Aquileia and onwards to Trieste

My next day’s travels took me from Pordenone to Villa Vicentina, a village near the town of Cervignano dell Friuli.  This was my longest (planned) day so far, at about 70km.  Unfortunately there were no direct roads to Villa Vicentina except for the main state road.  But given the alternatives added another 20-30km to my trip I decided to bit the bullet and take the SS14 for the first part of the ride.  While busy it did at least have the redeeming feature of a decent shoulder to cycle on, and I wasn’t the only one using it for that purpose (though I was definitely the only one wearing high vis and a helmet!).

I made good time to the halfway point in Codroipo where I was able to take a less busy road the rest of the way.  And what a great route!  There were little villages every 5km or so and very little traffic.  In the first village I passed through the road actually went through the archway of a building that I later found out was a Napoleonic palace where they now hold art exhibitions and concerts.  Some of the other villages appeared deserted due, I assume, to the afternoon siesta.  Some were very pretty but much less impressive when caught on camera.  I got lost a couple of times in the towns due to the lack of street signs and the weird habit of naming several streets with the same name.
The road goes through the building!
Just after dark I arrived at Perini B&B.  It was a lovely place, and far better value for money than the last!  The host was wonderfully friendly and talkative and wanted to practice her English with me, so we ended up talking about Italy and the Friuli region for a couple of hours over breakfast.  I had not appreciated how much history has happened to this area.  The Romans are still a huge part of the identity of the folk here.  Friuli has it’s own dialect and all the road signs are in Italian and Friuli.  My breakfast consisted of a couple of regional specialties, a biscuit from the area and a sort of giant fruit finger covered in sugar which is also peculiar to Friuli.  Italians like to eat sweet foods for breakfast, so it felt a bit naughty being encouraged to consider biscuits and coffee a meal, but with some yoghurt and some homemade jam on bread it was very good. 
Cakes and coffee!
After breakfast I cycled in to Aquileia, about 5km away.  One huge advantage cycle touring has over backpacking is the ability to get to nearby towns with little to no effort.  Aquileia is famous for the Roman excavations in the town and the remaining ruins.  On the road in I passed the old port which is now well inland and several metres under ground level.  There wasn’t a lot to see to be honest, and the giant group of school children and the oncoming rain inclined me to leaving early. 

In the town itself I went to the Archaeological museum just as it started bucketing down.  There was a huge collection of funeral statues; pieces of buildings; metal and glass objects; pottery; rings, beads, amber, and other jewellery; and floor mosaics.  There was unfortunately little in the way of English commentary, but it was still very interesting.  I ate my lunch on the steps in amongst piles of masonry displayed in an outdoor area, and then waited till the rain cleared before leaving.
Next, I visited the basilica across the road.  It too has fantastic floor mosaics (4th century) that are now protected by the installation of a large glass platform for visitor to walk upon.  The congregation still walk on the floor on carpets on Sundays, but I assume this dramatically reduces the wear on the mosaics. The church was built in 1031 and then rebuilt in the 14th century.  I also visited the remains of some middle class houses, but there wasn’t much to see, so I left Aquileia and headed back to the B&B.
The Basilica in Aquiliea.

Glass walkway to protect the floor mosaics.
The next morning I was pleasantly surprised to find the owner had managed to wash and dry my clothes overnight!  On a cycle tour with three tops and two pairs of trousers laundry becomes a very exciting thing.  Unfortunately my host in Trieste was no longer available so I had to search for a B&B before I left, so I didn’t leave till close to midday. 

My host had suggested I take the smaller inland road that would be a bit hiller but would have far less traffic.  I started off but before I got very far the gear wrapped in my tarp on the carrier began to slip off.  I couldn’t figure out why it suddenly wouldn’t stay in place after 800km.  I did eventually figure out after a couple of days that it was my carrier that has come loose and was no longer horizontal.  A quick turn of the screwdriver and it was fixed, but it was a sodding nuisance till I figured that out!

On my way Istopped in Monfalcone for a coffee/toilet break, and while trying to lock my bike up it managed to overbalance and cut my leg as it fell.  A helpful man came over to assist me and started chatting in very broken English, and me with my very limited Italian.  He was impressed I was cycling and offered to buy me a drink at the café, so I accepted.  It turned out he was either a well known homeless guy or the town drunk.  The bartender knew him by name (Maximillaino) and so did a bunch of high school kids who walked past.  In the end I had to pay the 1 Euro for my coffee because he didn’t have enough, but that was okay.  He seemed nice enough but I was glad I soon had to be on my way.  I dodn’t much like the feel of Monfalcone.  It felt different from everywhere else I’d been in Italy so far, there were lots of people around on the streets loitering and it felt like I was being watched. 

After Monfalcone I followed the SP1, the quieter road my host had recommended.  My host had said it was more hilly than the coastal road, but what it actually was was a 20km hill climb followed by 9km steep descent through thick fog.  But it wasn’t a bad ride and took me through some villages that had a very different feel to those from a couple of days before.  At the top of the hills it felt much more German than Italian.  As I climbed it got colder and colder, and when I got to the top the village was wreathed in mist, which didn’t disperse all the long ride down the hill.  I could barely see the car in front of me!  And my air was wet by the time I reached Trieste.  Sadly this meant I didn’t get what I assume is the fantastic view overlooking Trieste.  I did think about taking a photo to show how foggy it was, but you couldn’t see anything in one!

Once I arrived in Trieste I managed to get lost on the off kilter grid pattern streets, and took ages to get to B&B.  While I knew the B&B was going to be up a hill I didn’t appreciate just how steep it was going to be.  It was VERY steep, and I had to walk my bike most of the way.  Not fun.

I eventually found the B&B despite there being no signage at all and was greeted by the host.  She knew some English thankfully, so we were able to communicate.  And there was a bonus pet rabbit in the house.


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