We woke up to the steady drizzle in our drafty room this morning, glad to be indoors. The temperature has dropped significantly since our first arrival in Switzerland to a high of something in the neighborhood of 50* Fahrenheit and a really chilly overnight low. The weather was steady and inclement, as expected. People keep telling us that “it will only rain for an hour or two more. Than it will be great weather!”, in spite of the forecast from numerous sources which showed heavy rain warnings and indicated solid rain and thunderstorms through next Wednesday. Trusting our guts and the forecasts more-so than residents who told us the same thing yesterday (which clearly didn’t pan out), we packed up in order to head to the train station in pursuit of better weather. We had looked extensively at radars and forecasts and it seems that pretty much the entirety of the rest of our route through Switerland was doomed for a week or two of rain and cold.
After a brief yet cold and wet 9 km to the Sion train station, we got our first taste of the Swiss train system. Similar to the French system, the Swiss system makes it somewhat difficult tot take your bikes anywhere – at least without a lot of hassle, difficulty, and expense. We weighed several options. Renting a car would cost us on the order of $750 USD for a couple of days. A train to Munich would also be expensive, require a boat transfer across a lake, and required a reservation to take bikes on board. The lady could book us to Venice, but we couldn’t get there until late and couldn’t guarantee that our bikes would make it and telling us to “Just ask the Italian man on the train if you can buy another ticket. Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t”. Fail on all counts. We were, however, stuck – since the cloud cover was so thick that despite being in the middle of the Swiss alps, we could very well have been in Kansas based on the number of visible mountains.
We finally settled on what would be most reliable – we asked the lady whose patience we were clearly trying just to book us tickets across the Italian border into Dromedossola. We would figure out the rest from there. Glad to be headed somewhere warm and at least relatively dry, we collapsed in the seats as the train rolled out of the station. Once in Italy, we were able to quickly and painlessly negotiate a train to Verona. How we missed Italy! We didn’t know it when we first got here, but this place is great. The trains are convenient and cheap (we payed about half as much to go twice as far with our bikes as our train into Italy), and we can’t complain about the good food and more importantly the gelato.
Our train into Verona coincidentally took us full circle through the beginnings of our trip. We passed many familiar sites, including our very first campground on the shores of Lago Maggiore, and despite the fact that my spirits were low, I couldn’t help but feel some nostalgia as we passed the lake and crossed the very same bridges that 6 weeks ago, on our very first ride, we naively pedaled across.
After a quick layover in the well organized Milano Centrale station, we headed into Verona. I don’t know what I expected from Verona, but I was well pleased – this busy little city is beautiful! We arrived in the station at 7:28 PM. Typically, the campsites close around 8:00. This meant that we had 32 minutes to make the 4.5 km trek through the city in order to get checked in.
The city was packed with traffic. The rain had apparently just cleared, as evidenced by deep puddles, slippery stone from which the sidewalks and bike paths are made, and drenched cars. The traffic was bumper to bumper, and barely moving. We wove as quickly as possibly through the stagnant traffic as we raced to our campsite, while sliding ever so subtly when we would roll over organic debris on the slippery pavement. We had to switch to manual routing mode in order to race through the cobblestone back roads in order to avoid the congestion. With 500 meters to go, our GPS indicated for us to turn right. We looked right, and there was no street – only a very steep and very long set of stairs that wove up the mountainside. This has happened before, but never in such a crunch. With only a few minutes until 8 (since navigating the roads had been a rather slow and arduous process), Bree told me to get off and run to the campsite so that we could secure an emplacement before they closed. I took off up the stairs, drenched with sweat. The stairs led to more stairs, which led to even more stairs. I finally made it to the top, where I ran through some castle grounds and around 2 bends in the road, lined with 14th century walls. Finally, I saw the campsite! I ran into reception, now thoroughly panting and sweaty as I checked in.
It was only a quick yet slightly less rushed 10 minute run back to get Bree who was waiting at the bottom of the stairs, and then up 5 switchbacks on our bicycles to the campsite. The campsite, which is actually nestled within the castle grounds is very clean, inexpensive, and has killer views overlooking the city of Verona in the public “pic-nic area”. We might be staying here a day or two.
Today marks a new phase in our trip. We have fallen into a serious rut of making touring our job, instead of our vacation or pleasure. Now, as we re-experience Italy, we are committing to slowing down and enjoying ourselves more. What better place to do that than Verona? Even though we have just barely got here, this is my favorite city thus far. The entire city smells very floral. The old section of town is also very clean, and the museums and buildings along the river have a lot of character and just as importantly, color. While most people only know Verona for one thing – the setting of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet – I think we will be getting to know this city very well.