I have never ridden my bike outside of the UK, in fact I don't really even like travelling on a train with it (I don't have a lot of trust in people), so deciding to pack it up, stick it on a plane, and go to Italy for a couple of weeks, was quite a big deal. With help from the great mechanics at Pearsons, my bike was packed up and ready for its first international adventure - and my first "holiday" for a very long time (close to 10 years).
Arriving in Rimini from Stansted, it took longer to get a cab than it did to fly there, but eventually shared a ride and arrived at my accommodation - this was to be home for the next two weeks. First job, check in, then drop bags off and head to the bar for a welcome drink. If I said my Italian was terrible it would be overselling it (non-existent may be more accurate), but I got by and quickly had my feet up with champagne in hand. After some dinner it was time to reassemble the bike and head to bed as first ride was tomorrow...on the other side of the road.
Up early, breakfast inhaled, and out for the maiden Italian ride. The hotel I stayed at, the Fedora in Riccione, is a "bike hotel" so caters for cyclists, as well as families etc, but puts on rides each day of varying degrees of difficulty, length, ascending etc. So day 1 for me was a 70 km Riccione-Monte Cerignone loop, and a stunning introduction to the amazing landscape around this part of Italy.
Day 2, sun still shining, we headed south down the coast to Pesaro with an 80km loop via the Panoramica - a punchy little ride with some steep ramps and some amazing views as a reward.
Day 3 was a little more challenging, but as rewards go up with in line with exertion levels, it was going to be an amazing day and one that stands out. Although shorter than yesterday's effort, at nearly 900m of climbing, it was steeper with most of that coming in one long climb from Calligaria to San Marino.
With Day 4 being a rest day, day 5 turned into a nice long one covering 97km and climbing 1300m. Winding our way through the Italian countryside, passing San Marino before heading up to the beautiful old town of Sassocorvaro, drinking coffee and overlooking Lago Di Mercatale.
Day 6 started with a storm warning and ominous clouds...it didn't take long to understand that no one was going out today. 120km/h winds battered the surrounding area, uprooting trees, discovering weaknesses in window sealant, and ensuring that all deck chairs were randomly piled in a corner of the pool area. So after waiting for the storm to clear, I went for the appropriate nosey walk to see the damage...because you have to.
Day 7 was a painful end to the first amazing week, as I was knocked off my bike by a moped rider. Heading out for a solo ride after breakfast, as the organised rides were ones I had already done, I was aiming for the coastal town of Ancona, but less than 10km into my ride, an impatient moped rider cut that significantly shorter. It was busy on the roads, not crazily so, just a constant stream winding there way down the road. A four wheel drive was sitting behind me, thankfully patiently waiting for a gap into the traffic to go by, and although I was on the hard shoulder, they were playing it safe...unlike the moped rider behind them. I could hear the impatience with every throttle rev, they wanted to get around the four wheel drive but couldn't, so decided that revving was the most appropriate thing to do. Patience has a limit with everyone, and obviously Ms Moped had reached hers, she was struck by a brilliant idea of undertaking down the hard shoulder (yes, that is where I was), so (by the sounds of it) eased off the throttle to get a run up, accelerated and realised only after pulling out from behind the car in front that there I was. One second I was up, the next I felt the back wheel taken away from beneath me and I hit the ground at around 35km/h - one thing you realise about lycra, apart from it leaving little to the imagination, it offers very little protection against tarmac. Bib shorts destroyed, skin on leg, hip and elbow missing, but thankfully bike relatively unscathed (the important thing, skin will grow back after all - i wont include photos for those with weaker dispositions).
So first week done, some highs and lows, but Italy was certainly shaping up to be memorable in more ways that one. Time to get rested, take a couple of days off to recover, then back on it - still a lot of the Emilia-Romagna region to explore.
Sleep now for tomorrow I ride.