Dolomites to Venice Cycling
Everyone has either seen photographs or visited Venice, but what better way to arrive there than on a bike, gently descending from the Dolomites, nestling beneath the Italian border with Austria. The trip starts in the Italian town of Dobbiaco, then the next seven days are mainly dedicated cycle paths to reach Maghera, a town within easy access to Venice.
The full group of sixteen included individuals of varying levels of fitness and confidence, but the beautiful mountain scenery and easy descent along a disused railway line soon had everyone settled into the rhythm of the trip. After taking possession of our hire bikes, we set off led by the experienced cycling and mountain guide Pepe, with the multilingual Gavin following up at the rear of the group. Of course there were some of the usual ‘undulations’, but nothing too tough.
The first few days suggested a heavy Austrian influence in the architecture with wooden beams on show and overhanging roofs to keep the snow away from the sides of the buildings. German was the predominant language heard. Later on the buildings had a more exuberant Italian style and more ice cream shops showed themselves!
The route chosen showed off the countryside to perfection. Beneath the craggy mountain ridges, long sweeping grassy hills descended to small settlements and villages in the valleys and I found myself humming tunes from the Sound of Music. Not only was the cycling largely traffic-free, but the scenery was fantastic with many points of interest along the way - here I have picked out a few of my personal highlights.
To me the hill town of Asolo stands out as the perfect example of a small market town occupied since Roman times. On arrival at the entrance of the town I was admiring a roadside house when the owner emerged and gave me a short history of the building in perfect English. It goes back to the 1500’s and about 150 years ago the façade had been rendered flat. Recent renovations had revealed the front wall to be covered in relief statuary. The faces of the statues had been hacked off – defaced as we would now say. Unfortunately, my historian had no information about the circumstances in which the damage took place and he was not the sort of chap to fabricate an interesting story! We had lunch outside in the square doing our best to dodge the falling conkers.
In a small town on the outskirts of Belluno we were able to visit a bicycle museum put together as a labour of love by a keen cyclist. The earliest bike dates back to 1791 and the collection includes themes such as military, specialist and children’s machines from all over Europe.
Of course Venice was a highlight of the trip for everyone. After checking in to our hotel in Maghera we went as a group on the bus across the road bridge to Venice and then took the river bus all the way to the famous Piazza San Marco. On the way the light started fading which made for atmospheric views of waterside buildings and an array of river traffic including gondolas. The following morning there was time to return to Venice for a further wander through the areas occupied by only the locals. What a difference from the throngs of tourist on the most popular routes!