Tag Archives: Italy

27 & 28 August 2015 – Trieste, one night in Slovenia, and on to Croatia

Couple of fairly big cycling days as I bid arrivederci to Italy, spent a night in Slovenia, and then pedalled over some significant hills into Croatia. Routes and stats below.

–> 27 August – to Trieste and into Slovenia
Today was  long day; 134km km pedalled in about 8 hours, so pretty quick for me. After a good night’s sleep at Altanea Camping in Duna Verde, I was ready to try to pedal to Slovenia, albeit with potential campsites identified before the border should I be delayed for any reason; ice-cream stops, beer, beaches etc.

I was a bit slow packing up, but got on the road by 09.00 and cycled to Caorle. I’ll have to think about starting earlier again soon as the daylight hours get shorter, especially on my way back to the UK post Istanbul. After Caorle I had to head North to circumvent an estuary. I ignored some signs for the Eurovelo route, which hasn’t really been very helpful for the tour so far. In this case I think it would have taken me down to the coast and then back up again, adding miles on to the day’s ride. The EV routes will be great once they’re properly realised, but they stop and start too much, and for the most part I don’t see signs for them at all. I’m finding it easier just to make my own way, choosing routes that are efficient, and diverting when tempted by something.

I joined the SP42, then the SS14 which would take me all the way to Slovenia, with a few quieter country roads thrown in for good measure, just to keep things interesting and avoid the traffic for a bit. Thankfully, although the roads are busy, Italian drivers are for the most part polite and considerate around cyclists, with a few exceptions; one van driver did nearly clip me going through a town, however that can happen in any country, and is probably more likely in the UK.

After passing through low-lying marsh and farmland, I made it to Cervignano del Friuli for lunch, and managed to find a Tarte du Jour equivalent. It looks like the ‘Tarte du Jour’ feature might become an infrequent one, depending on availability, however I shall attempt to persevere; need the calories!

Tarte du Jour, acquired in Cervignano

Tarte du Jour, acquired in Cervignano

Today’s tarte was more go a sponge cake, loaded with cream, and alcohol of some description, but lacking a bit in flavour. The alcohol did do wondrous things for easing aching limbs, and made for a relaxed start to the afternoon’s ride.

On my approach to Trieste I passed another cycle tourer, emerging from I assume a siesta amongst the grapevines. I’m sure I’ve seen him before, near Nice; he’s pedalling in jeans without a lot of stuff, but making good progress. If I see him again I’ll have to stop for a chat; we waved at each other in any case. Always interesting to hear other people’s stories.

As I got closer to Trieste I started to encounter hills again, which actually made for a nice change after the route being flat for the last few days. I started up a big climb and noticed two wolf-like creatures standing guard at the top of a cut through beside the road; they had me going for a few seconds but turned out just to be wolf statues near a war memorial. I’m still worried about danger from dogs when I get into Albania, Macedonia, Greece and Turkey, but have been told by loads of people that as soon as you get off your bike they stop chasing you – think that’ll be pretty hard to do the first time, rather than just pedal faster, might get a big stick just in case!

After a nice long descent into Trieste I paused for a break, stopping in the Piazza Unita d’Italia where a webcam opportunity presented itself; I waved to the stalkers at home who duly spotted me. Trieste is a bustling city and port, and there were loads of tourists wandering about, randomly walking out in front of me. I’m sure there’s a lot I could say about the city, however you’ll have to look it up on Wikipedia for more info. One thing – think Trieste used to be part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and some might still feel it shouldn’t be part of Italy at all, not sure.

After cooling down a bit, and drinking lots of water (it was very hot), I pedalled to the Slovenian border tackling a very steep 150m climb over from Muggia in the process. There was no official border crossing building, but I did find a sign to tell me I’d left Italy and entered Slovenia.

For some reason I immediately felt more relaxed in Slovenia. I’m not sure why, maybe the roads were quieter, or the atmosphere a bit sleepier, or perhaps it was because I’d made good progress and passed another milestone. The scenery was certainly picturesque, with the hills very much continuing, lots of grapevines, and a pretty coastline.

I stopped for the night at Adria camping (Ankaran), at the  bottom of the descent over from Muggia. It’s a big campsite but was very welcoming, and relatively cheap too at €15; long may that continue. After setting up I had dinner a the campsite restaurant, feeling in need of a big meal and a sit down somewhere comfortable; the mixed grill was excellent, as was the sunset.

