(written by Nancy)
It was very quiet in the campground last night, though strangely enough there seemed to be birds chirping all night. It was pretty chilly and started to sprinkle about 2:30am – I jumped up to get the laundry we had hanging on the line as Dave mumbled about that being a good idea and turned over in his sleeping bag. It didn’t really rain much and I debated getting back up to hang the laundry back up but fell asleep before I could convince myself to get out of bed again.
It was hard to get out of the tent this morning as it felt really cold but it actually wasn’t too bad once we started moving around. We actually saw some bits of blue sky, which was good for the morale. The tent was a bit wet from condensation but we had enough sun to hang it up a bit and get it dried out while we ate breakfast and packed up. (junior editor note: yes, I followed all tent packing instructions, and yes there were many of them!)
We left the campground at 8:50 so we are getting back into the swing of packing up. The coast road was full of bicycle riders today – lots of groups doing their Saturday morning rides. Many of them looked like they were ready to ride in the arctic – beanies, baklavas, full length tights, jackets, thick gloves and shoe covers. It was chilly but not quite that cold – I am sure they must have been sweating under all that gear.
We had some pretty stupendous views today as the road hugged the coastline. There are lots of rock overhangs and there is very little space between the edge of the road and a drop straight down to the Mediterranean Sea. Fortunately there is a decent guardrail so it would take some work to actually fall over it, but it was a bit toe-tingling all the same.
We stopped for a coffee break in the town of Savona. We found a nice little café just along the waterfront and had another great coffee and some pastries that we could not resist. Note the pastry in the picture with the bite out of it is Dave’s – I held back until the picture was taken. Very delicious. We are happy to report that they do indeed have croissants here in Italy, not nearly as many as in France but we have found them.
At one point we had a group of cyclists go by us dressed all in team gear. Just at the end of a village called Celle Ligure one of cyclists from that group was waiting at the side of the road and called to us as we started to go by. This turned out to be a fellow named Mauro Lazzarini, who lived in the town of Arenzano that was further east the way we were heading. He turned out to be a real Italian gentleman. He stopped because he wanted to show us a bike path that kept us down along the water rather than taking the main road which had some significant climbs.
He rode along with us and we chatted a bit. He spoke enough English to get by and explained that he was out riding with his bike club and wanted to make sure we knew about the bike path. He is actually the current president of the bike club (www.gsterralba.it), which has quite a few members – though I think he said there were about 20 or so that rode quite a bit and many others who seemed to like to eat instead! Though I think those two things go together pretty well. The first path began just at the east edge of the town down a little street that went off to the left just before a bridge. We would never have found it without his guidance.
The path ran along the sea and was very scenic. Mauro said that when it was sunny it was much more crowded with pedestrians so it was a bit hard to ride. Today we did not have much sun so there weren’t many people on it – perfect for us. There were quite a few tunnels on the path. We came out at a little town and got back on the road for just a bit and Mauro then took us on another path that avoided some more hills on the main road. He seemed to know many people that we passed along the path – we finally asked him if he was the mayor or something and he laughed and said that he, his father, and his grandfather had all been born in Arenzano so yes, he did know a lot of people!
We finally said goodbye to him when we reached the city limits of Arenzano and thanked him for all of his help. . It was really great to have someone go out of their way to show us the scenic way – he is a great ambassador for his town and his bike club.
We stopped for a quick bite in Arenzano and then made our way along the coast toward Genova. We had a campground marked on our map just west of Genova but we were both leaning toward heading into Genova to see the city. So we kept riding and eventually came into the city. Genova is a big city with many winding roads and we didn’t really have any hotel picked out. We were trying to head for where we though the tourist information center was but it was a bit difficult to tell where we were at. We finally stopped at a train station and got some directions to a tourist information centre and headed that way.
Along the way we saw a sign for a hotel we had read about in Lonely Planet so we pulled up to see what their rates were. From what we had read Genova was a bit expensive, but this hotel, Hotel Europa, turned out to be less than we expected. We were both tired and chilled so decided to stop here. It is a decent hotel and is in a nice little area in the older part of the city.
We unpacked the bikes – I am sure the hotel receptionist was wondering what had happened as we dragged all of our bags into the lobby! We got all checked in and cleaned up and spread all of our laundry around the room – even got out the sleeping bags to dry them off as they were a bit wet from the moisture in the air this morning.
We headed out to wander around a bit. We didn’t make it too far, as there are things to see at every corner. We wandered into an impressive cathedral – the Basilica Della SS Ammunziata that is just down the street from the hotel. Every bit of the ceiling is painted with intricate scenes and the walls are lined with statues. These ceilings were at least 60 feet off the ground – it is a big place. There were several tour groups going through so it is a busy also. Just down around the corner is another interesting building, the Oratory of Saint Filippo Neri. According to the flyer at the chapel, the oratories started as a place for Christians to gather to listen to sermons that are presented with art and music. The meeting points are always alongside the churches of the Filippini Fathers and Genova’s is apparently one of the finest examples of the oratories. It was a very beautiful ‘meeting pint’.
We wandered the streets for a bit, checking out all of the bakeries and coffee shops. There were quite a few people about and the place seemed pretty lively. We stopped in to one bakery to buy some things for tomorrow – pandolce, a small dense cake with raisins and other fruit that is apparently a local Genovese specialty and some cookies (hard to pass up when you go into these bakeries). We also picked up a few things at a grocery store, knowing that many stores will be closed tomorrow as it is Sunday. We finally walked back to the hotel, and on the way stopped and had some dinner at a small little restaurant. Dave had a piece of pesto lasagna that was very tasty and I had a kind of quiche with zucchini, which was also very tasty, as was the glass of red wine that accompanied it! (Genoa is also famous for pesto)
So it turned out to be a good day and we are now relaxing in our warm hotel room. Actually, it is too warm and we have had to open the window a bit! But we will have a soft bed tonight and breakfast in the morning so we can’t complain. Tomorrow we are aiming for 70-80k, trying to get close to the Cinq Terre area, which we will tackle the following day. There is a big climb to get above the ‘5 Villages’ that sit down at the water’s edge and we want to give ourselves enough time to see some of the villages while we get over the hill. Hopefully the weather will cooperate – looks like there might be a bit of rain in the forecast so we will see.