Italy Via della Costa

Day 10: Celle Ligure to Genova (Voltri)

A closed tunnel causses a 3km detour and an unexpected Milan-San Remo cycle classic.

Today should have been an easy 20km trip along the coast with next to no ascent. Thanks to a closed tunnel, I had a more than 3km detour, including a number of climbs, so I ended up with over 400m ascent. These things happen, but it would have been nice with some kind of warning that the tunnel was closed so that many walkers and cyclists didn’t need to walk the 800m from the last turnoff before the closed tunnel.

I’d left Celle Ligure after breakfast without any plans to meet Lene before the outskirts of Genova. They day started where it had ended yesterday, artwork along the path. A tunnel with artwork dedicated to mathematics (a few examples below), and continued along the coast to a very lively Verazze. It seemed like the whole town was out including many cyclists. I saw a commemoration plaque to Fausto Coppi, the Italian cyclist who dominated cycling after WWII. He used to train in winter along the coast and often stopped in Verazze for coffee.

I consider myself a fairly quick walker, but today I was outwalked by two people who both were walking significantly faster than I was – they were both much younger than I was :-). It was a pleasant walk along the coast in sunny weather, with many people out and about.

The blocked tunnel was very frustrating as it not only caused a longer detour, but I also needed to climb to about 80m to reach the main road (SS1), which was busy and without pavements. I got back onto the track immediately after the closed tunnel and continued along the coast.

Lene called and told me that she was parked in Arenzano, but had been told by the police that it was best to move on as the roads would be closed because of a cycle race. I checked Google and saw that it was the Milan to San Remo spring classic, one of the top one day races with many of the big stars. Lene had seen Mathieu van der Poel, the world champion, in Andora, cycling with his world champion jersey on, and training with his team a couple of days ago.

I continued walking, still along the coast. Along the way I asked a couple of policemen when the race was expected, as the roads were being closed for all other traffic. They told me it would pass by in about an hour. So I continued walking watching a few motorcyclists and the odd car belonging to the cycle teams.

Eventually, I caught up with Lene who had parked across from a bar. We waited 15 minutes as the race traffic steadily increased – police motorcyclists, then cars with bikes on the roof, then official cars and VIP’s and finally the first cyclists, six of them in a breakaway.  A minute or so later the peloton arrived, and whizzed by. From the first car in front of the peloton to the last car after, it was no more than 2 minutes. It was great to see how seriously the police took it, closing the road an hour in advance, somebody positioned at each joining road and not least keeping an eye on the people on the roadside – and they do this for the whole 298km, the cyclists race. The police congregated outside the bar and took a congratulatory and non-alcoholic drink for a job well done.

The roads were reopened, Lene and I took a coffee and cake in the bar, before I continued the last 5-6kms to the outskirts of Genova.

Just as yesterday, the frustration (of the closed tunnel and detour) was replaced by something unexpected happening (the cycle race) turning the day into a positive experience.

Lene picked me up and we drove into the centre of Genova, amazingly getting there without any wrong turns, following the overpass with views over the port and cruise ship harbour. From the overpass it was a short drive to the room where we will be staying for the next 3 nights.

After checking in and getting good advice from the owner, we found a laundromat and washed primarily my walking clothes, and whilst washing took a walk around the local area – getting an ice cream on the way.

We went to one of the recommended restaurants, and managed to get the last table, as long as we were finished in 1,5 hours, when the table was reserved. The restaurant was full of life, only locals and a great atmosphere – I kept thinking of Billy Joel’s scenes from an Italian Restaurant (although the context is different!)

Another good day on road and not least a pleasant surprise to see the bicycle race. This is turning into a trip in the sign of cycling – the cycling path along the coast, the original Olmo factory, the commemoration plaque to Fausto Coppi and now Milan – San Remo.

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