I have had a second day off the bike and although it puts me under extra pressure to get to Paris before my flight home, it has been well worth it. My body is now far more ready to deal with the mountain climbs that begin tomorrow as I head to Sestriere and into the Alps. It may even be just as efficient to lose a day gaining strength (and the ability to ride faster) than going ahead with a weaker (and therefore slower) body.
The other reason why having today off the bike was a good choice was that I had some great success in tracing my family history. In the morning Pino took me to Villafranca’s community office where the town’s historical records are kept. There, the lovely people behind the counter retrieved two humungous, old books. In these we found records from the life of my great-grandfather and his brother, including their births, marriages and emigration to Australia. It even recorded one of my great-grandfather’s return visits to Italy with two of his daughters. The most exciting thing is that I found out I may be eligible for Italian citizenship through my ancestry. Of course, this immediately set my mind off dreaming about going home, learning to speak Italian, becoming a citizen, and then moving to Italy to live for a while. I have always thought I’d love the experience of living in another country within a different culture, so maybe this is the way it will happen. I came away with officially stamped copies of my great-grandfather’s birth records and on my return home I intend to get straight onto investigating/achieving citizenship.
Of course, it has to be today, my last day in Villafranca, that I meet a beautiful Italian girl. When Pino and I came out of the community office, Pino spent some time chatting with some of his old friends, who, in a typical Italian scene, were catching up for a morning gossip. When I was introduced to them, one got excited. He knew someone nearby (his great-niece?) who could speak English. Before I knew it the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen came walking over from a nearby café. We had a nice chat and swapped details.
Back at home at Pino and Renata’s house we were joined by Marco (having a break from work) for a lunch that I could expect from an Italian restaurant at home: the main dish was spaghetti marinara, preceded by Italian sausage and fresh bread, and succeeded by a couple of salads, fruit and coffee. Would you believe I have started accepting coffee at every chance it’s offered. Here, it’s proper Italian coffee, which means espresso. At home I don’t drink coffee because I don’t like the taste, but I have learned that having a proper espresso is different, and quite nice. I also got to meet Marco’s brother Luca, who dropped by.
After an afternoon rest, Pino drove me around town for a look around and we stopped by the river Po, where there is a nativity display set out on the water and music playing. The entire surrounds are beautifully covered in snow. Unfortunately, just like the last couple of days, misty air was hiding the mighty Alps, which are very close by. Hopefully I will get some clear days so I can see them in all their glory. I have had the most wonderful time in Villafranca, but tomorrow it’s time to press on.
|Accommodation||New friend’s house|
|Distance ridden today||0km|
|Total distance ridden||29,240km|