Cy­cling trip around Italy was just elec­tric

Cruises around Veneto by bike and boat, eat­ing tra­di­tional Ital­ian dishes along the way

Macclesfield Express - - TRAVEL -

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.

Josephine Binns

●● A view from be­side the wa­ter in Venice

●● A di­vine pasta aboard the Ave Maria

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