Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Verona via Concordia

The usual weekend scenario was unfolding. Saturday was wet and miserable, and Sunday initially looked uncertain. Still, we'd decided to join a bike meeting in Concordia, so after breakfast we headed north to see what it was all about. It was pleasantly warm, and only a few minutes into our journey, we were already riding out of the gloom and into the blue. Ahead of us was a beautiful clear sky and the sun was shining. The roads were really quiet due to it being a national holiday; Liberation Day. We arrived at Concordia too late to register for the various events taking place but enjoyed looking at all the bikes and watching them take off for a trip around the town.

The noise was incredible and I could just imagine my mum saying, "I can't be doing with all this noise!" Still, two biker nuns were interested, leaning out of an upstairs window opposite to where we were standing! One of the highlights was seeing a couple on their bike complete with small dog in harness. That was just too cute!

After all this excitement we vowed that we'd definitely arrive early enough to register for the next event, and decided to head off up to Verona to be tourists for the afternoon. The journey up was fantastic, riding through lovely countryside and pretty villages. One village had three houses with red washing on the line. I don't know whether this was a political statement, being Liberation Day and all, or if they all work at the same local factory with an interesting dress code! A highlight of the journey was riding over the Po. What a magnificent river, what a fabulous view. The bridge was pretty nice, too.
We got to Verona at lunch time and found somewhere simple to eat. We followed this up with a delicious fresh fruit salad in one of the squares. Made a change from ice cream.
After a look around and a sit down, we headed back home, stopping at Mattioli's for our traditional ice cream.

km: 223

Monday, April 19, 2010

Festa di Primavera - Mirandola

Early in the week, it looked like the weather was going to be lovely at the weekend. We were promised 22 degrees and dry, sunny weather. Perfect for one trip out, at least! How come then that the closer we got to the weekend, the grimmer the forecast was for the weekend? It's always the same. Sunny and dry all week, a forecast for a good weekend, and when the weekend arrives, it's dull at best, mostly tipping it down at worst. The Italian meteorological office is utterly hopeless.
So it was then that we set out with some trepidation on Sunday, just after lunch. The idea was that we would meet up with a biker group in Quistello. When we arrived, the place was deserted though, so who knows what happened there... Never mind, we'd been tipped off about the "Festa dei Fiore" in Mirandola, not far away, so we decided to head off there. Fortunately the sky had cleared somewhat and it was pleasantly warm and sunny.
Arriving in Mirandola, it was obvious something was going on. We parked up and went for a coffee to wait and see what was unfolding, having seen a few people dressed in Medieval costume and carnival masks. Flowers, it wasn't but it looked interesting nevertheless. The street was buzzing with anticipation with people looking up the road, obviously waiting for something to appear. We took our place at the side of the road and waited. We were in fact witnessing the "Festa di Primavera" or Spring fair and a parade was underway with people dressed in array of different costumes, representing different social and cultural local groups. Two surprises were groups from Peru and Bolivia... It was all very colourful and noisy. In fact when it got too noisy, with floats blaring out disco music, we decided to head off homewards, stopping for an ice cream at Mattioli's in Modena on the way!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

First bike trip abroad

Easter weekend promised a bit of a mixed bag of weather, but Saturday looked the better day. We therefore decided a trip was in order. We'd thought about heading up to the top end of Lake Garda, but actually the weather to the north of us wasn't as settled, so we decided on a trip south-east to the Republic of San Marino. Abroad, in effect! It's pretty much straight down the Via Emilia to Rimini, then head off inland south-west. We don't like to use the motorway because it's boring and I find myself nodding off.

The trip down took us through some lovely scenery with all the fruit trees coming into blossom, and everything turning green at long last. The few swallows we saw told us also that summer wasn't far away.

On the way we passed through Imola, home of the erstwhile, ill-fated San Marino Grand Prix. At a distance of around 100km, I was wondering if Michael O'Leary (Ryanair CEO) had a say in the naming of the race... We saw quite a few bikers on the way but none funnier than the beefy biker we saw in Imola with his rear end hanging out of his too small jeans. Must have been chilly that, but at least we had somewhere to park the bike. Ewww!! Still, onwards and upwards towards the lofty heights of the Republic.

San Marino, or more accurately, The Most Serene Republic of San Marino (Serenissima Repubblica di San Marino) is an enclave in Italy, on the border between the regions of Emilia Romagna and Marche. Its topography is dominated by the Apennine mountain range, giving it a somewhat rugged terrain. The highest point in the country, the summit of Monte Titano, is situated at 749 m (2,457 ft) above sea level. With an area occupying just over 61km2 (24 sq miles) San Marino is the third smallest country in Europe, with only Vatican City and Monaco being smaller.

We parked up the bike and set off to have a look around the main town. You have to have strong legs around these parts since all the streets are perched on the top of a hill. A lot of the shops were a bit tacky and touristy, but the most outstanding thing was the number of shops selling fake firearms. I'm talking fake Lugers, AK47s, revolvers, you name it. It was horrendous. Alongside that lot you could also buy all manner of knives and swords, camouflage gear, in fact anything the budding terrorist or bank robber could wish for. All of this in the name of "liberty". You see, San Marino likes to call itself "The Land of the Free". Hmm... reminds me of somewhere else that also calls itself the land of the free and has a fondness for guns, but I digress...

We had a rather mediocre lunch on the Palazzo Pubblico. From here we could see the green and red clad Guard of the Rocks. In their role as Fortress Guards they are responsible for guarding the Palazzo Pubblico in San Marino City, the seat of national Government. They are also a front-line military unit in the San Marino armed forces and state border patrol, with responsibility for patrolling borders and defending them.

One of the best things about San Marino is the views you get from the top. Out across the republic and over towards the resorts of Rimini, Cattolica etc., on the east coast.

After another walk around, we decided to head down to Rimini for some bracing sea air before going home. Bracing it was indeed and a bit bleak. Still, it was nice to see the sea.

Homeward bound then. The journey took us about three hours, an hour less than Google Maps had told us it would take. This is with every single set of traffic lights the full length of the Via Emilia being on red. We also don't go that fast, unlike some of the street bikes we saw. One clever dick pulled a wheelie away from the lights with girlfriend clinging on at the back. Must have been nice for her (not), especially since neither of them were wearing any protective gear whatsoever. Off they roared at about 100 miles an hour... Still, we made it home pretty much unscathed despite the best efforts of some of Italy's finest car drivers. So three times "Ma che cazzo fai???!!!" was shouted, with the appropriate hand gestures, and we were home by 7.15pm.

km 360
Beefy biker backsides: 1