21 Feb The ups and downs along our cycle to Florence
Check-out at the hostel is at 9:00am, so we get up early, have a bite to eat, pack up our bikes and hit the road again. What initially just seemed like a foggy morning, soon turned into another cold, rainy, miserable, wet day. Also those nice bike paths that we were following from Brenner pass to Verona have disappeared and now we are forced to ride along cars on sometimes busy roads. Luckily, we are on our way to Bologna, which leads us through the Po-flats so there are at least no hills to climb. Every once in a while we even manage to find a couple of quiet isolated roads, usually these are roads with big ruts and potholes, that most people do not want to take their cars on.
As it is getting late in the afternoon, we are keeping an eye out for a possible camping spot. Unfortunately, almost all campgrounds in Italy are still closed for the winter season (most until late April) and rooms, including hostels, come with a budget busting, astronomical price in this part of the world. No matter how hard we look though, we are unable to find a suitable spot to free-camp in this flat, wide open area; nor can we spot somebody to ask, whether it might be OK to pitch a tent on their land. So eventually, wet and tired, we are finding ourselves checking into another high priced room in a little tiny town. Luckily, the staff and the owner were extremely friendly and nice, they lifted our spirits a little and made our stay special. We had a good time chatting with them about our trip, the bad local economy, and whatever-else came to mind. The friendly, young girl working there even gave us a special gift from her home country, Russia, when we left the next morning.
The following day of riding continued through the flats and was just as wet and uneventful as the day before. However, we finally managed to find an open campground in Bologna late and in the dark.
While resting up in Bologna, we are rethinking our current route and are contemplating to change our travel mode. With the bad weather, most campgrounds being closed, and unable to find any wild camping spots, we are faced with high, budget breaking lodging costs. On the other hand, we really would like to see Florence and Rome, since we are already in Italy. So our options are to just leave Italy and start heading east toward Croatia, take trains to Florence and Rome to cut down on the lodging costs en route, or just to suck up the losses.
We end up deciding on a mix of options: give it another try and cycle to Florence, then take the train to Rome. Hopefully, once we are more south and away from the most touristy and more populated areas, we’ll be able to try some more camping again, while heading across the “boot” to catch a ferry to either Greece or Albania.
Content with our plan, we continue to cycle South toward Florence. What initially looked like easy 70 miles of riding, turned out to be a two day bike ride of leg-breaking, going-over-a-few mountain-passes, wet, cold, windy, hard cycling.
However, we managed to find a wild camp spot near the Passo della Raticosa, and we met a few very nice, and encouraging people along our way.