From Italy to the North Cape by bike? This question had come to me quite some time ago: after a trip to Tromso and Lofoten, I started putting North Cape on my list of places to visit. The project was put in the drawer, but I often said to myself ‘I would like to get to the North Cape, but by bike.’ This year, after the sad loss of my cousin, I thought I would embark on the crazy adventure: I resigned from my permanent job and, ten days later, started rolling north on my bike.
As I was discharged on June 16, and the departure of the trip was June 29, I did not have much time to make travel arrangements. Initially I wanted to take a tent with me, which would certainly help me decrease the cost of the trip.
I did, however, make two calculations: I absolutely had to return to Italy by the first days of August (travel coordinator in Indonesia with BHS travel: my new job!) and I had to pedal about 4,000 km, so the risk of not getting back in time to catch the flight was high.
So I started planning the stages: at first I wanted to go through the French Via Francigena, but later, thanks also to the advice of Davide, a friend from Trieste, I totally changed course. In fact, David recommended that I go through the German Fairy Tale Road: besides being a beautiful road, it was a great way to remember my cousin,who had written a book of fairy tales dedicated to children, Stories for Golden Dreams.
The journey thus took shape: St. Gotthard Pass, Zurich, fairy tale road in Germany, Bremen, Lübeck, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Turku and then up to the North Cape. For the final part of the trip, the advice of Carlo, who had already reached the North Cape by bike, proved crucial: avoid Sweden and go through Finland, so you find more towns and can always find hospitality.
I thus began to prepare my backpack. Traveling in bikepacking mode and what’s more without a tent, I had to carry the bare essentials with me. In the backpack attached to the saddle I had a spare T-shirt and bike shorts, three T-shirts, two underwear, two socks, a kway, a little jacket, a sweatshirt, gloves, a long pant, and bike shoe covers. I attached another bag under the frame: here I put two inner tubes, powerbank, multi bike tools. In addition, I carried on my shoulders a backpack with flip-flops, a small drone and food reserves for the day. So this was my list of things needed for about five weeks of travel!
The departure date for the great journey to the North Cape by bicycle has been given as June 29, 2022. With my friend Fabrizio we arranged to meet at 8:30 a.m. Already from Stage 1 the leitmotif was delay. In fact, we were only able to leave at 9:15 a.m.! The good Fabrizio accompanied me for fifty kilometers, all the way to the Swiss border.
The road from Angera to Zenna is home for me and it’s great, as it runs along theshores of Lake Maggiore. The first feelings were mixed: I could keep a good speed, but my head was saying ‘what the heck are you doing?!’ When I said goodbye to Fabrizio, I had the feeling that reaching North Cape by bike was crazy. In particular, the first two days of the journey were very tiring: I had to reach the Gotthard Pass, at an altitude of 2,100 meters.
To climb the Gotthard from Italian-speaking Switzerland, there are three alternatives: the highway (forbidden to bikes), the scenic road, and the Tremola. The last one is definitely the most beautiful (here is the info in the three-pass tour), but it is steep and studded with cobblestones: the scenic route was the right choice! At the top of Gotthard I was already definitely satisfied: I had reached the highest point of the trip! From the Gotthard I thus entered the German-speaking part of Switzerland with an unwelcome guest: a torrential downpour! Downhill, therefore, I went very slowly: at one point I was even accidentally entering the highway, so poor was the visibility!
Once the deluge was over, I enjoyed the Swiss landscapes: the Lake of the Four Cantons, Zug, and finally Zurich! Here in detail all the info on this first part of the trip!
From Zurich, Germany is only 60 km away. The Teutonic country welcomed me with spectacular bike lanes-I immediately forgot about Italy’s mini bike lanes and pedaled along wonderful stretches that looked like highways. I thus reached Ulm, a beautiful city that is home to the world’s tallest church steeple. In southern Germany, I have often found that I never ride on normal roads: bike lanes are widespread and simply perfect (there is not even a shortage of signs with distances to the nearest towns!). I thus passed through beautiful towns such as Aalen and especially Rothenburg ober Tauber: the latter is a beautiful medieval town and video game fans will remember it for being the location of Monkey Island.
Continuing to ride northward, I was able to admire the Main River cycle paths and the cities of Wurzburg, Karlstadt and Gemunden. Pedaling here is a wonder: the sunny (and hot) days allowed me to tackle more than 600 km in just four days. Before entering the so-called fairy tale road, I had to cross a small river:the highly organized Germans set up a kind of pulley and….I had fun crossing it!
In Melsungen I thus entered the fairy tale road: in fact, I passed through many small villages famous for being the location of the Grimm brothers’ tales. Melsungen, Hann Munden, Hameln: beautiful villages full of colorful houses…a sight for sore eyes! The road of fairy tales leads all the way to Bremen: here the musicians were waiting for me, told once again by the Brothers Grimm! Bremen is a very nice city: in particular, the Schnoor district is very well maintained!
