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Via Francigena from Varese

Report published here for Cyclhub:

Day 00 | Departed.


After a week of preparations and poor choices, the journey in the footsteps of pilgrims begins, with a racing Olmo from the 80s and light luggage.

Day 01 | Varese -> Santa Cristina (Pavia). 130km.

Departure from a desolate Varese but where I meet a lady. She hopes for rain and learning that I am going to Rome asks me to greet the Pope.
Fortunately, however, perhaps due to interest from "above", it doesn't rain and a cloudy day offers a pleasant ride, despite the monotony of the landscape, up to Cuggiono, where I meet Luigi. Another cyclist who shows me a better way to reach Pavia, which passes by the Naviglio di Bereguardo and decides to accompany me. Despite his 63 years, he has the leg and we reach Abbiategrasso together with thunder. Here the plain opens up, the farmhouses and the presence of water gives rhythm to the pedaling which becomes fluid along the cycle path up to Bereguardo. Along the way a discovery: Sanvarese, which must surely be the protector of all  caps by CYCLHUB.
In a few kilometers you can see Pavia, here the well-signposted Via Francigena begins and I begin to meet other travellers.
Traveling alone does not mean being alone.

PS I have decided which book will accompany me: Chatwin, the songways. "...and it is a journey of ideas, a music of ideas that moves entirely from a question: Why has man, from the very beginning, felt an irresistible impulse to move, to migrate? And then: Why do nomadic peoples tend to consider the world as perfect, while the sedentary try incessantly to change it?..."

Day 02 | Santa Cristina (Pavia) -> Fornovo di Taro. 130km (approximately).

Rains. It's raining and it never stops and I'm not happy, I get lost. The plain gives no hope and without any point of reference, I follow presumed red and white signs that lead in unknown directions.
This is the lowland of my friend Marco V, where the farmhouses look like churches.
It's nice, but after 5 hours, soaking wet in the incessant rain, I stop, dry myself off and protect myself under the niche of the Fidenza cathedral with a question: what if I get trench feet?
The plain ends, the hills begin and tomorrow the Cisa.

PS I ask the Patron Saint of Pilgrims to strike down the driver of the Mini who washed me with an anomalous wave in the face. Perhaps he wanted to refresh me, not realizing that I was already soaked?...

Day 03 | Fornovo di Taro -> Avenza (Carrara). 114km.

Today I'm leaving for the Cisa with Davide. However, our paces are different, with 39/26 I'm always forced to push and I go alone.
We travel alone because everyone has their own pace but we all meet in the places that welcome pilgrims. And we are immediately brothers. We greet each other along the way, because a tiring and dense journey unites us. We greet each other among motorcyclists, among those who go on foot in the mountains, among those who have a crest on their heads. Here the brotherhood is even greater, the effort helps.
But a naive question strikes my mind: couldn't we always feel like brothers, in everyday life and not just because we are members of the same clan? Doesn't the fact that we are all human beings unite us enough?
After the Cisa it's all downhill, forests and shade... and then the sea. I see it... I go back to the mainland... the glint of the marble mountains calls to me.

PS I thank my uncle for the wheel, with my 20/12 sprocket set I don't know if I would have made it.

Day 04 | Avenza -> San Miniato. 120km.

I greet the Tyrrhenian Sea and set off following the coast of Versilia up to Pietrasanta. Turn around, pass the hills in the direction of Lucca. Lucca and its very high walls remind me of something. Beautiful, but I stay little, from here on there are only hills, the part of Tuscany begins where each hill is surmounted by a house, a disarming landscape, a landscape built, instead of bricks, with olive trees, vines and wheat. I don't pedal anymore, I stretch, I have to stay here as much as possible. I keep turning my head because every corner is a different painting.

PS Today in the middle of Tuscany, vines, olive trees and hills I discover Cinelli. And I do a photo just for Andre who will appreciate!

Day 05 | San Miniato -> Buonconvento. 115km.

I get up early, greet the couple from Turin I met yesterday and leave. Here it goes downhill quite a lot: it's all an ups and downs that at 7 in the morning makes me stoned. Suddenly I have a hallucination, in the distance, I don't understand if it's the profile of San Gimignano or the cypresses. I need food. In San Gimignano there is the market and I eat a porchetta sandwich in front of a crazy panorama at 9:00 in the morning (since I woke up at 6:00 it is not considered breakfast). I'm leaving my grandmother from New York in Tuscany, I'm leaving Chianti. Here the colors change, warmer, more earthy. And I arrive in Siena which is festively decorated. All the Sienese are around dressed in the colors of the districts. Tomorrow is the prize and I realize that I'm dressed as a Porcupine. In Siena I stop, stare at the cathedral -waiting for a more suitable time to ride my bike- and that scan of white and green stone with those touches of pink, makes me go on a crazy "journey". I leave and arrive in Buonconvento, here you can breathe Eroica everywhere.

PS A nice Chianti with porchetta I must say it fit, and I missed it. 9 in the morning and still a hundred km to go made me give up. (what a loser)

Day 06 | Buonconvento -> Montefiascone. 110km.

