Back on the Bikes: Venice, Italy to Porec, Croatia

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.

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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Stage 1 included biking from Venice (mainland) to Jesolo.  We had two options for this stage (and most stages):

  1. Bike the whole way about 75 kilometers
  2. 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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We stayed in this lovely, family-run hotel and restaurant in Concordia Sagittaria, Hotel Iulia.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Mozzafiato Venice!

We left the cold and damp climate of Scotland and headed to Venice, Italy. Where else in the world can you arrive at the airport and be whisked away to a major city on a water taxi. At the  airport, there is a pier where hotel taxis, private boats and public water taxis wait to greet new arrivals.

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LaGare on Beautiful Murano

From the moment you arrive at the Venice airport pier, the beauty of the Venetian lagoon, the gorgeous boats and Venice off in the distance consumes your attention.

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Approximately 20 million tourists visit Venice every year but surprisingly this number does not put Venice in the top 10 or even top 20 most visited cities in the world.  However, when you visit, it doesn’t feel that way.  The number of tourists can be overwhelming, and you begin to understand why locals have expressed concern about the number of vistors causing detriment to this stunning city.

Venice is an outside museum, if you will, and a place where it is treat to stroll and check out the gorgeous architecture, canals and gondolas.  And it is an easy city in which to get lost given the maze of narrow streets and alley ways, but this is part of the charm of Venice.  Forget the gondola ride, strolling around the city is the best way to check out the sights.  Taking photos alone is great fun for both amateur and professional photographers alike, and with every corner, it seems there is another fabulous photo opportunity.  And yet, somehow, the photos do not seem to reveal the true beauty of the city.  🙂

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Venice is the most romantic place in the world but it’s even better when there is no one around.”- Woody Allen.   Given the amount of tourists even in May and June, it can be a challenge finding a spots without a sea of tourists.  But for our 19th wedding anniversary, we found a “Venice” with no else around.  Murano is a lovely island located in the Venetian lagoon with Venetian architecture but without the tourists. We stayed at a wonderful hotel, LaGare, on Murano which is a short vaporetti ride to Venice.

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Little to no tourists (especially in the evening) and a short, fabulous vaporetti ride to Venice, Murano is a special place.

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Glass Museum on Murano

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Trying out the filters on our new camera.

After strolling around Venice and Murano for a few days, we are biking from Venice to Porec, Croatia thru Slovenia.  Watch this space for updates on our biking experience.