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Cycle through the Dolomites to Venice

Listed under Cycling in Veneto-Dolomites, Italy.

  • Photo of Cycle through the Dolomites to Venice
  • Photo of Cycle through the Dolomites to Venice
  • Photo of Cycle through the Dolomites to Venice
  • Photo of Cycle through the Dolomites to Venice
  • Photo of Cycle through the Dolomites to Venice
Photo of Cycle through the Dolomites to Venice
Photo by Bruno Toutain
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Riding from the Dolomites to Venice is an extraordinary trip in many ways: First of all, whether the sites are natural, such as the mountains around Bolzano and Lake Garda, or man-made, such as Verona, Vicenza, Padua, or Venice, they are truly exceptional — for lack of stronger words! Secondly, these places can’t truly be explored by car or by bus, biking is by far the best way to ride through these treasures. And finally, the fact that the bike network and infrastructure are such that cycling between these cities in this high-density region is surprisingly easy and is mostly done on traffic-free bikeways.

Thanks to local authorities, Italy has become one of the top “most bike-friendly” destinations and is just waiting to be explored. Because of recent fiscal schemes, the noisy scooters have been replaced by noiseless bicycles and electric bikes, which makes being and biking in the cities an absolute delight, to say the least! In most city centers, traffic is highly restricted and cities have been returned to the pedestrians and cyclists, bike lanes have flourished, as have bicycle parking lots.

Cycling is the ultimate way to travel and visit these wonderful places, which have always popular with cyclists, but even more so now, respect for cyclists from drivers is not just a slogan, it is a behavior that helps contribute to a wonderful experience of biking in a gorgeous region, and in my case…..a week of excellent cycling. …. Everywhere, it’s a real pleasure!

Linking the Dolomites to Venice can be done via many roads. The shortest route is the more challenging way, as it takes you over some 2,000-meter high mountain passes, such as Passo Valles. Easier routes follow the numerous rivers and canals that cross this extraordinary region. Carrying my own gear, I chose an easy option, and my itinerary went from Bolzano to Venice.

Bolzano is an excellent starting point, and being on the Verona to Munich train line, it is very easy to get to. As soon as you get off the train, you’ll be struck by the sight of the number of bikes….No doubt you will keep telling yourself that this is a “bike-friendly town inhabited by friendly people”! This first impression will certainly not prove wrong… A few steps further, you may actually wonder if you didn’t doze off too long and miss your train station…because yes, your ear is correct, the locals speak German and the street signs are in German!

A quick look at the car plates will soothe your doubts – you are indeed in Italy, in Bolzano, the capital of Italy’s German-speaking South Tyrol, just an hour away from the Austrian border! Imagine mixing Italian style with Austro-German efficiency and you’ll get Bolzano! I absolutely loved this pretty town and would recommend staying there two days, minimum. With so many bikes around though, I was left wondering why some Cisalpino trains are so poorly equipped to take bikes “as such.” Although I haven’t checked this, I assume that with the growing flux of “vacationers on bike”, this issue will be solved someday soon.

Leaving Bolzano behind, the itinerary takes you south - just follow the river! At times, though, it’s worth wandering away from the riverside bikeway and riding through vineyards to explore some of the nearby sites. The countryside is laced with trails and paths and I found the hilltop Firmian castle to be worth the straying away… and I enjoyed the climb! Besides being an amazing site in itself, it is also home to the Mountain Museum created by the high-altitude climber Reinhold Messer. More than a museum, it is a shrine devoted to mountains and nature, a soothing place to reflect and meditate and take in the beauty of the landscape.

Further on, you will be riding through picture-perfect mountainside vineyards. High-altitude climbers they may not be, but almost - these grape-pickers have to be sure-footed! Another reason to appreciate what goes on behind the exquisite wine produced in this area – the deft act of picking grapes puts a whole new spin on things. If you choose, like I did, to ride south the easy way, you are bound to follow the Adige River. This riverside bike path is not merely there to take you from Bolzano to Trento traffic-free, it also teaches you about the area: Signs strategically placed in pleasant rest-stops add to the pure biking experience by telling you more about the 2,000-year history of this region. Other signs will inform you about what grows in the valley, or let you know that you’ve passed the language border…. time to dig into your panniers and retrieve your Italian phrasebook!

