Feeling at home

It’s a funny feeling that I’m starting to have after setting up our bikes for the day and taking the first few pedal strokes. It’s a feeling I recognize, but it’s out of place. I feel like I’m at home. It’s a bit hard to describe, but I guess it’s the same feeling that people who travel full-time in RVs must have when they sit at the wheel, but only more compact! I like it because, even though I’m at home, the scenery and the people around us are constantly changing.

Today we will cycle into Trieste, after a peaceful night camping outside the spa island of Grado at a quiet campground completely surrounded by water. I’m realizing that I’m more excited about seeing Trieste than Florence or Venice, in part because it’s supposed to be one of the most underrated Italian cities. No one thinks to go there, and yet, they say it has a space that rivals St. Mark’s square for it’s beauty. Venice was indeed beautiful, but the hordes of tourists are just not our thing.

Venice motion and textures

Made a little video of some of the things in Venice that caught my eye. Hope you enjoy.

(Yes, it’s strange I can upload videos but not photos. I’m thinking there’s a problem with the WordPress app so may try uploading photos elsewhere from now on.)

Can’t post photos on the blog from Italy

For some reason, even after trying on multiple WiFi and cellular connections, my photos will not upload to WordPress for the blog, hence why I haven’t been blogging but you might see me on Facebook.

Until this is resolved, you may see fewer posts on here, though I may start writing some text-only posts!

Apericena and Siena

This post is a few days delayed due to not having good internet…

So the Italians have this thing called an apericena, a mixture of the words apertivo (pre-dinner drink) and cena (dinner). Of course we had to try it out! For 8€ per drink (any kind of drink you’d like, whether beer or a cocktail) at Zoe in Florence, you get access to the all-you-can-eat buffet of finger foods. We had no problem making a dinner of it!

Also, we put our new Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires on, and those are the toughest damn tires to put on and take off that I’ve ever had to deal with. I broke three tire irons and popped three tubes in the process! Finally, a guy at the bike shop took pity on me and helped me out plus gave me a lesson on how to work with these tires better. Afterwards, he had some words of wisdom: “God will find your weakness and test you in it. Maybe this is your weakness. Don’t prove to me that you can put these tires on; prove it to Him because he’ll test you.” Fair enough, though I think I have plenty of other weaknesses that God could test me on; if changing tires are my penance, I’ll happily take it.

By the way, huge thanks to Florence By Bike for hooking us up with the new tires, some other spare parts, tuning up Steve’s brakes, and fixing my bottom bracket squeaking, even during their busy Giro d’Italia weekend. Really cool guys, and we enjoyed browsing their shop and chatting with other customers. They rent bikes too, if you want to go for a spin in Florence.

Here are some photos from our stay in Florence and Siena.

Simple pleasures

We’ve spent so much time in the city and touristy coastal areas, that I’ve been craving to get back to the simple life in the country.

For one of our first experience that made me happy, we went shopping at a tiny grocery store in the middle of nowhere in the Tuscan hills (actually it was just across the border of Tuscany into Emilia-Romagna, but Tuscan hills reads better). The woman working there was awesome, she spoke no English and we spoke only about 5 words of Italian, but she helped us pick out the ingredients for a pasta Bolognese dinner, dessert, and wine. We’d point at something and then she’d say no and point to something else and say “bene, bene!”, so we’d take that instead. She asked if we were American and we said yes and she smiled and laughed. When we checked out, she looked us up and down and asked something that sounded like, “is this all for just you two?” Now it was our turn to laugh; how do you explain bike stomach in Italian?

It was such a simple experience, but so incredibly different from and more satisfying than the interactions with those who are tired of dealing with tourists. You could tell she was enjoying the experience too. I’d rather have a day full of these encounters than a day of seeing all the highest rated tourist attractions. I think we’ve had a good mix on our trip, but it varies along the way.


