Northern Italy by bike saddle…
We’ve had beautiful weather. We have cycled thru magical woodlands, state parks with flamingos, towns with heavy traffic and towns with historical significance… so much of it unable to catch on film… just captured in our memory.
We’ve learned that a gallon of gas is $7-$8. We’ve learned that they have man made “valleys” where they farm fish. We’ve learned that Covid is still very real here. Stores have signs saying “closed due to Covid”. Masks are prevalent.
We’ve stuck our feet in the Adriatic and lathered up in sun block. The afternoons have been full of wines, beers and wobbly cyclists.
Sunrises and sunsets have been the highlight of this voyage. I think the sunrises are most special because I am the only one who witnessed them… mine and mine alone.
We’ve met new friends and reunited with old ones. We’ve shared the bumps and bruises of the road and the stories of our falls. Badges of honor these scrapes and black and blues. Just as the wine gets shared so does the arnica!
We’ve all complained of our tender tooshies and how the saddle makes us wince… no amount of training prepares you for this much time on a seat on bumpy roads. Yet there is solidarity in knowing we all share a common plight.
At the end of each ride there is a collective sigh of gratitude. How blessed are we to share this remarkable experience.
Trouble at home…
My phone started blowing up with text messages. The shooting on Old Main road…how could I help? Most folks didn’t know I am in Italy. I shared this prayer.
I Kneel before you today for my Cape Cod family.
My Community of Falmouth is suffering with the senseless loss of of “our daughter” Kianna Barrows. She’s come to you at 21 years young, she’s all of ours, too young to be taken by a bullet at the hands of a boy who once professed to love her.
Please hold her parents, siblings and immediate family in your hands as they navigate her loss.
I ask you too to hold up the first responders. Those men and women who witnessed this cruelty first hand and now will live with the memory of when horror came to Old Main Street.
Wrap your care around the children of North Falmouth School, their teachers and their parents. Thank you for keeping them safe.
My heart breaks for our Community, Lord.
Hold all of my neighbors in your loving embrace as they process this horrific event! Amen
It’s always something…
“May you live in interesting times.” This saying is offered at nearly every cappuccino cafe on our travels. The sweet Espresso cup holding sugar is sending its subliminal message to everyone while enjoying a cup of Coffee.
Go ahead, live in interesting times…would you!
Grateful, Just Grateful
Bergantino is also known for its the Parmesan! We visited the cheese factory and enjoyed some wine with our cheese on a “long granite table”! Bellissimo!
Just so grateful for this opportunity at this late age to share time in Ancient territory, bicycle 36-38 miles a day… with souls of like mind! It is not lost on me…how blessed am I!
The Ave Maria. Our group has every cabin rented. The Upper Cape Ski and Sport Club
Paul is one of us but standing is Alex, she’s our guides , Helmut the lead guide and Ricardo our Captain.
Helmut, bike guide, Captain Ricardo, Technician Giuseppe, chefs Alberto and Dani ! These men run our ship
Our first day on the bikes proved to be beautiful. We were told to expect rain but fortunately no rain joined us on our 21 mile easy ride.
Our Bavarian guide Helmut took us 10 miles in to our ride to a cafe where some enjoyed coffee and others wine or beer. Sundays in this little village … it’s not Mothers Day here, seem to be all about church and this sweet cafe. The baked goods are to marvel at! We mostly marveled at the $3.00 glass of wine that came with 6 Petitte forcaccia breads and chips.
The 28 of us overwhelmed the cafe and locals leaving church opted to come back later. The three people running the cafe offered me a job (at least that’s what Alex our guide said) as I tried to help bus some tables for them. They then brought out free pizza for the entire group … yummy! I had to share with them a bicycle key chain from Cape Cod, to which the owner of the shop said “Cape Cod, very famous…Kennedy’s?”
I nodded. Wishing I had language skills. Alex said the three bakers were quite excited to receive the gift and very surprised.
Poppies lined our way today… fields and fields of poppies! We kept looking for the flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz but they were a no show.
We ride among the Ancient. And when we are done we tour Mantova Or Mantua. The original Tuscan capitol. Known for its murder and mayhem among the families of power. Also known for the relic of Christs blood which is held in the crypt and only taken out for viewing at Good Friday’s mass!
the story is: A Roman soldier who was nearly blind heard Christs suffering on the cross and stabbed him to end his suffering. Christs blood dripped and the soldier got some in his eyes and suddenly had his sight. The Roman soldier knew this blood was powerful but also knew he couldn’t reveal it to the Romans who had just murdered the man. So he brought Christ blood to his home city of Mantua.
