24 - 28 April and 30 April – 3 May 2017

This section covers 280k from Livorno on the Italian west coast to San Marino close to the east coast (see separate section for San Marino) and afterwards 425k from San Marino past Garda Lake to Trento. My use of regions is arbitrary - I choose to call it Central Europe from Trento because it’s the “border town” to South Tirol.

Itinerary and weather

Sonia was also on the ferry, so we talked things over. She didn’t like to bike alone and even though I appreciated my newly-gained freedom, I felt bad leaving her in Livorno, so she came along to San Marino. From Livorno, it was more or less a straight north eastern ride to San Marino. We took some smaller roads to get out of Livorno, but from Cascina we stayed on often busy main road SS67 to San Francesco east of Florence – an easy flattish ride through Tuscany’s countryside with its many fields, rivers, towns and villages. The initial idea was to avoid Florence, but I needed a bike shop to fix my broken rear wheel bearings. Unfortunately, we got there on a holiday where everything was closed, but at least riding in and out of the city was easy, because there was very little traffic. Now that we were there anyway, we did a bit of sightseeing amongst other Ponte Vecchio (oldest bridge across Arno River and the only bridge that survived WWII), Piazza della Signoria and Piazza del Duomo with the impressive cathedral. It was overcast and the centre was packed with people (very stressful), so we only spent a few hours before having lunch by the river and continuing east. We could have stayed on SS67 going northeast around the mountains, but we preferred the straight eastern quiet, lush and secluded mountain roads. It was a bit crazy venturing into the mountains with completely crushed bearings, but we chanced it and took SR70 to Poppi followed by SR71 to Sarsina and SP28 to San Marino. The weather constantly changed from sunny to overcast and rainy but always very windy – according to the locals, unusually bad for this time of year, though that has been a common story most places I have biked on this trip. The bad weather mattered less in the countryside, but over the mountains it could have been nice with some better weather – at least for the views.

After San Marino, Sonia and I split up. She went south to Ancona to take a ferry back to Greece, while I went north along the coast to Chioggia. I took SS16, however, even though a main road I couldn't ride it all the way, so I spent much time navigating small roads through endless towns - this was especially annoying because it was Sunday and 10,000s of people were on their way home after a day on the beach creating countless traffic jams. After Ravenna, I took SS309 through a huge nature reserve. There was very little traffic, so I assumed Italians were more keen to spend the holiday on the beach than in the forest and wetlands. Both days I had a crazy NE/E head/sidewind creating sandlight and the second afternoon hours of heavy rain after a beautiful sunny morning.

From Chioggia, I rode west to Garda Lake on SR104, SR10 and SR249 through more countryside and passing a couple of beautiful medieval fortress-towns. I did Garda Lake in a day, riding up the eastern shore – the south eastern and north eastern corners were very touristic and crowded despite off-season and bad weather. Fortunately, the “middle section” was pleasantly quiet – maybe because there were only a few small towns or maybe because it was overcast and rainy until early afternoon. As the weather improved, so did the views of the lake against the backdrop of the snow-capped mountains. I wanted to bike straight north up into the mountains but the unreliable (bad) weather and low-lying snow made me ride up the valley to Trento (and later Bolzano and Merano). On recommendation, I rode the bike path, but it was much steeper than the road, worse quality, narrow, no right-of-way and poorly signposted – so I was quickly back on the main road. 

Road quality and drivers

The road quality was an ever changing mix – sometimes great being smooth, wide with a shoulder but other times narrow without shoulder and in mediocre or poor quality. A few times, there was a bike path but seldom useful - drivers don’t respect them parking their vehicles there and compared to the road they were steeper, worse quality, narrow, no right-of-way and poorly signposted.

People still drove very fast especially the motorcyclists – until San Marino many drivers were selfish sqeeezing by, but north of San Marino almost everybody was cautious braking and waiting when there was no room to go around. Maybe it had to do with how used they were to bicyclists – until San Marino we still saw a lot of cyclists, but from San Marino I only met a few.

Camping and people

Camping was a challenge particularly in the countryside where everything was open and private – and the few forests were fenced. The best chances were abandoned roads or on public land next to a river or creek – as previously mentioned, wild camping is illegal in Italy, but the locals seemed relaxed about it.  

