2011 Italy

Bike Munich to Venice – September 2011

A month of biking took us from Munich to Venice over the Alps. We did not bike up the Alps. Read on to find out how we did get up.

Munich to Venice

Munich to Rosenheim along the Mangfall river.
Up the Inn river from Rosenheim through Innsbruck to Landeck.
Up the Alps to Nauders and over the Reschen Pass.
Down the Italian side of the Alps following the Adige (Etsch in German) river.
The Adige flows through Bolzano, Trento to Verona.
A detour west to Lake Garda then south to the Po River.
Along the Po river it was a zig zag route to Venice.

We biked 1200 km on this trip.
You can click on a picture to get a higher resolution version. There are a number of short video clips on this page. If you would like to see them linked in a playlist click below:

The following is a summary of the trip showing daily distances.

DATESDistanceSum KmCityHotel
30-Aug-11Toronto AirportFly
31-Aug-1133MunichMunchener Kindl
1-Sep-117275RosenheimGoldener Hirsch
2-Sep-1146121KufsteinThaler
3-Sep-1156177SchwazStay Inn
4-Sep-1134211InnsbruckMozart
5-Sep-110211InnsbruckMozart
6-Sep-110211InnsbruckMozart
7-Sep-1135246TelfsTelfer Stuben
8-Sep-1116262NaudersVergissmichnicht
9-Sep-1157319SchlandersGarni Claudia
10-Sep-1152371LanaSonnenhof
11-Sep-1138409BolzanoAnderlan
12-Sep-1170479TrentoAmerica
13-Sep-1146525AlaAl Valuitai
14-Sep-1164589VeronaMelini
15-Sep-110589VeronaMelini
16-Sep-1148637PeschariaJohnson
17-Sep-1148685MantovaAl Podesta
18-Sep-1134719SuzzaraGarden
19-Sep-1146765OstigliaCioe
20-Sep-1164829FicaroloLory
21-Sep-1154,883RovigoCapital
22-Sep-1110893RovigoCapital
23-Sep-1158951FerraraAdelphi
24-Sep-1120971FerraraAdelphi
25-Sep-11541025ArgentaCentral
26-Sep-11561081ComacchioLa Comacina
27-Sep-11571138MesolaFelice
28-Sep-11691207RovigoCorona Ferrea
29-Sep-11271234MestrePiave
30-Sep-1101234MestrePiave
1-Oct-11121246Venice Airport

 

Tuesday August 30, 2011: Toronto to Munich

We take our own bikes with us. They are 18 yr old Raleigh hybrids proudly made in Canada! This year we had the bikes refurbished, so not much of them is now made in Canada.  We each have 2 panniers and a backpack. For the flight we use compression straps to make 2 panniers into one piece of luggage. The pedals come off before we leave home. Our daughter, her husband and our grand-daughter take us to the airport with the bikes on the roof rack.
The first 3 trips to Europe we had the bikes put into cardboard boxes. It took over an hour per bike to get them ready to go after arrival. Now we put the bikes into plastic bags supplied by the airline. We have used Air Transat for our last few trips. They now charge $30 per bike each way. It is so much quicker to get the bikes ready at the other end. The only problem we have had is a broken bell handle. I now turn the bell in to avoid that happening.
We arrive early and observe the controlled chaos. The bikes are bagged and we are on our way. We typically book our hotel for the first night on these trips. This time we will stay in Munich to meet up with our friends Jerry & Judie from Seattle, who will be biking with us.

Toronto Airport: Dave, Faye (granddaughter) and Judy

2011 Toronto Airport

Toronto - The bikes are bagged.

 

Wednesday August 31, 2011: In Munich

At Munich baggage claim we met another Canadian couple Noel and Barb from Burlington while we were getting our bikes put to-gether. They were heading into Munich as well so we decided to bike from the airport. Bought a map, but could not find a bike route out of the airport. No one could give us directions. So, we took the S-Bahn. We got off at Marienplatz and parted from Noel & Barb. Noel & Barb were heading north to bike the Danube River to Vienna. Check out their trip at:
http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?o=1&doc_id=9581&v=80

We rode our bikes to our hotel – the Munchener Kindl.
Our friends Jerry & Judie had left a note at the hotel, so we went looking for them in the Viktualien Markt. We were not able to find them so we went to the Hofbrauhaus where they later found us.

Only a liter?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was great to start the trip with a beer and wurst at the Hofbrauhaus. After a shower and snooze we headed to the Donisl restaurant for an excellent dinner at a reasonable price.

 

Thursday Sept 1, 2011: Munich to Rosenheim – 72km

For bikers, breakfast is important. We had a good one here. Muesli, brotchen, meat & jam with good coffee.
Our biking started around 10am which is pretty typical.  It was decided that we would bike to Rosenheim. It was raining off and on. Got lost a couple of times, then found the radweg along the Mangfall River. Lunch in Aying. The bike path was partly paved. A few times it went away from the river up into forest. In Rosenheim we went to train station looking for tourist info. Crowds of people were leaving the train station dressed in dirndls and lederhosen. There was an Oktoberfest celebration on! We got the last 2 rooms at the Goldener Hirsch.

2011 Rosenheim

Rosenheim Oktoberfest

Then we went to the Oktoberfest site. It was jammed with a midway and several large halls.

We went back into town and had an excellent meal – lamb shank for me.

Wanting to get more of the Oktoberfest mood, we went back out to the site. The halls were crowded. The music was rock & roll. No polkas! After some beer nuts and Eis we called it a night

 


Friday Sept 2, 2011: Rosenheim to Kufstein: 46 km

Today it was cloudy and cool – about 17C. A great path along the Inn river- mostly paved. We are going upstream into the mountains. Judie had 2 flats in the am. Lunch was in Nussdorf

2011 Nussdorf

Nussdorf on the Inn

2011 Inn River Nussdorf

Along the Inn River

Drizzle started after lunch but not bad. On to Kufstein. The hotel we stayed in in 2004 was closed and several others were full. We took the Hotel Thaler at €104. Very nice modern hotel.
Jerry & I went looking for tubes and a tire. After 3 stores found one that sold Schrader tubes.
Kufstein is a very pretty city of 18,000. It has a large fortress and an interesting Altstadt.