Trento is an ideal place to stop and offers a good selection of hotels and restaurants within a short walk from its impressive Duomo. There you can find local, simple places serving exquisite food; a very pleasant place to stay. From Trento, you have various options for continuing. The one I chose took me to the lovely, pretty Riva del Garda, a cyclist’s paradise set on Lake Garda….

Move over Portofino, Saint-Tropez, or Buzios - I found the ultimate “water resort” that heads the top of my list! From there, I took a boat to Peschiara at the southernmost tip of Lake Garda. This boat ride is fantastic - to such a point that this 3 ½ hour voyage should be properly labeled as a miniature cruise! Going from port to port—each one prettier than the last—letting people on or off, gives you a glimpse of what this region has to offer. Like me, you’ll probably want to come back and ride through all these pretty villages.

The rest of my trip was on par with this memorable day. Shakespeare’s Verona and its impressive Roman theatre is a great lunch stop, but because Juliette was not there, I kept on going. Further on, I absolutely let myself be seduced by Vicenza, which grabbed me by surprise…..this happened around a corner, when suddenly, the impressive basilica just appeared – whoosh - like magic! It was truly stunning. This basilica is one of the masterworks of Palladio, the 16th century’s most famous architect.

The rest of my meeting with Vicenza didn’t disappoint me and felt like an open-air museum of Palladio’s buildings. Architecturally-speaking, Vicenza is a beautiful and remarkable UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bike-wise, it is a cyclist’s playground – the entire center is wide open to bikes, whilst being restricted to motorized vehicles, which just enhances the pleasure of gazing at the architectural wonders.

The next stop on my itinerary was Padova (Padua), the last big city before Venice. Looking at a map of the region, one would find the approach to Padua a daunting, if not impossible, task - unless one has a compass for a brain and the handling skills of a New York City (or San Francisco City) bike messenger! I recommend doing this section with detailed route notes and maps, relying on local knowledge, which allows you to ride along canals and rivers on gravel tow-paths, avoiding traffic. These paths magically take you all the way to the center of Padova, where if one desires, it is possible to take a train and reach Mestre or Venice in 20 minutes. If you choose to ride on, be aware that traffic gets heavier as you get closer to Venice.

Rather than staying in Venice, where bikes are not allowed, choose Mestre, which offers many hotel options and is a mere 10 minutes from Venice by train or by bus. Venice is a treasure and must be seen, sauntered around and languished in, and perused……and the convenient train service from Mestre makes it possible.

Written by  Bruno Toutain.

Other expert and press reviews

“10 top cycle rides in Europe (Dolomites)”

By Paul Howard for 'The Guardian' First published July 28, 2008 The Dolomites are to the Italians and the Giro d'Italia what the major passes on the western side of the Alps are to the French and the Tour de France. There are many legendary climbs else… Read more...

Written by press. Read full article from The Guardian, July 28, 2008

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

Hi Bruno Toutain,

Visiting place is my hobby. I want to visit the famous and historical places when I get a chance. If it is not possible then I try to visit the web pages the famous places.Yes, your idea is correct. You say that recycling through the Dolomites to Venice is an extraordinary trip.

Your last trip was Padova (Padua). It was the last big city before Venice.Here you gather more info about vilano shadow bikes www.hybridbikers.com/vilano-shadow-road-bike-review

Hi Bruno Toutain,

Visiting place is my hobby. I want to visit the famous and historical places when I get a chance. If it is not possible then I try to visit the web pages the famous places.Yes, your idea is correct. You say that recycling through the Dolomites to Venice is an extraordinary trip.

Your last trip was Padova (Padua). It was the last big city before Venice.Here you gather more info about vilano shadow bikes www.hybridbikers.com/vilano-shadow-road-bike-review

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