Sunday, February 28, 2010

Castello di Canossa

Saturday, and another sunny day, this time quite a warm one. Time to tog up and take Ruby out for a spin. We decided to stick fairly close to home and do a circuit taking in Castello di Canossa, in the Province of Reggio Emilia and in the Reggio Apennines.
We set out on one of those crystalline mornings and one of the rare occasions when not only are the Apennines as clear as a bell, but the more distant Alps are also visible. It was also pleasantly warm, and for the first time since riding on Delilah early last summer, I wasn't frozen on the back. We saw quite a few bikes out as we headed away from the towns and up into the countryside. I sit there, lollipop-head swivelling backwards and forwards, taking in the scenery. After all the rain, the rivers were running fast and full and looked quite spectacular. I'm always on the lookout for interesting wildlife, particularly roe deer and foxes which can occasionally be spotted on the slopes running up from the road. No joy today, however.
I love seeing new places and actually being there, but for me the getting there is not so pleasant. I get terribly travel sick, especially when climbing hills with curvy roads. On the bike however, I never feel sick, so it's an ideal form of transport. For people who either have no appreciation of or have never travelled by motorbike, it's hard to explain why the getting there is part of the pleasure. It's not just about being in a new place, but about the things you experience on the way. Say to someone you'd rather ride the bike up to the UK than take the plane, and they think you're mad. I get in a real state travelling by plane. Not because it frightens me but because of all the faffing around at the airport, worrying you've got too much luggage, or they're going to confiscate something, or strip-search you, or interrogate you because you say the wrong thing. Then breathing all that recycled air on the plane, crammed in with all those other people. I hate it completely. Give me Ruby any day.
So, back to the trip. We arrived at Canossa a little before lunch so had a walk up to the ruins of the castle and the little museum. The views from the top were amazing with the Apennines on one side and the mighty Alps in the distance on the other, and the museum small but really well laid out and informative.

Canossa castle was the home of the legendary Matilda who was apparently a useful go-between when the then Pope and Henry IV fell out. There are loads of Medieval castles in this region of Emilia Romagna, often reflected in the names of the surrounding towns, such as Castellarano and Castelvetro.
There was a family-run restaurant, "La Rupe" below the castle where we enjoyed tagliatelle with funghi porcini. I finished with apple cake and Claudio had "zuppa inglese" which is similar to trifle.
We then headed home, stopping to do some errands on the way. It really feels like spring is just around the corner, but the "mackerel sky" that greeted our homecoming promised a dismal Sunday and showed that it's still too early to expect too many sunny days on the trot. Still, it's a start.
km: 194
Egrets spotted: 1
Buzzards spotted: 2
Butterflies spotted: 3 (one yellow of some kind and 2 red admirals)
Bumblebees spotted: 1
Flies splattered on visor: 1 (greenfly)
Flies splattered on bike: Loads (must be spring)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Pre-season warm up trip to Peschiera

For once it was going to be sunny. I swear this winter is lasting for ever and has been so dreary and wet. We normally have plenty of cold, crisp, sunny days in the winter, but this year has been awful. Last Sunday was a day where the sunny weather coincided with a day that promised to be well above freezing, so of course we couldn't resist getting Ruby out for a spin. We had plans for later in the day so knew we couldn't venture too far. We're lucky to have Lake Garda only an hour away, so that's where we headed for. Peschiara, to be precise, which is the nearest resort to us.
The trip started well with not much traffic and lovely sunshine. A bit parky but bearable. Then we reached the outskirts of Mantova and what started as a few wispy fronds of fog over the ground grew into a bank that lasted probably 30-odd km. It was wet and very chilly. We nearly turned round and went home... Luckily for us, we didn't because when we emerged from the other side it was lovely and sunny again and we were nearly there.
We parked the bike with lots of others and had a wander around the town. It's nice with these resort towns because shops tend to stay open on Sundays. We then set off for a walk along the lake side in search of something to eat. I want to mention at this point that Peschiera has the most piles of dog poo I've seen in a town for a long time. Anyway, we knew we'd probably be eating with friends later so when we found a little café serving light food, we went in. We chose a slice of pizza and chips. We waited about 45 minutes for this simple fair, but it was warm and filling when it eventually arrived. It also cost us a small fortune... hey-ho! After a sit in the sun by the lake, we headed back home. It was much warmer on the homeward journey with no sign of the pesky fog that blighted and froze us on the way up. A good time was had by all!

km: 226
Grey herons spotted: Loads
Egrets spotted: 6
Grebes spotted: 2
Ducks spotted: Loads
Gulls spotted: 12
Swans spotted: 2
Buzzards spotted: 2
Coypu spotted: 4
Dog poo stepped in: 0 (for once...)