2011 Kufstein

Kufstein Fortress

2011 Kufstein

Kufstein Altstadt - Rohmerhofgasse

 

Saturday Sept 3, 2011: Kufstein to Schwaz – 56 km

Another good breakfast. Jerry changed Judie’s tire & tube. Given that it was Saturday, we got a very helpful clerk in the Hotel Thaler to book us a hotel in Schwaz.
Today, the weather is beautiful: sunny in the low 20sC. Left about 10:30am. Jerry had 3 flats in the am! Lunch in Worgl.
Mountains getting taller as we head up river. The Inn river carries a lot of silt from the Alps.

Bike path by Autobahn

Inn River near Schwaz

Arrived in Schwaz and found our hotel. (Stay Inn). Very new and modern. Check out the picture of our hotel room with the see through bathroom!
There was a bike race through the city streets. It was amazing as the bikers zoomed along the narrow cobblestone streets through the old part of town.

2011 Schwaz

Stay Inn - See through washroom

2011 Schwaz

Schwaz Bike race in City

 

Sunday Sept 4, 2011: Schwaz to Innsbruck – 34 km

Great breakfast. Another beautiful sunny day: 23C. Truly in the mountains now. The bike path is mostly paved. The farmers use all the land they can. Most striking were the rows of muti-coloured lettuces. We rode through to Innsbruck and booked Hotel Mozart through the Tourist Office. The hotel is older but clean with decent sized rooms.
After lunch we visited the Hofburg Palace. A large and well restored example of 18th and 19th century excesses. Dinner was wurst, kraut, potatoes and a salad.

 

Sept 5-6, 2011: In Innsbruck

Woke up Monday am sick. Typical flu symptoms. It had rained overnight and continued throughout the day. Spent most of the day in bed.

Tuesday am not much better, so decided to stay in Innsbruck another day. Felt better around lunch. The weather had cleared so we walked into town and had soup at an outdoor cafe.
Felt well enough before dinner to join Jerry & Judie for some wine.

Innsbruck 1

Innsbruck Goldenes Dachl

Innsbruck 2

Innsbruck - lunch outdoors

 

Wed Sept 7, 2011: Innsbruck to Telfs – 35km

We decided to bike further up the Inn to Telfs. The bike path is paved and easily accessed from Innsbruck city. Just past Telfs, the Inn valley narrows and becomes steeper. So the plan was to stay the night in Telfs, then get the train from Silz to Landeck. (Still on the Inn)
While getting train info at the Innsbruck train station, I had a migraine. First one in 2 or 3 years. Lasted only short time. Only minor headache after.
The bike path was again mostly paved. Another beautiful morning. The mountains are higher with great alpine green views. At Telfs tourist office booked Pension Telfer Stuben. Very nice room with a balcony.
Telfs is a very pretty town. There is a long narrow main street with murals on walls and interesting architectural details. All this with the mountains in the background.
Had a before dinner drink with Jerry & Judie. Dinner was really good Italian . The owner provided a free almond schnapps which went down quite well.

Telfs 1

Telfs main street

Telfs 2

Telfs - Wine on the balcony

 

Thursday Sept 8, 2011: Telfs to Nauders: 16km (by bike) – UP THE ALPS

  • Telfs to Silz: Bike 16km
  • Silz to Landeck: Train 35 minutes
  • Landeck to Nauders: Bus 1 hour 

Overcast and cool. At Telfs tourist office we looked up the schedule for the Silz to Landeck  train. Landeck is where we are going to get a bus with a bike trailer to take us up the alps. The tourist office booked us places on the bus bike trailer.
Got a little rain, but still had great mountain views. Bike path all paved here.

At Silz train station we bought tickets from a machine. Modern train where you can roll the bikes right on.

Silz 1

Near Silz

Silz 2

Train from Silz to Landeck

Landeck: The bus station was right behind the train station. The bus was right on time. A modern Austrian Postbus, with a trailer that will hold 19 bikes. Our 4 bikes were the only ones today.

Landeck 1

Landeck - bus with trailer for the Alps

Click below to watch a video of the bikes being loaded:
YouTube Preview Image

 

The bus follows the Inn River for about 50 km and stops at all the little towns along the way. We saw a few bicyclists riding up. Then we headed up into the Alps. Typical switchbacks greet us as we make our way up to Nauders. It took a little over an hour for the bus ride. Nauders is a winter ski resort town. The scenery is amazing. We found an excellent Pension: “Vergissmichnicht”. (Forget me not)

2011 to Nauders

On the way up to Nauders

2011 Nauders Pension

Nauders Pension

2011 Nauders pesion

Nauders Pension - ski boot warmers

2011 Nauders pension

Nauders - pension balcony view


Today was Jerry & Judie’s 49th wedding anniversary, so we had wine & cheese on our balcony. A short walk in the rain got us to dinner. It was an excellent one. Veal schnitzels for the men and cheese spatzle for the ladies.

The following chart shows the elevation profile for the Reschen Pass which we will go over tomorrow. Nauders is still in Austria.


 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, Sept 9, 2011: Nauders Austria to Schlanders Italy – 57 km OVER THE ALPS

We had a great breakfast at the pension. The morning started foggy and cool. We had a 180 m climb over about 6km to get to the top of the Reschen Pass. It was not too bad, although the last stretch left us puffing a bit. The clouds broke up and the sun came out as we rode into Italy.

2011 Reschen pass

Reschen Pass - the last climb

2011 Reschen pass

Reschen Pass - looking down into Italy

Click below to watch the climb to the Reschen Pass

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As the saying goes, “It is all down hill from here!”
Ahead of us we had 300 km of paved bike paths along the Adige (Etsch in German) River. The path was very new and in great shape. It was also separate from the road.

