Day 21: Modena – Castel San Pietro Terme

Distance: 84.66 km

Time: 3 hours 47 minutes

Average speed: 22.5 kph

Cumulative distance: 1147.23 km

Cumulative time: 53 hours 21 minutes

Phrase of the day: ‘strada privata‘ (strah-da pree-vah-ta) – private road

Modena was really beautiful, little cobbled streets, often with colonnades…

… and several piazzas of different sizes. Its duomo was breathtakingly lovely, white and rose stone, it looked incredible in the evening sunlight. The pictures really don’t do it justice, but here’s one anyway.

More gummy lions, we’ve seen a few of these. Or is it a griffin?

It being Sunday, many of the restaurants on our host’s list of recommendations were closed, but we found one we liked the look of, and it was fantastic. A burrata to share, then steak for the Captain, one of the best he’s ever had, he said, and rabbit for the Stoker. And a bottle of Sangiovese from the ‘local wines’ list, although on closer inspection it came from Rimini. We strolled back, rescued the clean, dry washing from the balcony, where it had been slightly at the mercy of the local pigeons, and turned in.

This morning dawned cloudy, which was unexpected. We’d aimed for an early start, given that it was to be a long day, but what with the Captain having to collect the tandem from the other apartment, and then our deciding to have breakfast in Piazza Roma which entailed some on the fly navigating out, it was well after half past ten before we properly got going.

It had been a bit tricky planning the route for today, mainly because of the need to avoid Bologna, now that we’d decided that we weren’t going there. The first attempt had far too many SS roads and big SP roads, both of which we try to avoid if possible. The second attempt was, well, wiggly. Lots of tiny roads, lots of turns and twists. And it involved a river crossing, which, according to Google maps, was marked as a ‘strada privata’. There looked to be gates at either end, but when the Google Streetview car drove past they were open. What to do? The detour which would be necessary if we couldn’t get through would be around 20km, and involve a nasty big road.

We decided to give it a go.

Once we got onto the wiggly bit it was lovely. Tiny roads, no traffic, just winding serenely through the fields of various crops. The sunflowers were a bit confused by the lack of sun.

Some of the roads were a bit dissestata, like yesterday, but when there’s no traffic it’s easy enough to work around it. It was very relaxing, and actually a pleasant change to be cycling in cooler temperatures. The kilometres rolled by, we’d almost forgotten about the river crossing, then suddenly there we were, at the gates.

The gates were open, hurrah!

The track was a bit rough, but there were signs about a ‘nature reserve’ area, which looked promising. A man in a day-glo tabard was just leaving on foot as we went in, and he didn’t stop us or say anything, so our hopes were very high.

We rode down the track, and there was the river. The crossing was some sort of barrage, like a disorganised dump of concrete, very lumpy, and really noisy where the water was gushing out of the lower part. It was perfectly crossable, though, on foot, so we wheeled the tandem across and along to where the better surface started.

We decided not to officially congratulate ourselves for getting across until we were out onto the road at the other side. Just in case.

We rode along, all fine, and then round the corner and … disaster. A huge road stone depository place, with proper lifting barriers to prevent entry, like in a car park. Buildings, fences, signs.

It was very frustrating – we could see the road, only about fifty metres away.

Our secret weapon was that we had arrived at lunchtime. Lunch is very important in Italy. ‘Pranzo di lavoro’ is offered everywhere, a worker’s lunch, usually three fixed courses at a very reasonable price, and there are always lots of workers enjoying it.

So of course the whole place was deserted!

We sneaked the tandem under the barrier, mounted up, and quickly rode the fifty metres to the road, out the open gates and we were gone.

Phew! Officially phew!

We rode on for another half hour or so, had a bit of lunch, and then completed the day in increasingly sunny conditions, with the Apennines looming ever larger.

We finally arrived in Castel San Pietro Terme where we will have our rest day tomorrow. We’re in a fairly nondescript hotel, not quite Barolo or Sirmione, but it has a pool, and Castel San Pietro Terme looks worth a visit tomorrow. Or we could try the thermal baths just opposite if we so feel inclined. Either way, no blog tomorrow.

P.S. After all our intentions not to, we did accidentally go to Bologna. Twice. After the river crossing, we suddenly encountered a city sign indicating we were entering Bologna. Three minutes later, one indicating we’d left. And then a second indicating we were going back in. It wasn’t exactly ‘La Rossa’. It was a waste sorting and recycling plant, and various other industrial stuff. But at least we have actually, officially been to Bologna on this trip.

Here’s today’s track.

2 Replies to “Day 21: Modena – Castel San Pietro Terme”

  1. Sounds an adventurous day! Brought to mind the lunch party we encountered on an Italian boating holiday (and joined for the grappa course!) – name of the place eludes me but I’m sure you’ll remember! Xx

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