If you read the French version of Happy Accidents in International Cycling, you know that my ascent of France’s Col de Petit St. Bernard was topped off by a ten minute stop over the border in high altitude Italy. Fast forward two years, and I was back in the land of Chianti, Catholicism, and cuisine, but properly this time.
Over the years, much dinner conversation with our good friends, Anne and Dave, had revolved around visiting Italy together. They had been there many times and were eager to share some of their favorite places and experiences. The husband had been to Italy once, 25 years earlier, when he and a schoolmate embarked on one of those classic “see as much of Europe as possible on a Eurail® pass and as much money as you can scrape together before uni starts” trips. I rounded out our travel-loving quartet as the only Italy neofita. The plan was that each person would choose one place in Italy they’d like to visit, and the trip would be built around those destinations.
So it was that the husband and I flew to Rome for a few days before meeting our friends in Florence (Dave’s pick). From there we trained it up to the Dolomites (the husband’s pick) for some outdoor pursuits. Then, after an overnight in Chur, Switzerland, which enabled us to take a scenic journey on the Bernina Express railway, we headed down to Lake Como (Anne’s pick), and finally over to the Cinque Terre (my pick) before departing from Rome at the end of the two-week sojourn.
So after marveling at Rome…
…and enjoying all that Florence and Siena had to offer…
…we took a train to Bolzano, then rented a car to get to La Villa, our stop in the Dolomites.
Our plan for this northernmost portion of our trip was to be outdoors and physically active. Anne and Dave were going to hike, the husband was going to cycle, and I was going to split the difference. Because the husband had reluctantly but wisely agreed that renting a bicycle was vastly preferable to dragging his across the ocean, we walked into town to secure some bikes shortly after arriving. He was going to get a two-day rental and ride along the mountainous roads by himself, and I would join him for more of the same on the second day, after hiking with Anne and Dave on the first. However, as we walked down the main road to a bike shop, we noticed signs for what looked like a closed-road ride. (Among cyclists, this is the equivalent of striking gold.)
After inquiring at the shop, the happy news was confirmed: the free, open-to-the-public, closed-to-traffic, once-a-year Sellaronda bike ride was happening the very next day! So, while the rest of us legged it up the mountains…
…the husband fell in with over 20,000 other cyclists for four mountain passes and 58K of two-wheeled bliss, even making a few friends along the way.
So how was it that the husband had managed to strike cycling gold by accident a second time? Had the good luck of the Monkey of Mons extended this far into the future? I doubt it, and to erase any lingering suspicions about that, we did have to deal with a little bit of bad transportation luck later in the trip: our stay in probably the most gorgeous place I’ve ever been—Lake Como—had to be shortened to deal with a train strike, though being stranded on Lake Como would not have been the worst thing in the world.
We survived what at the time felt to me like a tragedy, but in retrospect was just one of those travel misfortunes that occurs every now and then, just like the lucky breaks do.
We finished out the trip with a few lovely days exploring the Cinque Terre.