They built a Cathedral to house this relic that is spectacular. There is an octagonal worship area where you’re invited to kneel and be healed. This cathedral has an aura of majesty.
Sadly I took a turn too sharp, caught my bike bag and went down in a graceful slow motion cartoon like thud. Fortunately, a scraped elbow. A couple of bruised hands and a banked up knee and I’m no worse for wear. Shook it off and kept riding! I’ll be a purple mess the rest of the trip. But those who have known me long will remember a certain wood chipper incident… and know I am a force.
The chefs are gourmet cooks who offer us tastes of the region!
We noticed all the acres of peas growing along our ride and were delighted by peas on the plate for dinner. There will be no weight loss on this beautiful trip!
the sun rises and my fellow riders join me at the coffee machine… I guess it’s time to get ready for the day! Thanks for joining me on the trip!
This blog serves me as my travel journal! Imagine my surprise when my email revealed 1008 people read my blog on Mothers Day!
welcome to my trip!
Reunited and it feels so good!
Covid stopped the world for nearly two years and now we are so grateful to gather again on foreign soil to adventure together. To see our whole faces and to hug our whole bodies. This is magic.
How this bike and barge odyssey started, you ask?
Mike Finegold came to an open house I was hosting and lamented that he had one more cabin on the boat to sell for an upcoming trip to Amsterdam. Huh? I thought … there’s no way I was fit enough to do the trip.
that night I was telling Mark about his trip and Mark, recently retired, said Let’s do it! This is how we began.. I think we’ve done 6 of them now but I would have to ask Mike! We’ve recruited so many friends to join us! Often we see our Cape Cod folks only in other countries…it’s such a weird thing!
yet when we are reunited …it’s as if no time has passed.
Wanderlust…how it started…
One of my blog fans asked how I came to love travel. The question struck me funny only because it never dawned on me that “loving travel” wasn’t a natural occurring innate function of all human beings. Completely absorbed in myself, I guess.
I pondered this as I drifted off to sleep, finally sleeping after 48 hours of cat naps.
I think wanderlust started at 14. How appropriate that it’s Mothers Day in America and my wanderlust is 100% my mothers fault.
I remember my single Mom who worked all the time sent my older brother Terry with the High School ski club to Mount Zermatt, Switzerland. I remember the planning, the passport, the packing… she was as excited as he was. I was a little frightened…his first time flying and he’s going around the world? Yikes.
He had a blast. He brought me a key chain with two skis that had leather bindings. I still have it. The leather bindings have disintegrated over 50 years.
The next year, Mom said she saved enough if I wanted to go to Mount Blanc France with the ski club and ski Charmonix!
This! This is when I caught the travel bug.
Mom had never flown. She had lived in Worcester County her whole life. I remember her first plane trip was taking me to college in Wisconsin. She chain smoked a pack of Marlboros and we billowed our onto the tarmac in Chicago…hence my asthma.
So it’s all Moms fault. She wanted us to have a bigger version of the world than she had! She wanted us to expand our horizons. She made it happen.
So to the question, Sue… if you are reading… love of Travel for me started because Momma bird pushed me out of the nest, early.
What I know about travel now…is expanding one’s boundaries into other cultures, languages and religions makes us better stewards of the world. Our Empathy expands, our understanding builds, our respect is nurtured and our “oneness” with the human race becomes real.
Travel enlarges my spirit at the same time reminding me how tiny I am in the universe.
Now, one more cup of coffee before getting on that bike!
happy Mothers Day!
Italian Pottery is everywhere!
The yellow plate on the top shelf is a set of Italian pottery I first saw when traveling by bike with my niece Alyse. We were in a small mountain town close to Rome. The town was so tiny that vehicles were not allowed to the city proper. Imports and exports were done by bike or horse and cart.
I wanted some pottery. After much deliberation I decided it was not a wise decision to stuff a E500 euro ($575) platter into my bike pack.