I also met up with a Hungarian family spending a few days in Slovenia; Árpád spoke great English, and had recently returned from working in Ireland. I loved his bright red German van, converted for touring purposes, and it was great to have chat. He mentioned how much he enjoys watching programmes like Coast, Country File, and other BBC productions; made me realise the BBC must do very well out of selling programmes aboard – I guess Top Gear is a great example of that.

Tomorrow it’s off to Croatia; I think there might be a few hills in the way first though.

–> 28 August – to Croatia and Selce
I rode 115km today, and whilst the total distance was less than yesterday it felt like more, due to the hills; over 1,500m ascent, which is like climbing Ben Nevis.

I left Adria Camping in Ankaran in good time, after saying goodbye to Árpád and family; they were off to see a castle and caves before travelling to Lublianja. Árpád reckons Slovenia beats Croatia from a scenery point of view, however I’ll have to check for myself. I’ve been skiing in Kranjska Gora and it’s definitely a stunning country, and the people very friendly; good for cycling in too as the hobby is very popular, and excellent cycle lane coverage. After a chat about genealogy and how closely related we all are, and about the origins of the Hungarian people (gonna have to read more on that one – they were nomadic originally but settled in what is now Hungary, in the Carpathian basin, as it was the land of Attila the Hun), I pedalled off and up into the hills. Hope the rest of your holiday goes well Árpád, and maybe see you in Hungary!

It was a slightly complicated route to get to the right road to the Croatian border, avoiding motorways and the busier roads. After an initial warm up climb, and saying hello to a lot of road cyclists, I made it to the route up into the mountains, and to a climb that rose to about 800m over perghaps 30km, with a few flat bits providing some respite. It was tough going, however the scenery was amazing. I pedalled up to the border surrounded by mountains, valleys and forest, with hardly any traffic on the road. I think encountered about 4 cars before the border; there were more birds of prey than vehicles.

At the border I had to show my passport to get out of Slovenia, the first time I’ve used it for border crossing purposes since Gibraltar, however there was no-one stationed at the Croatian post and I pedalled straight into country number 13 (I think it’s number 13 anyway). The climb continued for several more kilometres, through more thick forest, however there were more villages to look at, plus slightly more in the way of people around and farming activity. At one point I passed what looks like a war memorial from the Soviet era, reminding me that this all used to be behind the iron curtain.

I finally started to descend down towards the coast again, albeit with the occasional upwards jaunt over more hills as I followed narrow twisty roads, avoiding the main roads. At one point I was slightly startled by the approach of a very noisy engine, as a large and slightly antiquated farm truck appeared and roared past; looked like it might be soviet era itself.

I made it to Rijeka and immediately sought at ATM to get hold of some Croatian Kuna; they don’t use the Euro here. Getting cash out was easy as there is no shortage of ATMs, however it’s a shame I had to use my Lloyds debit card rather than my Caxton FX prepaid card; this is the first country I’ve passed through where the currency isn’t available to load onto the card, however they’ll a few more like it shortly. I’m going to withdraw some back up Euro in Montenegro, before entering Albania and Macedonia, just so I have something to exchange or use in case I can’t find a handy ATM. Hopefully the cash machines will be working in Greece!

After grabbing a sandwich and a brief chat with 2 German cycle tourers going the other way, I continued down the coast to Crikvenica, through various small towns and ports, and the occasional beach with people enjoying a cooling swim; the water looked very inviting. The hills weren’t done with me yet, with the road continuously rising or falling, hence the 1,500 metres worth of climbing today, and sore legs.

I stopped for the day in Selce, just past Crikvenica, at the town’s campsite. Selce is a small and pretty town, and another tourist hotspot, but tastefully put together. The campsite is decent, with free wifi near reception, and a small supermarket that sufficed for dinner. There’s an on-site bar and restaurant too however all I really wanted to do was lie in my hammock.

Hammock time in Selce

Hammock time in Selce

I could have walked down to the beach for a swim, but there was a risk I might not make it back up again, so I relaxed, read my book, and ate a simple dinner of bread, cheese, ham and fruit with a few beers and some biscuits. It was still hot, reminding me of the conditions in Spain, however the hammock and shade helps a lot; you get a nice draft underneath you in a hammock, which is good when it’s hot, but won’t be so good when cold.

