Bologna to Venice

We had been intending to reach Bologna on Thursday for the special market that takes place at the squat we’d be staying at but we had changed our plans and arrived on Friday instead. As luck would have it, there was another of these special martkets taking place elsewhere in Bologna and we mananged to get a couple of people to come over to tell us all about it. Basically these markets bring together consumers and local non certified but nether-the-less organic small farmers. They mostly make use of squatted spaces for the markets and are part of a growing movement known and ‘Genuino Clandestino’ which is active throughout Italy. A 50 minute unedited recording can be found here.

We had a bit of a group party late into the night. By saturday afternoon most people had recovered and we joined local cyclists in a critcal mass around the city and eventually ended at an organic icecream place. On sunday we had big plans for a series of workshop throughout the day but actually managed just half of those planned. We did however make use of the bike workshop at the squat to do some maintainance on our bikes and even got an ancient tandem bicycle on the road (although didn’t take it with us on the ride). The workshops we managed to do included one on massage techniques.

We left Bologna monday morning with a few less of our friends but some new ones who had joined us for the final leg of the tour.

The next days were increasingly hard with fairly large distances to cover. A growing number of people were suffering with symptons of cold or flu and to make things even tougher we had several days of extremely strong wind to contend with. We visited a few more projects; another agricultural collective, an approproiate technology research and education centre, and a museum preserving the traditional crafts of the Po delta region.

One night we stayed at a project which provided a home for african migrants seeking asylum. They went far out of their way to ensure we were comfortable, allowing us to use their kitchen, toilet and shower then even giving up a bedroom for our ‘sick team’. The night before arriving in Padova we experienced yet again the incrediable Italian hospitality. Complete strangers invited us to camp in their vineyard and even allowed us to use their kitchen to prepare food.

Padova was our last overnight stop before Venice. We stayed at a project which provided space for free cultural projects included a bike workshop. Our hosts fed us and there was a workshop to tart up our bikes for the critical mass ride into venice. There was also a presentation by the 85 year old founder of the project. Later we drank beer into the night, did some bike maintainance and built up two new bikes for two people who joined the bike tour in Bologna and will continue cycling east after Venice.

The morning of our last day was sunny and windless. We set off together and on the outskirts of the town met up with some more cyclists then head off toward Venice. In Mira we were welcomed by perhaps three hundred cyclists and TV crews then set off on mass with banners and flags plus horns and bells raising a rackets. This was our last ride together before Venice and it was fabulous! We took the whole road, both directions for much of the route, and passed along the proposed route of a new highway between a river and historic villas. We stopped a couple of times to pick up for protesters or do related actions before arriving on the long road bridge that enters venice.

Our cycle over the bridge was euthoric, we had made it, the end of the 2,000+ km from Barcelona, the end of ten weeks of cycling. However there was no time for a group celebration or sadness that our time together was almost over. In the docks beyond the bridge were about three huge cruise ships, the floating city type that carry several thousand passengers. As we passed, chants were shouted at the ships. Progress came to an abrupt halt when we were confronted by the first pedestrian bridges in Venice proper. Those not on the bike tour had no problem lifting their bikes over but we struggled with our heavily loaded bikes and trailers.

After five or six bridges we locked up our bike in what appeared to be a squat art gallery on the water front and hurried to join the locals for the small boat protest against the massive cruise ships which come right up through venice so their passengers can see venice without having to even get off the ship. Today they would not as a fleet of small boats covered in colourful flags and banners blocked their way all afternoon.

Sunburnt, hungry and exhusted the 25 strong group of the ecotopia bike tour returned the 20km to Mira were we’d be sleeping. We’d been told we’d be fed so we were shocked to be told that wasn’t the case, especially as the food team had obviously not made any plans of their own to prepare a meal. We ended up buying 25 plates of veggie food at the festival taking place at the forte we were camping. We drank sparkling wine and enjoyed some of the little remaining time we had together.

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