The Italian coast appeared through the grey dusk and we were soon pedalling along the dark streets of Ancona, relieved to be out of the confines of our 18 hour ferry ride up the Adriatic. After a night in the deserted hostel up a near vertical cobbled alley by the train station we left the city and headed west through Marche. A rollercoaster ride followed that brought us through ever more interesting towns with wonderful hilltop fortifications and narrow alleys. We climbed into the hills that would bring us over the Italian spine to Umbria and Tuscany. Finding a camp spot proved difficult. Constant reminders that you were about to venture onto private property seemed stuck to every tree. Not something we have encountered since North America. Unfortunately we turned down the only real possibility, a disused quarry. Instead we rode on along the rollercoaster in the dark for another couple of hours before reaching Sasso Ferrato and succumbing to a guesthouse.
Apart from one night in the tent in a forest near Florence, the rest of our eleven days in Italy was spent indoors at night in the company of wonderful warmshowers hosts (Dawn and Luke in Citta di Castello and Mateo near Genoa), with a family friend of Ellie's in Florence, and a couchsurfing couple (John and Caroline near La Spezia). We were fed wonderful food and given a place of dry our generally wet clothes as we had rain most days at some point.
Descending into Florence, we stopped to investigate a new noise from Ellie's rear wheel and discovered a one inch crack. Like Ellie's tumble in Tokyo when she fractured her elbow one kilometre from the hospital, this mechanical failure could have occurred anywhere along the route from Asia to Europe and been a much more significant problem but if it had to happen then at least in Lycra-clad Italy and a city like Florence we figured a replacement would be relatively easy to come by. And it was, although we had to settle for lesser quality rims than we hoped for but within a day we had a new set of wheels (the front rim had caved in but not cracked yet) and after wandering around Florence we headed on for the Riviera. By the time we reached Genoa we had enough of permeable wet gear and our warmshowers host Mateo cycled with us to the near Decathlon store where we fitted ourselves out with winter riding gear and upgraded my dish washing gloves to something a bit warmer.
Our final day and a half to the French border was enjoyed in cold winter sunshine. Passing the deserted frontier checkpoint we entered France and continued along the coast to the principality of Monaco and then Nice where we spent a couple of nights with Yza and Simon who recently returned from their own trip from France to Indonesia by bicycle.
Pedalled: 82,236 km