Italy 2018: Venice to Pisa

 

 
Introduction: Venice to Pisa

Introduction: Venice to Pisa

We learned late in 2017 that a friend of ours was organizing a commercial bike tour in Italy on behalf of the Cyclists for Cultural Exchange. Well, you had us at “bike tour in Italy,” but we also had enjoyed CCE’s Strawberry Fields Forever ride a number of times, and our good friends Nathan and Grace were already signed up for the trip. And once we signed up, almost all of our bike touring buddies joined in.

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Day -1: Lido and Venezia

Day -1: Lido and Venezia

We arrived in Venice the day before the tour, went out to the hotel on Lido, and then spent the evening wandering in Venice proper. The flooding in Piazza San Marco was dramatic and a bit jarring.

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Day 0: Venezia and Lido

Day 0: Venezia and Lido

The tour group wasn’t meeting until the afternoon, so we had time to pop into Venice again in the morning, then joined up with the tour group to get fitted in the afternoon. As a group we did a loop around the island of Lido, ending with apertivi at sunset.

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Day 1: Lido to Rovigo

Day 1: Lido to Rovigo

Our first real day of riding would see us on ferries from Lido to Chioggia, where we’d start riding in earnest. The ride was mostly along levee paths, and ended at a charming agriturismo near Rovigo.

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Day 2: Rovigo to Ferrara

Day 2: Rovigo to Ferrara

On a lovely morning we rolled out of the agriturismo and back to the levees of the Adige River. It was nice starting with such an easy, pleasant ride, and I had a number of good conversations rolling along on the car-free paths. From there we turned south to the Po and Ferrara.

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Day 3: Ferrara to Ravenna

Day 3: Ferrara to Ravenna

Today would be our longest day day; still entirely flat, but close to 100km total. Nancy felt like she could do it, but we wanted to roll at a more regular pace than we had in the first couple of days. Dave suggested that our group of friends break off the front so we could go at our own pace; he and I are both comfortable leading groups and can handle mechanicals on our own. So we hatched a plan to break off at one of the rest stops.

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Day 4: Ravenna to Faenza

Day 4: Ravenna to Faenza

After visiting the amazing mosaics of Ravenna, we headed out for another flat ride to grab some piadine in Emilia Romagna and then some beer, gelato and ceramics in Faenza.

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Day 5: Faenza to Ronta

Day 5: Faenza to Ronta

Today we’d be riding into the hills we’d seen off in the distance yesterday, and eventually climb over the Apennines into Tuscany. This would be a real climb, near 1000m total, but it parallels a train line, so those who didn’t feel like going over the mountain could take the train the whole way, or take advantage of one of the train stations along the way to bail out. For me, this was the awesome day.

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Day 6: Ronta to Firenze

Day 6: Ronta to Firenze

Ronta’s elevation is almost 400 meters, so people were enjoying the prospect of a big net elevation loss. Today wasn’t all downhill though; we had another ridge to get over, including a real climb of about 300 meters. But everyone liked the overall look of the elevation profile, and we all set out to do the whole ride. It was beautiful, with nice riding and views of the Tuscan hills.

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Day 7: Rest day in Firenze

Day 7: Rest day in Firenze

Nancy’s ankle was still tender, so we wanted to take it easy on our rest day. There was a group walking tour planned, but we decided to take it at our own pace. We found a great little pasticceria down the street, and walked around Firenze.

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Day 8: Firenze to Vinci

Day 8: Firenze to Vinci

We set out from Firenze in the rain, and got pretty wet and dirty before things cleared up. We got to climb our last ridge of the trip, had a beautiful, fun descent, and visited the Leonardo museum in Vinci.

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Day 9: Vinci to Lucca

Day 9: Vinci to Lucca

We woke to clear skies and beautiful landscapes, enjoyed breakfast at the agriturismo, and headed off into the Tuscan hills. We were done with major climbs, but we would have some more rolling hills as we headed towards the coast. It was beautiful riding, and even better when a group of us broke off the front and took the last half at our own pace.

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Day 10: Lucca to Pisa

Day 10: Lucca to Pisa

It was a short riding day, and started with a tour of Lucca, then a ride around the town walls again before started towards the end of our tour in Pisa. It was mostly fine riding on river paths, and some of us got some bonus riding for a swim in the Ligurian Sea.

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Italy 2018: Conclusion

Italy 2018: Conclusion

Bike touring in Italy is pretty awesome, regardless. It’s beautiful, the drivers are used to sharing road space, and the food is great. But I’m naturally critical, so I’m always considering what I might have done differently.

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