In 2018, our writers cycled from Bristol to Bangkok, staying with locals in 22 countries. They remember Italy fondly for its warm hospitality – and fabulous carb-rich cuisine
We had been on the road for a month. Our final descent out of Switzerland was breathtaking and, as we raced down the mountain, it felt like we were leaving winter behind us. Road markings flashed beneath us. We were fast; the weight of loaded panniers adding momentum. Thawing snow lined our route, glistening as it melted on either side of the tarmac. We shared the road with drivers who passed leaving plenty of room to spare, some acknowledging us with a polite nod or raised palm.
Italy was now visible. Our fifth country in as many weeks. As we freewheeled, we chatted about how cycling across borders reduces culture shock: you travel so slowly that countries simply dissolve into one another. That theory was instantly shattered as we crossed into Italy. Everything transformed within metres. The energy of the traffic around us changed: horns blared as drivers sped out of Como in the early evening light, some offering a cheery shout of “bravo” or “buon viaggio”. But, after an initial jolt at the border, it only took a day or two to adjust to local driving styles, something that was repeated in all the countries that we would later pass through.