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Verena’s unforgettable trip to Rome: Part 1

By bike from the Brenner Pass to the Eternal City

It was a cycling season the likes of which we have never experienced before, which demanded a lot from us and maybe even caused a grey hair or two. It’s no wonder some of us were ready for a holiday after the 2020 cycling season! Our managing director Verena Sonnenberg was no different. So, when the last rental bike had gone into winter hibernation and the catalogue for the 2021 cycling season went to press, she decided to take a short break from work.

Her choice was not an everyday one, it was a rather extraordinary one – she decided to cycle from the Brenner Pass to Rome with her bike and two saddlebags. For the most part, she followed the route of our individual cycle tour Innsbruck – Verona, Venice – Florence and Florence – Rome. Read here which places Verena visited on her trip, which beautiful and difficult moments she experienced and why she would take this trip again and again.

Holiday needed

After the challenging 2020 season, two things became clear to me: I needed a holiday and I wanted to stay active and keep moving, because that’s just my nature. At first, I thought about going on a hiking holiday, but at the end of the season in October this is not always easy due to the weather. It was our product manager Andreas Schintlmeister who gave me the idea of travelling through Italy by bike.

Cycling, freeing your mind, exploring our cycle tours and enjoying the wonderful Italian cuisine. It was exactly what I needed. I was looking forward to spending some time with myself, no hassle and without big plans or compromises. And once the decision was made, I started the preparations full of anticipation, because I wanted to start a week later.

What do you need for a two-week cycling holiday in Italy?

Since our cycling season in Italy was already over, I had to – and I planned to do so anyway – forgo the luggage transfer. That meant I had a large and small saddlebag for two weeks in Italy in rainy October. That was probably the biggest challenge for me, namely, to decide what is really important and what you can safely leave at home. Before I started the trip, I received a crash course from our bike mechanic David, so I could deal with small punctures myself. He also gave me the most important spare parts and tools – so the third pair of shoes were removed from my luggage.

1000 kilometres by bike with our new rental bike PLUS without a single breakdown!

“Shouldn’t we drive you to Lake Garda?”

And then the day of departure arrived. My parents drove me with saddle bags and bike to the motorway station on the Brenner, which was really not at its best that day. I got out of my parent’s car in 5 degrees and heavy rain, declining my mother’s suggestion to drive me to Lake Garda and hopped onto my soaking wet bike saddle. Gritting my teeth, I cycled on the trail of our cycle tour from Innsbruck to Verona along the Adige towards Bolzano, where luckily the weather was a bit friendlier.

Autumnal South Tyrol literally struck me with a flood of beautiful and colourful impressions. I cycled past autumn vineyards that gleamed in golden colours, saw ripe figs growing on lush trees and visited places until then unknown to me, such as Sterzing, Brixen and Trient, which completely inspired me. And with every step of the pedal, I removed myself a little from the worries of everyday life and started looking forward to what each new day would bring.

A new goal in mind every day

My initial thought was to cycle as far as I wanted to. After all, I was on holiday and didn’t want to follow strict plans. Unfortunately, I soon had to can this plan, which wasn’t actually a plan. I had to set goals for the day and adjusted them to the weather and my personal situation. To be honest, the first stages were the most difficult for me, because the route is always flat along the Adige. As beautiful as this area is, I was extremely happy when the area got a little hillier after Lake Garda. I planned my stages with around 100-120 kilometres by bike per day and ending around 3pm. I always decided in which city I would stop. I mainly stuck to our stage locations and hotels.

The first milestone

After only three days I had reached my first major destination – Verona. When I finally cycled over the Ponte Scaligero on my bike and looked at Verona’s Castle Castelvecchio, I suddenly had a wonderful moment. Do you know that feeling when you are proud of yourself and you have achieved something and are getting a little closer to your goal? That’s exactly how I felt when I drank a wonderfully fragrant espresso in a small bar next to the famous arena and watched the unusually calm tourist-free atmosphere. In South Tyrol I still met a few visitors and tourists, here in Verona, which is otherwise so well visited, I found a city that had not been alone for a long, long time.

There were no streams of tourists and no crowds – everyone behaved extremely disciplined, you couldn’t see a nose peeping out from under the masks and the minimum distance was kept very generously. I did not feel, and would like to emphasise this, in any way unsafe during any part of this journey. No matter where you want, whether in a hotel, restaurant or in public places, the Italians had a sophisticated system of security measures that everyone, large or small, strictly observed. I felt good and came to rest for the first time after the stressful weeks and months. I enjoyed the time with myself, the Italian atmosphere and this incomparable cuisine.

The first part of my trip ends in Verona. If you want to know how my bike and I faired on our trip to Rome, you can read about in the second half of my report

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