Villa Santina, Italy: Today I descended from the Dolomites. The ride went splendidly well until I faced what I think (and hope!) is my last major pass of the Alps: Mauria Pass, at 1298 meters. The pass itself was manageable. The cold rain I encountered was a shock to the system, and it was frigid coming down off the mountain. Still, this was another great day of cycling in the Italian Alps, full of stunning mountain scenes and quiet, almost deserted roads plus all the creature comforts (the pasta, cappuccino, and hot chocolate) that make Italy sparkle. After acclimating to the wetness the rain had a calming, even purifying effect.
About 30 km south of Cortina, where I started this morning, I faced a major decision. Bear right and head to Venice, a day’s cycling away. Or bear left (ie go east) and climb another mountain. It wasn’t a hard decision because I have no interest in visiting Venice on this trip. The further east I cycled the faster the tourist grid disappeared. Originally I planned to stay in the town of Ampezzo. This town, like many I passed through today, was comatose, with little sign of a pulse. I stopped at the only hotel in town, a rather dispirited place. They had a room but no wifi and suggested I keep going to Villa Santina, about 10 km away, for a wifi hotspot. Rain be damned I trudged on.
I thought Villa Santina would be a posh little resort, but rather it’s a town of some 2,000 people, one of the few towns in Italy that is actually growing in population. I can’t imagine any reason to visit this place, but the tidy city definitely has energy which many of its neighbors lack. In town I was directed to the Alla Pinera hotel, a dive of a two-star place hidden deep in a neighborhood. It’s definitely not fancy, but it’s clean and run by a hard-working family. When I arrived at 5pm the bar was rocking with locals. Apparently if you live in Villa Santina this is the place to get toasted and play cards before going home for dinner. As far as I can tell I am the only guest here. Tonight’s dinner is hands-down the best meal in Italy so far; several locals have also come to the restaurant for dinner and to watch TV. And yes, the wifi does work.
Here are some impressions of Italy from the past three days:
Day 49: Cortina D’Ampezzo —Villa Santina, Italy
Distance: 103.98 kilometers
Ascent: 1,013 meters; 1,842 meters descent
Weather: Rain, grey, cold
TransEuropa 2011 Trip Summary:
Distance: 3,554.3 kilometers
Ascent: 26,453.28 meters
Countries: 8: Portugal, Spain, France, Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein, Germany, Italy
Incidents: 2: flat tire on Day 45; police reprimand on Day 2