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Giulia Baroncini's epic journey: following in Luigi Masetti's footsteps

Davide Inverardi



In an age where many prefer the comfort of their couches, Giulia Baroncini, known on Instagram as @semicercatesonoingiro, stands out as an extraordinary exception. Averse to stagnation and driven by an insatiable desire to explore the world, Giulia embarked on an epic journey in 2023, retracing the legendary route of Luigi Masetti, Italy’s first bicycle traveler, from Milan to Chicago.

The inspiration: Luigi Masetti, the anarchist on two wheels

Luigi Masetti, born in Trecenta in the Polesine in 1864 and known as "the anarchist on two wheels," is considered the pioneer of Italian bicycle touring. His thirst for exploration led him in 1893 to undertake a journey from Milan to Chicago to attend the World Columbian Exposition, a celebration of the 400th anniversary of America's discovery. This 7,000-kilometer journey saw him traverse mountains, plains, and oceans with only his bike for company.

After his first "great journey" across America, Masetti continued seeking new challenges. In 1897, he traveled from Milan to Aosta, then across Italy to Brindisi, and continued to Egypt, following in Napoleon's footsteps. His most extraordinary journey came in 1900 when he pedaled from Milan to Morocco, then across Europe to the North Cape, concluding in Russia where he met Leo Tolstoy.

Despite his fame declining for no apparent reason and his mysterious death in 1940, Masetti's legacy as an independent explorer and visionary of bicycle touring endures, inspiring new generations to challenge personal and geographical boundaries. Giulia, inspired by reading "L'anarchico delle due ruote" by Luigi Rossi, decided to retrace this journey, adapting it to modern times.

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Giulia's modern itinerary

Giulia set off on June 9, 2023, a month earlier than Masetti. Her adventure covered an 8,000-kilometer route, with daily stages of about 80 kilometers, flexible according to weather and encounters along the way. She avoided rushing, savoring the slow progress, the changing landscapes, and the beauty of each territory.

Giulia's journey followed Masetti's path as closely as possible. Despite 130 years having passed, many parts of the route coincided with modern EuroVelo, the European cycle route network. On July 13, she flew from London to New York, bypassing the costly and commercial cruise from Southampton. In the United States, she traveled from New York to Chicago, stopping in Albany, Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and Lake Erie.

On September 28, she returned to London and began her journey back home, crossing France from north to south until she crossed the border at Ventimiglia. Originally, Masetti returned with a Cunard Line ship from New York to Liverpool, a ship that no longer exists.

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New experiences and challenges

Giulia undertook this journey in complete anonymity, telling no one until two weeks before her departure. "No one knew about the trip; I was doing it for myself," she said, highlighting her determination to set off.

Along the way, Giulia experienced many highs and lows, facing challenges that tested her. It was these difficult moments that made the good memories even more precious. Moments of joy she will carry with her forever, a testament to a journey rich in emotions and lessons.

The Gotthard Pass proved particularly challenging for Giulia, especially for someone with no prior experience in long-distance bike travel. Yet, thanks to her mental strength, Giulia overcame it.

In the United States, Giulia encountered extraordinary hospitality, contrasting sharply with the often negative stereotypes surrounding American culture. Everywhere she went, people were eager to open their homes to her. This warm hospitality made her journey unforgettable.

Returning home was equally arduous. In Chicago, Giulia faced a moment of demotivation, describing the two months of travel as feeling like two years of intense living. During her journey through the United States, she faced torrential rains and a climate very different from what she was used to. In France in October, the weather presented further challenges, with temperatures ranging from 4 degrees in the morning to 30 degrees during the day. This journey tested her resilience but also gifted her with experiences and emotions that will stay with her forever.

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The mode of travel

Giulia chose a gravel bike for her journey, equipped with various bikepacking bags to maximize carrying capacity. Her clothing was from our gravel collection, designed for comfort and durability to endure long days in the saddle.


For accommodation, Giulia drew inspiration from Masetti, using platforms like Warmshowers and Couchsurfing to find local hospitality, supplemented with wild camping and, in extreme cases, Airbnb or hotels. Her goal was to live close to local people, discovering different traditions and cultures.

The reasons behind the “great journey”

Giulia decided to undertake this journey for several reasons. Firstly, she wanted to bring visibility to Luigi Masetti, a pioneer of bicycle touring whom Italy has largely overlooked. Paying tribute to Masetti was a way for Giulia to honor the past and introduce his extraordinary story to more people.

Beyond this, Giulia aimed to challenge the global female landscape, inspired by historical figures like Alfonsina Strada and Annie Londonderry. These women transformed the bike into a tool of emancipation, demonstrating that solo travel is not a taboo for women. Through her journey, Giulia wanted to inspire other women to push their limits and live unforgettable adventures.

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A message of sustainability and solidarity

Giulia wanted to convey a message of radical change and life choice, promoting the bicycle as a sustainable alternative to the car. Her journey demonstrated how cycling can transform not just travel but life itself, offering a slower, more mindful existence in harmony with the environment.

Giulia Baroncini’s journey was not only a personal adventure but also a profound expression of values such as respect for history, the promotion of female emancipation, and awareness of a sustainable and supportive lifestyle.

This journey reaffirmed that limits are often just mental barriers and that the world is ready to welcome those willing to explore it with respect and curiosity. The bike can be a powerful tool for change, capable of transforming not just the landscape we traverse but also our perspective and way of living.


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