When biking few people returned greetings but when stopping, people were usually friendly, curious and talkative. On the first morning after San Marino, I had just entered the road when a car stopped and a woman invited me to join her and some friends for a day of fishing/BBQ, etc. No Italian had invited me for anything, so I was flattered and tempted, but joining a group of Italian friends on their day of traditions could be challenging as could the language barrier. Also,I had just re-gained my freedom to bike as I pleased and it was a lovely day.Had I met her mid/late afternoon, it would have been perfect but not a whole day, so I turned her down and continued north.

Compared to Southern Italy, everything was more organised in Northern Italy e.g. fairly clean with lots of bins and recycling stations, normally working internet, etc.  

Equipment

The bike got worse day by day. My rear wheel bearings werenow so crushed that the wheel ”tilted” 6-7mm to each side, which must have been damaging with my heavy bike, especially on the curvy mountain roads. The constant loud noise was streesful (would it break before we found a bike shop) and very annoying – the constant grinding of metal and every few seconds large ”clank”-sounds sending shock waves through the frame. It was so loud that people turned around to see what it was - like driving a car with a broken exhaust pipe. In small mountain town Poppi, we unexpectedly found what looked to be a professional bike shop. The owner seemed competent, but unfortunately he didn't have time to fix the bike until 16 and it was only 11.30. Not much of a choice and anyway good timing on a rainy day, so we spent the afternoon finding a camp spot, lunch, internet and doing other bike maintenance. He first asked for 50 euro to change the bearings but settled for 30 euro which seemed fair... 

My handlebar also got worse every day, turning with more and more friction. Possibly the main reason why I was very close to my first solo accident while touring. After a lot of rain, I almost fell on a slippery surface as the front wheel slipped going downhill with 25-30 k/h - I don’t know how, but I did an amazing save.

I had changed to a new sensor a few weeks before and still I was often struggling to get my odometer working. It must be poor quality, so be wary to buy the Bontrager, Trip 1.

Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Not the most amazing p...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Sonia was also on the ...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Surprisingly nice for ...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
There were two bike sh...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
We took some smaller r...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
We got within 5k of Pi...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
It was an easy flattis...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
... as well as small t...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
It was all open countr...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
The tents were soaked ...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Sonia pushing the bike...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
The river we camped ne...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
We initially wanted to...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
.. and pleasant riding...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
With little traffic an...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Pleasant but very stra...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Lovely view of Arno Ri...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
We biked along the riv...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
...to see famous Ponte...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
The centre was packed ...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Piazza della Signoria....
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
...where the weather s...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
....and finally Piazza...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
My bearings were now s...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
A couple of hours was ...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
We could have stayed o...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
The dark skies created...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
The broken bearings ma...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Finally after climbing...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
There was still time t...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Some of nature's beaut...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
We could have had a be...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
It was a cold an overc...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Cosy village Scarpacci...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Dramatic skies rolling...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
In Poppi, we very unex...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
We biked 4k out of tow...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Just enough space to s...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Riding back to Poppi w...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Shortly out of Poppi, ...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
From Soci, it was a 16...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Taken out of a fairyta...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Lovely beech forest wi...
video northern italy
It was another very wi...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
We considered having l...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
northern italy
northern italy
When reaching Bagno di...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Every city, town or vi...
northern italy
It looked like the rai...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Despite countryside an...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
After a very rainy nig...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
... so we took the tim...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Great morning riding.....
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
A quick internet stop ...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Just out of town we tu...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
... and then 10k uphil...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Nice valley views...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
The last push to the t...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
8k downhill roll to th...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
We got water and bough...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
After a short but plea...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
After stocking up, I t...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
One of the few times t...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
The good thing being o...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
... and the good thing...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
I had hoped to camp in...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Beautiful sunny mornin...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
After Ravenna, I took ...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
With all the canals I ...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
While having a snack b...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
I had a crazy NE/E hea...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
... luckily not too wi...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Mid afternoon the weat...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Sunny morning but litt...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Beautiful riding as I ...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
I rode SR104 west thro...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
At Monselice, I was ag...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
After stocking up, hav...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
In Montagnana, the mai...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Just after town anothe...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Sometimes the road was...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
I had no idea what the...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
There were few green a...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
... ,so after 150k I p...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
It was a rainy night a...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
I rode up along the ea...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
My first view of the l...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
The water looked surpr...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Fortunately, the “midd...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
When the sun came out,...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
As the weather improve...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Mid afternoon I arrive...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
As I expected (because...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
So as soon as I got th...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
A lovely flattish ride...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Most of the old buildi...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
It was impossible to c...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Not much better -eithe...
Livorno to Trento excl. San Marino
Nothing wrong with the...
 
 
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