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Blog #15 Milan to Casalmaggiore

The journey continues into Italy

26th September

I left Milan easily enough, none of the traffic complications of a bigger city like London, whereby suddenly the country suburbs appear as if crossing an imaginary line. I’m guided onto the back lanes away from the traffic and this was my set up for the day. Cycle paths separated me from fast moving vehicles and with such a hidden route the sound overload was reduced to that of doves, their cooing floating across freshly cut fields of wheat, shawn to stubble.

There are times in a day, cycling across a benign unchallenging landscape when I feel euphoric. It might take hours of physical exercise to achieve mere minutes of this feeling, and as it changes and unfolds, almost briefly in tune with how you feel about your life until like a mist of strength and self belief it slowly fades away. As I cycle deeper into the very start of this adventure I feel like this more and more.

It’s the waking that is hard. Legs stiff, toxins of the previous day’s efforts still circulating around the big thigh muscles, slightly aching neck and the simple brute force needed to make that first pedal turn, one of very many throughout the day.

At Lodi I stopped to chat to a motorcyclist with a Welsh dragon emblem on his number plate. He was sitting eating a sandwich. We knew each other because bikers do and when I looked up saw a guy in a Yamaha shirt come down the steps of his motorcycle shop to shake my hand and wish me well. My films have been on his television screens for years, as they have in every Yamaha store across Europe - this is my job - and we were both hugely pleased.

FB Motos, Lodi with Sr Danielle Betinelli

I had a small coffee near the centre of town and followed the canal to Cremona, a city with such a tangible Roman history - you see the influence of occupation in the centre, but when I saw a shop with the name Antonio Stradivari with violins in the shop window, it made me wonder.

Cremola - Violin making centre in the world

In Case You Didn't Know

In 2012 , UNESCO included the traditional violin craftsmanship in Cremona among the oral and intangible heritage of humanity . Cremona is famous in world musical history of all time for being the birthplace of Claudio Monteverdi, one of the fathers of modern melodrama and to whom the city Conservatory is named. In addition to Monteverdi, Cremona also saw the birth of the composer Amilcare Ponchielli and can boast the most important heritage in the world for violin making (starting from Stradivari, Guarneri del Gesù, Amati) with over two hundred workshops of master violin makers that make it the center the world's leading manufacturer of bowed and stringed instruments.

By nightfall I arrived at my small accommodation, Hotel La Favorita at Casalmaggiore. It was a basic 1 star hostelry but beautiful.

The Hotel la Favorita, a simple one star hotel and tabbacheri on the SP85 leading to Vicobellignano and then Casalmaggiore was a delight. The owner Guiseppe was stern at first, unsure about his new overnight client as if I had stepped off a very strange place and his small and frill-less twin bedded room would be entrusted to an apparition of oddness. I am a cyclists sure but I am even more than that, on a mission, focused with enough energy palpitating from my body to combust something. Once settled in I noticed how I over looked this secondary road that crossed the country from Milan; I didn't know how close I was to Italy's famous River Po.

The small restaurant, unchanged since his father ran the place was a kind spot on earth and he put me on the head table closest to the large screen TV. The old pot-bellied cook stood hunched over a wok full of bubbling fat cooking me schnitzel and chips with the soggy breadcrumb washed down with beer. Heaven could not be a better place and I was too tired to write my blog so decided to complete it in the morning with a couple of strong coffees.

Map of the Day 26th September Milan to Casalmaggiore

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