Cycling trip around Italy was just electric
Cruises around Veneto by bike and boat, eating traditional Italian dishes along the way
THERE’S nothing quite like cycling through the Italian countryside with the wind in your hair.
I love cycling, but back home there’s always the fear of being knocked down by careless drivers cutting up the cycle lane.
So riding across Italy was the chance to remember what I used to love about cycling, although I was nervous about the journey I was about to embark on.
The plan was to cover, on average, about 45km a day. Now, that may not sound like a holiday to some, but it’s one of the best experiences you will ever have.
My pal Josie and I rocked up to the good ship Ave Maria, our base for the holiday, after a short flight from Manchester to Venice’s Marco Polo Airport. Our twin-cabin on the boat was modest, modern and clean, with clever storage making the most of the space.
As evening approached we had a delicious three-course dinner, which included a heavenly prawn risotto starter. There was also an introduction from the crew and our Girolibero guide, Helmut.
The trip runs from Venice to Mantua (or the reverse if you would prefer to rest your weary limbs beside the canals).
But, for us, there was a whole day in Venice to explore before getting down to business with the bikes.
Breakfast was simple but with a wide variety of choice. You are also offered the opportunity to prepare your own packed lunch.
After a brief walk around Giudecca, an island in the Venetian Lagoon, we boarded a waterbus, let our hair down and enjoyed the cool breeze.
After a lovely day spent by the water, grabbing some gelato and exploring a few sights, we headed back to the boat for yet another delicious meal of spinach ravioli, spinach soufflé and a berry and custard tart.
Then it was back to our rooms, filled with both excitement and – I have to admit – a little bit of fear about the cycling ahead.
Next day, we were as prepared as we were ever going to be, even a little confident after opting for battery-assisted e-bikes.
We had our sports gear on, bags packed with all the essentials (don’t forget the sunscreen!) and we were ready to go.
Helmut told us to use ‘Eco’ mode – it feels as if someone gives you a little push when you set off.
Not as much assistance as we had hoped, but we figured that it meant more exercise – and that can’t be a bad thing.
The day was tough – there’s no denying that – but it was rewarding.
We saw so much and had a great laugh cycling together.
The boat is waiting at every destination, affording familiar comfort at the end of a tiring day.
But when we arrived Helmut gave us the option to cycle a little further to a beach and we couldn’t resist. It was only as I dismounted to walk towards the shore that I noticed that my legs felt like jelly. There were, however, no aches and pains. I felt very proud of myself for cycling more than 50km with only a slightly sore behind
Overnight, however, it became obvious that sitting down was becoming an issue – and we needed more padding to enable us to keep going so we settled on gel seat upgrades.
This second day of cycling was the toughest as we set off early in the morning and only returned to the Ave Maria at around 3pm.
It was also extremely warm with clear skies .
The days became easier and more enjoyable and for me, cycling is the best feeling in the world.
En route to Mantua we passed through Chioggia, Adria, Porto Viro and Zelo. The towns are all rural and picturesque and the route gave us access to beautiful car-free countryside in between.
Along the way we found interesting pit stops such as beaches and fish markets and even managed to fit in a little cheese and wine tasting – after all, it was Italy.
The landscape is so beautiful and there is nothing quite like being surrounded by nature.
By the end we had covered around 200km and I was so impressed with myself and everyone else on the trip.
One man we met was 86 years old and had cycled every day.
It really makes you reflect on your own fitness and what you can achieve.
When it was time to catch our homeward flight we were very sad to leave, but I can safely say that this trip has changed my life.
My whole outlook on exercise is completely different now that I know exactly how hard I can push myself.
I arrived home on an energy high, immediately thinking about which trip I would sign up for next.
●● A view from beside the water in Venice
●● A divine pasta aboard the Ave Maria