Italy, you sure are growing on me! The drivers are aggressive, but much more predictable than the French (the Spanish are still the best!). The roads are nice with quite a few bike paths and lanes. There are tons of people on bicycles in the cities, from 10 year olds to 90 year olds; it’s awesome. People are very friendly and helpful; the food is consistently good; and the weather has been amazing! I feel the most comfortable here of any of the countries so far, and that’s despite knowing Italian the least of any language; I was lazy and didn’t even practice Italian until the 3rd or 4th day. But Italians have gone out of their way to make us feel welcome.

Today we rode out from Florence, east 35km to the top of the first climb of the Giro d’Italia bike race and watched the spread-out racers suffer up the climb. We had a great vantage point, and at one point, someone from Team Sky stopped to prepare some water bottles to hand out to the racers, so we got to hear a bit of team gossip.

Since we are heading for Eastern Europe, where we expect the roads to be a bit more rough, we are swapping out our stock tires for the famous Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires, known to last tens of thousands of kilometers. They are a bit heavier but have more tread and much better puncture resistance, so they will be better for gravel riding and on poor surfaces.

Cinque Terre… Cinque lingue.

It must take a special kind of person to live in such a touristy place. During the day, everyone here is a tourist, and in the evenings, the towns clear out as everyone gets on the trains to go home. Only a few tourists stay around because there aren’t a lot of accommodations.

We stopped for a brioche this morning, and the owner of the place took the opportunity to turn our ignorance into a lesson, showing us what is a local brioche and what other regions call a brioche. It would be very easy to get annoyed with ignorance like ours, but we’ve found the people of Cinque Terre to be very tolerant. But not too tolerant. The sign in the shop read, “Don’t order eggs. You’re in Italy, so eat Italian food.” I like this mix of sticking to local traditions while respecting visitors. It’s a difficult combination.

We overheard a local server joke, “Cinque terre, cinque lingue”, referring to all the languages they have to understand!

Very glad we decided to slow down and take some time here, though. However, I’m looking forward to seeing some of the more local side of Italy too. The places where locals look at us funny and wonder why foreigners picked this place to come to.

Next, we are hoping to get to Florence in time to catch a stage of the Giro d’Italia bike race on Wednesday!

Cinque Terre Kitty Cats

I was worried about the cycling up and down and up again, but apparently we’re at the point where our legs think we’re crazy and just do what they’re told, because all I have done is look around at the sights. The cycling was a no brainier. Here are some photos…

Cinque Terre is touristy, but it’s also still maintained its charm, I think. But at times I feel like we are back home for all the Californian English we hear. It’s not as overwhelmingly touristy as some places we have been, so we are enjoying it.

Cycling the Liguria Coast, a lesson in contrast

It’s been nice to disconnect from blogging the last few days. I hope you haven’t missed me too much. I will likely cut back to a few times a week from now on, as the mood strikes!

Our ride through Italy so far has been all about contrast. From dedicated bike paths that go on for 25km along the stunning coastline, complete with tunnels, scenic pulloffs, restaurants, and bike shops, to narrow roads full of traffic and stinky mopeds through industrial port towns.

The food had been amazing in its own right, but quite different from the rich and expensive food of France. We miss the morning croissants and other pastries, but it’s been nice to find good paninis for €4 everywhere, even in touristy places, plus €1 per scoop gelato, yummy cappuccino, delicious pasta, and heavenly pizza (but only at dinner – no pizza at lunch, it’s not possible!!).

Of course the views are stunning. My photos don’t really do it justice.

We are now cycling through the Cinque Terre towns; we decided we should cycle to all of them and are taking our time to explore, take photos, and absorb the beauty and culture. I’ll post more about that later.

Living the dream

Just a quick note to say that I’ve finally found myself living in the moment, and I’m loving it. I feel more present and connected to the moment on this part of our trip than I have since we left home. Unfortunately for you, that means I’m not feeling the blogging, since that involves living in the past long enough to describe what’s happened. When I’m feeling it, I’ll post more details, but just so you know, all is good, and we’ve got a cycling tour of Cinque Terre planned in a few days. Peace and love, friends!