Saturday 19th October
I am tired. As usual. My little child doesn’t let me sleep much. It’s been like this since she was born. And now she is almost 3. I got to the conclusion that she thinks sleeping is a waste of time! But at 41, I do need some rest.
My husband is already ready to cycle. I get ready too, but, to be honest I am still sleeping.
As soon as we leave home, I think “I am so not making it today! I am tired, I am sleepy, it’s cold. I wish I was still in my pajamas….”. the sky is grey and so are the clouds.
In order to get straight to Salò, on Lake Garda, and back, we don’t take the cycling path, as we would usually do. I’d love to cycle about 50 kms, no more than that. I am too sleepy.
Along Viale Venezia , leaving the city center of Brescia, I spot two cars ( always the same two , every single day I go cycling) parked ahead of me on the cycling path . And every single time I feel I’d love to destroy them and their owners.
My morning hasn’t started in the best way ever. However …. in Pontenove we then take the cycling path, which runs through the countryside, heading to the lake Garda.
Despite the grey sky, the landscape is beautiful. Alongside the path runs a blanket of yellow leaves. I suddenly find myself thinking about Mrs. Dalloway. I don’t even know why. I was a huge fan of Virginia Wolf when I was younger and I haven’t thought about her and her works for years. And now, out of the blue, in the middle of nowhere, I am thinking about Mrs. Dalloway’s character.
For those who haven’t read it , Mrs. Dalloway is the protagonist of a book, which takes the title from her name, by Virginia Woolf.
It has been ages since I last read a book by V. Woolf and yet, suddenly, it is as if Mrs. Dalloway in person was here with me and with her, some other characters of this and other books by Virginia Woolf.
And then, as I cycle on the yellow leaves-covered-path surrounded by green fields and hills with white horses , I think of how much I’ve loved Virginia Woolf and how much I was fascinated by her and by the Bloomsbury Group, which she created together with her brother.
I remember that when I read about it , I thought of those writers, poets, thinkers, artists, all joined together, who once a week would meet and discuss about Aesthetics, Philosophy and Literature .
I still clearly remember my own feeling, which was a kind of envy (I know, it sounds crazy , but maybe in fact , I am a bit crazy ) towards them. Envy seasoned , however, with affection, and of course great, great respect and immeasurable admiration. I would have liked to live during the Victorian era , too , even only in order to be able to criticize it.
I wonder how it would have been if only I could have had the opportunity to meet Virginia Woolf and the others from the Bloomsbury Group. I would have loved to savor every single word, spoken or written, during those meetings , I would have listened carefully and learnt.
To me, Mrs Dalloway was an epiphany. Before then I had never read a novel that took place in a single day . I loved and appreciated not only the plot itself , but the unusual way by which Woolf tells a story exclusively from the inner perspective of the protagonist; I loved the sudden time travel, through the thoughts and emotions of Clarissa Dalloway , her monologues and soliloquies as if time and space were melted , the past, the present and the future flowed on the same level , driven by a memory born from an object, a sentence , a thought.
I was really fascinated by this reading, even if , frankly, until this morning , I thought I had forgotten everything about it. As soon as I think of Clarissa’s stream of consciousness, while I am still riding my bike, I think about James Joyce.
There was a time, in my life, when I was madly in love with Joyce. I see myself as a young woman ( well…let’s say youngER which sounds better ” ) reading Ulysse , without being able to get to the last page and without having the ability to understand it in depth , but still involved and fascinated by the characters’ stream of consciousness. Now my memories go the easier-to-be-read-and-understood “The Dubliners”, which made my personal interest for Ireland grow, despite Joyce’s point of view of the moral history of his country when both Ireland in general and Dublin in particular seemed to be centers of paralysis.
I remember that my favorite story , or perhaps , the only one I distinctly remember was ” The Dead .” Again, I do not know how and I do not know why, but suddenly I remember the sense of loss of the protagonist and his first awareness of the dilemma of whether it is better to die when you are young or when your are old , when mistakes are growing dramatically. And living this dilemma was like to taking his mask off , unlike all the other protagonists of the Dubliners , who never called into question , and while I was reading , I was wondering if, later on, the Irish, had changed their attitude … if something had changed in their soul. And it was , perhaps, from that moment that I began to deeply love Ireland, from every point of view , from literature to history, from poetry to the origins, Celtic myths and legends linked to St. Patrick, from Oscar Wilde to the poets , from WB Yeats , whom I love the most, to Séamus Heaney .. and so on.
When I was immersed in these readings I could not even imagine, then, many years later, I would have lived in Dublin and that I would have walked on the same streets where my favorite writers / poets and protagonists of their stories, had walked before me.
While I am cycling towards the lake, time flies and I am not tired anymore, immense , in my personal stream of consciousness … I go back to the Bloomsbury Group, and I think of TS Eliot. I think about how much, at University, I hated studying The Waste Land, and how much, on the contrary, I have loved ” The Hollow Men”. I remember reading somewhere that Virginia Woolf wrote a letter to TS Eliot to tell him that the group collected some money to allow him to quit his job and devote himself exclusively to literature.
