Where cycists dare

I was having fun negotiating the Ligurian hills on the coast road east from Genoa on my way to Pisa.

Hard hills in baking heat rewarded by invigorating swims in the sea were the order of the days.

Still, I excitedly anticipated being out of the sun and on level ground so with rear light flashing safely I waited in a long line of traffic for the lights to change so we could enter a tunnel.

Green. Go go go.

I immediately regret this decision.

The tunnel was almost pitch black dark with very occasional shafts of daylight angling in. Not enough to illuminate just enough to occasionally dazzle. Worse, the tunnel was a single lane! (something I really should have predicted when queuing to enter.)  Unable to discern the sides of the tunnel properly in the gloom I constantly felt like I was about to scrape the wall as I squeezed over to make room for the angry Italian motorists who were shooting by at speed often with horns blaring. The noise of the motors roaring had my muscles tight as I peddled for all I was worth.


Phew. Enough time for a gulp of air.

Then back into the darkness this time for over a kilometer.

The sensation was not dissimilar to being on a haunted house ride at a theme park except faster, more frightening and with what felt like a very real chance of death.

As I exited the second tunnel and entered the third with just enough time to see the sign again letting me know it was again, over a kilometer long, I was finally rid of the overtaking cars. The tunnel felt eerily quiet now and still cycling for all I was worth I began to worry. What happens if I'm too slow and the traffic light lets cars come the other way?


After a breathless dash, finally, light at the end of the tunnel! 

I was confronted by a 20 meter verge with hills to my left an ocean cliff to my right and yet another (insert expletive here) tunnel in front of me.

At this point I decided a cigarette was very much in order. While calming my nerves with sweet sweet nicotine I read the small print beneath the tunnel length sign. No vehicles under 90cc....

Not having any cc I guessed bikes weren't allowed. Ouups. That explains the beeping then.

The next tunnel was to be the longest yet at circa 2k... I had another cigarette and poked around. I decided to camp here for the night and get up very early to take on the rest of the tunnels before the traffic got heavy.

It all worked out for the best as I succeeded in scrambling down the cliff (using a helpfully left rock climbing rope) for a swim. As the sun set I wandered up the steep hills behind the lay-by where, to my shock, I found a hilltop restaurant.


I decided it was fate and sat down to order. A complimentary glass of prosecco arrived at which point I realized that this probably wasn't my kind of establishment. A scan around revealed a lot of rich young couples dressed to the nines and a distinct lack of other people in lycra. Too late to back out now though so I treated myself to an eye-watering 40 euro dinner which was very nice. Well satiated I crept back down to the cliffs for a night sleeping over the crash barrier on a rock outcrop listening to the breakers and watching the stars. The next morning I made it through the tunnels without too much distress and was safely on my way.

As possibly the first cyclist to navigate those tunnels I can honestly say I don't recommend them.

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