Ira’s In Italy!l

With breakfast included at the hotel, we toddled downstairs to see what was on offer. I’m intrigued by the breakfast buffets we’ve had at hotels here and they’re quite similar to Spain. They usually include a variety of cake and biscuits, but this morning was a real spread. Muesli was on offer so we tucked into that, as it’s the first time we’ve had cereal as an option at a hotel, so far in Italy. I always watch to see what the locals choose, because I’m never sure if the breakfast buffet is aimed at locals or tourists, so I like to see if what’s on offer are authentic local breakfast choices. Today on the buffet were four different types of cake – a chocolate tart and a fruit tart and a couple of others, some packets of crisp bread (which we would call Melba toast), meat, cheese, bread and cereal. I’m most intrigued by the tarts, because at our hotel in Reggio, there were also two fruit tarts, as well as chocolate brownies.  I know people at home eat cake for breakfast, it’s just called a muffin, but the tarts are a newie. Everyone who walked in, chose some sort of cake or tart, so I’m really wondering if that’s the sort of thing that’s eaten in Italian homes? The cereal aisle in supermarkets is very small, so I’m guessing that’s not a particularly popular breakfast staple. Most countries we’ve been, have meat and cheese as breakfast options and most people choose those with bread, so I’m guessing that’s a fairly regular breakfast. I find it all so fascinating!

As we set off, the temperature showed 10C, the sky was grey and the air was cool, so we started in an extra layer and off we pedalled. We are heading north again now, in the general direction of Verona. All we know about Verona is what we know from Shakespeare and Romeo and Juliet, so it’s time to learn some more! Our route this morning was nearly all on a cycle path. Wonderful! The path even took us through some countryside and under some trees, which was a delightful change from the roads.

What a great path
What a great path

As we wheeled along, we soon stopped so Steve could add another layer, then a few hundred metres up the path we stopped again, so we could both add our raincoats. Yep, Ira was back in town!

Ira's Italian debut
Ira’s Italian debut

The grey sky had decided to open up and give us some Italian rain, the first since we’ve arrived. On we rode, with more lovely people giving us smiles and waves and us returning the gestures and adding a “Buongiorno” for good measure. After navigating the hazards of the busy roads over the last few days, our route today did a complete 180 turn and had us waaaaay off road and riding along the top of a bank. It was a bit bumpy, but it was sure traffic free!

At least it's out of traffic!
At least it’s out of traffic!

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The temperature was beginning to nudge 11C and the rain was getting heavier, so when we pedalled into Sozzigalli, just shy of elevenses, we decided to stop and seek some shelter. We saw  a church and thought there might be an alcove somewhere, but no luck. Then we passed a park that had a marquee, so we took off for a look to see if it was something available to the public. We weren’t sure why it was there, but it was shelter and it had tables and seemed to be a permanent fixture, so we gratefully accepted its roof.

Refuge
Refuge

By this stage we were both really wet, it was cold, we both added some more layers and I began the involuntary, all over shivering. We sat and had elevenses and thought about what to do. It was pretty uncomfortable riding in the weather, so do we call it quits and find somewhere to stay nearby, or just ride on? We looked up some different hotels and decided to wait a while and see what the weather decided to do. We sat, snacked and shivered.

Elevenses. Do I look as cold as I feel?
Elevenses. Do I look as cold as I feel?

An hour later, the rain had eased off, the temperature had risen to 12C, so after much procrastination, we decided to just ride on. The ride helped to warm up the bones a bit, although my feet, despite the added socks, resolutely refused to move beyond freezing, so the numb toes remained a companion for the rest of the ride. Good ol’ Ira went to work and helped keep the weather at bay. The quiet roads were nice and we had more passing motorists give us a toot and a beep and a honk with a wave as they went past. We also had some more countryside, which was great.

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We rode beside this forest. I think this looks like a painting – but they’re real!

We rolled into Mirandola and stopped at bench in a park for lunch and to plan our next step. See, this is what our planning is like on this trip –  sometimes it’s day to day, “Where shall we go, what shall we do?” and sometimes it’s hour by hour! Oh, the fun of freedom! The accommodation options were beginning to thin in the smaller towns we would be passing through if we continued and there were a few options available in Mirandola. It was still pretty cold, although we’d managed to hit 14C, but we were still quite damp and chilly, so we decided we might as well stop where we were and set off afresh tomorrow, when the weather is supposed to return to the delightful fine and mid-twenties temperatures we’ve been having. We found a hotel nearby and pedalled around the corner. It’s moments like these, I feel at my scruffiest and most embarrassed. We had been riding in rain, through muddy puddles and the panniers were mud splashed, we were soggy and bedraggled and we had to front up at a reception desk. This is not good for the fragile ego! Let me paint the picture:

A tall man and a short lady walk into a hotel. They are both wearing fashionably challenged raincoats and waterproof trousers, with the added stylish effect, straight from the runways of Milan, of having the right leg of their waterproof trousers tucked into their sock,  the remainder of the fashion statement that prevents the trousers getting stuck in the bike chain. These socks are also stylishly enclosed in a pair of Keens sandals. They walk in with a swish-swish-swish courtesy of the nylon trouser legs and bulge with lumps from the five layers of fleece and multiple textiles they are wearing underneath the fashionable blue raincoats.

Can you see us! I did not want to hold my head high!

The people at the hotel were lovely and had a spot out the back for the bikes. The young girl at reception led us around the back, to show us where to put the bikes and while Steve returned inside to get the keys for our locks, I waited with the girl and took the opportunity to get some language lessons. I asked her how to pronounce some different phrases and she was so nice and smiled and repeated different things when I asked her to say words again, so I could practise. When Steve returned, we asked her some more phrases and we practised and repeated and practised with her and with each other and she laughed and it was wonderful! She was a complete treasure and was so nice and patient and willing to teach us what we asked to learn. Ciao had been confusing us, because it seemed to be used as both a greeting and a farewell, and she said that was right, it can be used for both. So I guess, we’ll stay a little confused, but still have a multi-purpose word to throw into our attempts at conversation!

We began to gather up our panniers to carry them inside, when the other lady from the reception desk appeared with a trolley for us. Super service! Thank you! We loaded up, found our room and I hit the shower to warm up and get some feeling back into those toes! A hot shower after a cold and rainy ride. Joy! We took a walk down the street to get supplies and then settled in and that was that. That was the day. Another short one, of only 40km.

Today might have been a bit uncomfortable, being wet and cold most of the day, but I’d still call it a good day. The cycle path was fantastic, the people were lovely and that nice girl at the hotel just made my day, with her friendliness and smile. Sorry we lowered the tone of the hotel with our mud and scruffy appearance! We shall power on tomorrow, rain or shine, but the forecast is for a return to sunshine and warmer temperatures, so that will be splendid. It’s all splendid. Every day, every experience, is just grand. Yes, there are some challenges and yes there are some uncomfortable moments and yes, some days feel harder than others, but it’s all pat of it. It’s all the experience. Everything is a piece in the patchwork, that goes together to make the quilt that is this, amazing journey. The design isn’t complete yet, the pieces are still being stitched together, and every day we attach a new one. We don’t know what it will look like when it’s complete, but we’re having a ball making it. Having a BALL!

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