Italian Impressions

posted by: Justin

Our last day in France saw us hoping for an easy ride across the Col de Braus and intoGiant Dandelions near Verandia Italy through a small pass to the north of Nice. However after a roadside chat with local cyclist Patrick, we were a little more cautious. He said we would never make it on our heavy bikes to Italy on that day as we had 3 passes and at least 15km of climbing ahead. Half way up Col de Braus eating lunch in a tiny bit of shade we began to believe him.

Our passage into Italy although hilly was on very quiet roads and as with most border crossings so far the only thing we noticed were changes in road signs, until we turned onto our first main road. Traffic was flying along and bumper to bumper, with motorcycles, cars and caravans returning to the coast at the end of the weekend. We flew through a series of 2km long tunnels with our ears ringing before deciding to turn onto a minor road marked as “difficult/dangerous” on our map. Within minutes of our turn off we were both pushing our bikes up some of the steepest roads we have encountered so far. Passing drivers smiled at us and stopped to advise us to turn back. After two hours we finally made it to the summit and a free camp spot with an amazing view but very close to a walking track with a few people still around. As we easedSunset from Passo di Teglia our tired legs into our sleeping bags we thought of Patricks offer to stay and have lunch with him instead of cycling to Italy and wished we had accepted.

Monday morning we descended into our first Italian town and quickly located some delicious focaccia bread to snack on while absorbing the early morning awakenings around us. Travelling on to Pigna we ordered espresso marvelling over how cheap it was and declaring it the best espresso so far. After a brief chat to some French mountain bikers who had descended from 1800m we headed towards lunch in Triora via more hill climbing. Our afternoon climb was to 1387m and we weren’t sure what to expect as the 10 year old route guide we were using said the road was only partially paved. The climb turned out Descent from Passo di Tegliato be rich in local wildlife with sightings as follows:

  • A snake sunbathing quietly at the roadside before literally flying through the air in surprise at a passing cars tyres.
  • A toad the size of a small cat jumping away as we rushed towards a roadside waterfall to cool off
  • The usual array of birds both big and small.

Reaching the summit we found a series of fire pits in a sheltered flat piece of ground and decided to stop for the night. Watching the sun set over the Maritime Alps we felt like we were on the highest peak for miles around with steep valleys dropping beneath us.

Awaking to a cloud filled valley below us on Tuesday we descended from clear blue skiesMain St of Pieve de Teco into the wet forest below watching the clouds boil and billow like ocean waves around the alps. We followed a predictable pattern stopping for espresso and focaccia at the first opportunities we found. The afternoon saw us heading towards Garessio after passing up campsites filled with gravel and static caravans. As evening approached and with little sign of any likely free camps we stopped to ask a local farmer if we could camp nearby. He directed us to a flat piece of ground near a river and next to his house providing us a welcome secure camp for the night.

Our first few days in Italy has already given us an appreciation for Italian hills, snakes, espresso and a renewed love of foccacia!

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4 responses to “Italian Impressions”

  • Hi guys,

    beautiful photos, it feels like you’re really paying attention to the world around you, it’s lovely to have a sense of the details you notice. I wonder if you notice the world slowing down around you?

    Meanwhile the world inside me is quickly getting ready to produce Chiwi. I envy your mobility, the sloping street on the way to the shops feels like Everest right now.

    Mum is arriving from NZ on the 9th June, 5 days to go, she still asks things like,’ Do you think I’ll be able to buy summer shoes in England?’. She was shocked that we have jandles over here!

    I’m in a dispute with the Head of Midwifery at the local hospital because my due date is 6 days wrong (why would you believe the couple who conceived the baby over a chart based on estimates?) which may lead to them refusing to send a midwife to my homebirth as I’m be classed ‘post dates’ and risky.

    But you don’t mess with a eight and a half month kiwi who’s researched her little socks off. Bring it on! Still, it helps make the waiting go faster. I’ll be posting pics of little Justina or Emmalon asap.

    Lots of love guys, I hope you’ll be embracing your loved ones soon. Keep up the photography the images are great!

  • Andrea on June 4th, 2010 at 10:42 pm
  • My eyes are brimming away here in NZ thinking of you two sailing along Italian highways and by-ways in the gorgeous Italian countryside. Very nostalgic indeed. Italy is my favourite country. I can smell the dust and hot rocks, feel the warm wind on my face, hear the music of the Italian language and taste the wine. And oh… the foccacia bread, seafood, espresso, cheese, juicy tomatoes, olives……. my mouth is watering! Enjoy your time in Italy, especially catching up with Emma’s parents. That will be such a happy time for you both.

    Tauranga is cooling down now but no frosts yet (although rather chilly out on the deck for my morning coffee!). Jazz is wearing her winter coat and dives under the blankets at night trying to beat me to the warm bit of the bed where the electric blanket is working the best! Love, Mum xxxxxxxx

  • Maggie on June 5th, 2010 at 3:27 am
  • Love the sunset shot from the top of the pass! Doesn’t that just make the mountain climbing all worth it? Keep rolling guys!

  • Friedel on June 5th, 2010 at 6:21 am
  • Feijoa season is over, so there is now not one part of me that doesn’t ache with envy over what you are doing. It all sounds amazing.

    My big research essay is handed in and life for now feels pretty empty – the beauty of daytime tv directly correlates to the size of the deadline on your horizon, lose the deadline, lose the joy. I need a job – opportunities in my area are super limited and I’m not too inspired by what else is out there. So London is calling pretty loud.

    If you’re planning to return to NZ for a length of time my advice right now is don’t. All the things that make NZ great are also the things that make it pretty pants. The price you pay for beautiful empty beaches is bad and expensive haloumi cheese and really shonky news reporting, and that is just the beginning. Living in a country that usually has a good warm summer means in winter you live in houses with little insulation, no double glazing and no central heating system brrr. Can you tell I am maladjusted to my surrounds.

  • Scoop on June 15th, 2010 at 4:13 am

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