Tomorrow’s plan is to continue down the coast and hop on a ferry for the short crossing to the island of Pag, which runs parallel to the mainland and should be interesting. I also need to find a new charging cable for my iPhone, as the my backup cable is now fracturing; the first one went in France somewhere. iPhone charging cables definitely aren’t built to last, however I guess I do stress them a bit when charging my phone from my dynamo; moves cable around a bit.

Got to get into the sea tomorrow too!

25 & 26 August 2015 – Verona, Vicenza and reaching the Adriatic

Starting to get more and more excited about Croatia now, with only one more day left in Italy, before crossing briefly into Slovenia and continuing down the Adriatic coast. Think it’s going to be ace.

Routes and stats for the 25 and 26 August below:

–> 25 Aug – Two A Gentleman smelly cyclist and his Lobster in Verona, and on to Vicenza
I covered a sedate 97km today, taking it easy with a stop for some sight-seeing.

Do you ever hear things go bump in the night? I was awoken in the early hours of the morning not by a bump, but by rustling and some snuffling/snorting. The noise came from just the other side of my inner tent partition. Somewhat tentatively I unzipped the inner door, and glanced out; hedgehog…again…about the 3rd time I’ve been visited by these lovely creatures on this tour. The hedgehog was busy snuffling about for crumbs, but had somehow got wedged into a crisp bag I hadn’t got around the throwing away. I carefully upended the varmint, releasing him/her from his/her predicament; the hog made a swift exit. A great encounter, but on a serious note it reinforces the problem plastic packaging presents to the natural world. Creatures are always getting stuck in plastic bags, or ingesting bits, or in the case of the film clip I saw recently breathing it in; a turtle had a whole plastic straw stuck up its nose and down into its lungs – the rescuers got it out but it was pretty horrific. Plastic takes a very long time to decay, and we should all be more thoughtful about how much we use. For example do we really need to use plastic straws with drinks, for instance at fast food chains? (if you’re squeamish don’t watch that film clip, but brings it home – say no to plastic straws!)

It was still cloudy and damp when I packed up on the shores of Lake Garda, so I didn’t hang around, instead cycling the approx 25km to Verona. I unfortunately passed about 3 squashed hedgehogs on the way, not unusual, but sad after my earlier encounter; more routes needed for animals to get under/over roads.

Verona is a lovely small city, with some spectacular buildings including a huge amphitheatre that dominates the centre; the Grand Arena, built in the 1st century AD, and which now stages shows, operas and plays. No history lesson today, however needless to say the city goes back a long way. It’s also the setting for at least 3 Shakespeare plays including Two Gentleman of Verona, The Taming of the Shrew (loved the modern film adaptation), and of course Romeo and Juliette. I spent an hour or so looking around, and grabbed a Calzone pizza for lunch. Unfortunately I failed to find a suitable Tarte du Jour, but I did get caught on webcam by the Norwich MI6 branch; good work.

I was slightly confused by all the Egyptian paraphernalia located around the Grand Arena, however it’s the time of year when Verona hosts an annual opera festival, and the props were for Aida; always wanted to see that and must be superb in the amphitheatre – I’ll put it on my list of things to do when back in the UK.

Me in Verona - you have to look quite carefully as in a crowd

Me in Verona – you have to look quite carefully as in a crowd

After being a tourist for a bit I pedalled East towards Vicenza. I decided to put my fate in my Garmin’s hands, and followed its route to my campsite for the night. It took me what was probably a longer route, avoiding some main roads, but they were a lot quieter and I rode through some nice farmland – nice grapevines. I had to detour when confronted by a bridge that no longer existed, however I can’t really blame Garmin for that; it looked like it was being rebuilt. I can blame Garmin for trying to take me through a military base just prior to the campsite; a definite no go area which I had to circumvent. This isn’t the first time it’s tried to do that; happens frequently in the UK around Thetford.

A few miles before the campsite I rode with an Italian cyclist for a bit, out for an evening’s ride. We spoke in French (he was born in France), as I related a brief summary of my tour to date. He’d recently completed the Camino de Santiago by bike. It was good to have a chat and we shook hands as he pedalled off; people very friendly in Italy.