The border crossing buildings were deserted. It was slightly downhill to Lake Reschen. Here there is a church tower sticking out of the lake. The lake was formed when the river was dammed in 1950. No compensation for the villagers flooded out.

2011 Lake Reschen

Lake Reschen - Drowned church

2011 Adige

Adige River - Etsch in German

The river valley got steeper and we zoomed downhill. Mountains on both sides. Have to watch your speed!

2011 Adige

Adige - downhill, bikes only, watch speed!

2011 Adige

Adige - Further down the mountain

Click below to view a video biking down Adige path:

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In the valley up here they grow apples: gala, red and golden delicious. After so much downhill we had to detour uphill around a part of the trail that had washed out. We ended up having to walk up into Cengles.

2011 Adige apples

Adige - apple orchards in the mountains

2011 Adige hill

Adige - detour uphill - had to walk


Got into Schlanders where there was a team mountain foot race on. The city center was closed off. The hotels were all booked, but we found 2 pensions next to each other that each had 1 room available. After checking in we gathered for beers at our pension which had some seating outside.
Dinner was Italian – go figure. Jerry & Judie had pasta. Judy & I each had a Quatro Stagione (Four seasons) pizza. It had mushrooms, ham and artichokes. The toppings were not mixed together. Each was separate in its own section. Excellent thin crust pizza. There was enough left over to take for tomorrow’s lunch.

2011 Adige Schlanders

Adige - Schlanders Quatro Stagione pizza

2011 Adige apples

Adige - road sign German & Italian - plus apples

In the northern part of Italy a large percentage of the people have a Germanic heritage. So, road signs are in both German & Italian.

 

Saturday Sept 10, 2011: Schlanders to Lana – 52 km

Today was sunny and warm. More downhill with mountains on both sides. The river is not wide yet, but is fast flowing and very rocky. Apple orchards spread up the sides of the mountains.

2011 Adige

Adige - flowing fast

2011 Adige

Adige - apple orchards climb the mountains

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Just past Toll we had 7 switchbacks as the trail went down a steep stretch. The paths shown are for bikes only. They were in great shape.

2011 Adige

Adige - Toll - 7 switchbacks

2011 Adige

Adige - more switchbacks

Here is a video of the switchbacks:

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We arrived in Merano hoping to get a hotel. It was Saturday, so all that was left were rooms for €200+. Tourist office found us rooms at a pension in Lana – about 15km away.
We got last 2 rooms. Ours ended up being the 3rd floor attic one with sloping ceilings.
Dinner was at a restaurant with an outside patio. Spaghetti piquante for me. Judy had a cheese omelette. Very good.

Sunday Sept 11, 2011: Lana to Bolzano – 38 km

Another hot and sunny day and fairly humid. The river valley flattened out here, but we were still in the mountains. The bike path continued to be well paved.
In Bolzano, the tourist office was closed, so I used the cell phone I had borrowed from a friend (Thanks Tony). The phone had an Italian SIM card. I was able to get phone numbers for a couple of hotels from the Bikeline book we were using for the Adige (Etsch) river. We found a hotel on the second try. It was about 1km out of the center. We found a large square with beer tents set up and bands playing. Had lunch there.
We rode to the hotel, checked in and left bags. Then rode back into the city. The ladies went off to take pictures, so Jerry & I found a shady table and had a couple of cold beers.
Used bikes to find a restaurant near the hotel. Another great pizza.
The hotel we stayed in was old but clean. It had a bathtub with a hand held shower nozzle and no curtains around the tub. Long time since we have not had a proper shower in a room!

Monday Sep 12, 2011: Bolzano to Trento – 70Km 

Another hot and sunny day but not as humid. Temp got up to 31C. Today we rode into the Dolomites. They are beautiful mountains with craggy peaks and pinnacles and lots of white rock face. They were about 2800m high. The river is about 300m high. We started to see grapes being grown at this height in the valley.

2011 Adige Dolomites

Adige - Dolomite mountains

2011 Adige Dolomites

Adige: Dolomite mountains

Here is a video of the river as it flows through the Dolomites:

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Couldn’t find a reasonable spot for lunch so had cheese/crackers/apple we had in our panniers near Gruns. The path was great until we had to head inland to get over the Avisio River. We rode 2.5km up to Lavis to cross a bridge over the Avisio, then back down 2.5 km to the Adige. It was tiring in the heat. Fortunately, it was only 6km to Trento.

2011 Adige

Adige - basic bike lunch

2011 Adige

Adige - Trento tea service with meaning

 

2011 Trento

Adige - Trento main square

2011 Adige

Adige - avalanche shelter

Into Trento we found that there were no cheap hotels. We took the Hotel America for €112. We each got a large apartment with kitchen. The shower was quite a marvel with jets everywhere.
We went into town center and had a beer. Then found a quiet square to eat in. Tonight we had great spaghetti bolognese. We had eis on the way back to hotel. We borrowed Jerry’s computer and used wi-fi in the bar to do emails. Had a coffee and a grappa!

Tuesday Sept 13, 2011: Trento to Ala – 46Km

Great breakfast. We took advantage of the buffet and made sandwiches from small buns.
Decided to book a hotel for that night from Trento. Tourist office couldn’t help. So tried numbers from the Bikeline book. One didn’t answer and the next 2 did not speak English, and my Italian wasn’t enough to get by. So, I called Ala’s tourist office. They said they would try a few places and call me back. Good thing they had call display as I couldn’t remember the cell phone number. Anyway, they called back to say they had a pension for us.

Out along the river it was another hot sunny day. It was up near 30C by mid-afternoon. We were really lucking out with the weather in Italy. The path continued to be paved and in great shape. More and more grapes being grown. We stopped for lunch. We found some green fruit growing on a tree. Size of a large lemon. Cut into it – strange smell. Juice stuck to knife blade. had to scrape it off! No idea what it was.

