Bled to Lake Garda – into Italy we go -Country No. 22!!!

Thankfully, the warm weather has finally arrived – so getting a good cycle in before the hottest part of the day is going to be important from now on – at least until we reach Northern France. Paddy is less enthusiastic about the warmth particularly the hot afternoons – I’m a bit of a sun worshipper though so I’m very happy to be leaving the cold mornings behind.

We had easily fallen out of our early rise routine while Andy and Rach cycled with us – not that our early rise routine can ever be considered ‘early’ by most other cycle tourers’ standards. Paddy and I have always enjoyed our 2 hour + morning packdowns… The days are getting longer and longer so we’re not too worried. Nevertheless we will try our best to get going by 9am. Let’s see how we get on! 

There was quite a hard climb out of Bled town but then we joined back onto the good cycle route and the cycle turned into a manageable steady incline. This continued all the way to the ‘border’ with Italy and by the afternoon we were soon crossing into country number 22. Like Greece, suddenly we were cycling through a country we have both visited lots before – home feels closer than ever! 

Our route will see us swoop across the top of the country, avoiding any of the big mountains on its northern fridges and making a bee-line across the flat plains to Milan. It’s sad we won’t be doing any cycling in the rest of the country; But with only 10 days until our flight home to Ireland (where we are visiting P’s family for a time) from Milan Bergamo we don’t have much time for many rest days let alone a detour further south… We’ll have to save Tuscany for a short cycle jaunt another time!

The great cycle route continued for the rest of the day and well into the next. Taking the place of an old railway line it was blissfully flat and slightly downhill in our favour so we ate up a lot of miles very fast. 

It was great to be away from the cars and traffic, we enjoyed great views and liked stopping for regular breaks outside all of the beautiful old station houses. We camped in a wooded area between the cycle path and the river that night.

Outside an old station

Whenever we come to Italy we always quickly remember why Italians are known for their style and dedication to aesthetic. Every town or village we seem to pass through is an idyllic hamlet of pastel coloured houses with painted shutters and cobbled plazas peppered with fountains and elegant classical statues. Every garden is covered in blooming roses and the smell of Jasmin hangs heavy in the air wherever we go. 

Wine making is big business here and we cycle through miles of vines which must be growing at a rate of a ft a week at the moment. Many of the vineyards stretch across vast fields which often surround a small hill. There is often a beautiful ancient casa perched on top of these hillocks. All the farmers are busy hay making too and we have loved cycling along the wheat fields which are often stained red with wild poppies. It’s all rather idyllic! 

A spot of property browsing
Picnic on stone steps of main square of Venzone – the town was totally flattered in a terrible earthquake in 1976.

Along some of our route, houses and gate posts still bare pink ribbons and bows which we assume are left over from the Giro d’italia – Italy’s version of the Tour de France where it’s all about the pink jersey rather than the yellow.

It’s been very hot but there has been plenty of chances to cool down in the clear blue rivers. The air has also been very heavy and on our second night we had to endure a crazy flash thunderstorm – we just about got in the tent in time and it’s probably the biggest test our MSR Hubba Hubba has had to cope with so far!

From here we wound our way up an impressive gorge towards lago di corlo – a man made reservoir/lake where we would stay in a campsite for the night. Avoiding the main road and tunnel we take a spectacular switch back route up through the valley – the road we took was actually closed with big bollards blocking cars from passing through so we could relax, take our time and enjoy the peaceful climb without worrying about vehicles tearing around the corners. The views were amazing and Paddy got the heeby-jeebies looking down into the gorge below! Half way up we see what looks like a large stone lying in the middle of the road and wonder whether this is why the road had been closed… but as we get closer we realise the object isn’t a stone at all but rather a beautiful adolescent male deer who has clearly played too close to the edge and toppled off from the sheer cliff above. He’s untouched apart from a small trickle of blood flowing from his antlers – it’s definitely the saddest and most majestic ‘road kill’ we’ve come across. We reach the remote hill top village of Incino where we stop to take in the view of the lake and the lush green valley and then make our way over to the campsite. 

The next morning we enjoy a lazy breakfast by the lake then pack up and get going. Cycling is big around here and we meet lots of road bikers as we wind our way down another excellent riverside cycle route to Trento, another beautiful town. We’ve made great progress thanks to a strong tail wind and we manage to reach the northern tip of Lake Garda for 6:30pm. The plan is to stay here for at least a few days. We’ve made really good progress and should easily make it to Bergamo. Despite the lake having an almost Mecca like status with sailers all over Europe Paddy has never actually been to Garda… We may even treat ourselves and go sailing! 

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