Au bord de la Mare, avant Savona

[TRAVEL BOOK #2] – FROM THE SEA TO THE PÔ, ITALY BY BICYCLES

D+20, 859km.

After the calmness of the land of Fayence and the vast lake of Saint Cassien: change of scenery, of country and of mood! Besides, we found the sun and the sea there and it was quite pleasant!

Last Monday, it is the wind in the front and the head in the handlebars that we passed (with difficulty, 6km/h) the first border of the trip: Italy! After these two years, this stage has a really particular flavor!

(More photos here !)

Nice. In truth, we don’t like to be in big cities with our BIG bikes! We feel encumbered and encumbering! (It is not only a feeling) But as sometimes, we have not too much the choice we end up discovering very beautiful places there. At the end of the afternoon, we make the meeting of a nice guy, big traveler in bicycle, trying his very beautiful and new bicycle. We chat a moment and he directs us towards the park of the Mount Boron, only possible place according to him to bivouac. That goes up on the average ledge, but the view is really worth it. It’s quite crazy to have such a natural place a few steps from the city. Obviously and rightly so, this place is very popular with the people from Nice for walking, walking their dog, dealing and doing sports. Not so easy to find a spot for the night. After a good hour to turn, in a suspicious way, in the thickets, to roll and to look for, we FINALLY find a hidden place, which overhangs (mamamiaaa) all the city! Wahou. The stars light up down first, well aligned, in the Great Boulevards. The next morning, after the passage of several walkers, we pack up quickly and we set out again on the road, when 5 municipal policemen arrive in scooter at full speed (flûte! they would have given us up?). They question us finally with kindness on the trip and end up escorting us to indicate us the road to take to join Menton! Second escort of the trip, we are going to end up taking taste of it!

Menton

OUR FIRST BORDER CROSSING BY BICYCLES.

There is always a bit of stress in crossing a border – especially at low speed. We have nothing to reproach ourselves for, but once the wheels are on the other side, we pedal without stopping for several kilometers, glancing at the rearview mirror from time to time, as if we had cocaine in our bags! Once this crazy race (but in slow motion anyway, with the wind) finished, we stop to catch our breath and we confess mutually our palpitation while laughing!

Italy rhymes with culinary (re)discoveries: Focaccias, Pizzas, Chino, Crocantini, Risotto, Amaretti, Spritz…! Let’s enjoy it! La Italia also rhymes with churches and saints EVERYWHERE, especially around Easter. Moreover, the “pasticceria” are overflowing with GIGANTESQUE eggs. Here, with the Di Pasquala, we’re not kidding! 🤩

Finale Ligure. In front of the imposing baroque church of San Giovanni Battista, a lady comes up to us and asks “Da dove vieni”?! We explain the project to her in gibberish of franglicciano, and we tell her that we come from a village near Avignon. She answers us with eyes full of sparks that she knows “Avignone”: it is on the road to Lourdes! Then, this person -absolutely adorable- takes out of her bag icons of the Virgin Mary, of Lourdes and of other patron saints. She really wants to give them to us and tells us that she will pray for us from now on so that our trip goes well and she rushes into the church, the “chiesa”.

Ventimiglia, San Remo, Alassio, Noli and many other seaside towns with warm colors. Since our arrival on the coast, the traffic is quite intense and above all, it is really very difficult to find places to pitch the tent to sleep! The more time goes by and the less we are demanding on our camping place: as long as there is a square about flat, it is enough!

Dolce Vita

Savona. We were welcomed by Laura and Abi, our hosts Warmshower! Laura explained us the different possible routes for the continuation. Clearly, we chose to leave the coast as soon as possible to find small roads, the full nature and also less to trouble to find places to sleep!

Direction Acqui Terme, and the Po river. It’s going to go up. Laura told us that we would have to climb a little more than 700m, a bump for some, the Everest for us! The beginning is really soft, but it is the hour of the meal, and to eat, it is sacred. Then we settle down in a small deserted village, San Giovanni, to take a snack. It is thus the quite full stomach that we start the ascent. Obviously, it was not the idea of the year! Anai ends up giving back to Caesar what was to his stomach and it is only after this short liberating pause that we finally arrive at the top! In these moments, we don’t hide you that we wonder why we didn’t take the plane, or a motorcycle; it is also good the motorcycle! And then we look around us, the sun, the vegetation in full spring explosion, the sight and the descent which offer themselves to us and we forget the troubles!

San Giovanni,

ON THE WAY TO THE PÔ PLAIN!

We leave behind us the (mega) hilly landscapes to pedal in the middle of the plain and its vast cultures of rice and cereals. One could believe oneself in the Marne (France)- like a return to the hometown for Jessica. We cross many villages with houses for much deserted. Our interactions with human beings are rather limited and it is true that the barrier of the language is felt more and more: few people speak English and even if we understand vaguely Italian with French, our incapacity to answer makes the exchanges limited to the strict minimum! (Hello, how are you, we would like two cappuccinos, thank you very much, hello! straight ahead, left, No no! we come from Avignon, we go to India, si si, eh yes they are beautiful bicycles, ciao, oh the pretty church!, good evening and good night!) And to help us, our paper guide of the region is in German, ein grosse Po-Radweg!

View from the tent in the early morning near Sezzadio

The trip is punctuated by imposing “cascina” (typical farms of the Lombardy Po Valley) and an omnipresent catholic heritage (and the word is weak, no matter the language). Large religious buildings dominate even the smallest hamlets! This has a tendency to arrange us since cycle tracks go from cemetery to cemetery, not negligible places: one finds there drinking water and sometimes even the luxury Del bagno (the WC!).
Pragmatism apart, these places are surprisingly large: in almost every cemetery there is a mosaic of small chapels, each of which houses the deceased of the same family. One can enter them and even sit down to meditate (practical, when it rains!). This gives rise to rather colossal spaces, with names of “streets” and numbers.
Without transition. What is rather “funny” in this corner, they are the signs of kilometer indications. We pass a first panel which indicates the next city to 60 km, then 5 km later, this same city is indicated to 75 km. Two solutions: either they have skillfully mixed the panels, or we make detours on a straight line, without even realizing it!

San Stefano. After these 20 days to pedal in average 50 km, we decided to put our bags during 3 days at our host Vittorio to rest our thighs and our calves. We are in the middle of the countryside, only a few kilometers from Piacenza (between Milan and Parma).

What was the probability that there were already prayer flags hanging in his garden 💙

Drapeaux de prières

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