Brescello - An Autumn by the Sea - CycleBlaze

October 8, 2018

Brescello

Rachael woke me up this morning, sounding positively chipper.  She slept well, her cold seems better, but most importantly she has mastered the coffee maker.  We have coffee!

We have another short, flat ride in store, with no specific attractions that we know of, so we have plenty of time.  We start with finally getting out the door to look around at Mantova. It’s our last chance, after all.  And, we find Mantua very impressive, on foot.  It’s still a bit awkward to bike around with anything short of a fat tire bike, but everything is close together.  We park out bikes in a plaza, look around a bit, and move on to a nearby spot.

I know you’re dying to see what Mantua looks like, but you’re going to have to wait a bit.  WiFi is quite poor at the moment, so I’m going to come back and post photos from the city in a separate album when I get somewhere with a decent upload speed.  For now, let’s stick with the ride and the events of the day.

Some fine brickwork at the ducal palace.
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Steve Miller/GrampiesActually, brickwork is not that easy. I saw an episode of a handyman show recently where four contestants had to each build a demo small chimney. The possible difficulties are many - from getting the mortar the right consistency to having the joints the right thickness, lining things up straight, etc. etc. But here I do think the Duke should have hired Holmes on Homes.

Bike looks good!
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2 months ago
A sad story. This car was attacked below ty a retractable traffic control device - it apparently followed the carabinieri into the plaza and was caught up short. Something is dangling beneath the car, and they’ve driven half onto the curb so they can get to it, I feel bad that I didn’t bring my roll of electrical tape to bail them out.
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After we’ve looked around to our heart’s content, we bike over a few blocks of awful cobblestones to the nearest exit from the old town to the lakeside, and then stop to see what the map has to say.  The map says we’re both idiots.  We exited on the wrong side of town, and can’t get to our route out of town without going back into the center again.

First though, Rachael espies a public WC, and feels the need to stop by.  She has an interesting experience there (doesn’t everyone long for interesting experiences in a public WC?), that she wishes to relate in her own words.  As background, note that it’s a stand alone, coin operated unit.

“A man rushed in before me, then when he was done he waved me in before the  door shut so I didn't pay.   Once I was in, the door shut and started cleaning the unit.   First the toilet, so no problem; but next the floor was washed down so my shoes got wet.   After using the toilet I pushed the button to get out but it only opened about 6 inches.  I then pressed the button again and grabbed the door to push it open more and was finally able to slip out sideways.”

This was the most upsetting experience she’s had in a pubic WC since the time I locked her into an outhouse in France many years ago, and had to free her by carving out the lock with a Swiss Army knife.

The moral: pay your own way, or something like that.

So, roughly an hour after we left downtown we find ourselves back in the same spot.  It’s noon now, and we really need to get moving; but we can’t go quite yet because we’ve stumbled across a pair of Bike Friday travelers from Spokane.  We’re nearly neighbors, so there’s plenty to chat about.  Finally, we hit the road in the right direction.

It’s a Bike Friday convention! Jane and Doug from Spokane chat with us for awhile, comparing adventures. They’re on their way to Ravenna and Venice, after spending the last two weeks hiking in the Dolomites.
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Doug is very avant-guard. Not only does he have a collapsible helmet, but he’s got a Roloff hub too.
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Our day’s destination is Brescello, a village you’ve never heard of on the Po River, not far from Parma.  If you can’t find it on the map, note that it’s across the river from Viadana, a larger village that you’ve never heard of either.

So why Brescello?  Not for the obvious reason that you’re probably thinking of and the reason everyone else goes there - to see the village where the great Italian film Don Camillo was filmed sixty-five years ago.  We’re there for a more mundane reason - it’s the only reasonable spot I could find with lodging between Mantua and Cremona.

The ride is similar to yesterday’s - relentlessly flat, beginning with a ride south to the Po followed by miles of riverside riding atop dikes.  It’s quietly beautiful, like yesterday’s ride was, but with nothing specific to say about it, so I won’t.

With one important exception, which we’ll come to after looking at a few pictures.