2011 Adige

Adige - Unknown fruit

2011 Adige

Adige - Cycling art

Just before Ala the path went away from the river and we had to climb up and down through vineyards.
Ala is away from the river about 1km and up a hill. We found our pension in the center of town. We got a 2 bedroom, 1 bath apartment with kitchen and living room for €50 a couple. Very nice.
We went for walk and found the tourist office where we met Lucca. He was a retired Italian jet fighter pilot (F-104s) who worked part time at the tourist office. He spoke excellent English and gave us a personal guided tour. Ala is not a large town, but has an interesting history. It was on the main route from Germany/Austria through Bolzano to Verona/Florence and Rome. In the early 1800s Ala had 3000 people working in the velvet making trades. Mozart lived there for a while as did N. Bonaparte. After the tour we had a drink with him when we learned that he finished his career as a general attached to NATO and had postings in Washington and western Europe. A thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.

Adige - Main square in Ala

Adige - old mill in Ala

 

Adige - Ala: Dave, Jerry, Lucca and Judy

Adige - start the day Ala

For dinner we went to a restaurant which Lucca had recommended. The meal was excellent: Gnocchi Amitriciana, then cold roast beef with thinly sliced grilled zucchini and eggplant.

 

Wed Sept 14, 2011: Ala to Verona – 64 km

Had a good breakfast. We made sandwiches for lunch again. Lucca came by and gave us 4 pastries to take for dessert. What nice gesture from a real gentleman.
Another warm day. More high Dolomite cliffs.

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We followed along a canal above the river for a while. There was a stretch of about 5km on quiet roads. We came across some workers picking grapes – Pinot Grigio. They gave us some to taste. They were very sweet. The juice was very sticky.

Adige - Dolomites

Adige - Picking Pinot Grigio grapes

After about 30km we had to climb away from the river – went up about 150m!
Then back up again at Rivoli Veronese. On the way down we had some more switchbacks to negotiate.
The path went along another canal. We found a shaded bench to eat our sandwich and pastry It was hot today. Must be over 30C. There was a water spout there with cold fresh water. While we ate a man stopped with a flat tire on his racing bike. He got tools and a spare tube from  a small pouch and replaced the tube. He pumped the tire up vigourously until the tube burst with a loud bang which gave us a start. Good thing he had a cell phone to call for help!

Adige - Switchback - bikes only on this path

Adige - Lunch in the shade on a hot day

We had another stretch of road before Verona – about 13km. But it was not very busy and the drivers were courteous.  Into Verona. The tourist office was helpful and found us a hotel (Melini) for 2 nights. It is very close to the main square and the coliseum.
Had a beer at the hotel. After walking around the main square where there were a lot of restaurants we decided to try one which was recommended by the hotel clerk. It was away from the square. We all had pasta. Mine was a “donkey ragout”. The waitress insisted that it was good. So I tried it. Pretty much like ground beef.
After dinner we went out for gelato – so good.

 

Thursday Sept 15, 2011 – In Verona 

We took a day off from biking. Another hot day.
Jerry & Judie had been to Verona a few years before and had seen the Arena (coliseum). So Judy & I spent the morning wandering around it. The Arena has been very well restored. They have installed a stage in the middle and put comfortable seats around about 1/3 of the arena and in the center. They perform operas here in the evenings in summer. It was  too late in the season to be able to see one.

Verona - Coliseum

Verona - Coliseum stage and seating

Here is a video of the Arena:
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We ate lunch outside in the shade. A new drink for me – Aperol spritzer. White wine, soda water and Aperol liqueur. Very refreshing on a hot day. We followed the crowds to see what was supposed to be the balcony where Juliet looked down on Romeo. We spent part of the afternoon in our air conditioned room.

Verona - Aperol spritzer

Verona - Juliet's balcony?


We all went out for dinner at a restaurant in the main square. What a busy spot around the coliseum. Had a 1/2 bottle of Bardolino wine. Very good. Another night for gelato.

Verona - Main square restaurants

Verona - Gelato

 

Friday Sept 16, 2011: Verona to Pescheria Garda – 48 km

Another hot and sunny day.
We have left the Adige river and the magnificent bike path. We have also left the mountains. Today’s destination is west to Lake Garda. Last night we decided to book a hotel in Pescheria Garda, given that today is Friday.
The plan is to go west from Verona by road to the Mincio River, then north along the river to Lake Garda. It took a while to get out of Verona. We took a wrong turn and headed too far north. Finally got sorted out using map provided by tourist office.
Lots of kiwi fruit growing here. We arrived in Valleggio which is on the Mincio river, and got a map and some directions at the tourist office. We had a pleasant lunch in the main square.
The map turned out to be one of those decorative touristy ones which were not physically accurate. The town is about 40m above the river with one road down to the river. The streets in the town are narrow and wind around. So we got lost. We asked for direction, but in the end a man got in his car and told us to follow him. It wasn’t far but it was a circuitous route.
The path along the Mincio was very good. It is a very quiet river as it makes it way slowly to Lake Garda.

Mincio River

Lake Garda

 

Saturday Sept 17, 2011: Pescheria Garda to Mantua – 48 km

Another hot sunny day. We rode back down the Mincio to Vallegio – 13 km.
Really flat land with tall reeds in places. Lunch in Soave.
The path left the river and followed a large canal into Mantua.
We hadn’t pre-booked a hotel here which was a mistake. The reasonable hotels were full. All they had were B&Bs. They did not have one with 2 rooms available, so we had to split up. Our B&B was very nice as long as you like purple. But it was a big room with large shower. It was also air conditioned!

To Mantova - path along canal

Mantova - Our purple B&B


Our cell phone needed some more money added to it, so we went to a tobacco shop and added €20. Very simple. The calls were pretty cheap as well.
After a stop for a beer, we went into a large church having interior renovations done. They had a huge scaffold up inside which went to the ceiling and was the full length and width of the church.

Mantova: Church scaffolding

Mantova - Dinner outside


In the Piazza Sordello the car maker Audi had set up a number of displays. We must have missed the main event, but we did see a re-creation of a 1939 Auto Union F1 car. Very impressive. It was too late to visit the Palazzo Ducale – a huge complex of buildings which is around the square.