I was disappointed. So here it is in Florence. Considerably more expensive and authentically from that same tiny town we bicycled to 12 years ago. Sweet memories…
Alyse and I return to the States and I tell everyone about the Pottery that got away. There are small drawbacks to choosing to see the world on a bike saddle.
but then it happened. As if a tV commercial could be prophetic. The great “Shoportunity”!
sure enough pieces of this pattern of pottery started showing up at Tjmaxx!
I became a hoarder. I bought every piece of this pattern that came on the shelves at all TJMaxx stores within a 50 mile radius. I felt it was destiny! I didn’t have to pedal it down a mountain or pay the shipping!
I didn’t take into account that my husband wouldn’t like my choice. Damn it!
so for those of you who’ve been gifted a piece of this Italian pottery, It is the real deal. Enjoy it. For those of you now hoping for a piece of this Italian pottery…I have shelves and shelves of it
and Mr Cool still doesn’t like it..,
but it was a Shoportunity!
If you ever get the opportunity to shadow a chef. Just do it!
chef Francisco has been running this school for 16 years. During the day he and his staff have 50 culinary students from 18 accredited university’s and at night he invites the tourists to help fund the school. It’s brilliant albeit exhausting for the staff.
I could go on and on but It’s 3 am an sleep evades me. Hopefully…the drunk singing “o solo mio” (badly) will pass out soon and I can finally sleep.
there were 4 classes of 12 going on tonight. Our group had the big boss as our chef/instructor.
first fun fact: the two most widely used spices used in Tuscan cooking? Anyone?
ground black pepper
I thought garlic would be there but …nope!
2nd fun fact…
there’s a way to cut an onion and you won’t cry. Im happy to demonstrate because I now have skills.
we started with home made, from scratch lava cake!
3rd fun fact
its not ok to lick the spatula in a cooking class …oops
After “ramekining” your chocolate yummy ness… you freeze them! Solid! Hence the reason we started with desert.
then you back them ….welcome lava !
Our menu: Vegetable flan, fresh pasta, chicken Marsala, sausage white Ragusa, and chocolate lava cake.
we had a lot of fun! Laughed a lot and ate well! Learned so many new things. Take in a class at the Chefactory when you’re in Florence it’s a great way to experience the food of Tuscany!
Honestly, I was minding my own business and trying to speak Italian to our waiter at lunch and I must have butchered it because he laughed at me from the table across the way.
then he tried to ask me a question (wise ass) in Italian knowing full well I didn’t speak the language.
I’m engaged in him now. Growing more curious by the minute…… I ask him directions. He’s kind to oblige. I glean from him that he’s a Leather ware designer.. his family is 700 years in Florence
. Leather is his family trade.
catherine is about to birth their Son. Her ankles are swollen with anticipation! She said she hopes he’s as anxious to get out as she is to meet him.
he proudly tells us he’s made a living providing the “second skin” to the rich and famous. He speaks 7 languages and has visited 44 of the United States. Catherine is a Texas born Florence transplant. He studied in Sweden and Rhode Island (RISDI). He is dressed in Luis and Dolce and his man purse is his own design. “Go ahead, Touch it”, he says over lunch…”go ahead…”
I leaned in. I sheepishly admit it was worth fondling. But wait, who says things like that to someone you’ve barely met yet? “Go ahead, touch it…, for reals?”
Catherine pipes in and says “I know he’s a lot,”.
they are with their cousin Fernando the engineer. Catherine is excited as her family is arriving this week from the States to help with the new born who will be named Noah or Ayden.
they met 10 years ago while her roommate worked at his shop. Catherine hated him. Because “he’s a little much”. This Sagittarius Italian 13 years her senior born on December 15, Won her heart tho, and he settled down.
(the details just rolled like sweet soup accidentally spilt. Well, once it starts there’s no sense in stopping.
He worships Catherine. They have a 4 year old daughter named Aida… he is very much in love with his life.
I give him my card and say email me a photo of your boy, please. He beams at my interest and assures me he will be in touch!
we hug goodbye and he gives me his card. He encourages us to stop by his shop. He designs and makes all his clothes in house. I remind him we have no luggage and are leaving in the morning…. He says, “Madame you come to my shop today or twenty years from now you will be treated like family”!
On our way to cooking class… we stopped in for another hug…we left with 4 original custom built designs by Fillipo.
yeah, they were more expensive than the magnets I planned on buying…
but he surely treated us “like family”…