Luckily I had some breakfast supplies with me because the breakfast available at the “B&B” simply consisted of a small packet of biscuits and some packaged ‘ready-to-go’ croissants. I ate a croissant, then delved into my own stuff, making up a big bowl of muesli topped with yoghurt and banana.

The riding conditions were good. The sky was mostly clear on waking so the sun shone brightly. Being the second clear-ish day in a row, it was super cold all day and for the first time in maybe ever I was comfortable wearing a face covering (buff) all day. My toes just stayed warm, thanks to the four pairs of socks I was wearing. My fingers hurt a bit in the early morning from the cold, but warmed up just enough to stop hurting for the rest of the day, except when I took my gloves off to eat the food I carried on the bike.

Today was the first real test of Italy’s road system. I have been concerned that bicycles are not allowed on some of the main roads, but I didn’t really face any major problems today. Italy’s obvious love of signs was very confusing though. I was constantly coming across signs that I assumed were saying bicycles are not allowed, yet at the same time I kept seeing official cycle paths and the only way to get to them was to to ride on the sections of road that began with these ‘no-cycling’ signs. I grew to understand that the signs don’t necessarily mean bicycles are not allowed, they just show where bicycle paths end – every time a cycle path crossed a road there would be sign showing a bicycle in a red circle with a red strikethrough, then another sign on the other side of the road showing a bicycle with no strikethrough. With some bicycle paths crossing a lot of roads, there were an incredible number of these signs. Despite being on some busy roads without cycle paths, I’m pretty sure I stayed on ones on which bicycles are allowed. When I was on a road I was particularly worried about, I passed some policemen who watched me go past and they didn’t say anything.

Passing through one town I happened to come across a sports store and thought it would be a great chance to find some warmer gloves. As I parked my bike in front of the door, the lady inside walked up to the door and locked it, obviously not wanting me to come in. My frozen fingers and I were a bit put out.

As the end of the day approached I got increasingly anxious about what I was going to do for the night. I was also anxious about the fact that I didn’t have any milk for breakfast – mixing muesli with water is just not nice at all. I was hoping to pass a small shop that I could duck into, but all I saw all day were huge supermarket complexes. I am far more paranoid about leaving my loaded bike unattended here in Italy than in any other place I have been so far. With a working SIM card, I was able to do a little accommodation research when I stopped to eat. I marked some of the cheaper guesthouse options (cheap means 30 euro) as a backup, but decided I would try and find somewhere to camp. I also came across a medium-sized supermarket I was able to duck into and get some milk.

In search of a campsite, I pulled off the main road and entered an agricultural area dominated by vineyards. Unfortunately, the whole area was very open with no patches of trees, so I saw no opportunities to camp discreetly. I bit the bullet and approached a lady outside her house with my pre-written notes in hand. I read these to her: “Hello. My name is Mark. I have cycled to Italy from Australia. Please can I camp here?” She said no and gave a reason, which of course I couldn’t understand. My imagination suggested she was telling me that there are families around which would not be comfortable with a stranger in their midst.

By this time the sun was getting awfully close to the horizon and if I was to make my backup option I would be riding into the night. As luck would have it, I passed two old farm buildings by the road. Although there were houses within easy sight, I investigated them anyway. The door to one was unlocked. Inside was a bunch of rubbish covering the floor, plus some boxes containing a lot of old books and some very old Disney paraphernalia. Everything was water-damaged and covered in dirt, indicating that it’s all been sitting here untouched for years. I cleared some space inside as quickly as I could, then got my bike in and closed the door behind me. I got on with setting up home and cooking dinner.

I haven’t been disturbed so I think I’m all good for the night. It’s getting awfully cold though. I didn’t dare get changed out of my riding clothes for fear of my body temperature dropping too much. I know that if I get cold (especially my feet) I won’t be able to get warm again. When I took off my shoes before bed I pulled on my fifth and final thick pair of socks, as well as thermals and pants over my tights and leggings (four bottom layers), then got into my sleeping bag as quickly as I could. Even so, as I write this I feel the cold creeping into my toes. How on earth can I keep them warm? Maybe you just can’t when you spend all day outside in just a few degrees followed by a night in below freezing.

All in all I feel like today has been a success. I have made it more than 40km past the point I thought I might reach. Now it’s time to put away my diary and bury myself properly in my sleeping bag. It’s only 7pm so I have a long night ahead. I would like to read a book for a bit, but having my arms out of my sleeping bag lets too much cold air in.

Looking for a home

Accommodation Free-camp
Distance ridden today 112.41km
Average cycling speed 19kph
Total distance ridden 28,760km