Thursday, 21 March 2013

Milan to Rapallo - The Long Saturday - Part 1

It was meant to be a mini cycling challenge - a fun jaunt from the city to the coast with the reward of sun, sea, sand and a bit of ice cream. Back in London we would do this all the time - London to Brighton, sometimes riding back. In Yorkshire the folks do Hull or York to Scarborough. So hey, why not do Milan to the Italian Riviera. It would be a slightly classier, more continental, and warmer destination than other seaside club runs I've done.

I chose to do Milan to Rapallo, which was immediately due south of where I was staying. That would make it a bit shorter than the classic Milan-San Remo, which travels southwest and gets up to almost 185 miles. Also, the return home by train would be easy, since trains from Genoa back to Milan are direct and regular. I would just have to get on with the 100-mile bike ride first. That should be straight forward enough; I've ridden that distance before; and hey, I would be spoilt rotten with picturesque scenes while riding through the vineyards and rolling hills of the Oltrepo Pavese. All the ingredients were there for a fun, challenging ride, while still being doable....er, hopefully.....


I set off from Milan at 8am under clear skies. The ride to Pavia was very easy - just a flat blast down the canal path, the Naviglio Pavese. There was nothing of note to report apart from a religious procession along the road. I'm guessing this was just a normal occurrence on a Saturday morning as none of the motorists seemed bothered by the tailbacks as the happy crew paraded down the road singing songs of praise.

A section of the canal path was fenced off for resurfacing. That was a snag because there was no easy way to divert back onto the road, so I had no choice but to try and ride through the section. I crawled through the fence and winched my bike over it, then hoped that there would be no massive manholes and I wouldn't get a puncture riding the 3 mile section of dirt track on my road bike. Luckily, the bicycle survived that section unscathed and incident free.

Once past Pavia I left the canal path to join the motorised traffic on the roads. My route went towards Voghera, and then just before that town I turned off the main road onto some quiet roads. From there on in, my route would be on roads with very little traffic.

Also, from here onwards there would be no more flat terrain and it would be all about the hills for the next few hours. It was all good though, as the views were very pretty. I was riding through the picturesque villages and vineyards of the Oltrepo Pavese.
This wine-produing area set among rolling hills does not get alot of press, despite its attractiveness. Everyone talks about Tuscany it seems, but a stay in one of the agroturismos of the Oltrepo Pavese is worth a stopover if you have time and is not an experience to be sniffed at. I would have certainly enjoyed a glass of wine there, but sadly, I didn't have that much time to stop. Although I was missing out on this pleasant experience there were enough bellavistas in the area for me to enjoy my ride.

Lunchtime soon arrived and I had reached a highpoint near Passo Carmine. It was time for a quick snack while admiring the panorama and imagining coming back here on a day when I had more time - on a day when I could join the villagers for lunch on a high terrace and enjoy what they were enjoying on this sunny afternoon.

But I had to press on to reach Monte Penice, and Bobbio. I believed that once I'd crested this significant mountain in the area there would be a long descent all the way to Bobbio and then from there my ride would just be gentle undulations all the way to the coast.

Er...
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