I made it to the campsite and set up, discovering that it was infested by mosquitoes, therefore liberal application of repellent was required; seemed to work reasonably well, although the Tiger Mosquitoes are pretty persistent. I hadn’t heard of Tiger mosquitoes before this tour, but the name suits; they’re definitely stripey.

Campsite in Vicenza; under siege from mosquitoes

Campsite in Vicenza; under siege from mosquitoes

I met a German couple at the campsite, from Berlin, touring Northern Italy for 3 weeks by bicycle. It’s there first big cycle tour and they’re loving it so far; best be careful, its addictive. We discussed Ortlieb panniers at great length, as they were keen to extol their virtues; can’t say I disagree, mine have been brill so far. I also bumped into a Japanese cycle tourer briefly, on his way South, but didn’t get to chat for long as he was off for dinner.

I spent the evening attempting to plan my route through Eastern Europe to Istanbul, and think I have a rough idea of where I’m going now; Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Greece, and Turkey. I’m still a bit nervous about it, but a lot more confident than I was; thanks to Tim Moss for a few tips (http://thenextchallenge.org).

Off toward Venice tomorrow, although I’m bypassing the city as cycling is forbidden in much of it; I’ll cut up North and then down to the Adriatic.

–> 26 August 2015 – to the Adriatic and Duna Verde (Camping Altanea)
Campsites are definitely merging into one; when writing my journal for today I had trouble remembering where I’d stayed the previous night! 123km pedalled today, so a fairly long day, but all flat.

Packed and ready for the off in Vicenza

Packed and ready for the off in Vicenza

I set off on my way East, not entirely sure of the route past Venice, however I figured as long as I pointed my bike in the right direction and headed towards the Adriatic it would all work out. The cycling proved easy, as there were no hills to speak of, just lots of farmland and frequent small towns to negotiate.

I passed around the top of Venice by several kilometres, not wanting to get embroiled in dual carriageways and autostradas, then headed down to Jesolo and the Adriatic coast. After some busy and pretty boring roads it was nice to reach the coast again. I thought I might find a campsite in Jesolo, but they were all  very busy. I pedalled on looking for either a wild campsite or a quieter site. On my way further East I had another chat with an Italian roady, albeit it in rather hesitant English; he was enthusiastic about my tour and wished me bon route before pedalling off to Caorle. As I mentioned yesterday Italians have been nothing but friendly.

I made it to Duna Verde and discovered Altanea Camping, a ‘green’ campsite. I decided to stop there, as they had a simple field with trees I could pitch my tent in, and also use my hammock; it only cost €19 too, which is cheap for this time of year on the coast. Free wifi too!

Hammock time in Altanea Camping, Duna Verde

Hammock time in Altanea Camping, Duna Verde

After turfing Lobster out of my hammock, I enjoyed a siesta, before catching up with my parents and doing some admin. I also checked in to see how a poorly friend is doing back in the UK; get well soon JJ, thinking of you and hope recovery is swift – I recommend long hours in a hammock for convalescence purposes. I also discovered I needed to sort out a new washing machine for my tenants at home, the old one having given up the ghost. Why don’t modern appliances last longer?! This one is only about 7 years old.

I decided to eat at the campsite restaurant, enjoying red wine and mixed fried seafood; very nice it all was too. My dinner was accompanied by some Europop, from the adjacent ‘disco’ area. It wasn’t too loud, just amusing; the Macarena featured – used to know the dance for that from back when I taught foreign students English, and had to take them to the disco in the evenings.

Fried mixed seafood; good energy for tomorrow

Fried mixed seafood; good energy for tomorrow

On to Trieste then possibly Slovenia tomorrow, before heading to Croatia.

Note: Blog a couple of days behind – I’m now in Croatia after a few long legs, and making great progress.

23 & 24 August 2015 – Po River and Lake Garda

Onwards, ever onwards. I was reflecting today upon how long I’ve been pedalling for. Longer than my Bike around Britain tour, by nearly a month, and still just over 2 months to go. I’m starting to feel it now, so whilst I’m still very much enjoying it, and looking forward to the route ahead, there are things I’m starting to miss more; friends and family, curry, roast dinner, a pint of ale, absence of mosquitoes…

However I know I’ll be back before I know it, so am trying to focus on the now and to keep on having a great time. I should have enough time to cycle to Istanbul, then pedal back to the UK  via the Danube, unless something unforeseen happens, and even if it does I can always get a train to speed things up a bit. I think I’ve got about 3,300 miles to go, in total, so it might be a bit tight, however the Norwich Beer Festival is still a possibility, as is Halloween, then back to work I suppose. When I get back I must set some time aside to try writing this all up into a book, and not just dive straight back into long working days; work life balance and all that!

