Italy Day 1 – Easing Into It
You can’t beat a good buffet breakfast and this one at Hotel Gambrinus didn’t disappoint. Muesli, yogurt, toast, croissants and other pastries, a variety of cakes, cold meats and cheese, fruit, juices, cereals and of course coffee. I was quite restrained though and didn’t even try every variety of cake.
After breakfast we got ready to ride and were acquainted with our bikes. Carbon Fibre Fondriest beauties with Ultegra componentry. Mine was brand new and never used before. It felt nice from the moment I got on it.
There were two rides listed for today so we signed up for the longer, faster one.
Our guide for the day was the wiry looking 68 year old Paulo. Despite his age he looked capable of dishing out some pain should the desire take him. There were 12 of us altogether as we set off through the busy streets of Riccione.
Our 85km route took us out of the town and up towards St Clemente where the rolling hills opened out around us. We followed our guide through Morciano do Romagna and then wiggled our way along a network of small roads to St Giovanni in Marignano. Chris, a guy name Marco and I stretched our legs on the climbs a little and doubled back for the others here and there.
We went through Tavullia and then headed for the coast at Presaro. From here we had a longer climb up to the Panorama road. Chris, Marco and I pushed hard to this and then cruised along the windy, undulating Panorama Road, stopping here and there to admire the view.
We all regrouped in Fiorenzuola for a coffee.
The weather was gorgeous by the way. Sunny, blue skies around 25°C and just a gentle breeze.
Coffee stop done it was mainly downhill from here and then a 15km jaunt back through some busy roads to the hotel.
A quick shower and then time for what they tout as the â€˜Abundant Snack’. That kind of sums it up really. As much as you can eat of pasta, lasagna, chips and some other things that I ignored, salads, veggies, fish, meats, fruit and cakes. Mmm mmm.
After our â€˜snack’ we had a chat with the hotel owner and found out how a few things worked. She showed us some cycling memorabilia including Pantani’s Yellow Jersey too. The hotel is actually full of cycling memorabilia, artwork and of course the odd vintage bike here and there.
We put our cycling kit into the laundry drop as instructed. It should be clean and ready to use again by this evening. All of this that I’ve mentioned so far by the way is included in the 58 Euro per night charge. The bike hire was extra, but only 10 euros a day. We were also told that there was a free wine tasting event with dinner that evening and told how we can get free access to both the indoor and outdoor 50m pools, and the gym and wellness centre too.
Chris and I then headed off to the beach where we lazed around for a bit before going for a swim.
Chris swam out to a buoy and back with me and then I continued on along the beach for a kilometer or so on my own. The water temperature was just perfect. It was so nice to be swimming in the sea unencumbered by a wetsuit. The Adriatic Sea as well, the first time I’d swam here.
We then strolled along the beach for a bit. It looks as though they were gearing up for the start of the holiday season at the weekend. Most things were yet to open but there was a hive of activity getting them ready. The coast seems to consist of mile upon mile of golden sand covered by sunshades and backed by a never-ending parade of kids playgrounds, cafes and beach huts. We soon had our fill of this so made our way past the row upon row of towering hotels into a street running parallel to the beach. Again, the never-ending barrage soon lost its appeal. The establishments seemed to alternate between corner bars and restaurants, shops selling beachwear, shops selling tat and the occasional pharmacy. This was the landscape as far as the eye could see in both directions. As far as we know the entire east coast if Italy for hundreds of miles could be the same!
Actually it did change briefly at a little harbour where we found some interesting characters but the monotony of the tourist shops continued unabated on the other side.
With the beach and row of shops explored we returned to the hotel to chill before dinner. I nearly got stuck in the shower though. The door has three sliding portions but I could only get one to work. I managed to squeeze out through the tiny gap (lucky it was the first day as I might not fit later in the week!). Once out I was able to fix it. The hotel is nice by the way. Nothing too posh but it has everything I need. My room is clean and comfortable and the staff are all friendly.
Dinner was impressive. A huge, completely unessecary but much appreciated buffet BEFORE the starter. A large starter of amberjack ravioli, a main course of sausages on polenta and then cake for pudding. There was also a special wine tasting event tonight. A local winery had brought samples of their wine in, along with some local meats and cheeses. This meant that we had 4 different wines with our meal and an extra starter of cold meats and cheeses with some delicious local honey.
Things then went a bit weird. The guy from the winery who had been on the microphone telling us about the wines and the local history got back on the mic and started excitedly thanking everyone. Then out came a huge cake that was paraded around the room complete with indoor fireworks! It tasted nice though and things calmed down a little after that. All in all a great meal and good fun too. Not a bad way to end what had been a good first day in Italy.