Yesterday we all ate together thanks to Cinzia who made us some special dishes. The communication between pilgrims is interesting, who has seen one who comes from Paris, another has seen a girl who travels with a donkey (which with word of mouth from pilgrims will become a flying dragon). Along the way, information is passed on, as in the pre-social world. I get up at 5 and meet Don Domenico (who has a library full of books on architecture and other tough guys) he offered us dinner and breakfast and I have one of the shortest and densest conversations I've ever had with him. Let's talk about Tuscany and its people who are friends of the territory that they have been taking care of and shaped for centuries, about the responsibility of architects, etc. I greet him and go towards Bagno Vignoni, I want to see the sun rise there, in the baths of the popes. Below, however, there are the thermal baths open to all and I take the opportunity to take a bath in the very fine mud completely alone. I wait in vain for the beautiful Dutch girls and set off again. I'm in the Val d'Orcia, with hills covered in ocher velvet. I overtake it and I'm in Lazio, from here on, everything is new, I've never been. I arrive in Acquapendente where I have a background of water, which is very good. I had to get a lot more, because then I couldn't find any drinkable anymore, but I found the Maritozzi alla panna, so good, with the fresh cream... ahhhhh. I deviate, because I want to see Civita di Bagnoreggio, an abandoned village in the middle of the gullies. Today the route is all hills, I broke my legs and I'm starting to have an ache in my left leg, the round pedaling is gone. Arrival in Montefiascone, in the monastery, only nuns. And tomorrow Rome.

PS I bought the voltaren let's see if it passes. I can pedal, the problem is walking ahahahah!

Day 07 | Montefiascone -> Rome. 115km.

Yesterday no Dutch girls at the spa. But at the monastery, I open the bedroom door and I find -who is getting dressed- (oops, sorry) Lyndsey (I still don't quite understand how to spell it, a Swedish girl who lives in Turin) speaks Italian very well and at 9, when the doors of the monastery close he takes a bottle of fresh white wine out of his bag and we drink it in the courtyard of this beautiful golden cage with the old men staring at us. We talk, we talk, we talk: a short but intense evening. We exchange numbers and promise to meet again (I owe a bottle of wine). Back in the room, she asks me if I'll spread some sandpaper on her sore shoulder... goodnight Marco, goodnight Lyndsey. In the morning I see the sunrise at Lake Bolsena, and I feel like I'm at home. From here to Viterbo is a succession of Roman remains scattered in the countryside. And Viterbo, empty and sleepy, but beautiful. Today it's still all hilly, I'm on dirt roads, but the 23" tires hold up. My morning diet is now marked: Maritozzi with cream as long as I'm in Lazio, the political price of €1.50 for a hit of a head of happiness and I pass Sutri with its necropolis and the beautiful amphitheater and arrive in the capital. First I go to Bonci for a pizza (very good) and then Gianicolo, I want to see Bramante's temple (unfortunately closed) and Rome from above with a beer and my Olmo I've reached my destination, going around Rome by bike is beautiful, today I think I'll get lost a lot without luggage.

PS I hear a question that arises from the male followers: "But is this Litsie? He offers you a bottle of wine, you talk a lot, you are in a room together in the nuns' monastery, he also asks you to spread the cream on his shoulders .... and then? " Me: "and then nothing" ... male followers: "wow what a loser!"

Day 08 | Rome. 0km.

Today break, it's raining, but a pale sun comes out in the afternoon. These thunderstorms before the Apennine climb days are blessed. My leg still bothers me, it doesn't go away, despite the twist. I haven't rested much today, I see a couple of buildings I haven't seen in a while. Rome at the imperial forums opens up to you, its beauty rooted in millennia of history is shown, all within a few steps. Then maxxi, macro (odile decq is definitively elected the architect of the bathrooms) and I eat with Erika, our travels meet in Trastevere. I hope to be able to pedal tomorrow, another Cisa awaits me but without descent.

PS There's no one in Rome, really cool. Too bad all the taverns and trattorias that I had signed up for are closed for holidays. Gastronomic itinerary postponed to a date to be determined.

Day 09 | Rome -> Spoleto. 125km.

Rome, 630 in the morning, beautiful. I take the salary, I don't take pictures and I think: "Roma is a milf". I travel up to Terni a regional road along which there is only me. The discomfort in my leg miraculously passed, but I'm taking it easy anyway. The Sabine mountains are a green cradle. The sky is very blue, I realize it only now because from here the journey is to the north. Just sun in the face. I take off my glasses and appreciate the colors. This Apennine pass climbs a little but for 15/20km until it reaches the top at 700m above sea level. I enter Umbria meeting Spoleto and here begins the green heart of Italy.

Day 10 | Spoleto -> Gubbio. 100km.