I had by now arrived in northern Germany: in Hamburg and Lübeck I met several friends (Hella and Ivano: the latter, with two additional friends accompanied me for a beautiful ride along the Baltic Sea, thank you!) Northern Germany is not so perfect for cyclists: the bike paths are less well maintained, but they are still there in abundance!
From Lübeck I thus reached Puttgarden: after about 1200 km my trip to Germany was complete! All stages in detail are always available on my blog, here!
From Puttgarden a 45-minute ferry takes you to Rodby, Denmark. I noticed one big difference right away: the prices! Everything cost more: the food (both restaurant and supermarket), the beers, the sleep…and the absence of bike paths! That last part, however, changes dramatically in Copenhagen: the Danish capital is a jewel and home to an excellent network of bike paths! The arrival in Copenhagen made me proud: I had already pedaled about 1600 km and my legs were still spinning well!
After a rest day in the Danish capital, well used to drink some excellent Mikkeller beer, buy a pair of underwear (a pair lost on the way) and analyze the Scandinavian route, I set off north again: Helsingor, with its Hamlet Castle, was the end of the Danish ride.
In fact, a twenty-minute ferry took me to Helsingborg, Sweden! From here the feeling of cycling in Scandinavian lands began to become very clear: forests, endless straights and…very little hospitality! Once I entered Sweden, I had to radically change my organization: until Denmark, I used to book overnight accommodations on the same day, but once I entered Sweden, I realized that I had to book accommodations a few days in advance. The wonderful Markaryd campsite definitely stands out among them!
From Helsingborg to Stockholm is about 500 km of road: I passed through some fairly large cities such as Jonkoping, Linkoping, Norrkoping, Nykoping and some beautiful tourist towns such as Granna. In Nykoping the Airbnb owner advised me to take a detour: via Skanssundet I would have traveled an extra 15 km but would have seen picture-postcard lakes…advice much appreciated!
In Stockholm I saw Olesya again and said goodbye to Pietro Franzese: with the great youtuber – cyclist. we shared this part of the trip, as he was also cycling to the North Cape, but on a fixed gear bike!
All stages are available in detail here!
From the beautiful Swedish capital I took a ferry to Turku. Here I met Matteo (he was also pedaling to the North Cape) and three Argentine lunatics pedaling to Qatar, hoping to see Messi raise the Cup to the sky. The ferry is ten hours long and I had time to arrange the rest of the trip (reservations, warmshowers, couchsurfing) and appreciate the famous Finnish karaoke live!
I did not like the first few kilometers on Finnish soil: in fact, I cycled along the E8, a busy road. Germany seemed like a distant memory! Even German lunches were now a memory: in Finland I almost always ate in supermarket parking lots (lunches of Tuc crackers and salmon, topped with strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries). When I got away from E8, however, Finland turned out to be very beautiful: Rauma, Yitteri, Kristinestad, Raahe–no shortage of beautiful little towns! I also had the good fortune to meet other committed cycle travelers on long trips and excellent warmshower and couchsurfing hosts (in Vaasa I had the opportunity to do the combination of sauna + bath in the Baltic Sea, and in Nykarleby I was able to sample some excellent homemade beer).
Oulu was the last big city of the trip: in fact, after about sixty kilometers I had entered Lapland, with happiness skyrocketing! I celebrated my entry into the land of Lapland with a nice bath in the Tornio River and another sauna: again, the hospitality of a warmshowers boy was much appreciated! In Lapland, distances are enormous: there are 50-odd kilometers between one village and another, so I also had to make arrangements for the day’s food. In particular, the last Finnish stage was very tough: from Muonio I rode 157 km to Kautokeino in 10 degrees Celsius and a headwind.
Here are the stages in detail!
In Kautokeino I had therefore entered the last country of the trip, Norway! The leg from Kautokeino to Alta was truly spectacular: rivers, lakes, the Pike Foss waterfall…a feast for the eyes! Also on this stage I found an Italian cyclist, Paolo, struggling with the Italy-North Cape-Italy journey. Alta is an interesting town for two reasons: it is home to the Northern Lights Cathedral and an open-air museum dedicated to prehistoric rock writings (very nice both!).
In the last two days of pedaling, I met so many people: above all, Maurizio stands out, who, thanks to his incredible strength and Lilli’s support, reached North Cape on his handbike (this is the Instagram page of his association, my deepest respect!)
The last two stages were really tough: the elevation gain is challenging and I had to go through four tunnels. One of them, the Nordkapp tunnel, leads up to 212 meters below sea level: it’s cold going downhill and hard going uphill, seven hellish kilometers! Fortunately,
I met so many wonderful reindeer! On Sunday, July 31, 2022, around 8 p.m., I reached North Cape in this way! The satisfaction of having reached this place is impossible to describe: North Cape seemed like a pipe dream and, instead, it was achieved! Seeing, moreover, the midnight sun from up there was typical icing on the cake!
I discuss North Cape in more detail in a separate post.
6 August, 2022