We followed this stylish dude on our way out of Mantova, appreciating the classy way that he flicked ashes off his cig as he biked along.
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Back on the Po again. This, along with several other photos today, were spoiled by a photo bombing cloud of gnats.
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Eastbound along the left bank
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Eastbound along the left bank
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Suzanne GibsonYou nailed it!
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonI love scenes like this too. I give all the credit to the farmers. I think they have an artistic sentiment.
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2 months ago

Here’s the exception: this incredible bridge across the Oglio, another tributary streamlining south from the mountains.  I may have seen this bridge in a film somewhere (in particular, Don Quixote, which I think I saw years ago), but I didn’t know it was here and was a bit shocked by it because it is so unusual.  It is a floating bridge, built upon concrete pontoon boats floating in the river.  The roadbed consists of rickety wooden planks in various states of wear.  It feels a bit precarious to ride across, especially when a car noisily rides across too.  Awesome.

 Have a video of a car crossing the bridge, but I can’t upload it because the WiFi is too weak.  I’ll post it in a few days, along with Rachael’s video for the day.  We’ll probably post them in whatever the current post is so that people see them, and then relocate them to their proper page.

Here’s a rare sight I didn’t know we’d see along this route: a floating bridge over the Oglio, built upon concrete pontoon boats.
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This is the modernized version of the bridge which was reconstructed in 2010. The original, built in 1920, was even more precarious than this one.
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Here’s a photo of the original bridge, taken in 1943. Presumably these are Italian troops marching across. It looks pretty fearsome to drive across though. It’s been featured in a couple of older Italian films.
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We ate lunch in the small park by the Oglio bridge. This is like the boats the bridge rests on, maybe salvaged from the original bridge when it was rebuilt.
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The poplar forests along this stretch of the Po are quite vast. It was memorizing biking past them, looking down the long, Cathedral-like aisles.
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Suzanne GibsonBeautiful! Have it printed and hang it on your wall. Oh no, you don't have a wall.
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonSomeday. We’ll put it in the hope chest.
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2 months ago
The Po River. Is it my imagination, or is it noticeably smaller now that we’ve moved upstream past the Mincio and Oglio?
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Non potable, I presume.
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The water doesn’t look good to drink, but the egrets seem happy enough with it.
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Another beautiful poplar lined colonnade. The couple in the distance, Italians, were quite friendly when they caught up, and had quite a bit to convey to us. We had no idea what they were saying.
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It only looks like we have the dike to ourselves in the final miles to Brescello. In fact, we have more than enough company - our jaws ache from keeping them clenched to ward off the dense clouds of gnats we keep biking through.
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Brescello is the town where Don Camillo was filmed. I read the Don Camillo books as a child, and remember them fondly. As I remember them now, they’re a sort of cartoonish morality play of the struggles for the souls of the villagers between the village priest and the communist mayor.
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There isn’t much to Brescello, other than a couple of B and B’s, and a couple of restaurants and bars.  Unfortunately, none of the restaurants are open today, Monday.  There’s one about four miles away across the river, across a bridge that looks too scary at night; another a mile away in the next town that doesn’t open until 8; and a pizzeria that’s two miles away in the next town, that’s open RIGHT NOW!

We unpack our lights for the first time and head off to the pizzeria.  Later, after it’s well dark, we enjoy a ride back on the quiet road.  It feels like an adventure.

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Ride stats today: 42 miles, 400’

Today's ride: 42 miles (68 km)
Total: 1,370 miles (2,205 km)

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Comment on this entry Comment 4
Suzanne GibsonWe were in Brescello six years ago. I also have fond memories of Peppone and Don Camillo, but mainly from the wonderful film with Fernandel. My journal https://travel.topicwise.com/doc/page/?o=1r1&page_id=283553&v=2B
(I'll have to get it on this site, too.)
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonI’m surprised to hear anyone else that knew do Don Camillo! I appreciated you pointing out that he and the mayor are gesturing to each other across the square. I hadn’t picked up on that.

You had quite the eventful tour, didn’t you? Forgotten camera, missing passports, searing rain on the best miles of the trip. It sounds like one of our tours. At least it isn’t the kind of tour you forget about because nothing happened.
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2 months ago
Jen GrumbyRachael - glad your cold is better and that you survived the WC experience!
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2 months ago
Rachael AndersonTo Jen GrumbyThanks. I really don’t like bring trapped in a toilet.
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2 months ago