A Travellerspoint blog

Ciao!

Warm Welcome

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While cycling (yep, uphill!) to the Italian boarder, we meet a gorgeous couple, Lusiella and Luca and their 4-year old son Matteo. They invite us into their home for a very generous lunch, an espresso and a shot of home-made limoncello. Just what we need to get to the camping site! What a great feeling to have arrived in Italia! Now all we have to do is organize the rest of the trip. Wonder what that's going to be like...

As we are not exacly great planners and the Italian roads do not take cyclists into account, we have a hard time finding fun, peaceful routs. All our hope is set on Milan. Being one of the first big cities we cross, we hope to find some good information for cycling down South. We did read something about the Via Francigena on the internet, which is a pilgrimage route from Canterbury all the way to Rome, but to our disappointment the people at the tourist office cannot help us. They do give us the address of a Touring Shop. That is where we find a few good maps of the departments we will be travelling through. One of them is even the Via Francigena of the Tuscany region! They don't have any others though.

From Milano we make our way to Piacenza, where we unexpectedy get all the information we need concerning the Via Francigena. It is actually the priest of the church we are admiring that asks us if we are pilgrims and sends us to the tourist office. The girl there is so nice and helpful and even prints us a list with convents and accomodation on our route. She gives us a booklet which we have to present at each arrival in order to get our stamp...how exciting!

The weather is beautiful and we pass through some amazing scenery which makes up for the busy roads. Some of our highlights are the small, historical town of Castell'arquato, Parma (which surprisingly has cycle paths all around the city) and riding over the Passo de la Cisa, the pass into Tuscany.

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The first city in Tuscany is Pontremoli where we stay at the local convent. We are welcomed by the Padre with freshly picked grapes and shown our seperate rooms...of course! We enjoy the town, the food and the wine and head back to the convent for a good night's sleep. The great weather doesn't last and as we leave the convent the next morning, dark clouds hang over us dauntingly.

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We manage to have a quick breakfast along the way when suddenly the rain hits us hard! And it doesn't stop for the next 6 hours. We stop 20 kms before Lucca in Camaiore where we find free accomodation once again thanks to the Via Francigena. Even though we are drenched and have cycled 80 kms, we are content!

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We get news from our friends Gauthier and Fredou that they will be meeting us in Rome around the 27th of September. Great! We have been hoping people would meet up with us at some time, but we really want to see the treasures of Tuscany. We decide to cycle to Lucca and take a train to Pisa to visit what there is to visit and an hour later we are back on the train to Florence from where we take yet another train to Sienna a few days later. This gives us the opportunity to see those extraordinary places and to cycle though some striking Tuscan scenery to Rome in order to get there just in time to have 3 lovely days in great company!

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Our pilgrimage trail to Rome has come to an end and before leaving the city we set off to the Vatican to attain our last stamp. Unfortunately something is going on in the Vatican and we are not able to get our stamp but the Garde Suisse is kind enough to give us a shoulder patch with the shield as a consolation prize. Valentin is honoured!

Piazza San Pietro, Rome, Italy

Piazza San Pietro, Rome, Italy

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After Rome we head to the coast and cycle all the way down to Napoli. The coastal stretch is quite disappointing with a few exceptions. Finding campings or cheap accomodation is difficult but as it turns out Valentin has a good nose for sniffing out wild camping spots and we even spend te night in an ancient Roman port 65 kms before Napoli.

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With Greece and Turkey coming up and seasons changing slowly but surely, we take a fast train across Italy to the Eastern coast. Unprepared as usual, not knowing where we are going and with a ferry leaving 30 minutes after our arrival by train in Bari, we rush through the city and are just in time to get our ticket and hop on the overnight boat to Igoumenitsa... New adventures await!

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Posted by kelly and val 06:28 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Lakes and mountains

Godzillhard Pass

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As we are headed for Italy, we take the classic n°3 North-South Cycling Route through Switzerland. After leaving the suburbs of Basel with its chemical industry, we are soon captivated by the Jura mountains, which take us up to 812m. Lovely level stretches in the Suhren Valley and along Lake Lucerne follow. We take a ferry from Beckenried to Gersau and hop on our bikes all the way to Fluelen. Blue skies, lushious green mountains and turquoise water surround us. We are happy.

After a short ride through the initially flat Reuss countryside, the route gains height and we are faced with the challenge of crossing the Gotthard. Our labours (45km up!) are rewarded with a glorious downhill run from an altitude of 2108 m on the old Gotthard Road to Airolo, Biasca and enchanting Bellinzola with its beautiful castles.

The fun way down doesn't last long! To get to Locarno we must cycle over Monte Ceneri in over 30 °C! We didn't see that one coming but we have reached the Golden South!

Posted by kelly and val 05:57 Archived in Switzerland Comments (0)

Hills, canals, slugs and alot of tartes flambées!

To ride or not to ride...

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Photo K&V 038

Only a day into our trip and we are already put to the test when cycling through the hills of the Ardennes. We haven't put our lovely behinds on a bike for at least a month and boy can we feel it! After three days of rain, we finally arrive in sunny Luxembourg where we are forced to make a short break due to Kelly's strained knee.
Feeling re-energized and positive about the route along the Sarre, we set off for a couple of long rides when again we are put to a hold. Only this time it will take us twelve days before we are up and running again. Disappointment and doubt suddenly overshadow our plans and we even catch ourselves thinking about a possible return to Belgium...by train? We decide to be patient and finally make another attempt to continue our itinerary to Strasbourg where we are invited to spend the weekend with our new friend Camille and make a stop at the travel clinic to get our last shots!
We are nearing Switserland and ready to really start our adventure!

Posted by kelly and val 05:48 Archived in France Comments (0)

bybi!cycle

Precious moments...

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So many things to do, yet so little time! Our priorities at the moment seem to be deciding on which festivals to do, getting the tickets before they are all sold out and making sure we do not miss out on any of the best parties, when really we should be packing and moving (we are supposed to be out of our apartment in two weeks!), getting all the necessary insurances, vaccines and organizing ourselves for our one year cycle-tour we are about to embark on. But now is the time to enjoy those last precious moments with our beloved friends and family and that is exactly what we are planning to do!!!

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Posted by kelly and val 01:27 Archived in Belgium Comments (2)

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