(William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet)
I’ve always fancied myself as a bit of a travel writer, however I stuck with the safe 9-5 (those who know me are now guffawing at the thought of me actually working 9-5) day job and have written the occasional trip advisor review to compensate. But now, as I holiday in Italy, my cycling blog poses an opportunity to write about my travels. Though as I am suffering with some kind of ear/nose/throat infection and am feeling really sorry for myself, I wonder whether I will actually demonstrate my potential. So I will just tell you about what a great time we have had and mostly talk about bikes and cycling.
This wasn’t supposed to be a cycling holiday; we had discussed hiring bikes at some point, we had even discussed bringing our bikes along with us (at £200 each for bike boxes plus the airline fare it seemed a bit steep) but we didn’t book anything or make any firm plans, preferring to see the lie of the land first. We did however bring along some Lycra, gloves, helmets, shoes and even pedals ‘just in case’.
Verona was never really a serious consideration for cycling; being a city break we assumed it would be three days of wandering around the city exploring the various tourist attractions. On the first afternoon we certainly did some of that – mainly finding our bearings, visiting tourist information and making plans for the following few days. The authorities of Verona are very keen to ‘push’ their Boris bike scheme (Verona City Bike Scheme even), and we were coming around to the idea but weren’t entirely sold. There are various ‘docking stations’ around the city and you may borrow a bike for a maximum 2 hours, before docking it. The idea being that you use a bike between attractions, dock it and pick up another once you have visited the attraction. Not ideal for visiting more remote attractions or just getting away from it all. Throughout the three days we saw one person using this service and three docking stations; they just didn’t seem that obvious – though the stations we did see weren’t full so maybe we just aren’t that observant.
We returned to our accommodation on that first day and had pretty much decided to purchase a 24 hour pass for one of these bikes, in addition to a ‘Verona card’ (giving discounted/free entry to attractions at a one off purchase price of the card). We were though, still interested in the possibility of other options for hiring bikes and mentioned this to the owner of the accommodation who recommended a friend he went to university with.
In the midst of this decision making I sliced open my big toe on some glass and an inordinate amount of blood leaked from my foot. My toe survived but one of the Bed and Breakfast’s towels wasn’t so lucky. As a result, walking was painful and caused the cut to open again – a longer term hire of bikes was most definitely preferable – so we visited Mr Marco’s friend who owns a bike shop and rented the loveliest bikes going.
Here was mine, and also a shot of Ollie and I collecting them:
My green basket machine was rather front heavy but it had a luxurious six gears. They really are rather keen on the fixed gear out here. We purchased our Verona card from the first attraction we visited and spent the rest of the day hopping on and off our city bikes to visit each of the attractions. In the evening I dressed up in a dress, cardigan and tights and hopped back on the bike to go out to dinner; how very strange to be cycling along in a dress!!! Confusion whilst ordering wine meant that we left the restaurant with an almost full bottle of wine – well aren’t baskets a handy invention! Thinking it was a bit too early to head back and wanting to try out the lights we decided to head up to the vista point which our host had pointed out on the map. This would mean some hill climbing, but ‘who cares!’ we were appropriately dressed for it… and our bikes were lean, mean climbing machines…
So absolutely no problem that the first hill we climbed up, which had my legs screaming, was actually a dead end! It wasn’t much fun going back down knowing that we had to start all over again. We rode up and up and up a road which had hairpin turn after hairpin turn, one in a dress, the other in suit trousers, Italians driving past looking at us like we were crazy. But, it was worth it, it was really worth it. The view was stunning, I imagine it is stunning at any time of the day but in the middle of the night, with all the lights it was amazing. Photographs could never do it justice but here are some to whet the appetite:
For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night
Romeo, scene v
We needed a rest after a large dinner and a large hill climb, so we spent some time sat on a wall looking out over the city, and watching the practice of the strobe lights at the arena (for the opera which we were due to watch the following day). Thinking that we hadn’t actually reached the vista point itself, we continued up the hill some more, but didn’t really find much else except a bit more hill – but training is training and hill training is something I definitely should do more of. On the way back down we popped back to the wall for one last view and then cycled back through the city to the accommodation – we had done significantly more miles dressed inappropriately in the middle of the night, than we had managed during the day.
The following morning, with the Verona card expired and most of the attractions visited we continued our adventures by heading out to a village (which we, mistakenly, thought our host had recommended. Ironically, two days later, completely coincidently we visited the town he had actually suggested – but that’s for another post) on the outskirts of the city. On reaching the village in question, Montorio, we were disappointed to realise that there was not a lot there, so after a picnic on the side of a country road we decided to try and reach the castle which we had seen brown tourist signs for.
Castello di Montorio was quite a climb on the bikes followed by a hike up a Mountain Bike trail to the top. By the time we had reached the top we were ready to explore Montorio’s top tourist attraction; Montorio’s top closed tourist attraction. Try as we might, we could not find a way in – the only sign of life was a bike stood up outside of what looked like a typical Hollywood murderer’s house.We left Montorio and all we had to show for our trip were limbs full of Mosquito (or Sand-fly) bites, which continue to itch four days later.
We finished our basketed cycling journey, with a final climb up to a monastery which overlooks Verona – it was also a lovely vista point, this time bathed in daytime sunshine. The monks had left a sign requesting respect and peace and quiet, so we wandered around in silence and took in the amazing scenery; that was until a coach full of tourists turned up and climbed all over the monuments shouting and laughing, and plonking themselves right in front of us.
Time to move on, the magic had been lost and we didn’t want to be associated with their rudeness.
We returned our bikes to the shop on the way to the opera; the first time I have cycled in a Maxi dress. I suspect it was also the last!