One of the most magical things about autumn in northern Italy is the fog.
It descends at dawn or dusk and arrives alongside a chill in the air. It can make a cathedral, only a hundred meters away, disappear. It covers the autostrada, obscures the Alps, and dims the lights. But it makes everything seem peaceful.
Unless of course, one happens to be cycling on a winding, hilly, single-lane road in the Venetian countryside, wearing dark clothing. Oh and did I mention I was the tour guide?
Six of us had decided to do the extra 25-mile loop in the late afternoon, and had stopped for a brief wine tasting. We still had 15 miles to go when the light disappeared.
Italian country roads are a beast unto themselves even without the fog: barely the width of two cars, most have no shoulders, no lights, and no fluorescent strips. During the day, they are a smooth path through a gorgeous setting, and fantastic for cycling. In the dark, not so much.
Then: a farmhouse! I knocked and asked to use the phone so my co-guide could come and rescue us. Mi dispiace, the woman said, if I let you in, you could rob me.
So, riding single-file, we continued through the mist. It was harvest-time in the Valpolicella, and tractors pulling large crates overflowing with grapes had been chugging past us all day. When the next one – thankfully with an empty crate – emerged through the fog, I jumped off my bike and stood in the middle of the road: per favore kind farmer, give us a lift!
After some negotiation, we threw our bikes into his empty trailer and piled in next to them. We chug-chug-chugged to our hotel no more quickly but much more safely, and in time to share evening cocktails and a great story with the rest of the group.
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