Through Emilia Romagna – a culinary highlight
I have to admit, I could have stayed a day or two longer in Verona. Not only because the city is simply stunning, but also because I was already feeling the effects of all of the kilometres I’d already done. But unfortunately, that wasn’t part of the schedule and the pain went away quite quickly. In order to save time, I did not cycle continuously along the Eurobike route to Venice and from there to Florence and Rome, but instead took a short cut and cycled through the Emilia Romagna. As I already mentioned, as an Austrian, I am not a fan of flat routes and so the cycle path, first along the Adige, then along the Po, quickly became a little boring. Instead I found something that really inspired me – namely the heavenly cuisine of Emilia Romagna. When I think of the delicious tortellini al tartufo that I ate in the town of Ferrara, my mouth still waters.
At some point you get tired
After a week I arrived near Ravenna. At this point I was admittedly a little tired of cycling: You need to know that it got dark early, so in order to achieve my goal I had to leave early in the morning and never dawdle. When I reached my destination in early evening, I usually wanted to shower straight away, because it was no longer warm in Italy! Unfortunately, that didn’t leave much time for sightseeing. That’s why after a week on the bike I felt like taking a break, so I cycled to the sea and spent a wonderful lazy day wrapped in a cosy sweater on a beach lounger, looked out at sea and enjoyed the peace and quiet – it was really good for me.
Then on the route of our Venice – Florence tour the next day I set out rested and full of energy towards Faenza and was happy when the landscape got a little hillier with every turn of the pedal. It got more and more beautiful. Over time, vineyards, cypresses, almond trees and olive groves lined the cycle path. It was harvest time. I particularly like to remember one scene. During a break from cycling, I watched a family, from grandfather to toddler, picking olives. Then they had a loud, singing, fun, simply Italian picnic with regional delicacies together. I think that was definitely in the top ten most beautiful moments from my trip – to be able to observe the harmony and togetherness of an Italian family.
Italy is simply delicious
After Brisighella the landscape changed once again. This is where the Apennines begin. The landscape was dotted by proud old chestnut trees and I caught myself thinking whether many chestnuts are being eaten here. Actually, I had planned to cycle up the Apennines – but torrential rain prevented this ambitious plan. Instead, I ended up stranded in the enchanting chestnut village of Marradi, where, what else could I do in bad weather, I paid a visit to the local innkeeper. It was one of the most typical restaurants I have ever visited in Italy – a meeting place for young and old with lots of laughter, children playing and excellent food. As soon as I got to the table, I was served homemade crostini that tasted so good I didn’t want to eat anything else. But then I was persuaded to have a perfectly fried steak with aromatic porcini mushrooms. It was unbelievably good and as I sat there with a full stomach and a glass of good red wine and watched the scene, I was completely satisfied. It was a wonderful evening and I noticed how relaxed I was.
Florence is always worth a trip, but…
…I really didn’t want to experience rain and freezing cold temperatures when visiting this great city. The last kilometres before Florence were so terrible that I decided to shorten the journey by train. I’m not really squeamish but when you have water in your shoes and struggle against an ice-cold headwind, you don’t have to prove anything to yourself. As always, the city was almost cheesy and of course I had never seen it so quiet.
And this is where the most beautiful, authentic and most Italian leg of the journey started for me – from Florence to Rome.
In the footsteps of the Etruscans in Umbria
I have travelled to many regions and cities in Italy. A corner that I had yet to get to know well was Umbria. What can you say about this region – just WOW! The region is much more authentic than other popular tourist regions in Italy and the landscape is varied. This idyll is always framed by mountains. You cycle past hazelnut plantations, vineyards and olive groves and everything is so…peaceful and harmonious. The charming little towns are mostly located in the hills, which makes the landscape picturesque and romantic, but at the same time it was a bit exhausting for a cyclist like me. But the view from up there was definitely worth the effort. In the evenings, when I strolled through these villages, there was a very special atmosphere that took me back in time. There were many magical moments here.
One highlight follows the last
I can’t say what I liked best about Umbria because I was amazed by the region every day. I fondly remember the picture of Lake Trasimeno with small islands in the foreground and the Etruscan villages in the background. Or Perugia, the provincial capital, which is also located on a hill and offers incredible views. But I particularly remember a moment in the breathtaking city of Assisi, when I was sitting in the Basilica of San Francesco. This is the cathedral that houses the tomb of Francis of Assisi. So while I sat there, I let my mind wander, thinking about the past season and the whole situation. I think that was the moment when the last stress of everyday life left and, in that moment, I was just happy about my trip, satisfied about what I had already achieved and curious about what was ahead of me. It was a nice moment.
„Ragazza, di dove sei?“
‘Girl, where are you from?’ Was the sentence I heard almost every day when I had a cornetto con crema and an espresso in a small bar. Older men, who use Italian bars as a meeting place to play cards and chat, were keenly interested in where I came from, why I chose to cycle alone from Austria to Rome and where the engine of my bike is? This is also one of the many wonderful memories that I was able to take home with me from this trip.
The goal in sight
Then after another rest day in Narni, I arrived overjoyed and a little proud in the breathtaking city of Rome. It was an overwhelming feeling when my partner happily welcomed me in front of the Colosseum. I did it! I was immensely grateful that I was able to have this experience and without any incident! I was able to take countless, wonderful memories home with me, dined like a queen and got to know Italy from a side that I didn’t know before. I will always remember this trip as a wonderful experience. But after two weeks on the bike I was looking forward to the dolce far niente, to normal clothes and to more magical moments for two in one of the most exciting cities in the world!