.

I discovered on the climb that I canít ride a bike and talk Italian at the same time when a friendly guy started talking to me as he rode past. In English, he told me he was going to ride in Israel soon.

My stop for the night was Porciano, a tiny hamlet of 200 people a bit past the top of the climb. I remember thinking how nice it is to end a ride coasting downhill. I was staying above the only store in the area and Monica was the consummate hostess, in both English and Italian.

My plans for the next day weíre upended when Lawrence, my couchsurfing host south of Lucca, had to cancel my stay due to his ex-wifeís unannounced visit. Since I wasnít too tired, I decided to extend my day by riding another 25 miles all the way to the coast at Viareggio.

The next day was also overcast and rain had been predicted. The 5 miles of downhill from Porciano allowed my spirit to coast along with my bike as the abundant red poppies winked at me as I went by. Once in the flats, I was engulfed in traffic as I mazed my way through towns. An intervening wetland provided a nice respite from both the traffic and housing.

As I approached Lucca on a very busy road, I saw a sign for the Via Francigena, an ancient pilgrimage route from England to Turkey. I met 2 bikers who said it went to Lucca and was well marked. They were half right as I quickly lost the trail but did make it to Lucca. I rode the length of Lucca, an attractive, walled town with an old historic center full of narrow streets and high end shops. After a quick gelato, I rode out of town.

The 20 extra miles to the coast involved getting around Lago di Massacuiccoli and itís broad wetlands. Along the way, I passed an excavated Roman villa and was told some of the areaís history. As I neared Viareggio, the traffic became heavy and the road narrow. I pulled off the road often to let car clumps pass.

Once in town, the traffic and the road were worse. Then, it started to rain. I navigated away from the main road and found my place for the night. I went for pizza and found, what must be, the worst pizzeria in Italy. The crust was soggy and the toppings tasteless. Not something one expects in Italy!

Viareggio is the southern part of a 15 mile long beach with a bike route along its entire length. Oddly, there is almost no view of the beach as there are motels, restaurants and clubs lining the shore. It was a breezy, partly cloudy/sunny day and people were out. I saw as many bikers, often in long pelatons, as cars.

Once I left the beach, I headed directly into a loud, stiff wind. I was flagged down by Luca, a local biker who likes to bike on mountain bike paths. We talked biking, where we lived, and the local area for about 30 minutes. Our conversation was limited as it took place entirely in Italian. It was a nice human connection.

I had searched for something interesting to eat and discovered an Indian place not far away. Lunch was well spiced and tasty, putting the soggy pizza out of my mind. My place that night was in St. Stefano di Magra, just across from a mall (centro commmerciale) whose huge supermarket and several store were open on Sunday. I walked over and there was a band fronted by an active accordionist playing to a couple hundred people.

Yesterday was my first day of real climbing as I headed over the coastal hills separating northern Tuscany from southern Liguria. The road was deserted as the parallel autostrada took all the traffic. The first top came quickly. On the way down, I met Rick and Rob, two North Carolinians out touring. It was Robís first ride and he wasnít all that impressed. Rick was an old hand and since his last name is Steeves (not the travel guy with only one s in his name), I now get to say I met Rick Steeves! We talked for about 45 minutes. Another fond roadside memory.

As Rick and Rob said, the climb up the Passo de Bracco was 6 miles of grinding up. There was virtually no traffic and it was a like a dream to make my way up all by myself. Vistas were green hills undulating up the hazy, distant mountains impossible to photograph.

Once past the top, the views changed to the sea. Unfortunately, the roadside foliage was such that clear views werenít possible. It was pretty from the seat of my bike but photos wonít show this.

The coast down was lovely as the distant towns slowly came closer. The ride along the coast was during rush hour and a bit hairy. But I eventually found my room in Chiavari and discovered another Indian place just down the way, my second Indian meal in 3 days. So far on this bike ride, Iíve had more Indian food than Italian!

Today, Iím spending a needed day off the bike. Since Chiavari is just north of the Cinque Terre world heritage area, I have taken an early train down the Corniglia to spend the day walking along the coast. Now that Iíve finished this message, Iíll pay for the long gone hit chocolate and be on my way.
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Old 05-15-19, 02:33 AM
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Interesting but why not do it as a journal on some journal hosting site like CrazyGuyOnABike (CGOAB)??
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Old 05-15-19, 04:48 AM
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Great piece! I second the idea of a journal and pics on Crazy Guy. We use it for our journals.
We head off to Europe in a few days for 3 months of touring!
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Old 05-15-19, 06:08 AM
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Excellent report. I toured Italy two years for three months and unfortunately it was really easy to find crappy restaurant food. Funny that you should mention indian food as I too found myself eating in a surprising number of Indian restaurants while in Italy - go figure.
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Old 05-15-19, 08:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Caretaker View Post
Interesting but why not do it as a journal on some journal hosting site like CrazyGuyOnABike (CGOAB)??
When I am done, I will write a full journal on my own website: www.biketouringtips.com , where my other 20+ journals are. This is more a teaser.
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Old 05-15-19, 08:35 AM
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Great report. Wish I was there ! :-) only 2 months before we fly to Barcelona! Cheers! :-)
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Old 05-15-19, 01:03 PM
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How did you deal with the tunnels in Cinque Terre? I understand bikes are banned in some of them. Did you just ignore the rules?
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Old 05-15-19, 01:10 PM
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Too many words. Where are the photos?
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Old 05-16-19, 12:29 PM
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It
Originally Posted by spinnaker View Post
How did you deal with the tunnels in Cinque Terre? I understand bikes are banned in some of them. Did you just ignore the rules?
I didn’t ride in the Cinque Terre. I spend a rest day in Chiavari and took the train down to the Cinque Terre and walked there. Only tunnels I’ve been in are on the highway.
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Old 05-16-19, 12:31 PM
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Originally Posted by alan s View Post
Too many words. Where are the photos?
In my camera and on my phone. Just not on the internet yet. That has to wait until I get home and write up my journal.
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Old 05-16-19, 02:11 PM
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Originally Posted by raybo View Post
In my camera and on my phone. Just not on the internet yet. That has to wait until I get home and write up my journal.
Looking forward to that. You always do a nice job.
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Old 05-16-19, 04:27 PM
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Viareggio kind of sucks. Reminds me of Atlantic City. But some good views can be had.




I really like this one. Mom, wife and child waiting for the man to return from the sea.
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Old 05-16-19, 10:09 PM
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Spinnaker,

looks like you had clear weather when when you were there. I arrived in the rain!
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Old 05-17-19, 04:58 PM
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Originally Posted by raybo View Post
Spinnaker,

looks like you had clear weather when when you were there. I arrived in the rain!
Don't worry. I paid for it when I got back up north to Como area. It rained for 3 straight days.

Thn I got a repeat in the same area, about 2 years later.
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