Guess, what, I had five hours in the train, full of the impressions of my last four days in Italy, but it was only few days since I last wrote so this will be short and painful - well, hopefully not for you...
So I left the place near Lecco by bike on Monday morning. Well, actually, Sunday I hadn't been in Italy either, because we played a floorball tournament in Switzerland (and won!). And who would have guessed - when I needed a ride home from a place in the middle of nowhere after the tournament, this time it was Italians - real Italians - who helped me out. They even took quite a long detour just to take me all the way home! So, these people actually saved the image of their country - write that down!
Well, the next day, a little bit sore but happy still, I finally left my new - now old - home in Italy. I started by biking the already known way to Bergamo and received a text message from my friend who I had planned to visit in Verona. Things changed and so instead of spreading the 300 or so kilometres of my latest bike tour out evenly over the days I had, I biked as far as I could on the first day, in order to see my friend in Verona. I made it all the way to Lago di Garda, which was quite far and quite exhausting. The positive side is that now I only had about 150 km left for the three days I still had. I took the train from there to Verona (left my bike at the station after a good look around which showed me that my lock was by far the best in the area although my bike wasn't) and let my friend show me the city - which - for a a city - is actually really, really nice. A lot of Roman and Medieval buildings are left there, and they are just part of today's city. It's almost like a living museum! The next day I took the train back to where I had left my bike and biked along the southern edge of the Garda lake towards Verona. I went for a swim in the lake, which was nice again but not as nice as the last one I had, eight months ago and quite a lot further north. And then moved on to Verona.
I was biking on the main roads all along because I don't think there are bike routes there - there might be and I just didn't know, but this way was faster for sure. Following the direction signs in Italy is easy enough, especially when you have big cities every fifty kilometres or so. The trouble is to not get on the highway (which is definitely not allowed in Italy for bicycles). But all the way from Lecco to Venezia I have seen maybe five direction boards in total that did not have a highway on it somewhere. And then you can only guess, if the city that is indicated under the highway sign is where the highway might take you, or if you could also get there without the highway. Luckily I also had my map, which helped the guessing. On the other hand, even once you are on the right road, the signs are still a source of some frustration: From where I started on the second day there was a sign indicating Verona at 60 km. Which was rather more than I had hoped it would be. Then, just a few kilometres later another sign read: Verona 46. Which made me feel a lot better, but also somewhat suspicious because the few km were maybe five or more but definitely not 14. So it came somewhat less as a surprise (but with enough frustration), when after some more km, yet another sign said: Verona 48 km. Well. Either way, I made it to Verona, I also made it through it alive and then I even managed to find the cycle path that I was told followed the river Adige starting a little bit south of Verona. And I was tired and the river was reasonably nice and so I slept there under a tree.
The next day was rather relaxed because I had all day to bike about 60 km. I knew already that close to Venice it is very difficult to find a place to sleep because there is literally nothing other than cities, industrial zones, swamps and agricultural fields. Agricultural fields are not nice but okay to sleep in in autumn when they are already harvested, but in spring they are useless as bedrooms. Which is why I had decided to stay over night at a natural park in a volcanic area just before Padova. Which was a good idea. The route I took that day did not follow the big roads but first the Adige river and then some small roads, so it was a lot more relaxed. I also happened to pass through several very nice villages with impressive castles or city walls. So it was all worth it. I could also take the luxury to sleep around noon for a few hours in the shade of a castle. I certainly don't want to complain of the sun, but I got burnt quite a bit and shade was a very rare thing in the plains I passed through so I really needed to get out of the sun for a few hours one day. Plus, the sleep was highly welcome too.
By the way, because of the lack of trees, for most of the time in the last days shopping centres have become somehow my best friends: there is shade, it's not so hot, they have free bathrooms and free drinking water, and if you want you can even buy food there. And I, for the rest of my life, I have always hated shopping centres! I still don't know, why Italy has so many of them, but I dare say, they were highly welcome this time.
Now, and there at the park, where I slept, I also met some other cyclists and had a little chat with them and so found out that there is a cycle route from where I was to Venice, which also helped for the next day. The cycle route was not the most impressive but it was better than staying on the main road for a while. I was following some canal/river all the while which had not the cleanest water but it was acceptable and after not having washed myself properly since Lago di Garda two days earlier and sweated a lot I thought that out of respect to fellow travellers on the train I should jump into that river still. Which is what I did. I tried to find a place where not too many people were in order to avoid to get too strange looks (I don't think the local population would have found the water acceptable to swim in), but couldn't find anything so private that I could have gone into the water naked (which, of course) would have increased the level of cleanness, but this way I could at least pretend that also my underwear got a little bit clean...
Then just before getting into Venice, in the only area where I really would have wanted a cycle route because the highway more or less directly gets onto the bridge to Venice and there are no other roads, there the cycle route was inexistant. Oh well, they tried. There is still some space for improvement, I must say. Then, arriving into Venice I really wished I would have booked the train from somewhere else, anywhere else, really. I suppose Venice could be a nice place but I know for sure I have no desire to go there ever again. There are some places in this world that have gotten completely ruined by tourism and Venice is probably the worst of all. Well, I made it out alive and here I am, on the train to Austria, not quite sure what to think. I have really enjoyed my time in Italy. I have come to a point where I could easily communicate with Italians, where I understood certain cultural differences, where I felt like home in that country in some ways. It is good to look back and realize how a country has treated you so well. But it hurts to leave it all behind then. With yet another completely uncertain future ahead. I wouldn't dare to complain about my life, of course, but saying good-bye to places and people you like will never be easy. I can only hope to see them all again.
Oh, and by this I would like to apologize to all the ants I accidentally transferred from the nature park to various parts of Italy and Austria. Thank you for not biting me, although I slept a whole night in your rightful home and I hope you will view this translocation as a positive adventure and not hate me too much.