Our last day was warm and sunny, the perfect end to a great week of cycling. Save for that dumb, rainy day, we lucked out with the weather: jackets in the morning, short sleeves in the afternoon.
The ride was a loop around Gavi with a stop for lunch and visit at the Fausto Coppi House, which is a museum dedicated to the famous Italian cyclist Fausto Coppi. Our guide Davide waxed poetic when he talked about Mr. Coppi, a legend in the cycling world.
The day started as usual with a big buffet breakfast at Villa Sparina (see photos below). If you walked out of there hungry, you weren’t trying hard enough.
Then we met as usual to go over the itinerary. As Davide was explaining the route, he pointed out some of the tricky spots, most notably at a roundabout at the bottom of a hill that, if you went the wrong way, you’d go through a toll booth and end up on the highway.
That’s all I heard. What I didn’t hear was to keep going in the roundabout, just a few more feet, and take the exit which makes a sharp left, then right, kind of a zig-zag, under an overpass. No, I didn’t hear that. But hey, I had the GPS app and the Garmin so I’ll figure it out.
I was in the middle of the group and I was solo at the bottom of the hill. I arrived at the roundabout, saw the toll booth and kept on going around. Suddenly I found myself going up a four-lane highway with guardrails in the middle. There was no way this was right, I thought.
I didn’t go that far and luckily there was a shoulder so I pulled over, got off the bike and walked it back toward the traffic circle, hopping down a three foot wall into the parking lot of a truck stop. That’s when I saw the rest of the group arrive and I tried my best to see where they went. Still a mystery. So there I was, watching the semi-trucks come and go, trying to figure out where I should go. The other problem is the app was showing I went off course but I couldn’t tell where I went wrong.
In hindsight, the turn seems so obvious. I called Cristiano, he talked me through where to go and I was back in action. He came back and I met him under the overpass.
The route at this point was a flat road in an industrial area next to a field of what smelled like a combination of horse manure and chlorine. It wasn’t pleasant. I made up some lost time and joined the group at the coffee stop. Then we were off to the Coppi House.
This was so interesting. Fausto Coppi is a cycling hero in Italy. He was the dominant cyclist in the years after World War II. He won the Giro d’Italia (a race in Italy on the level of Tour de France) five times, he won the Tour de France twice and several other races. He was an all-around cyclist: great at sprints, climbs and time trials.
We ate lunch outside the museum. And then I decided I was finished riding for the day. We still had more to go, but I was just finished. I think the whole week just caught up with me, I was fighting some allergies and I just decided to call it. So I enjoyed the rest of the scenic drive in the van.
Our last evening together was spent first taking a tour of Villa Sparina’s wine cellar and then enjoying a delicious dinner in an upstairs private dining room. We celebrated Norm’s birthday and just enjoyed a quiet evening.
This is the second bike trip I’ve taken with FoodStoriesTravel.com and I highly recommend them. Cristiano meticulously plans the rides so not only do you get to see Italy and its beautiful villages, but you learn about traditions and enjoy local cuisine. And so we get to go truffle hunting in the woods with a hunter and his dog. In 2019, we were treated to a demonstration of the Pizzica, a Pugliese folk dance.
The itineraries are creative, challenging and fun. And, in both cases, I have made new friends and acquaintances. Everyone in the group had an interesting story to tell. We were a great mix and I enjoyed every minute listening to their stories.
I’ve been coming to Italy since 1986, for vacations and longer internships and sojourns. Seeing the country this way, on a bicycle, is something I’ve only done twice. Next time, I might go back for a trekking vacation (Mont Blanc anyone?) Whatever I do, I know it will be an adventure. I’ll be ready.