As I mentioned in the previous entry, inconsistent internet combined with living my adventures in the moment (i.e. too busy exploring and socializing to take the time to document everything) means that I am now forced to rely on a few notes, pictures and a senior’s temperamental memory to update this blog. Taking place almost a month ago, the last few days of the Italy portion of the bike/barge trip have become a blur of churches, castles, small towns, and similar looking levees. Why levees? Because the Po River has been known to flood in the past, with devastating results, so high berms have been built in strategic locations to protect the towns and fields on either side of the river. The levees also serve as secondary roads and trails and are a convenient, and flat, route through the area.
On Oct. 7th, the barge departed at 7a.m. on a misty morning and cruised for a few hours. Our group of 19 bikers eventually set out from the middle of nowhere, heading for the town of Ferrara. As usual, much of the ride was on levees.
The pace of our group was usually slower than some of us were used to so, when given permission by Rosita on some straight section where we couldn’t get lost, Lucille, Chris and I would wind it up a bit to stretch our legs and lungs.
We passed through a few small, nondescript towns but, with most of the ride on levees, our typical views were farm fields and canals for most of the ride. Not particularly interesting visually. Levees are nice for a change because of the flatness and lack of traffic but the similar views get a little boring after a while. Riding into Ferrara was a treat though. It is an old town (no surprise there!) and one of the few larger cities in Italy not of Roman origin. It is presumed to date back to a Byzantine military station in the 7th century. A high wall, 9 kilometres in length, surrounds the city centre. The wall served the double purpose of fortress and flood protection when constructed in the 16th century. Nowadays, the top of the wall has been turned into a popular walking/jogging/cycling path and we rode a portion of it into a quiet city park. Most of us settled down for a relaxing lunch at a convenient café while Lucille went off for her usual 12 km run.
Afterwards, Rosita took us for a tour of some of the sights and side streets of the town.
Ferrara was the end of our riding for the day, as we loaded our bikes into a trailer and took a bus from Ferrara to the small town of Zelo, about an hour away, where the barge was moored for the night.
After supper, Rosita took us out for her usual tour of the town. It’s a small berg, with only about 350 residents and 2 bars. We passed one bar but it was dark – strange for 9:30 at night. Unsurprisingly, we spotted 3 others of our group in bar number 2. We stayed with Rosita, who led us to the cemetery, which was actually a neat place in the pitch dark. Not in a spooky sense but just in the way it was set up. The area of traditional graves was surrounded by crypt walls containing the remains of the cremated. Each “cubbyhole”, illuminated by a small night-lite type light, had the name and dates of the deceased, as well as a picture of him/her. For that matter, the gravestones had pictures on them too. I don’t know if all Italian graveyards are set up in this way but that is the first time I have seen that sort of memorial on every grave.
On the way back, we noticed that the first bar was now open so we dropped in for a drink. Strange hours – closed and dark at 9:30, open by 10 and just hopping by the time some of us left at 11. Four of the group got involved in a game of darts with some locals (it was an English-themed pub) and made their way back to the barge much later and a little worse for wear. At least they were quiet about it.