So I find myself back by the Adriatic coast but this time in Italy. Just to the north of Venice in a place called Caorle. Or is it Porto Santa Marhgerita? I’m certainly staying at the (very busy) municipal campsite in the latter but I have cycled back along the road so I may well be in the former in Enos Wine Bar. It sounds glam but it isn’t. If I moved one table to my right I would be sitting under an awning telling me I was in Enos Snack Bar. Wherever I am, it’s very nice. The buildings are painted in very bright colours and the traffic has been stopped for the evening which gives the place a feeling of being at Disneyland. It has an authentic edge to it however and people clearly do live behind the shutters, not suicidal ‘cast’ members knocking back bottles of Johnny Walker & cursing annoying children under their costumes… Or is that just me after a hard day at work? Yet again, I digress… (I don’t have any Disney costumes at home by the way.)
Trieste was a delight in very different way to Caorle. It was so different to any of the places that I have seen so far on the trip. Athens was low level and ancient, Tirana was slowly becoming high rise but lacked any kind of gravitas, Dubrovnik was a beautifully preserved period piece. Trieste was confident, elegant and comfortable in its skin. It was in no mad rush to reinvent itself for the new century but happy to show off what it had built in the previous two. I was initially reluctant to read the entry for the city in my Rough Guide as I thought that they would give it a downbeat review but to my delight they agreed with me. They are learning.
As suspected – it didn’t take Sherlock Holmes intuitive – the route today was flat. An initial small climb out of Trieste then back to sea level of thereabouts for the remainder of the day. What I had forgotten is that flat cycling does require constant effort. It’s low level effort I’ll give you that but it’s chronic effort. I don’t think at any point during today’s 113km I could I sit back and think, OK gravity, it’s over to you. It wasn’t a ride of great interest once I’d passed Monfalcone, just a case of joining the dots the were the towns and villages that would lead me to the campsites on the coast. With it being Saturday afternoon, the majority of the shops were closed in the small towns through which I cycled. I eventually did find lunch in San Giorgio di Nogaro, a fairly nondescript town half-way along my route. It was a pizza place and I got into conversation, in Italian, with the guy who was serving slices of the Italian delicacy. I was impressed with how much of what I was doing I was able to explain in Italian and it has certainly boosted my confidence when it comes to not walking into a shop, bar, restaurant, campsite, hotel… and immediately saying ‘parla inglese?’. That said, I think I’ve used that expression at least three times since…
I thought that when I came off the SS14, the main road between Trieste and Venice, that I would leave most of the traffic behind but unfortunately, the bulk of it seemed to be heading in the same direction as me so they followed. The Italian driving does seem very calm after what I experienced in the Balkans. Gone is the mindless blowing of the horn to say ‘hi, I’m an ignorant pillock with nothing better to do that blow my horn because you are on a bike and I am in a car breaking the law driving at twice the legal speed while having a conversation on my mobile phone’. Tossers. The horn is still in use of course (read the book) but just not to such a great extent. I can’t believe I just said that.
I was delighted that on arrival in Caorle I noticed a sign for a ‘campeggio municipale’. Nothing beats the good old-fashioned simplicity of a well-run municipal campsite, run by the council for the good of the community. Or at least the visiting community. That said, the local community here in Porto Santa Margherita must also be benefitting as the price is shake-your-fingers high. I will pay 24€ for the pleasure of staying the night.
Tomorrow should be a nice. It will be four weeks to the day that I set off from southern Greece and for the first time in those four weeks I will be seeing a familiar face; Simone who I last met in 2010 when he lived in Pavia and I cycled through his town. It’s going to be a similar arrangement to three years ago; then he came to Como to meet me and we cycled together through Milan and then along the canal to Pavia. Tomorrow he is meeting me in a place called S. Dona di Piave about 20km from where I am now and we will cycle the relatively short distance to Venice where he is currently living. Expect a few pretty pictures…