After almost 1000 km of driving across France and Italy we arrived in the seaside town of Riccione on the Adriatic coast. So why travel all that way to visit a mediocre Italian resort on a cloudy weekend in May? Well it’s because the ‘Giro d’Italia’ was in town. It’s regarded by many as second only in prestige to the Tour de France in terms of cycle races. It is a 3 week race over a couple of thousand miles with many of the world’s best cyclists taking part. Where the theme of the Tour de France is yellow, ‘The Giro’ is pink, and the town was pink everywhere, they even painted part of the route pink!! Sarah being Sarah had to get involved and went to town with T shirt, cap, whistle and all.
We had a great day watching the cyclists go whizzing past (with it being the Time Trial the bikes went past us one by one every two minutes), we even had sunshine for most of the day until the heavens opened near the end and it all finished in a downpour. We were surprised how close you could get to the action, we were even able to stand right next to the race leader while he did his warm up. With Steve being a big cycling fan it was real treat.
The following day we decided to follow the same route the cyclists had done up to the enclave Republic of San Marino, one of the smallest countries in the world and the oldest republic that still exists. It was a huge climb up to the top, but well worth the effort. There were great views and delicious coffee (and pastries) so Sarah was a happy girl! Unfortunately the ride back down wasn’t so good ….once back on the dodgy Italian road surfaces we had a very bumpy ride back to the car!!
After our visit to the coast we headed back into central Italy towards the region of Tuscany. Enroute we called in at a supermarket on the outskirts of Riccione to restock on a few provisions. We have visited supermarkets all over the world and have been in some really big ones, especially in the States, and this one was right up there. It was immense, and seemed to sell everything you could need, including onions! We have bought onions in many places before and normally it’s an effortless process, but this time was different….
After making our way around the store we found ourselves in the fruit and veg section, which in itself was the size of some small supermarkets. “Can you go and get a large onion” was Sarah’s request so off Steve went full of confidence in his ability to complete the task in hand. He quickly found the onion section but this is where things started to unravel. First he was faced with a choice of over a dozen types of onion. After finding a variety he recognized he fumbled through the crates looking for the perfect specimen, he soon became aware of some disapproving looks from his fellow shoppers and realised it was protocol to wear one of the plastic gloves provided when handling food. On went a glove, an onion was selected and placed in a bag. Steve was aware of the various ways of pricing fruit and veg, sometimes it is weigh yourself, sometimes an assistant is on hand to weigh it for you and sometimes it’s straight in the trolley and all sorted at check-out. This time it was ‘weigh it yourself’. Steve searched around and found the weighing machine but instead of the expected picture of onions he was faced with a screen displaying the numbers 1 to 10 and a green button!! He stood back and observed and realised customers seemed to be putting in a code for each type of produce. Back in a dark corner of his memory Steve had some recollection of this system and made his way back to the onions to obtain a code. Unable to work out which code related to his particular onion, he guessed and made his way back to the weighing machine and joined the queue. Once at the front he went to place his onion on the machine, but while holding the plastic bag containing the onion with his plastic glove the onion slipped out, rolled off the machine, fell onto his foot and rebounded under the fruit and veg stalls!
Down he went on his hands and knees searching for the onion which was just out of arm’s reach. The queue behind him grew and the Italians, who are not exactly known for their patience, expressed their annoyance. Steve eventually gave up and went back to select another onion. Then back to the queue and once more he found himself at the front……”What was the code for my onion? S#!t”… apologising to the other customers he left his onion in situ, sprinted back to get the code, returned to the machine and punched in the numbers. At last, out came a sticky ticket for his bag containing the 68 cent vegetable, he pulled out the price ticket and went to attach it to the bag only to find it had attached itself to the plastic glove….Arghhhhh! After one more attempt and one more sticker which was successfully attached, Steve met up with Sarah. “Where have you been?” “Don’t ask” was the reply!
After loading up the car with shopping (with no spare space at all) we eventually made our way to Tuscany to our little apartment we rented for 12 days. It’s very ‘rustic’ (basic) but to us it is a little bit of luxury after all the camping we have been doing.
We have also had a visitor!! Sarah’s friend, Jo, has been to stay with us for a few days. This has been a great distraction for us and has forced us, and Sarah in particular, to have a little break from the bike. We have been doing more of the tourist things and have visited Florence, Siena and San Gimignano and a whistle stop tour of Pisa. Four places of very different sizes but all beautiful places, full of history and unbelievable buildings. We have visited all the places a few times in the past but we never get tired of strolling around in the footsteps of so many famous people including Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Donatello and others who haven’t had a teenage mutant ninja turtle named after them! Eating some of the best gelato in the world in the shadow of such fantastic buildings is a great way to spend a day or two.
The weather hasn’t been at its best the last few days and although it is still relatively warm we have been caught out in some heavy downpours while out cycling and Sarah’s favourite expression has become “I’m soaked through to my pants” and that just about sums it up!
However the forecast is for blue skies, rising temperatures, more wine and plenty of gelato… and more hills! Happy days.