Sunday, October 25, 2009

Seafood Lunch in Cesenatico

Today, knowing that the weather forecast was promising a lovely sunny and relatively warm day, we set off for Cesenatico on the east coast. I'd recently got kitted out with some wind-proof layers and was confident that this time I wouldn't arrive at our destination looking like an ice-lolly. We decided to take the motorway to get there and back as quickly as possible since we've just put the clocks back and wanted to try and get home in the light.

It's a pretty straight route down with the motorway more or less following the same road as the historical Via Emilia that runs in a straight line from Milan to Ravenna. The topography is really flat and the vegetation largely cultivated but pretty nevertheless. What was interesting is that most of the grapevines were still green. Around us they have started to turn beautiful autumn colours. The grapes around us are largely Sorbara Lambrusco grapes, while the vines that we saw around Faenza are generally San Giovese. Perhaps this accounts for the differences. The fruit trees on the other hand were vivid golds, oranges and reds and really spectacular. One of the less attractive aspects of the journey however, was the large number of pigs being transported, presumably to be slaughtered. This region of Italy favours pork products over just about anything else you can think of. Buon appetito, but not for me, thanks...

We left the motorway at Cesena, where it said it was 20km to Cesenatico. We saw our first seagull here. Unlike in the UK, seagulls in Italy tend to frequent the coast and inland stretches of water only. It was nice to see them, knowing we were close to the coast. After travelling a couple of kilometers, we saw that Cesenatico was now only 9 km away. After another 5 or so, we saw it was now 7. Italy, the only place that tells you how far away a place is as the crow flies, rather than how the road pans out... Still, nice to know we were nearly there!

Considering it is now out of season, Cesenatico was quite busy. It can be quite dismal in the winter, like most seaside towns. We had a walk and admired the colourful barges before heading off for the main purpose of the day: a seafood lunch by the coast!

After lunch we had quite a long walk, including walk along the beach. In the UK there would have been people swimming, not here.

So, off home again, chasing the light north west. We didn't quite make it home in the light, but almost. A fabulous day.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Up and over the Apennines to Lucca

Another beautiful autumn day dawned for our trip down to Lucca in Tuscany. After half freezing to death a couple of days previously, I put on my lovely silk and cashmere thermal top. That would keep me warm and toasty for sure. Well, it didn't help that before we'd even set out, I'd run up and down the stairs four times getting things I'd left in the house. When we set off I was already sweaty under my numerous layers, and as that sweat cooled and did its job of cooling me down, I was once more frozen stiff on the back of the bike.
To reach Lucca, you have to cross the Apennines, and since we wanted to go the pretty way, this meant a steep climb to 1500m, where it was really cold. Still, the trip up scenery-wise was just stunning. The trees are still quite green and the mixed forest of pine and mostly oak, with the odd chestnut was beautiful. Little villages fragrant with wood smoke coming from the chimneys of cosy houses, windy roads, sweeping landscapes, you couldn't want for more on a bike trip. Descending down into Tuscany after Abetone, the forest changed a bit. The colours were a little more autumnal this side, and the oak had given way largely to beech.
Just outside Lucca, we passed through the picturesque town of Borgo a Mozzano which lies on the Serchio river and is home to a really interesting bridge called Ponte della Maddalena, but also known as the Ponte del Diavolo, or "Devil's Bridge". Can't imagine why... On our quest for lunch, we took a detour up into the surrounding hills, heading for an agriturismo we'd seen signposted. The place was beautiful, but they were closed for lunch. The place was called Borgo Giusto.

So, back down we went, and happened on a very peculiar restaurant that brewed its own beer. I had a delicious thick soup and bread, and Claudio had a steak and chips. I fancied hot chocolate and apple pie to finish, but that would have to wait. Recharged, we headed into Lucca. After negotiating the ring road and less than adequate road signs (as per in Italy), we parked up just inside the Porta Santa Maria, Lucca being a walled town. The town itself is quite charming and the setting really pretty.

This is the Basilica di San Frediano
These are pictures of San Michele in Foro

This is Torre delle Ore
This is the Piazza Anfiteatro where I finally got my hot chocolate and apple pie!

Since it was getting a bit late and rather chilly, we opted to return via the motorway. Obviously not as picturesque and fun, but we still got a good view of the Tuscan countryside with its iconic cypresses.

A gorgeous day out, but I really do need to sort out some warmer clothes. I felt like Ötzi the iceman.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Yesterday, after a recommendation in BBC Wildlife Magazine, we headed off to Comacchio, near the east coast, to a huge lake and wetland system that plays host to a wealth of migrating birds in the autumn and spring. The weather was great as we set off, but we had only been going for about half an hour when we could see a huge rainstorm in the distance. We'd checked the weather forecast a couple of days previously, which promised dry weather, but not today, so had no idea what was in store. Before we got drenched we decided to pull in under a bridge to don the waterproofs. Admittedly it was a bit of a struggle to get them on, but we weren't under the bridge for that long, but when we came out there was no sign of the rain. A little further up the road however, it was clear there'd recently been a downpour. Lucky escape for us then! It took ages to get to Comacchio, not least because of the lack of signposts, but also the local population's complete oblivion to one of the most important destinations for migratory birds in the whole of Europe. Italians don't really "do" birds... apart from to blast them out of the sky it would seem. Still, we eventually found it, and in true Italian style, it was all but deserted. There were 2 sad, lonely figures at the visitors' centre, nothing to eat thanks to the lack of a chef, (not even a sandwich!!) and no guided tours or boat drivers available. So, we walked to a part of the lake where we could see the famous flamingoes... at a distance of approximately 1km, and then walked back, on the way passing some gulls and terns (specific species unknown), some great white egrets, cormorants and unknown flying little waders. All interesting, and very cute but I hope I don't sound churlish when I say, I WAS HOPING FOR A BIT MORE THAN THAT!!!! Ho-hum, we'll just have to come back another day and hope that we don't encounter the same apathy next time. Thank you BBC Wildlife Magazine for so thoroughly researching this trip and giving us all the information we needed for a grand day out... not...

Good thing is though, that in spite of there being a lot of heavy rain about, we by and large missed it. We always seemed to be behind the rain, arriving to find soaking wet streets and sunshine. It was really cold though, so in spite of my 3 seasons jacket (which 3 seasons might they be, then?) I was absolutely freezing on the back. Still, a lesson learnt there, if nothing else: If it's 11∘C in the sun when you leave, it's going to be a flipping site colder on the bike!

First Trip on Ruby

On Sunday 11th June, we went on our first trip on the brand spanking new Ruby. We set off quite early because they were closing to road near us for a marathon. Off we went on a gorgeous sunny autumn morning, up towards Il Lago delle Ninfe, 1500m up towards the peak of the highest mountain in Emilia Romagna, Mt. Cimone. The ride up was spectacular, with the autumn colours still not really in full flow in the lowlands, absolutely beautiful up at altitude. The lake was pretty much deserted, but we did find a little "refuge" where we had lunch outside in the autumn sun, amongst the butterflies and a squirrel high up in the treetops.

On the way down we stopped off at Sestola that was hosting a chocolate fair. After buying some goodies, we set off home. Unfortunately due to a lack of forward planning, there are no photographs to show for this trip. Pity because the scenery was the best I've seen anywhere. Still, there's always next time...

Meet Ruby...

So, after nearly 4 months of waiting, I am proud to present Ruby! The only difference between her and the dearly departed Delilah is an extra bit of cool kit called ESA, which stands for Electronic Suspension Adjustment and allows you to set up the suspension according to terrain, ride preference and according to load on the back. It really makes a difference to the ride comfort. What a lovely girl!