Aquileia to Grado - Retyrement on 2 Wheels 2 - CycleBlaze

September 11, 2018 to September 13, 2018

Aquileia to Grado

Around Aquileia, Grand finale at Grado.

September 11 Tuesday,  September 12 Wednesday,                                        September 13 Thursday 32kms

Around Aquileia, Grand finale at Grado.

Tuesday: When we reached the end of our 2016  cycle trip we discovered a wonderful campground at Cuneo, an attractive town at the foot of the Piedmonte- it had a pool to alleviate the late summer heat and enough of interest to fill a few days. Aquileia, while not as imposing a town, seems like another good find- an interesting place with a past worth finding out about. It’s also ideally placed for travellers who wish to go west to Venice, east to Trieste or south to Grado. 

Our campsite with the handy tree stump.
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We spend our first day wandering about the town looking at the Roman ruins that have been excavated. This was once a wealthy Roman river port until the river moved. The ruins of the old town reveal that the standard of living was high, with mansions that had their own hot bath houses, and several generous rooms with mosaic inlaid floors. We see that one of the archeological sites on the edge of town is being carefully dug over by teams of students armed with trowels. 

Aquileia dig.
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Aquileia was an important fortress site as well as a port for the Romans.
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Here, and in the beautiful Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta, mosaics are a key feature. The Romans seemed to have enjoyed depicting animal and bird life in their mosaics, and the colours and settings they have created are particularly dramatic. The whole floor of the basilica, protected from walking, is covered in mosaics which include images of birds, cattle, fish and people. There is even a slightly endearing, bulging-eyed octopus.

The beautiful Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta.
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The freestanding campanile.
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The basilica, built in Romanesque style in warm glowing stone is appealing in its simplicity and its freestanding campanile is a standout feature against the skyline and can be seen from a considerable distance in this flat landscape. The crypt of the church has some gruesome relics in glass cases - thighbones and a selection from other parts of saints’ bodies.

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Unsubtle depiction of martyrdom.
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There are several topic specific museums about but they have either just chuisa when we arrive or were never operto or they saw us coming. So at the campground we make good use of the beautiful pool and spend time reading. I chat to the pool custodian who seems to be of Indian ethnicity. He has good English but has little to do apart from read in the shade. I ask him what he does in the winter and he says he has no trouble finding work locally. 

The final pool days of summer.
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We manage to colonise an area near our tent that was a gelato parlour and still has tables and chairs- a great place to prepare food and eat. Evening brings a few mozzies, but they aren’t too vicious and we spend meal time talking to a German couple, Rudolph and Elisabeth, from Dresden. We discuss cycle touring and their experience of living in what was East Germany. They lived through Unification and have interesting personal perspectives on what the change to personal freedom meant for them, while admitting that some good things were lost too.

Our colonised dining area.
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Breakfast of champions.
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Wednesday: Off to Grado for the official ending of our Alpe to Adria jaunt. Unlike its beginning back in Salzburg, when temperatures had plummeted and rain was ever threatening, today is clear sun filled skies and high temperatures without the baking sensation of mid summer. A perfect cycling day! The route to Grado is easy- flat, dedicated cycle path and well signposted. 

For this reason it is popular and we’ve started to notice quite a few organised tours. We have a talk to some Canadians who are heading to Trieste. One woman is not feeling too happy with the route for a number of reasons and it makes us aware that cycle touring is not a form of travel that suits everyone. It’s interesting that we’re coming across these groups, as for much of our trip we’ve met only a handful of tourers. We do run into the German couple we first met way back on the road to Bad Gastein though, as they are heading back from Grado. We exchange news and wish them Bonne route! Train travel will whisk them home quickly to Stuttgart.

The causeway into Grado is beautiful but misty with water on both sides providing light as the Laguna fills with the incoming tide. Along the way we see solitary fishermen and one or two boats. 

The causeway cycle path.
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Like a painting in the mist.
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Grado.
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End of the Alpe-Adria.
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Grado itself is a pleasant little town with an attractive historic centre, though it is also well set up to cater for the tourists. 

Basilica di Sant’Euphemia.
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Old Grado.
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We head for the beach find the public beach- no colourful umbrellas and deck chairs- and swim out into the Adriatic- the tangible seal on this Alpe-Adria Trail. The water is warm, calm and reasonably clear. 

Lunch seems a good idea and so we choose one of the less ostentatious restaurants with tables on the quiet pedestrian thoroughfare, where bored looking waiters stand about in flash Italian hairstyles and tight trousers. Ann who always insists at home that I eat sardines downwind of her, chooses sardines because she thinks they’ll be like the ones we had in Portugal; sadly they are not, but I help her with them and share my tried and true pizza Margherita. Life has a way of balancing things out.(Sardina sussoro is a local dish. It is a salad with soft sweet stewed onions with the cooked sardines and little black grapes, and was not bad!)

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Time to test the Adriatic waters.
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Thursday: Tragedy- the pool is closed for cleaning. Time to go! We cycle to Cervignano , about 6 kilometres, to buy our Trenitalia tickets for Venice and scope the route, which is easy, with no complications. There’s a market in progress so we explore. A huge number of stalls sell polyester clothing in colours and styles that would seem to hold little appeal, yet presumably there’s a living to be made. We stick to the edible products and buy cheese and bread for lunch which we consume on one of the seats in the circular park and read while watching for roving mozzies. School is out and groups of students are meeting, flirtatiously doing what students do the world over- some rather boisterously.

Aquileia has a good system of cycle paths.
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Back at Acquileia, we cycle through ruins of the old port, noting the varied positions of the iron mooring rings, to accommodate different water levels. Clearly, at one time, lots happened here and for a moment, if one can shut out the noise of constant traffic and substitute another kind, it’s just possible to imagine another world. Interesting too, that we’ve encountered remnants of the Roman world all the way from the Rhone to the Atlantic coast, to Bath and the North and then in Central Europe. 

Dinner is a frittata of leftovers and a chat with a curly haired and bearded young Czech cyclist who has been making the most of his few free weeks travelling to Italy. He is quite idealistic in his approach and tells me that even his bike is an amalgamation of spare parts. We particularly warm to him as he is quiet and open in his manner and we share many of his views. We sometimes catch ourselves referring to travel we did ‘back in the 70s’. It seems so long ago even to us now, we can’t imagine what this generation thinks.

We settle in for our final night in the Marmot. The roll up mats aren’t getting any softer, but the atmosphere has a certain je ne c’est quoi that cannot be replicated in any hotel.

Today's ride: 32 km (20 miles)
Total: 4,044 km (2,511 miles)

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