Sunday Sept 18, 2011: Mantua to Suzzara – 34 km

Worst breakfast of the trip. We had to go to a nearby bar to have it. All we got was a coffee and a croissant!
The plan was to take the train west to Cremona, then bike back down the Po River. At the train station, we bought tickets at a wicket.
The train to Cremona starts in Mantua, so we were able to get on 20 minutes before departure.
Train stations can sometimes be tricky with bikes. Here we lucked out. We were able to ride the bikes to the end of platform 1. Then rode down a ramp and over the tracks on a paved path to the platform our train was on.  (We did look both ways!)

The bike car had a wall rack for the bikes that we had not seen before. After a couple of minutes of not being able to figure the rack out, I decided to track down some bikers who got on another car to see if they knew how to use the racks. Out on the platform, I heard a few announcements in Italian. I asked a man what was being said. He said that the train was not going to leave because there was a strike! Back in the train, Jerry had figured out how to mount the bikes in the rack. The panniers were all off and everyone was ready to go! So, we unracked the bikes, put the panniers back on and went back in the station.

Mantova - Train going nowhere - strike time!

Mantova - bikes loaded in rack


Fortunately the ticket clerks were not on strike, so we lined up to get a refund. We talked to a young couple who said we should not miss Parma.
After some discussion we decided to head for Suzzara today.
It was cloudy and cooler today. We bought sandwiches at the train station.
We headed south out of the city, then got lost. We got directions from a young couple and got back on track.

Near Mantua - Elaborate cemetery

South of Mantua we came across a cemetery. It was amazing. Very elaborate buildings for the dead.
After lunch the rain started – gently for a while. As we crossed the Po river, it got harder. We put covers on the panniers, but decided not to bother putting on rain pants as Suzzara was close. Mistake. It started to pour! We found a hotel, (Garden) but it did not have a restaurant, so decided to look further as we were already wet. No luck. Then asked some men who said to follow them in their car. They took us back to the Hotel Garden! It was a modern hotel and was quite nice. We put the bikes away in their underground garage.
They even had a hair dryer which we used to help dry out our shoes.
We gathered for a beer in the hotel bar with the maps. We decided that Parma was too awkward to get to on a bike. So we chose to go to Ostiglia – east down the Po river.
The rain had stopped by supper time. We found a nice restaurant which was quite busy on a Sunday night.
We had just gotten back to the hotel when the rain started again. It really poured – thunder & lightening. After a huge clap of thunder, the hotel power went off. Fortunately not for long.

Monday Sept 19, 2011: Suzzara to Ostiglia – 46km

The rain had stopped overnight. It was much cooler. Jackets on.
We got map and directions from the hotel owner. Suzzara is south of the Po. He said it would best to go east before going north to the Po. The road to Pegognana was busy, but after the autostrada it was less busy.  We stopped in Questillo to get panninis made, then headed on to the Po. We took jackets off around 11:30. The Po valley is very wide here with lots of poplar trees along it. There are dikes along both sides of the Po. The bike path was typically on the top of the dikes. We were on the south side of the river here. On some stretches it was bikes and farm vehicles only. On other stretches cars were allowed. On these stretches you had to pay attention and keep to the right as the cars were sometimes going fast.

Suzzara - hotel day after the rain

Po River - Along the dike - poplars


There were also lots of grapes being grown.
We had a long bridge to go over to get to Ostiglia. It had a narrow walkway down one side of it which we used.
We rode into town looking for the hotel we had booked the previous night. It was little out of town and was closed with a sign indicating they would be back in a while. So, we decided to go into Ostiglia to see if we could find a more convenient hotel. And we did – the Hotel Cioe was cheaper as well. The hosts were very friendly and phoned the hotel we had booked to cancel for us. The bikes were locked away in a garage across the street.

Po River - bridge on way to Ostiglia

Ostilglia - Hotel Cioe - very good value


After a shower, we went down for a beer & coke. Real friendly lady looked after us. She gave us directions into the center and told us what to see. We went for a walk and found an interesting church.
Decided to have dinner at hotel. Penne bolognese, steak with salad, 1/4 l wine & 1/2 l water for 11€ each. It was very good and good value as well. We sat down about 8pm. The place was near empty. Within 15 minutes it was nearly full! I had a grappa with coffee. Jerry had a spanish brandy.

Tuesday Sept 20, 2011: Ostiglia to Bondeno to Ficarolo – 61km

Ostiglia - Hotel Cioe - money counter

During the night there was a garbage pickup which woke us up. Then at 7am a market started setting up in the street outside the hotel. We had a good breakfast. The hotel front desk had a glass top with money from different countries. They did not have a Canadian bill. So I gave them a Canadian $5 bill to put under the glass! It is in the top row, second from the right. They really appreciated that.
We wandered around the market in front of the hotel. It was quite extensive. Judy took a picture of 4 large cheeses which were piled up, thinking they were real. They looked real but were just shells!

Ostiglia market - these are not real!

Ostiglia market - everything fresh


We met a young German man who was biking on his own. He had a Garmin Oregon 340 GPS unit for his bike. I was envious.

Osiglia: German cyclist

Sermide: Getting panninis made


We went back over the Po on the narrow bridge we took yesterday. We headed down the Po on the right (south) side. We soon had our jackets off as it got warm. We bought cheese & ham panninis in Sermide. We stopped at picnic tables along the Po, but were hit with mosquitoes! The first of the trip.We rode into Bondeno, but found that hotels there and on into Ferrara were all booked as there was a kitchen & bath show on in Ferrara.
The owner of the Hotel Tassi was very helpful in giving us advice on where to stay. He suggested the Hotel Lory in Ficarolo. (about 7km back along the Po) He tried calling them but got no answer. So we took off. I was able to phone then a few km later and got 2 rooms. The hotel was quite nice, but its restaurant was closed on Tuesdays. The nearest one was 3 km away. The hotel bar was open, so we had a beer. We decided that we were not keen on biking to the restaurant and coming back in the dark. So I got the idea that we might be able to get pizzas delivered. The woman behind the bar did not speak english and we couldn’t find the Italian word for delivery in our dictionary. As I was trying my garbled Italian, a German man who spoke Italian & English helped us out. In the end we were able to get pizzas delivered. While waiting for the pizzas, we joined the German fellow and his friends. They were from Romania and had just driven 16 hours. They were going to the kitchen & bath show. They shared some of their Romanian beer with us as we heard their stories. Very interesting discussion.
The pizzas arrived: four of them (quattro stagione of course!) for €6 each. They were great. We were able to buy a bottle of Bardolino wine from the bar to wash it down.