Enough rambling, here are my routes and stats for the 23 & 24:

–> 23 August – a whistle-stop tour of Genoa, then on to the Po River
My longest day for a while, covering 139km after a very slow start due to pedalling around Genoa, then heavy rain delaying play. I had a bit of a lie in after a slightly broken night’s sleep because of enthusiastic neighbours, and it was Sunday after all, so I reckoned an extra 30 minutes in bed, or lying on the ground as it were, was worth it.

I made a spur of the moment decision to have a cycle around Genoa, rather than miss it by cutting North immediately; the campsite staff recommended it, claiming Genoa is the second oldest city in Europe, which I’m slightly dubious about. It is very old, the Greeks having been present in the 5th and 6th centuries BC, and the Etruscans before that. It was an independent state or republic for a long time, along with several other Italian states such as Venice. It was also a Crusader base, and the Genoese crusaders brought back what they thought was the Holy Grail from the Levant. Christopher Columbus was born in Genoa, and the Bank of St George, one of the oldest in the world, was founded in Genoa in 1407; this explains the St George and the Dragon paintings on some of the buildings. France annexed the city in 1805, before a revolt in 1815 brought it into Piedmont (kingdom of Sardinia). In 1860, General Giuseppe Garibaldi embarked on the conquest of southern Italy from Genoa. So an interesting place, with loads of history, and definitely a powerful industrial and economic centre dating back a long time.

Anyway, my detour was probably a mistake, as it added several miles on to an already long day, and it was raining so not really sight-seeing weather. I took some photos, but they’re not especially good as I was avoiding getting wet, and also trying to avoid Vampires; reckon there are loads of them in Genoa, and it was a dark cloudy day – or maybe I’ve just read too many Anne Rice books. I did manage to grab some breakfast on the way in; two chocolate filled croissants and a slice of pizza did very nicely, and the croissants counted for my ‘Tarte du Jour’ entry.

My handy tourist map of Genoa got soaked on the way round the city, so I have no idea what most of these buildings/sights are; bit of random commentary instead.

After my whistle-stop tour of Genova I headed North on the SS35, crossing the Ligurian Apennines on the Passo dei Giovi; a reasonably long ascent in the rain, which at times forced me to take shelter under bridges or bushes. The water was flowing down the mountain road in streams, leading to quite damp feet. I also opted to forego my waterproof, as it was hot and humid, so whilst the rain was refreshing I got quite damp.

The descent down the other side was fun, and quite exciting due to my brakes not being quite as good when wet, or since the shop change them to Shimano blocks rather than the longer Aztec pads I’m used to (still got my old mounts and I’ll swap them back at some point). The rain stopped on the way to Tortona, with the sun threatening to come out, and my clothes drying off.

The rain, as well as my tour of Genoa, had delayed me, and I still had a long way to go if I wanted to make the Po River, and hopefully a good wild camping spot; I couldn’t find any campsites in this part of Italy. After Tortona I started pedalling through miles of farmland, enjoying flat terrain for a change. Voghera came and went, as did a McDonald’s stop as I tried to link to some free wifi (didn’t work). I passed through many towns and villages as I rode West, finally turning off the main road at Stradella, and very happy to leave the traffic behind.

The Po River arrived, as did a little track alongside it, which I followed passing a few fishing huts and little else. I think the rain and threat of storms were keeping everyone else away, and besides, it was late on a Sunday evening. I found a great little spot to camp, next to the river, at about 19.30. My wild campsite was actually better than most of the designated campsites I’ve stayed at for the last couple of months, with soft ground, shade, and peace and quiet; the only drawback was the mosquitoes, however my repellent seemed to be working okay.

After setting up and a quick dinner of bread, cheese, salami and fruit, it started to get dark, so I decided to have an early night. My slow drift into a deep sleep was accompanied by the rhythmic noise of ribbeting frogs, and thankfully no whining drone of mosquito wings. Another long day expected tomorrow, as I pedal on to Lake Garda.

