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Climbing Mountains

“Impossible!”I’ve told the two gentleman next to me at dinner about my plans to go to Brisighella and then from there to cross the Apennines on the old Roman road.  I’m seated next to two businessmen travelling to Ravenna for work, one from Florence and one from Genoa who both have good English.Mr. Florence sits back, and with a dramatic hand gesture says, “That’s impossible!”  Mr. Genoa says, “How do you know she doesn’t bike 300 Kilometers a day and that it’s not possible for her. “  He turns to me and says, “You send him a picture from the top.”I explain that there is a train that runs parallel to the route so if I need to catch the train I have a backup.  But as much as I appreciate Mr. Genoa sticking up for me, it’s Mr. Florence’s “Impossible!” that has just implanted itself in my head.I’d been looking for a good route back towards Rome over the Apennines.  I’d found other potential routes, but none I felt comfortable attempting.  I wanted a bail-out plan in case something went wrong – with the bike or with my stamina or with my leg strength as I hauled a fully-loaded touring bike through the mountains.  Or if I felt I might be at risk for a lymphedema flare-up and needed to stop.  I’d met a couple of Americans in Comacchio the day before who were taking a self-guided bike tour.  We swapped travel info – I told them about the Cinque Terra trails being closed and the offline GPS navigation apps.  They showed me this route over the mountains between Faenza and Florence.  The climb seemed doable but long – only getting steep near the pass, and there was a train that followed the route offering several opportunities to bail

Off the Beaten Path

In front of the home of the first Ceramic's Artist Pirota"How did you hear about Brisighella"?Claudio has asked me this after taking me to his farm where he produces wines - we are tasting some of the wine under his label.I've been asked this several times since rolling into town yesterday.  I think being American surprises people - they don't get Americans here very often.  There are not very many visitors here ... period.And this is a beautiful town that would love to have the attention and publicity - and tourist income - of Tuscany.  It actually looks a lot like Tuscany and is only 20km east of the boundary, and has the rolling hills and vineyards and olive groves and medieval towns.  But they also have fields of peaches and apricots and kiwis.  It has castles and history.  It has national parks with hiking and mountain biking and rolling roads that are an athlete's dream. I'm in one of the true culinary centers of the world.  Incredible food, in a town with the slow pace of generations, still waiting to be discovered and wondering why the rest of the world doesn't know about them.Modern ceramic decorating the side of a buildingBut I'm selfishly glad to have this beautiful place without the herds.  In fact I like this town so much I changed all my plans and am staying put till I have to get to Rome to catch my flight.Today the very friendly hotel arranged for a local wine grape grower to pick me up and take me to his farm. Claudio drove me to a beautiful farm that was also the home of the first ceramics artist in the area - and the ceramics of nearby Faenza are world famous.  The remnants of the home of Pirota still


Biding Time in RavennaThe older man sitting next to me at dinner reached over and took my fork.  He speared ravioli off his plate and handed it to me with a big grin. I was seated at a long table next to a very sweet older couple who were here in Ravenna for dinner – they owned a pensione on the lido (beach) nearby.  We had managed some basic communication, and I was pondering the menu.   As usual I couldn’t make up my mind – I asked them what they were having and if they liked it.So he pointed to the menu what he had ordered and gave me a taste.  The wife took the fork and gave me a taste of her calamari with asparagus on pasta, too.  Both delicious.  And made more special than the taste was the kindness of these two people who embraced a stranger.It’s encounters like these that make travel special.  More than any art or sites or epic bike rides.  It’s connecting with people along the way that I remember the most.  And for whatever reason, the last few days in Ravenna – and now in the small medieval town of Brisighella - I’m finding these experiences are just coming one after another.  My second night in Ravenna the older man next to me at dinner was shocked I was cycling solo through Italy.  He was telling all the waiters and people around “She’s cycling alone through Italy” very loudly and trying to ask me questions in rapid-fire Italian I had no way of understanding.  It was a bit embarrassing, until he tried to feed me his potatoes because when saw what I ordered for dinner he decided I wasn’t eating enough. And when he saw my Brazino (bass cooked in salt – incredibly