Ficarolo - Hotel Lory - the pizzas are delivered

Ficarolo - Hotel Lory - tasting good

Wednesday Sept 21, 2011: Ficarolo to Rovigo – 53km

Good breakfast. The kiwi fruit was from New Zealand. It must be the wrong season for the Italian kiwis!
We decided to head east and north to Rovigo, given that Ferrara was booked up. The lady at the hotel was very helpful as she phoned and got us a hotel in Rovigo.
It was another sunny warm day. (28C) We head east on a fairly busy road for 3km to Gaiba, then south to the river. The paved path is along the dike, but has some cars on it. A little windy today, but it was coming from behind.
We stop in Polesella for lunch.
We start to see the odd buoy in the river, indicating there must be boats. All we see are few small boats with fishermen.

Po - East of Ficarolo

To Rovigo - bike path beside highway


At Guarda Veneta we take a bike path 10 km north to Rovigo. It is paved and separate from a busy road which it follows. (SP28) As we come into Rovigo the bike path ends and we ride on SP5 – a busy road. We ride through Rovigo and find our hotel about 2km north of the center. A modern hotel. But there were no restaurants nearby. We ate in hotel restaurant. It was not too bad.

Thursday Sept 22, 2011 – Stay in Rovigo

We had an excellent breakfast – scrambled egg with bacon! With kitchen & bath show still on in Ferrara, we stayed another night in Rovigo. We booked a hotel in Ferrara for Friday and Saturday. We rode into Rovigo. We walked around a bit a saw a church that had its walls & ceiling covered in old paintings.
I had another headache, so after lunch Judy & I headed back to hotel where I crashed.
We got an email from the hotel in Ferrara saying our credit card was invalid! I phoned the hotel and tried to give them my other credit card (always pays to have 2 cards). They did not speak much English so I tried giving the card number in Italian. My pronunciation was obviously bad as he kept asking me to repeat. Fortunately, a helpful lady clerk at our hotel took over and got things straightened out.
Dinner in hotel again.

Rovigo - Modern Hotel Capital

Rovigo - amazing painted church

Friday Sept 23, 2011 – Rovigo to Ferrara

Another great breakfast. Another hot and sunny day.
We went south to the Po, the same way we did coming into Rovigo. At Guarda Veneta we went west back to Polesella. Here we saw a large tour boat. We crossed the bridge and continued west on the Destra Po.(Destra = Right)
Today was mostly quiet paved paths along the dike. The poplars along the river were being cut down along one stretch. We saw quite a bit of logging along the river.

Po - near Ferrara - poplar trees being harvested

Po - near Ferrara stacking the poplars

We stopped in Pontelagoscuro for lunch. Had great panninis. We left the Po and headed south into Ferrara. We got lost at one point, then got directions. Our hotel (actually a B&B) was 2km out of town. After checking in, we rode into the city. We did not see any restaurants on the way in that we could walk to. Jerry checked out the few restaurants in the center – they were expensive.
The center of Ferrara is quite historic. The Castello Estense has massive walls with a moat around the outside.  The Palazzo dei Diamante is built of large diamond shaped white marble stones.

Ferrara - Castello Estense

Ferrara - Palazzo Diamante


The Cathedral has a very striking facade and a huge interior.

Ferrara - Cathedral

Ferrara - one in front, one in back


On the way back to the hotel we noticed a restaurant near our hotel down a road. It was the “Roadrunner Grill” – a meat & frites place. So we went there for dinner. The Grill had a north American style to it and was quite busy. There was no pasta or pizza! It was quite good. Lamb kebabs for me, 1/4 chicken for Judy.

Saturday Sept 24, 2011: In Ferrara – 20km

Another new worst breakfast – bun in plastic was not fresh, cake was stale.
We did some planning for the rest of the trip to Venice. We looked at the possibility of biking to the Adriatic, then north along the coast to Venice. The Po splits into several tributaries to create a large delta. There are not many bridges so the route was convoluted. Plus to get to Venice along the coast, you have to Island hop by ferries. We put off a decision  until later in the day.
We rode into Ferrara and rode along the top of the city walls. We rode through the old Jewish ghetto then rode outside the city walls for a way. The walls are tall and wide.
We had lunch at a bar in Piazza Ariostea. There was a large fair in the Piazza which was a large park. Meats, cheese, bread as well as arts & crafts. There were vendors there from all over Europe. Busy place on a Saturday.

Ferrara - bike path along the city wall

Ferrara - bread local to Ferrara


Back into the center, we found that old cars were being displayed in a number of streets. There were MGs, Porsches and a Ferrari or two.

Ferrara - Car show in city - MGs

Ferrara - had to get picture of a Ferrari


We headed back to the hotel after an interesting day. We bought some cold beer and snacks on the way. After a snooze the four of us gathered on the B&B patio and imbibed. We discussed next steps and decided to head to Argenta then on to Commacchio and see how we felt then. I phoned a hotel in Argenta and gave the clerk a few laughs with my attempt at booking a room in Italian. I thought I was getting pretty good by this point! Anyways, we got 2 rooms.
Dinner was again at the Roadhouse Grill. It was good again as we both had grilled chicken salad.

Sunday Sept 25, 2011: Ferrara to Argenta – 54km

Breakfast was a little fresher but still not good.
We got away a little earlier than normal. (9:15) Another hot sunny day. We are getting a little tired of having to wash out t-shirts & undies every day!
We rode right through Ferrara heading south. The city was not very busy on a Sunday morning. Today we are on roads as we go south and a bit east to Argenta. The roads were pretty quiet except for a few trucks.