–> 24 August 2015 0- to Lake Garda (San Benedetto di Lugana)
I must have slept for solid 8 hours, completely undisturbed, in my wild camping spot next to the  Po River. I was awakened by my alarm going off at 06.15, about 30 minutes before it was officially dawn, however it’s always best to be up and away early when wild camping, leaving no trace of your passing, so as not to annoy anyone, and out of general respect.

It must have rained pretty hard overnight, as it was a very damp morning, and the outside of my tent was very wet. Thankfully, it had mostly stopped by the time I got up, however I did have to pack my tent up damp which is never pleasant. No additional mosquito bites to report though, which is a win.

After a swift breakfast of bread, cheese and fruit, as well as some yoghurt, I pedalled off under grey skies, with the occasional light shower keeping me company. I had to backtrack briefly when my route ended in a road closure, which hadn’t been signposted (I blame Gremlins), before I joined the main road and made it to Piacenza. My next target was Cremona, and after negotiating a few confusing roads and quite a bit of traffic I made good time, covering nearly 80km by midday.

Cremona is a picturesque city, with some nice buildings, and was the home of the violin maker Antonio Stradivari (born 1644, or thereabouts).

The riding was fairly flat for much of the day, through farmland with lots of sweetcorn being grown. The route from Cremona took me North East, through a succession of smaller towns, and eventually leaving the busy main road as I crept over a few small hills, and through vineyards to Lake Garda.

I tried to find a bakery in Asola for lunch, but everywhere was shut for siestas, so ate some fruit and carried on, covering 139km by the time I reached the campsite; same distance as yesterday, and putting me well on the way to Slovenia and Croatia.

The heavens opened in San Benedetto di Lugana, on the shores of Lake Garda, just as I finished putting up my tent.  The rain was torrential for about 15 minutes, with streams of water running down to the lake. Thankfully my tent stayed dry, however I think I might invest in some waterproofing spray before much longer, just to be on the safe side.

During a pause in the rain I nipped to the local supermarket for supplies, also acquiring a ‘Tarte du Jour’; a pleasant little number, with fruit and chantilly cream, but not beating anything from France. I grabbed  takeaway pizza from the campsite restaurant, then relaxed, updating my blog and reading a book for a bit; an e-book that is, proper books a bit to bulky and heavy, but I do miss them.

I also did a bit of route planning, plotting a short ride to Verona, then on to a campsite near Vicenza tomorrow, with hopefully an early-ish stop. I need to have a proper think about my route to Istanbul, as it’s still over 1,300 miles away if I go via Albania, Macedonia and Greece. I still think that’s going to be the best route, but it leaves me a bit tight on time for the return leg to the UK.

With any luck it’ll stop raining tomorrow!

P.S. Don’t go camping in tourist hotspots in high season unless you’re happy to pay €30 a night for relatively little, with wifi often costing extra. I expected it to be the case but it still grates.

21 & 22 August 2015 – into Italy and on to Genoa

Routes and stats for the last two days below, as I leave France for Italy, on my way to Istanbul.

–> 21 August – into Italy (Imperia)
Hurrah, I made it to Italy, country number 11 I think, or 12 if you count Monaco, and to a decent campsite (De Wijnstok) near Imperia. What’s more the campsite has a nice little bar and pizzeria, so whilst writing my journal I enjoyed a cold beer, and got to listen to a guitarist play a few classic numbers; Eagles, Dire Straits etc

That was the end of the day, so I’d better go back to the start. Despite a few glasses of wine the previous evening I was up in good time, and away from Camping de l’Argentiere by 08:45, pedalling on to Cannes.

Cannes was busy, thronged with cars and tourists, and the harbour area packed with expensive boats of all shapes and sizes. I didn’t spot any movie-stars, but it was still early.

After dodging through both pedestrian and vehicle traffic I pedalled on to Antibes, which was a bit quieter than Cannes, but looked equally expensive; several Maseratis roared past me as if to reinforce this. Then it was along the coast to Nice via a cycle path.

Nice was…urrr…nice, but I didn’t feel like hanging about so I cycled along the seafront, forgetting about the webcams in my haste. Next up was Villefranche-sur-Mer, then Beaulieu-sur-Mer, passing some stunning scenery, before arriving in Monaco.

