Stage 1: Gradisca d’Isonzo to Udine

Distance: 60.3 km

Time: 3 hours 4 minutes

Speed: 19.6 km/h

Ascent: 201 metres

Total distance: 77.5 km

Total time: 4 hours 0 minutes

Wordle scores: Captain 3 Stoker 5

Word of the day: “Portapacchi” (por-tah-pack-ee) – bike rack!

The Captain writes:

After a fairly trying day yesterday (our own fault!) the Albergo Ristorante del Ponte was just far enough from the busy roads of Monfalcone to provide peace and quiet. And though the promised gnocchi with sage and butter proved not to be on the menu after all, we ate well, and drank a delicious bottle of local “Carso” wine, from vineyards very close to the hotel, before succumbing to the deep sleep earned by two cyclists who had been awake since four in the morning.

Our first task today was to retrace our steps to Monfalcone, to L’Aggiustabici, where the smile on Moreno’s face as we arrived heralded the welcome news that the promised bike rack had been delivered. He explained that, as he was extremely busy, if we wanted him to fit it for us we’d have to wait until Friday (today being Wednesday!) but we were happy enough to fit it ourselves. Soon enough a sturdy new front bike rack was in place, the panniers were installed and, after offering our profuse thanks to Moreno, we pedalled off towards Udine.

The first few kilometres were busy and urban (though perfectly safe), then we found ourselves in quieter rural environs north of the airport. The return of our muscle memory when touring always seems miraculous – the tandem felt perfectly balanced and (as always) a joy to ride, and we soon settled into the rhythm of the day.

It was largely sunny, and the headwinds of the morning had dissipated. Periodically we passed noisy populations of cicadas, fields of sunflowers, maize, potatoes and vines, and plantations of hazel trees as we headed north towards Palmanova, our planned lunch stop.

At one point we re-crossed the Isonzo River, which was largely gravel with a small shallow central watery channel. Often we found ourselves following the Ciclovia Alpe Adria, a well-populated cycle-way, seemingly very popular with German cyclists!

We’d chosen Palmanova for our lunch stop because of its striking appearance. We flew over it yesterday on our approach to Trieste Airport:

It’s a star fort town, dating back to the renaissance, and extremely well-preserved – as we approached from the south we entered a striking gate, surrounded by ditches and embankments.

We cycled on through the pedestrian zone (not sure if that was strictly legal, but we have already embraced an Italian insouciance to legal restrictions!) until we reached the large central piazza and found a café in a shady corner for lunch.

Two bruschette and a large bottle of acqua minerale later, and suitably fortified for the afternoon we headed back out to the north, pausing briefly on the way to take photographs of the church, and of the huge Italian flag which dominated the centre of the square.

The afternoon was spent on similar roads to the morning, with a slight nagging uphill gradient throughout to keep our muscles working. Halfway through the remaining twenty kilometres we stopped in Lumignacco for a rest and a drink. Here we were briefly attacked by ants (ouch!) and then approached by a couple of young lads, out on their bikes for a ‘giro’. They were fascinated by the tandem and we chatted about our plans – they were keen to tell us that we only had seven kilometres further to ride today!

Those kilometres were soon almost done as we approached the centre of Udine, pausing to take pictures at the splendid Piazza della Libertà.

Now we’re safely installed in a cool apartment for the night, and looking forward to tomorrow’s stage to Pordenone.

Here’s today’s route and a short video

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