There were a lot of serious bikers out for a Sunday ride. We made good time with the wind at our back, arriving in Argenta about 1pm. After lunch we found our hotel and checked in. Seeing that it was still early, we rode around town then decided to look for a lake south of town which we saw on the map. Judy decided to go back to the hotel. Jerry, Judie & I went on. After following a path past a No Trespassing sign, we climbed a dike and found the lake. No one there. So we went back.
There was a free computer at tourist info, so we did some hotel booking. We got a hotel for the next night in Comacchio and one in Mestre (near Venice) for our last 2 nights. (Thursday & Friday)
Dinner was down the street from the hotel. We ate inside as it was a little cool out.
Judy & I shared a pizza. Jerry & I had a very good Italian brandy.

Monday Sept 26, 2011: Argenta to Comacchio – 59km

A good breakfast. More kiwi fruit from NZ. Another hot sunny day!
Today we are heading southeast, then east, then north on minor roads to Comacchio. The land is really flat in the Po delta area with large farms and no farm houses. The wind is against us as we bike north along the lagoon into Comacchio.

Argenta to Comacchio - flat land by road

Argenta to Comacchio: one of the many rivers

We stopped at a bar for lunch. Comacchio is called Little Venice as there are canals running through it. Our hotel is on a canal. Their outdoor “restaurant patio” is a boat. Very nice. As it was early afternoon, we walked around taking pictures. Friends had told us to come to Comacchio and look for the “Tre Ponti” (Three Bridges). They were just a couple of blocks from our hotel.

Comacchio: canal in front of our hotel

Comacchio: Tre Ponti (Three Bridges)


We then rode out 6km to the Adriatic. We went to Lido Degli Estensi. It was not busy. Even though it was hot there were not many people on the beach. The beach was lined with clubs and bars; but they were all closed. The beach was very wide. There were mats laid on the sand for 100m, but it was still 200m to the water. The sand was really soft, so we did not go down to the sea.

Adriatic: wide really sandy beach

Porto Garibaldi - fishing for sardines


We rode north and came to a canal. There was a small ferry going back & forth, so we took it to Porto Garibaldi. €2 for the four of us with bikes. We rode out onto a pier and watched a large commercial fishing operation. There was a large net on a long boom being dipped into the water from a tall building. They were fishing for sardines, but did not seem to be having much luck. W found a gelato store and could not resist – really good.
We rode back into Commachio. About 500m from the hotel I had a flat tire. So, I found a shady spot to rplace it. It was a thorn that had worked through the tire. We had walked through an area in Ferrara near our hotel where we picked up a lot of thorns in our running shoes.

Comacchio: Fixing a flat

Comacchio: Tre Ponti at night


We tried to find a way to get to Venice by bike along the coast. On a general travel website we found a reference to a ferry from Chioggia to Venice. But, we could not find a schedule for it on the Italian Ferry website. There are no trains along the coast. We deferred a decision until tomorrow.
For dinner we found the restaurant boat connected to our hotel was too expensive. We found a reasonable one on the next canal over. We went for a walk after dinner in the dark. Comacchio is a very pleasant city.

 

Tuesday Sept 27, 2011: Comacchio to Mesola – 53Km

Very good breakfast. We went to tourist info to see if they could tell us about ferry to Venice. They did not know. So we decided to bike to Mesola today, then to Rovigo where we could get a train to Mestre.
Another hot sunny day. We rode out to the Adriatic to Porto Garibaldi (again). We saw some fishermen selling their catch at the dock Not a large catch. We rode along the street next to the coast. The beach stretches over 40km in this area. It was not busy. We saw quite a few places for sale. Today we are heading north and the wind is against us. We bought sandwiches & a donut for lunch and took them with us as we left the beaches.

Porto Garibaldi: not a large catch

Porto Garibaldi: beach stretches for miles.


We followed quiet roads north until about 3km from Mesola, when we got a busier highway.
In Mesola tourist info was closed for lunch: 12:30 – 3pm! We used the Po Bikeline book hotel listings to find a hotel. First one was a B&B which had the shower in the middle of the bathroom. We kept looking and found Hotel Felice. Only €50 but did not include breakfast. After check in we rode back to tourist info. We got train & hotel info for the next day. A man from another office in the city building came in with a T-shirt that celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Destra Po bike path. So we all got one.
We went and had a beer at a nearby bar. Men were played cards with different pictures on them. Not sure what that was.
Over beer we decided to bike to Rovigo the next day then  take the train the following day to Mestre. Back to tourist info. We booked a hotel in Rovigo for the next night.  I decided that it would be good to get another Destra Po T-shirt for our granddaughter. I found the man who gave them to us. He did not speak English, but we were able to get another one from him.
We then rode 6km out of town to see a 16th century hydraulic lock building.

Mesola: Torre Abate - hydraulic lock system 16th century

Mesola: town admin buidlings including tourist info


We learned that the only restaurant that was open was in the B&B we had turned down. We went to the local Supermercado but they didn’t have anything we wanted. The B&B was too far away to walk, so we mounted lights on the bikes as it would be dark when we came back. That is the first time in our 7 European bike trips that we have had to use lights! The restaurant (Locando Duo) was in the house. We were the only ones there and sat at a long table  in a large room. The owner brought home made red wine – a cabernet which was quite good. We then went through an excellent 4 course meal: salad, tagliettelli with light tomato/meat sauce, pork chop & sausage for Judy & I, Jerry & Judie had a whole grilled flounder each. We finished a second bottle of wine and cake for dessert. This was the best meal of the trip and the most expensive at €50 per couple.
We had no problem riding back in the dark.

