Capri, c’est fini (and Italy too…)

Day 372, Trieste, 25.346 km

For the soundtrack, it’s here

Turning another page… After a month and a half of avoiding crazy drivers on the roads, surviving hell-like heat, enduring the two rainy days of summer and tasting as many pizzas as possible (and admitting that they were all better than each other), I only have a few kilometers of Italy left before the Balkans… By the way, the linguistic transition is « made easier » for me since the signs are written in two languages: I’m already able to ask for the direction to Trieste (you never know, if I feel like turning around) or to the communal soccer field (even if I’m not sure I can pronounce the word correctly…). It’s still a bit early to look back, but I’d say I ate well, got a nice tan and will have something to dream about for a few more years…

When I leave Faenza, I am pleasantly surprised to notice that the road I am following is lined with a bicycle path. A real one, separated from the cars by a small embankment, paved and clean. I’m a bit wary, my previous experiences have shown that sometimes the end can be quite abrupt. But not this time. At least not right away. When the bike path goes towards the Po delta, I hesitate. Then I tell myself that bird songs instead of car noises could be nice. 500 meters further, private road, locked gate. Too bad, it will be cars… Ferrara and its impressive walls pass by, then I ride along the Po, again on a bike path. It reminds me of the Elbe, the Danube or the Rhine: I’m high on a dike, flanked on one side by the river and on the other by fields. Pleasant most of the time, a little less with the wind…

The Po…
… and the fields

Unfortunately, the Po goes eastwards and I go north, so I quickly have to go back to the road, its cars and trucks. But with the wind at my back it goes a bit faster and I quickly arrive in Padova. Very nice city, nice colored houses, many crowded terraces and a superb square that reminds me a bit of the Plaza de España in Sevilla, the Prato della Valle, with its many statues surrounding a small circular canal. At the exit of the city, the road goes along a canal, and I seem to see a bike path on the other side of it (incredible, I see more bike paths in one day than all the other days I spent in Italy combined). Suspicious, I stay on the road for a while, but after about 15 km I finally have to admit that this time it’s for real! And when the track forks towards Treviso, in the forest, and I even find water fountains every ten kilometers, I tell myself that I am living the dream. And the small grove of hazel trees that hides me for the night only reinforces this impression. Which is quickly contradicted by the return in force of mosquitoes and a slug-attack…

Padua, the Prato della Valle and the Basilica of Saint Anthony
Padua, a mosaic of colors

The next day, Treviso. I stroll a little in the city, following at random the cyclists I meet. Very nice and very paved. When I realize that I’m going in circles, I treat myself a coffee, a croissant, and I go back to the road towards the Dolomites. Cycle path (again) to get out of the city, and along the road to Conegliano, where I chat in 4 languages with an old man who used to be an ice dealer in Canada, a pizzaiolo in Germany, who gabbles a bit of English that I spice up with Italian words: great literature! Then the number of cars decreases drastically and the first foothills of the Dolomites appear: it’s going to get spicy!

First view of the Dolomites

I start with a series of tunnels. One of which is 4 kilometers long, not the best cycling experience of the day: each car that passes me makes the noise of a freight train launched at the speed of a high speed train, I let you imagine the effect of buses or heavy trucks. But once back in the open air, it’s a real treat: an artificial lake with turquoise waters flanked by mountains, themselves crowned with clouds. And it lasts for a few kilometers, while the announced climb is not so bad. The road is almost deserted, I must have found one of the only itineraries that tourists and bikers don’t know… The lake becomes a river, a tiny blue strip on its white pebble bed, while each turn reveals a new peak, a new mountain with pine trees. After the pass of San Osvaldo, I even have the leisure to let myself go in the descent and to gorge myself with these grandiose images…

Then Longarone, an industrial area that seems huge to me after having passed only tiny villages for several hours, a road under construction and hundreds of trucks… But a sign « cycle route » comes to my rescue, it’s definitely good to cycle in the north! However, I understand the word « Chiusa » in Italian, and when it is added to the word « road », it’s usually not a good sign… I stop the first bike I see and ask if the road is open. The thumbs up indicates that the road is free, even if the lady who informs me adds an eloquent gesture: it will climb hard! Indeed, for the end of the day, it’s a little bit sportive, but some nice little villages decorate the slope, a small local supermarket provides for my food needs and the proximity of a chalet offers me a flat ground sheltered from the wind… A couple of old people pass by me as I finish my dessert, and in a hesitant English ask me if I’m going to sleep here (which I confirm), if I want to sleep in the chalet (which I decline), and where I come from. I realize when they leave that they were probably the owners of the chalet, and therefore of the land, and that I didn’t even think of asking them if they were okay with me invading their turf. If my mother knew what I did with my manners, she would probably already be busy looking for a new son to adopt…

The next day, overcast. I cross my fingers that it doesn’t rain. At least not on me. And without warming up, I start climbing the mountains: slopes with more than 10% declivity and laces which make me dizzy. I am overtaken by an Italian cyclist and his supporters car, then by a group of Swiss who have a supporters van, a film crew equipped with the latest cell phones and who shout encouragement in Swiss-German: big atmosphere on the slopes of the Sella di Razzo! Still some clouds that blur the view at the top, but the sun comes out timidly and warms me up a bit before the magnificent descent on the mountainside to Sauris and its lake…

I hesitate to climb the Pura pass, but choose for once the easy way and the descent in superb gorges towards Ampezzo. The only drawback: more tunnels, paved and slippery this time. And not that much light to add to the fun… But no fall, I arrive in Ampezzo in one piece and start the last difficulty in the Dolomites: the Rest pass. It’s short, hard, but once I arrive at the top I tell myself that the view was worth it. And that even if it wasn’t, I would climb all the passes in the world just for the pleasure of the descent! Not a single pedal stroke and an average speed of more than 40 km/h, the mountains as impressive as ever, a waterfall and at the bottom a new lake where the surrounding peaks are reflected. Then the Tagliamento river which makes its way among the pebbles… A dream!

After a quick tour in Udine, I find a field shortly after the exit of the city which seems to be suitable for camping. A bit close to the railroad, but I tell myself that the trains will not run all night. No way! I’m awake every hour or so, and moreover there seems to be a nightclub in the area I even have music! But well, the sun that rises in the morning and the perspective of sleeping in a bed that night help to swallow the pill… And the road leads me quite quickly to the sea again, with a pleasantly lazy descent to Trieste, where I’m going to spend a well-deserved weekend of rest…

No beach, no problem!
The amphitheater
Sunset on the canal

And from Sunday on, it’s goodbye Italy and hello Croatia!

I know, I went a bit out of the map…

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