From Bari at home
If you move the cursor over the photos you will find a second one in some cases
For the first time we will not cycle a round trip. This year we want to do a one-way journey back home. We start in Southern Italy from Bari airport, Apulia. After touring through the Gargano we cross over into Campania to the west coast. We cycle the Amalfi coast before heading to Abruzzo, Tuscany and back to the coast in the east through Emilia Romagna. Followed by the Veneto with Venice of course. Then our route leads us northbound into the Dolomites and South Tyrol. After passing the Stelvio pass we cross the border to Switzerland. We take the short cut through the Engadin into Austria and back to Germany. After six weeks we arrive our home in Eastern Westfalia safe and sound.
The facts of our Tour:
The pictures shows the altitude profile.
After a first rainy day we experience the country in warm sunny weather which every Italy tourist would expect. We visit Trani, a pictouresque little town on the seaside, before we go on a side trip to Castel del Monte (pic.2). The castle is situated on one of the very rare hills in Apulia. Built in the 13th century by the emperor Frederic II. the castle raises several questions due to the architecture. The mystery about this building has not yet been uncovered. We head back to the coast into the Gargano, the “spur” of the Italian “Boot”. Deep blue water along the chalk cliffs let us stop quite frequently to enjoy the spectacular views.
Vieste on the very end of the “spur” is another town you should not miss, when travelling through Apulia. Unfortunatly the weather changes again. We will find ourselves later in the middle of the Foresta Umbra with no campground, hostel or other place to sleep, when a heavy thunderstorm hits us. Luckily the nice guy from the forest administration lets us stay in the kitchen of the forester’s lodge. Bad luck that we did not have the chance to buy some food. As we have run out of muesli, we have pasta with sugar for breakfast. Works well!
From the Gargano we cross the country down to the south western coast. The route does not seem to be very touristic. No campground in sight. We ask an olive farmer who happily lets us camp on his yard. We enjoy the evening at the kitchen table of our hosts, drinking red wine and speaking a mix of Italien, French and English. What a night. Before we reach the Amalfi coast we visit Paestum as well as Pompeii, two historical monuments you must see if you are in the area. The Amalfitana is spectacular. Now, during the preseason you can enjoy the ride on the costal road even with the bycicle, although many busses and cars have the same idea. A vehicle rental for special occasions rents out this beautiful Vespa from the first production run ever (pic.2).
We leave the coast again to head northbound to Gran Sasso National Park. This night we will stay with our first Warm Showers hosts near Piedimonte. We spend a most enjoyable evening with homemade red wine and delicious food. In the morning our host even prepares a lunch package for us. Great! Outside Sulmona we may put up our tent on a private piece of land from which we have a free view over the town with the mountains in the background. Very romantic. In L’Aquila we get thrown back into the rough reality of the destructive impacts earthquakes leave in Italy. The town centre is one big re-construction site. Everywhere buildings are held up by an artwork of scaffolding. Concrete trucks, building cranes and construction noise can be spotted in every single street. Keeping in mind that the earthquake which had caused all this was in 2009 – seven years ago!
Outside L’Aquila we climb further up into the Gran Sasso National Park, the area with the highest mountains on the Italian peninsula. From the campground we can spot the peaks of the Corno Grande and the Monte Corvo. What a contrast to gloomy looking L’Aquila.
Meanwhile we have reached Umbria. We cycle through Amatrice, where we stop for a lunch break in front of the historical church St. Agostino. What we do not know at this stage is, that this church will be completly destroyed by an earthquake a couple of weeks ahead. As well as the market place in Norcia. This beautiful place will also lie in ruins after the earthquake in August. Between Norcia and Spoleto, high above the little village Vallo di Nero, we ride a part of the ancient railway line, which is now open only for cyclists, horsemen and pedestrians. The ground is made of loose gravel, which makes cycling with our heavy gear quite stressing. The reason we take this route are the railway tunnels. If you are afraid of the dark don’t go there. The tunnels are long and without any lights. We had to stop inside, because our bike threatened to fall. And at once it was dark. Really dark! Nothing, no light at the end of the tunnel or anything else could be seen. Until we moved on and the cycle lights started working again. Spooky!