I would have wanted to know them so much!
Every now and then my husband turns to check if I am still there and there I am, just behind his wheel. Today I am in good shape! I’m riding with many writers! But I am not going to tell him about this…
We then get to where the track splits: to the left to Salò , Desenzano to the right .
Here, the first change in plans. I ask my husband if he has ever been to Desenzano and I find out, with surprise, that he has not. So we decide not to follow , as we normally would, the Valtenesi cycling path , but to go to Desenzano . After a couple of kilometers, following the main road , we enter the town.
The clouds are still there . The sun is pale , but the light is wonderful. There are many people strolling on this Saturday morning . We cycle through the narrow roads of the town center and then stop to take a few pictures of the harbor. Looking at the lake, in front of us, I spot a lighthouse . And I can’t avoid thinking again of Virginia Woolf and her ” To the lighthouse .” But it is time to go.
Looking at the lake, I see the amazing peninsula of Sirmione and find out that my husband has never been there either. And then, we definitely change our program , and we are now cycling to Sirmione.
And it is wonderful. It’s crowded of foreign tourists, as if it was Venice in the summer time. They all standing and wandering around the main entrance to the castle, which is actually the only point of access to the village . Inside, among the narrow alleys, a couple of traffic agents are trying , in vain , to drain the crowd and let the cars pass through. (only residents and hotels guests can circulate in here) . It ‘s impossible , however, not to stop and look up at the walls and towers with dovetail battlements, home for seagulls in search of rest .
We cycle through the crowd, trying hard not to fall off our bikes and we stop to take some pictures. This castle is fascinating. I think that it has a sinister look . When I get home in the afternoon , I find a legend associated with it : ” In the castle a long time ago there lived a happy married couple : the beautiful Arice and Ebengardo . During a dark and stormy night , a man knocked at the door of the castle in search of shelter . The young lovers welcomed him to spend the night there . It was Elalberto , Marquis of Feltre . Enchanted by the beauty of Arice , during the same night, Elalberto snuck into her bedroom with the intent to take advantage of her . Arice strenuously tried to defend herself and her desperate cries attracted the attention of her husband Ebengardo . But when he arrived to her bedroom, he found her dead , stabbed by the fury of Elalberto . After a violent scuffle , Elalberto died pierced by his own dagger, and from that day the ghost of Ebengardo wanders the castle , condemned to remain among the living , separated from her. “
We continue to cycle uphill to the ancient caves of Catullus , but we don’t manage to get to the entrance gate because it’s a gravel road and it would be dangerous for our bike wheels .
I remember the last time I was in Sirmione, I was studying in France for Erasmus and I came to Italy with some friends, as a tourist. It’s amazing! It has been nearly 20 years ago! Time really flies ! Talking about time… it’s noon already and we have to go back home! We have already cycled nearly 50 kilometers! On the way back , just left behind Sirmione , I see the tower of San Martino and Solferino and since the signs say only 3 km away…let’s pay a visit! But soon, we get lost. My husband, like all men , doesn’t want to ask for directions as a principle! Since I don’t have this silly principle, I ask for directions and we soon get to the tower. While we are getting there , I tell my husband that there is an ossuary, on the right hand side of the road , but as soon as I start explaining what an ossuary is, as soon as hears the words ” skulls ” and ” skeletons ” , his facial exprssion changes and he says, ” Let’s go! Let’s move on!”
We stop for a moment to take some photos of the tower and then look for the way back. The treasure hunt for the way back takes us ages .
We are lost, again, so I rely on Google maps , but after 5 minutes, my phone is dead. We then cycle on the moraine hills . Beautiful landscape , but if you only had a cup of coffee at 9 am , you’ve cycled 60 km, you are cold and hungry, the climb is not exactly what you want to deal with. Eventually we find the Leone shopping mall on our left and then understand that we are cycling in the right direction , towards Brescia. In the center of this town we meet an old lady who, seeing us in trouble asks us “whe-re are you go-ing?” Slowly , enunciating each syllable well , as if we where foreigners, and couldn’t understand her Italian. My husband pretends not to notice , as you know , this is one of the pillars of bike wisdom according to my husband. . .I obviously appreciate her help and reply ” to Brescia .” Then the lady’s attitude change , and she gives me direction not even in Italian but in this village’s old dialect. I thank her, while my husband just nods. I’m starving and I have bad foot cramps . I am cycling very very fast because I cannot wait to get home . I leave my husband far behind me. When he finally reaches me, with his British aplomb, he asks me : “Sorry love, but … have they put some hot chili on your ars? “
I can’t stop laughing.
We pass through Mazzano , Rezzato and after another 15 kilometers we finally get home. I get off my bike , take my empty water bottle, I save my track and take the Garmin device with me. We cycled 92 kilometers . I’m really dead.
As soon as I open my home door, my children run towards me with open arms and ask me ” Mom , you’re finally here! Are you going to play with us now?” . 🙂