I almost missed Monaco, due to being routed through tunnels running underneath or alongside   bits of it. As a result I didn’t see much, which didn’t overly bother me at the time as I was hungry and looking forward to lunch and the prospect of a ‘tarte du jour’ in Menton.

I’m not sure I’d like living in Monaco. It’s just too cramped and felt slightly claustrophobic, with loads of tall buildings, and enclosed by a ring of mountains; I doubt I could afford a one bedroom flat anyway!

After Monaco the road climbed out of Monte Carlo and back into France. I stopped in Menton, the last French town before Italy, and found a great boulangerie. Today’s tarte was raspberry, and very nice, but not as good as yesterday’s tarte-au-citron. At this point I have grave concerns about whether Italy will be able to compete.

The border crossing into Italy is just after Menton, so I bid France ‘au revoir’ and pedalled over; as usual didn’t need to stop or show my passport. I immediately noticed a change in the style of architecture, as well as of course the language being different; don’t know much Italian but I’m sure I’ll get by. I passed through several towns on my way to near Imperia, including San Remo. One long stretch was on a cycle path, along the route of an old railway track, with several tunnels providing entertainment, and the sea and beaches just to my right. The cycle route went on for several kilometres, all the way to San Lorenzo.

The tunnels were great, providing a break from the sun and heat; lovely and cool, and lots of echoes –  potential goblin hotspot too!

The cycle route stopped just before my campsite for the night; De Wijnstok, near Poggi and Imperia. I had arrived in relatively good time so set up my tent and relaxed for a bit, before spending some time updating my blog.

De Wijnstok camping

De Wijnstok camping

De Wijnstok camping has its own bar and pizzeria, so I indulged myself and ate out; after 121km I didn’t have the energy to pedal to a supermarket, and besides, the campsite was pretty good value, even if I did have to pay for the wifi. The owner and staff all spoke at least some English, so no issues on the language front, and everyone staying on the campsite was friendly, saying hello, and in one case wanting to have a chat about my cycle tour. Marvellous; think I’m going to like Italy.

On to Genoa tomorrow, before heading inland and across towards Lake Garda and Venice.

–> 22 August 2015 – to Genoa
After a good night’s sleep I was up early and keen to get on the road, continuing my way down the Ligurian coast to Genoa.

After passing through Imperia it was a simple case of sticking to the coast road, through a succession of towns, and past a lot of beaches; lots of other cyclists out too, confirming the hobby’s popularity in Italy.

The road was very busy, but easy riding with only mild hills. I bumped into a couple from Brittany in Savona, also bicycle touring, making their way from Nice down into Italy, and then intending to take the ferry over to Dubrovnik. It was good to pause and chat for a bit, and I might bump into them again as they pedal up the coast from Dubrovnik.

Savona looked like an interesting place, with a big old fortress and roman ruins; think I spotted  hyper-caust or two. I continued down the coast through more towns, this being a very built up area – but not with high-rise abominations like much of the Costa del Sol. After a late lunch (kebab), and a failed search for a ‘tarte du jour’ I made it to the outskirts of Genoa and my campsite for the night; Villa Doria. On the tarte front, I need to remember to stop off in the morning when the relevant bakeries are open, and not having a siesta, which can go on for a long time in Italy; I’m not even sure if some of them open again in the afternoon.

Before setting up my tent I paused at the campsite bar for a cold beer. It was delicious; they taste so much better when you’ve thoroughly earned it. I chatted to a grandfather/grandson duo on a motorcycle tour down from Kent, taking in a bit of Italy before returning home via Switzerland; funny hearing strong South East accents again, and great to swap a few stories. The grandson was about to celebrate his 21st birthday, and wanted to do something to remember the year by; a month’s motorcycle touring in Europe should do it. His grandfather had decided to accompany him, as it was the grandson’s first time touring abroad, and they both seem to be having a great time or it; it’s all about filling your life with great memories, and as few regrets as possible.

I spent the rest of the evening doing a bit of planning, needing to plot my route over to Slovenia and Croatia, via Lake Garda and northern Italy; quite a long way to go with a  bit of wild camping  required due to lack of campsites. Still haven’t quite decided on my route after that; advice welcomed!

Hopefully ‘tarte du jour’ pics will resume tomorrow. Bonuit.