We pushed our bike off the boat around 6:30am, setting foot and wheel in Italy. The 8-hour ship ride from Croatia was smooth and easy. We grabbed an espresso and pastry at a corner café then set north up the eastern coast. We had heard a lot of positive experiences about biking Italy - delicious food, charming towns, quiet roads, hospitable people, and the everyday gelato “experience”. We were excited and off to an early start. After cruising up the coast for 30-miles we turned inland towards Umbria. Before we knew it we were taking in lush green scenery and biking past farming plots surrounded by mountains. That first night in Italy we cooked fresh gnocchi and drank a bottle of Chianti before we slept in the middle of an abandoned soccer field. Of course we got approval from Antonio, the landowner, to do so. We continued to traverse the country into Tuscany and it was just like you would imagine. Tall, skinny Cypress trees, vineyards scattered throughout the region, and Tuscan style homes up on the hillside.
After four days of cycling, and a short detour in Florence, we made it to the Italian Riviera. In Italy we received the most delightful enthusiasm and encouragement from drivers and pedestrians (an important attribute not to be overlooked!). We continued our way northwest along the Mediterranean with our sights set on France. Cycling through France offers the cycling tourist endless options. There is a vast network of “agriculture roads” (i.e. old farming roads that are rarely used now) that web throughout the country. Taking the road less traveled opens your eyes to the countryside of France as you go through forest and farmlands and past historic museum-like villages always offering simple and delicious foods along the way. Our final route through France took us from the Mediterranean coast, into the mountains, deep into massive canyons, through open river valleys, and back to the starting point of Paris. Bicycle travel opens up the eyes, the mind, and the soul. Discovering a new place while in the midst of an adventure, pushing yourself each day to pedal further and faster is a spectacular challenge.
We fell in love with cycle touring almost immediately because of the daily simplicity, the routine, the path less traveled, the physical strain, the love of getting smiles and waves as you pass by on a tandem (we know, a little narcissistic), and numerous other reasons. We biked over 3,200 miles and traveled across 5 countries. We met countless people along the way who helped us in ways we couldn’t have imagined. We made friendships, shed a few tears and are forever grateful to be a part of the adventure.
Katy and Michael