Tandem in Italy - Charles Finkel

Charlie and Rose Ann in front of their tandem

Curious Italians crowd Charlie and Rose Ann

In the fall of 2002, we spent five weeks in Italy, on our tandem bicycle.

Though it is an extraordinary way to see and learn about Italy, traveling around on a bike had its challenges. The fully loaded tandem is quite long and heavy. Getting it on and off trains is both physical and mental exercise. On some trains, the baggage car is in the front; on others, in the rear; some trains have no place for a bike, let alone one that extends the entire width of the car. Waiting for a train, we play a guessing game about which end to park the bike. Once the train arrives in the station and we discover that the baggage car is at the opposite end, we jump on the bike and peddle like hell to get the other end before the train leaves. So far, we have only run into one person, and she hardly knew what hit her (actually we only scrapped her suitcase.) Even if the train has no provisions for bikes, most conductors have been very accommodating.

The exception was our trip from Bra to Siena. We had to change trains in Carmangnolo, Turin, Pisa, and Empoli before heading for our final destination. On the Turin to Pisa run, the conductor, informed us that the time we were traveling, the day before a three day holiday, was no time to travel with a bike, especially a tandem and that we would have to get off in Genoa. He also informed us that he was getting off there. The train, packed like a tin of sardines, was headed for Rome and our bike was in the very rear. Since we had only a few stops before Pisa, we stayed on and hoped for the best. A new conductor unfortunately took over where the old one left of and informed us, in no uncertain terms, that we had to get off at the next stop. That meant that we could not make it to Siena that night.

As the train gently began its stop, we slowly moved toward the rear, hoping that the conductor was somewhere in the front. He obviously meant what he said, since we discovered him and the brakeman removing the bike from the train and onto the platform. We had no choice but to follow and found ourselves in Chiavari, a town we had never heard of.

From the platform we could see and smell the Mediterranean Sea. Once we exited the station; we were greeted by a paradise of classical buildings, palm trees, and sailboats. Leaving the center around dusk, we biked along the seashore and looked for a hotel. Rose Ann spotted a "Locanda" , which advertised cameras (rooms.)

We walked in to one of the cutest restaurants we have been in and were so warmly greeted by the chef; his wife, the greeter; and their son, the waiter, that. even had we not liked the room, we couldn't have refused. The room, one of three, was tidy, comfortable and inexpensive. Returning to the restaurant, we were served a glass of delicious home made sangria, offered a garage for our bike and presented with a preview of dinner - live lobsters being featured that evening. We made reservations for 8:30 and biked back into town to take a look around and buy some provisions for the following day's journey. The shops were splendid and so was the seafood dinner, among the best of our trip-no small accomplishment. We helped close the restaurant over dessert, complimentary digestive, grappa and van santo while the family and one helper from the kitchen enjoyed their midnight dinner at the table next to us.

Traveling this slowly is not for the faint hearted, but some of the nicest experiences can never be planned.