Long distance trip boosts outreach
Paolo has always been a proud ambassador for veganism, and in taking podium finishes on top level endurance races, the Italian cyclist has inspired others to think positively about veganism.
He is also a key member of Bike for Animals, who tour Southern Europe to represent animal rights in cities. Paolo recently cycled from Turin to Rome as part of this, during which he also raised EUR850 for two sanctuaries (more here). Paolo told us more about the outreach.
"I left at 5.30 am on Wednesday, August 22, 2018.
I had originally planned on leaving at 4 AM to reach La Spezia, or, to be more precise, Ameglia, 12 km after La Spezia, at an earlier time, after a first stretch of 320 km. However, I was not expecting to be affected by a terrible headache which tormented me since the previous afternoon.
I was somewhat concerned that I would not have sufficient provisions in the coming days and therefore I must have had too much to eat in the last few days; my body sends signals such as these whenever I exaggerate with anything.
A short time after departure, the headache was already gone.
Via Vigliani, Piazza Bengasi, Moncalieri – all the familiar places of my daily commute and as the dawn rises I reach Alba.
Here a familiar smell, which at first may seem delicious, reaches my nostrils but I know that it's mixed with palm oil, that terrible ingredient which kills defenceless animals such as orangutans.
After leaving Alba, the road rises and falls, and I reach Savona. I had feared the earlier forecast as I expected to find a strong wind there, but fortunately it is not the case. 6 hours have passed and Savona is behind me.
Too little time – I feel that I am cycling too fast for the distance that is still ahead of me. I reach Genua in surprisingly good physical conditions. It is hot, I am clear headed and I have no nausea. All is good. I cycle in the traffic until I reach the Bridge of Cornigliano. Almost instinctively, I look ahead as I think of the terrible tragedy of the bridge in Genua with its horrendous tally of human lives. I shiver at the sight of the stumps of that massive bridge and all that happened. Beyond Genua the heat is terrible. The Aurelia is a wonderful road when one drives on it – seen from outside a car, it seems like a relaxing and panoramic journey. On a bike, however, it rises and descends almost constantly and I can feel the strain after almost 150 km.
170 km later I reach Camogli and I must take a break from this intolerable heat. I rest under the trees of a small garden and leave one hour later. My Bianchi bike weights no more than 25 kg with all of the items I carry with me but it's not a small effort to reach today's destination!
I've covered over half of the distance of the first day and this is an encouraging thought.
The road now descends to Sestri Levante – a moment of respite before the tough ascent to the Bracco Pass. I spot a Carrefourt supermarket in Chiavari – an opportunity to devour a 3.5 kg watermelon and several lemons as I sit on the seafront.
The sun is now lower in the sky and I begin my ascent which will then take me to Carrodano and then to La Spezia. It is now 6 PM and I have been cycling for 13 hours. As I descend the Bracco pass I come across a light mist and drizzle. It's almost dark and I still have several kilometres before I reach Ameglia. I am behind schedule due to the excessive heat but I reach the campsite in Ameglia at 9.30 PM.
The morning after, I depart at 6.30 AM but I only have to reach Grosseto on a less demanding road which only covers 210 km. Before 8 AM I am in Marina di Massa and I am fortunate to enjoy a beautiful sunny day. By the seafront, I purchase some additional refreshments at a small fruit market and come across a friendly black-and-white dog who resembles a cocker along with his owner. He licks my hands and with this friendly gesture in mind I leave Viareggio behind.
I hope to reach Marina di Grosseto to rest awhile and wash my gear. Pisa, then Livorno and I feel as though I hear my father's voice who reminds me to be careful. I wish I could return to that time and place and hear that phone ring again … Livorno is behind me, I eat a simple meal of boiled spinach with lemon, beans and blueberries at the same old Penny supermarket and I am back on the Aurelia with the sea on my right.
Rosignano, Cecina, Marina di Bibbona, San Vicenzo and the entire Maremma passes me by.
Free the animals! Free the animals! This mantra plays in mind like a hypnotic smell to remind myself of why I do all this! Once in Follonica as though the journey is almost over. At 6 PM I reach Camping Le Marze in Marina di Grosseto. The market in the camping is not veg-friendly and all I can seem to find is a bottle of tomato sauce, beans, black olives and a palm oil-free packet of crackers.
Today is the last day of the tour for animals. In Capalbio I expect to meet my childhood friends Carlo, Margherita, Gianfranco, Micaela and her daughter, who are enjoying their holidays in the region, and at the end of the terrible track after Pescia Fiorentina, I will meet Gabriele with whom I'll visit the sea turtle nesting site (caretta caretta) near Montalto di Castro along with the local Sea Shepherd activists. In Rome, the tour will end at the Animal Equality stand by the Tiber in which we will donate the proceedings of the auction of the 725 km of the Turin – Rome tour to Massimo Manni, the owner of the Capra Libera Tutti animal sanctuary.
I leave Marina di Grosseto around 6.30 PM – a punctured air mattress has ruined my sleep. A little before Grosseto I come across a bar that offers vegan cornetti and cappuccini – a sight to behold in that land of hunters known as the Maremma! Two for me and I depart!
At 9 AM I manage to meet my friends and after descending the tough trail after Pescia Fiorentina I meet with Gabriele. The encounter with the Sea Shepherd activists is moving as I set eyes on a sea turtle's nest. We descend along the road to Ladispoli and stop along the way to share a huge watermelon. By 8 PM we reach the campsite in Rome.”
The outreach included the use of virtual reality technology to show people footage inside animal farms and they also gave out information and asked people to sign petitions.