Day 14: Cremona – Sirmione

Distance: 81.61 km

Time: 3 hours 42 minutes

Average speed: 22.0 kph

Cumulative distance: 714.44 km

Cumulative time: 33 hours 36 minutes

Word of the day: ‘chiacchierare‘ (kee-ack-ee-air-ah-ray) – to chatter

It’s probably becoming a little unbelievable, gentle reader, the extent to which we extol the virtues of each and every town in which we’ve stayed. Nevertheless, we mean every word, and Cremona was a particularly fine place – incredible architecture, green spaces, an air of calm, and of course its history in the world of musical instruments.

So it was with some reluctance that we left this morning, though as a final favour to us Cremona provided the best cycle paths we’ve encountered thus far on this trip, enabling a smooth and enjoyable exit. Today we had eighty-one kilometres to achieve, our longest day so far. When you convert to miles, though, it’s just over fifty miles, a distance we routinely cycle on our long trips.

We had originally planned to strike south to Mantova, then further south still to Parma, but finding a suitable hotel for our rest day in Mantova was proving difficult, and we wanted to eliminate some of the zig-zagging across the eastern end of the Po valley. In an inspired moment, we chose Sirmione instead, which occupies a spectacular peninsula, pointing, nay thrusting northwards into Lake Garda.

More of that in a moment, though. Our morning’s cycling was serene. It being a Sunday, the roads were quiet, or perhaps we had happened upon quieter roads. Whichever, it was gloriously peaceful, and once we’d left the cycle lanes of Cremona we accelerated to cruising speed and stayed there, surrounded by maize and wheat fields, with blue skies overhead and a fierce summer sun.

It was so peaceful that my mind wandered to the subject of what the collective noun for a group of Italians should be. After some deliberation I decided that, given the noise levels in the average bar or restaurant here, it should be a chiacchierata di Italiani – a chatter of Italians.

On entering the town of Scandolara (yes, really!) we spotted a striking castle in a moat, almost in the middle of nowhere, so we called a drinks halt and stopped to admire the view.

Once or twice this morning we became aware of a strong smell of cheese in the air. There were a few milk tankers around, so perhaps we unwittingly passed a centre of cheese production. It wasn’t unpleasant, just unusual!

All of a sudden we became aware that Alps were emerging, mirage-like, in the distance – we’ve not seen those for a few days! In the foreground, too, a ridge, probably an Alpine outlier, with a strikingly pretty town, Montichiari sitting atop.

Time, then, for a lunch break. We ate piadini and admired the ecclesiastical architecture.

With only twenty-four kilometres remaining we set off for the afternoon, on a long, gentle climb, mountains in the distance. Our initial waypoint was the town of Lonato del Garda, which sits on high ground looking over the lake. Then we enjoyed a downhill stretch to Desenzano, a familiar spot, as from here the boats leave on day-trips to Riva del Garda. We stayed in a villa quite near here with Jenny, Chris and Robert a few years ago – it was a very happy holiday in a beautiful place.

Today, though, we turned right, anti-clockwise around the lake shore, in busier traffic, until we reached the start of the Sirmione peninsula. Thereafter we pedalled when we could, and at other times pushed the tandem through the crowds of visitors in the historic part of the town. No doubt we’ll take a look ourselves tomorrow, but today the hotel pool was calling.

We seem to have the best view on the peninsula! To the west, from our corner room balcony, we can look over to Manerba and Moniga; to the north is the end of the peninsula and the ruins of the Grotto of Catullus. Pictures to follow later.

Tomorrow, the tandem is staying in the hotel garage! There will be no blog until Tuesday, when we intend to stay in Verona.

Here’s today’s track.

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