Fri 26th July.
Italian beers with an Italian host.
I woke up early baked in the heat as the heat comes before sunrise, which is around 6am. I left the river and passed a few fisherman on the way out and spotted some otters swimming up the river, giving me something to think about other than my discomfort as the sun heated up the fields.
Cycling at a good pace created a breeze which helped cool me down. It was only when I stopped that I experienced the full impact of the heat.
I found cycle path with some greenery that replaced the tarmac with a river and of course no cars, which is always welcome. I had assumptions that most of Italy wasn’t accommodating to cyclists, but this was an exception to the rule. While I stayed with Sileno, I started learning about the ‘Giro d’Italia’, which is the Italian equivalent to the ‘Tour de France’ and possibly the second biggest cycling event on the calendar. They also have the legendary Eddy Merckx, who is one of endurance cycling biggest stars, so naturally the country did have something of a love affair with the sport.
While I was in Milan, I put word out to friends of my whereabouts and what I should see and do. Surprisingly, I had many quick responses and a friend of mine (Matt Devlin) met an Italian (Lorenzo) while working at his bar in London. Lorenzo was a big beer fan and Matt was a big character on the beer scene there. They stayed in touch and come my hour of crisis in Milan, Matt had connected us.
We couldn’t meet yesterday, but agreed to meet in Codongo at the flagship bar of the popular Italian brewery Brewfist, whose beer I’d sold in London when I was in the bars.
I got to Codongo and my estimations took me to the east part of the town, After some odd looks from the locals, I recalculated and headed to the west part, where I found the bar albeit a spot late. The sun was picking up for the peak hours and I managed to escape it at a good time and catch Lorenzo before he left. He was happy to see me and I him.
He had come from north of Milan in his car to meet me for a few beers before heading back up and going to work. He was an engineer and his true love was beer, he was trying to find a way to combine the two, but was happily ticking over while he devised a plan.
I knew I’d get punished in the heat if I drank a touch too much, so kept it to a bare minimum and got to try a few of my favourite styles of beer from the Italian brewery. He told me about how he met Matt and we shared stories about him and Lorenzo’s experience of London, a place he enjoyed.
After a few beers, his time was up and he had to get back for work. He picked up the tab which shocked me again, all these kind Italians I barely knew treating me to such luxuries. I knew I’d return the favour when it was my time and with that, Lorenzo was gone, on a slightly drunken (completely sober) drive back home.
I waited in the bar for the temperature to drop. I picked up some supplies from the Lidl opposite. Buying water at this heat was fairly pointless if you wanted it to stay cold. You needed a lot of it, yet it within an hour it would rise to the outdoor temperature and be undrinkable, so I was constantly purchasing and replacing water.
I went east and found myself in a beautiful little town called Maleo. The buildings were all pastel colours, yellow, pink and oranges that helped reflect the heat and they were hybrid classical Roman/Italian style. An old clock tower sat in the centre of the small town among lots of other beautiful things. The town was a pleasant surprise to the eyes. I wanted to take it in over coffee, but had to keep moving.
In Parma, a host had offered to house me tomorrow. My plan to ditch the tent was in action, although tonight I suffer the wrath of the tent. I got a short distance from the Maleo, before settling down for another night of wriggling around in the dark, drenched in sweat and dreaming of sleep.