We are back on the bikes this week. We have not put in any serious miles since our ride in Southern India back in February so we are excited to be back at it and especially in Europe – our favorite place to cycle in the world. Europe has a fabulous network of bike paths, and European drivers embrace the term “sharing the road”. There is such a biking culture here both in terms of recreation and daily transport. In virtually every European village and city, you will find bike paths as well as young, middle-aged and older folks alike cycling to work, riding from the supermercati with groceries and flowers in bike baskets or heading out an evening cycle with the family. On weekends and holidays, you do not have to go very far before encountering a local pelaton making laps out on a country road.
Our summer in Europe kicks off with a six day cycle from Venice, Italy through Slovenia to the coastal town of Porec, Croatia. Cycling mileage from Venice to Porec is only about 290 miles. It was a relatively modest distance but some of the route was dirt, and we were on heavy hybrid bikes which elongated the time to cover the 70-85+kms each day. Our self-guided cycling trip was booked with a new cycling company we found, Rad & Reisen, and our experience with them was excellent. There were a few key things that differentiate this biking company from other biking companies we have used which include but are not limited to REI, Backroads, Randonee:
- Rad & Reisen uses a local logistics company, FunActive, that places stickers along the route. Some days, we did not need our turn by turn directions because of the sticker placement which was really nice.
- Although the trip was self-guided, there were six others (a couple from Germany, another German with a Swiss, and two others from France) that started at the same time with us and stayed at most of the same hotels. It is nice to meet new folks that share a common interest and catch up before and after the rides.
- One of our fellow bikers broke the brake on the bike. While the other biking companies we have used have a contact number for situations like this, Rad & Reisen has a hard wired, local network for not just a person to assist but experienced bike shops. Within thirty minutes, a person from a local shop was at the site and fixed the brake.
There were so many things to love about this biking trip. Three out of the six days we cycled were mostly on flat surfaces until reaching Trieste, Italy (a great town) and then each day thereafter the amount of hills increased. Only 3% of the biking was on busy roads and this was mainly when we entered larger towns. 27% of the biking was on cycle paths and 70% on very small country roads giving the feel that 97% was on a cycle path. It is pure bliss cycling along gorgeous country roads with no traffic, stunning scenery and fabulous weather.
Stage 1 included biking from Venice (mainland) to Jesolo. We had two options for this stage (and most stages):
- Bike the whole way about 75 kilometers
- Or, bike and take a ferry to Jesolo
We are in training to attend and bike some of the Tour de France so we opted for biking the whole way. Once we got out of Venice, we were on some beautiful country roads and cycled through some lovely smaller villages- including Zuccarello, San Liberale, Ca’ Tron, Caposile. Our final destination for the day was the beach town of Jesolo on the Adriatic located in the province of Venice and on the coast the north of Venice. Jesolo is a beach town with little Venetian architecture but a beautiful beach. For us, it was a little too touristy and a bit kitschy but the sound of the ocean and the view of the beach was lovely. We had a great hotel, Hotel Bali, right on the beach and centrally located in Jesolo.
Stage 2 was more impressive. It included visits to the stunning villages of Caorle, Portogruaro and Concordia Sagittaria. The villages have an interesting history and gorgeous architecture. On Stage 2, we logged about 85 kilometers.
Caorle is another coastal town in the province of Venice situated between two estuaries- Livenza and Lemene rivers. It was founded in the 1st century BC by the Romans and was one of the strategic cities of the Republic of Venice.
In Caorle, like other village centers, stands the typical bell town. This one dates back to 1048. It is a typical Romanesque style but has a cylindrical structure which is unique.
From Caorle, we cycled to Concordia Sagittaria, another beautiful little town in the province of Venice that was founded in 42 BC by the Romans.
We stayed in this lovely, family-run hotel and restaurant in Concordia Sagittaria, Hotel Iulia.
Portogruaro was located roughly 1 mile from Concordia Sagittaria on a bike path beside a river. Portogruaro was an important river-port for the Republic of Venice and is a beautiful city with Venetian elements.
Our butts were sore at the end of Stages 1 and 2. We have been hiking not biking. We are not used to sitting in the saddle for about 6 hours and were both fighting a bit of a head cold that we have had since leaving the tropical Central America for Scotland a week ago. But it felt great to be back on the bike again.
Stay tuned for Stages 3-6 where we bike to some gorgeous towns of Grado, Italy, Piran Slovenia and then onto Croatia along the stunning Istrian coast.