We spend two nights in Perugia (Umbria) with Warm Showers hosts in their beautiful appartement in the middle of the historical town centre. From Castiglione on the west shore of Lake Trasimeno a dead straight road leads into Tuscany with Montepulciano, San Quirico, Montalcino, Siena and San Gimignano. All of these towns are touristical highlights but as such very crowded. Our first camp in Tuscany is a field next to one of the typical farm houses. With pouring rain we try to cook in the apsis of our tent. Not very cosy. In Siena we visit the Campo, the spot where the famous horse races take place once a year. The whole round place is formed like a soup bowl, with the inner centre being lower than the edges. Magnificent atmosphere! Just before entering San Gimignano (pic.2) Fritz detects a crack in our back rim. This does not look good. There is no chance to get a new suitable rim here. It is Sunday and San Gimignano is just a little historical town. We hope we can fix the bike later in Florence.
IL Campo, Siena
The road to Florence is not very pleasant. We sure do like the mountains and are looking forward to the alpine passes to come. But we don’t like to ride hilly areas with a constant up and down. In addition our warm showers host is a bit fussy about arrival times, which is difficult to tell when riding the bike. But we reach the accomodation on time having even the chance to stop at the Piazzale Michelangelo where we have a beautiful view over the town. Unsceduled we will stay three nights in Florence as we have to organize a new rim. None of the bikestores seem to have the right parts, so we decide to order directly from the manufacturer Velocity in the USA. With express delivery it is said to be in Italy within three days. YEAH!
Having settled the delivery of the rim, we are relaxed to do sight seeing in Florence. Meanwhile our tandem may relax safely in our hosts garage. Florence. What a city! Full of historical highlights. Thank God, we are here before the high season begins and the city is packed with tourists. Even in these days we need to find our way through the crowd. The guests in our WS-accomodation are aksed to cook the dinner, as we are a bigger party. Our turn today. No problem. We suggest pasta, which leaves our host in astonishment: Pasta and what? After a little discussion we realize that pasta is just an intermediate course in Italy. After all we manage to set up a proper menu and enjoy a entertaining evening with international fellow guests.
Our rim is going to be delivered to Ravenna, our next destination. As the road to the coast is more or less flat, we trust that the broken one will carry us without problems into the Emilia Romagna.
Via Ravenna to Venice
Ravenna is said to be a nice town but we are so occupied with getting our spare part that we have neither time nor leisure for sightseeing. Our hosts are fabulous as can be. Firstly we are forced to sleep in their bedroom whereas they stay on the couch and secondly they will be a tremendous help with our shipping because the customs clearing is going to be a major problem. The parcel service tells us, we need to supply documents, but they are not able to tell us what exactly they need. After numerous phone calls, emails and nervous breakdowns the shipping company assures us, that everything is ok now. The shippment is going to be releases from custom. Wow! But please send it to Venice, as we need to move on. No problem. Job done, off we go!
We stay at the campsite on the Lido, one of the islands off the coast. From here we can reach the main island with the cheap and fast Vaporetto, the water bus. Florence was full of tourists, Venice is packed. Although Fritz thinks, during summer there will be many more. We work through all the must sees in town and enjoy tours to Murano, the famous glassblower island, and Burano with its colourful houses. It’s the weekend, so we can relax and drift through Venice just like propper tourists. Our parcel will reach us on Monday, so no need to worry.