Wednesday Sept 28, 2011: Mesola to Rovigo – 69km

We went to the bar where we had a beer yesterday to get breakfast – croissant & coffee. It was fresh. Another hot & sunny day.
The wind was from the NE today. So, it was behind us as we traveled west along the Destra Po. At Ro we crossed over the Po to Polesella. We had lunch at the same bar when we stopped here a few days back. We then had to bike east against the wind on the Sinestra Po. At Guarda Veneta we turned north and re-traced the route into Rovigo.
We found our very nice hotel (Corona Ferrea) in the center of the city.

To Rovigo: road by grapes

Rovigo

Thursday Sept 29, 2011: Rovigo to Mestre/Venice – 27km

Good breakfast buffet. We left in decent time and got to train station at 9:30. The train to Mestre was 9:55. To get to our platform a policeman guided us down to a place where we could cross the tracks. The digital sign that showed our train’s departure time had a little glitch as it showed departure was at 9:65! When the train arrived we did not see any car with a bicycle symbol on it. The policeman pointed at the last car which was right in front of us. The bike rack was ceiling hangers. With some help from a young Italian man we got the bikes hooked up – panniers and all.

Rovigo: Italian time must be different

Rovigo: Jerry with bikes hung from ceiling


I talked to the young man. He had just graduated in Chemistry. He was looking for something environmental but had not found anything yet. He told us that we were lucky we were here this year, as last year September in northern Italy was cool & wet!
Getting the bikes off the train was a job as there were 3 steps down. It was not one of the modern rollon ones. Our hotel was only 250m from train station.
We wanted to make sure we knew how to get to the airport on our bikes. Jerry used his first 15min free wifi to map our way to the airport. It was 14km from the hotel. The last 7km  was on a busy road, but we got there with no problem.
We rode back into Mestre. As it was about 3pm, we decided to go head into Venice.
We took the train which took about 15 minutes. It was a short walk to the vaporetto station through hordes of people. The options for using the vaporettos were confusing. We took the long route to get to St Mark’s Square. This took us past the cruise ship docks. We got off the vaporetto and walked with the crowds to St Mark’s. It was impressive even though it was crowded. We walked around soaking in the history then headed north over a few canals. There were a lot of gondolas around. The going rate was €100 for 30 minutes.

Venice: Dave & Judy in front of St Mark's

Venice: Gondolas

Venice: Jerry & Judie; Judy & Dave

We found a restaurant with somewhat reasonable prices in a square.
They had a €3 cover per person which was pretty standard in Venice. We shared a pizza and veges. It was good.
We walked back to St Marks in the dark. Took the vaporetto to the train station and train back to hotel.

 

Friday Sept 30, 2011: In Venice

We had a good breakfast buffet. We headed back to Venice. This time we took the vaporetto up the Grand Canal through the heart of Venice. It was another hot sunny day and it was crowded. At St Mark’s we had to check our backpacks before going in. We paid extra to go behind the altar to see the Gold Panel. It was worth it – all kinds of enamel paintings with jewels and carving. We then went up the tower in St Mark’s square. There was an elevator to the observation level 60m up. The views from the tower of Venice were beautiful.

Venice: lunch in small restaurant

We walked away from St Mark’s to find a place for lunch. We found a small place, where Judy & I shared a foccacia which was really good. A beer for me, coke for Judy – €15. Pretty good for Venice.
We walked back to St Mark’s after lunch. We wanted to see the Palazzo Ducale. Jerry & Judie had been to Venice before and had seen it. They had a flight very early the next morning so we decided to say goodbye here.

 

The palazzo was amazing. The history of the doges and their form of government was interesting.
We took vaporetto to the Rialto Bridge and walked around. Very crowded. Lots of little shops. We got back on vaporetto to train station & back to hotel.
Dinner was good I had pasta with duck. Judy had spaghetti bolognese.

 

Saturday Oct 1: To Venice Airport and Home – 12km

Our flight was not until 5:20pm, so we slept in until 8:15. Another good breakfast.
I took the pedals off and on again to make sure they were not stuck. Then we biked to the airport. Seeing that we had done the ride before, we had no problem. We just had to deal with the busy road. Got to airport about 11:30.

Mestre Venice: Last day outside hotel

Venice Airport: End of the trip

There was an Air Transat flight to Montreal before ours at 4:30. We had lunch at a cafe and watched the lines form. Toronto passengers had to wait until all the Montreal passengers had checked in. We saw a couple with bikes on carts with no tape wrapping. I talked to them. They said AT had no tape. They us that you had to go the other end of terminal to an AT counter to pay for bikes. That advice saved some time – €48 for the 2 bikes.
The line for Toronto started forming and ended by snaking halfway down the terminal! The line did not start moving until about 3pm. When we got to the check-in counter, they gave us a bag for each bike, but they were too small. They were for strollers. After some begging we got a second bag for each bike. That worked well. We also found some tape. A guy watching us tape up the bags asked if we did Christmas present wrapping for a living! We had to take the bikes to an oversized baggage scanner. As we waited 3 different elderly ladies in wheelchairs jumped the queue. Eventually it was our turn. The bikes were too big for the oversized scanner! After some discussion, they just accepted them without a scan.
During the wait here I talked to one of the guys pushing a wheelchair. He said the airport was always chaotic as it was only designed for about half the volume it now has.
The flight home was uneventful. One thing we noted was that Air Transat no longer accepts cash for any purchases on board – credit card only!

Conclusion:

We traveled 1200 km on our bicycles. I think this was one of our best trips. The parts through the mountains and over the alps were beautiful: the Inn and Adige Rivers. The bike path along the Adige was paved all the way and separate from the road. The Po River valley was a flat contrast, but had interesting towns and cities.
And of course there is the Italian food. We did not have one bad meal out on the trip. I defy you to find a bad restaurant in Italy.
In August 2012 we went back to Europe again. This time it was Munich to Amsterdam. The blog of the trip on the home page of this website. Look for it.

8 Responses to 2011 Italy

  1. CBD says:

    Love it! The pictures really seem to capture the route so well, I love the along the trail shots.

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  3. Noel Reed says:

    Excellent journal. Felt like we were riding with you.

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  5. Helen Richards says:

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