Monday, May 31, 2010

Of fish and cherries...

We hadn't made any real plans for a trip today, so decided to set off in the afternoon into the Apennines and have a look around Sestola and take it from there. We like to go through Spilamberto and Vignola, and at this time of year it's the height of the cherry season. This is the cherry capital of Italy, no less. Every few hundred metres there were makeshift stalls selling cherries and to a lesser extent, strawberries and plums. It looks like it's a bumper crop this year. The orchards of cherry trees certainly look very pretty with the contrast of red against green.

We carried on up towards Sestola. Sestola is quite a small town and there aren't any visitor attractions as such, but it is quite pretty and the narrow lanes of the upper town are worth a look. I spent a few minutes watching a pair of tiny coal tits in a hedge taking advantage of the aphid explosion there had been around this area today. This old part of town is protected by a high cliff on which stands an ancient fortress, reconstructed towards the middle of the 16th century, but with much older origins. The castle houses the museum of musical instruments with more than 120 mechanical musical instruments, and also a mountain museum documenting the history and development of the whole region. We didn't go up, but it might be worth a visit next time!

The town was a bit deserted when we got there during what would still be lunch time. It looked like we might have missed some sort of event in the morning, involving what looked like sprigs of broom flowers. Some houses had bunches of them outside and there were a few squashed flowers in the road. I haven't been able to find out what all that was about. Still, we had a look around the town and then headed up towards the Lago della Ninfa, a small, natural, tectonic lake at 1500m above sea level. In the winter this area is popular with skiers. In the summer it offers a fresh retreat from the muggy lowlands of the Po Basin. On this particular day, we had arrived at the end of a fishing competition. I never would have thought there'd be so many fish in such a small lake (well there were, I think there are rather fewer now...). There were piles of plastic bags full of fish, going to anyone who was interested. We didn't think fish in the top case was a good idea, so passed. We left them to it before the presentation of the trophies. Quite bizarre.

Since it was fresh but not cold, we decided to head a little further up the road to the winter ski resort of Passo del Lupo. There were only a couple of other people up here and it reminded me of the old Scooby Doo cartoons where they always seemed to find themselves in deserted fairgrounds (those meddling kids!). All the ski lifts and cable cars looked really strange surrounded by all that greenery. Above us loomed Monte Cimone which at 2165m, is the highest peak in Emilia-Romagna. Its interior houses a military structure (erm, Thunderbirds moment here...) and for this reason, during the Cold War, access to the peak was forbidden. You can walk up from Lago della Ninfa now, apparently.
Time to head home. It got very much warmer as we descended, making me glad again we'd opted out of taking some fish home. We stopped off in Modena to get some bread on the way home. Hmmmm, what if we had got some fish...

I've noticed on the last couple of trips that my rear end has been a bit achy and numb after a couple of hours on the bike. After some research on the Internet, I've decided to get myself a sheepskin seat cover. I'll review it once it arrives and let you know my thoughts!

Km 171

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