Monday. No parcel. And none on Tueday nor Wednesday. We are told that the rim has been sent to Ravenna. But the parcel service will do the best to get it to Venice asap. We spend three days without moving from the campground, because of the lack of information. We do not want to risk that the driver takes back the delivery because the recipient could not accept the shippment in person. Only highlight during these boring days is an Austrian couple riding home after having cycled about 2,800 k already. Normally this would not be worthwhile reporting, but she was aged 81 and her husband was not younger. The woman rode an e-bike which she received for her 80th birthday last year. With deepest respect for the two we ask ourselves whether we will be able to do this at that age. Anyhow the example gives us hope for many years of cycling for us to come. Finally we receive the rim on Thursday morning. We rush to the bike shop but they close for lunch break. Fritz fixes the spokes and after lunch the shopkeeper centers the wheel for us. Farewell Venice.
Near Treviso where we find a place to camp in the garden of a very nice elderly couple, including a free bottle of Prosecco. Now we head into the Dolomite Alps. For the first and only time during this trip we need to camp wild. No campground or garden to stay. But we find a nice hidden place with spectacular view onto the Dolomite peaks. In Cortina d’Ampezzo we change direction into the west towards Bolzano and Merano. But before we can enjoy the sun there we need to cross some passes in the Sella-mountains. We ride the Falzarego, Pordoi and the Sella pass in nasty weather conditions. But we are not alone. This Sunday the road is closed for motor vehicles and thousands of cyclists work their way over the passes in the cold.
The Stelvio pass – 2,750 m above N.N. From our camp in Prad we will climb 1,845 m in 48 turns up to the peak. This is going to be the royal stage of the tour. Hundreds of racebikers overtake us. Most of them think, we are a little bit crazy to drag our 100 kilo gear over the pass. We take our time but finally we reach the top. Tired, happy and proud that we can do this. Accompanied by the applause of a couple of cyclists we manage the last slope. Thank you, guys – does us good! But, again we face a problem with our bike. The free run is no longer working, so we need to pedal even when riding downhill. Quiet annoying. We decide not to do any more avoidable passes and change the route through the Engadin and Austria.
Switzerland - Austria
So we take the short cut through the Swiss Engadine, which is by far not the worst route. The landscape of the Inn-valley is beautiful and the warming sun makes cycling most enjoyable. We need to come back to Switzerland, for sure. If it only wasn’t so expensive here! After two nights on nice campgounds we pass the Austrian border. Just as I am in the middle of hissing the Austrian flag on the trailer, a German couple on a tandem stops right beside us. What a nice surprise. They are on a day trip through the area. We chat a little while but we need to move on. In Austria we need to take the Fernpass, a busy road into Germany. Not ideal for cyclists as busses and trucks fill the road. But it is the shortest and least steep way back to Germany. We pass the border to Germany in Füssen. (pic.2: View from the Fernpass on to the Zugspitze, highest German peak)
On our first stage through Germany we pass Neuschwanstein, THE tourisic highlight of our home country. But we refrain from visiting the inside, as it is said to be not that exciting and we still have some kilometers to go until we reach our first overnight stay with a friend in Augsburg. Just having passed the German border, we learn that no one is so fussy with cyclists than we Germans. We need to come back to Germany to be sent to bumpy cycle paths by angry motorists. No one in Italy had any problems with cyclists riding on the street, even when cycle paths were available. In case any cycle path planer reads this: Please construct them suitable for bicycles, meaning even surface, no kerbstones and without sign poles or trees standing in the middle of them.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
We always carry a paper map of the countries we travel. Why did we not bring one for Germany? Obviously we must think that we know our home country by heart. Anyway, we manage to find our way with the help of Garmin, Komoot and our Smartphones. We pass beautiful historical towns like Nördlingen, Dinkelsbühl and Rothenburg ob der Tauber. But we are in a kind of coming-home-mode. We seem to have a lack of interest in the beauty of the towns and landscape in Germany. Maybe we should plan a tour through Germany only one day. The very last night of our trip we enjoy the hostpitality of a German couple near Bad Hersfeld. They allow us to camp on a lawn space behind the shed. Last stage to come. With headwind we struggle through the mountains around Kassel to find us home safe and sound late afternoon. Delighted cat Heidi welcomes us.