Con help from home di Lorenzo I find an alternative route to the busy SS and decide to go through Assisi. To the delight of friends by fairy tale I ride the Spoleto/Assisi cycle path, beautiful, flat, all in a separate location. I arrive in Assisi, but I continue, I want to get to Gubbio soon to see it carefully. From Assisi, go straight on, climb over the mountains: it's an infinite ups and downs that offers unprecedented views of the Umbrian countryside along Franciscan itineraries. At a certain point, I don't check the road, I follow for Gubbio, I make a long descent, and I find myself banned for bikes, since the road becomes SS. Cursed SS, that beautiful descent turns into a couple of kilometers of "fucking, fucking, fucking, fucking, fucking..." and back. Arrival in Gubbio - according to the cartel - the most beautiful medieval city (pretentious friends from Gubbio). Today it was supposed to be a simple carpet, it turned out to be pretty tough. And tomorrow the longest stage up to Ravenna with rain.

PS I marked all the piadinerias, fritters, cresconerie of the Adriatic coast... tomorrow culinary breakthrough.

Day 11 | Gubbio -> Ravenna. 190km.

Today it's going downhill really well, I have to cross the Apennines and get to the sea. I leave Gubbio very early, between gorges, rain and darkness. Once in the towns, people smile at the soaked cyclist as he passes. He helps you, he almost smiles at you to motivate your journey. Who knows, on the other hand, motorists protected in their tin boxes, how much they will feel sorry for a poor soaked cyclist. But what a pity! I'm the one who pities them, I'm LIVING it here.
Today is the day of choosing the most significant path, certainly not the most comfortable. Despite this, in Bramante's homeland I find a road forbidden to cyclists, so I have to climb the hill. One of the hardest and most unexpected climbs for Urbino, moreover in the rain. I am totally unprepared for the continued rain. This time I cover myself right from the start (not like on day 02 when I covered myself up, waiting in vain for it to rain until the last minute, by which time I was soaked) but my waterproof clothes aren't breathable and it becomes a sauna. I arrive in Urbino, which I can't enjoy, because it's raining.
I continue and since it begins to rain, I pass by Gradara, to appreciate a bit of the Gothic line. And it's the sea. A lot of cars that make my pace very slow and the journey exhausting. I take the cycle path along the sea and I'm forced to go slow. In Riccione I meet Carlo, a friend on vacation. But I stop in Rimini dalla Lella to try piadine and watercress, very good. Up to Cervia there is a succession of bathrooms without people. Here they are left in the 80\90s. It almost seems that having fun is mandatory: discos, bars, bathrooms, jacks, prize collection machines, games, beach volleyball, but it is plastic happiness (and does Cattelan perhaps remind us of it?) and I shoot straight towards the early Christian churches of Ravenna.
But I understand why people come here on vacation: There's a lot of pretty girls to impress (or maybe they stand out because of the ugliness of the place?). The cycle path in the middle of the Po delta park is beautiful but I stretch like God and I make dirt roads that I shouldn't do with my tyres, which however hold up wonderfully. The cycle path is beautiful, but I prefer the silence of the rolling of the 23" tires on the asphalt of secondary roads.

PS In Ravenna they are all around by bike.

Day 12 | Mantova -> Piacenza -> almost Varese (my parents' house). 130km + I don't even want to know (ps 290 at the end hahahah).

Yesterday in the bike hostel there was the village, there were the old ladies (this seems to be the women's bar: women don't go to normal bars with men... how fuuuuurbe they are) there were cyclists, there were the children. A nice mixité in the governolo lock. I meet a gentleman at the hostel who has done the Po cycle route from Turin and he tells me that the embankment up to Cremona is paved. I trust and change plans. Beautiful these encounters that divert plans.
By now I wake up automatically very early: the alarm clock is not needed a bit like in the mornings before exams. I see the dawn on the Po, what a magnificent light. Today, from the top of the cycle path on the banks, I notice the plain with new eyes and everything seems beautiful to me. Here the view is privileged and I rewrite my judgment on the low valance. Beautiful, it will be the light, it will be that I'm not tired, it will be that a rainbow also comes out, beautiful. Deviation for Sabbioneta, still intact with its walls that surround it. I continue along the Po cycle path up to Cremona which reminds me of my Cremona friends Frá and Giò: Beautiful and elegant but with a kind and free-range soul. And I feel a little at home thanks to Frá's local goodies: cakes, ice creams, sandwiches and churches. A few more rides and I arrive in Piacenza where I will stay for the last night.
I've changed my mind, I have an energy on me, perhaps caused by substances inside the sacher of the Cremonese pastry which were activated hours later. Piacenza doesn't inspire me, I don't want to meet traveling pilgrims when my journey is over and therefore, I go on. I continue with an energy never before, hands under the bend of the handlebars and pedaling like never before. Places already seen that I want to pass quickly and above all make a stop in the late afternoon. It is impossible to get to Varese so I stop by my parents so as to tell the impressions of the trip.
And tomorrow Varese.

Day 14 | My parents' house -> Varese

Last stop, a few km... and I'm in Varese, then Velate and I see the campo dei fiori, the sacromonte: my, for now, point of reference. I open the door of the house and for the first time back from a trip, I smile. HI

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