Trip Highlights: Italy
We chose Northern Italy’s spectacular scenery as the backdrop for the bike portion of this tour. September was the perfect time of year to be there—the weather was perfect with sunny days and blue skies, most days. A country rich with art, history, churches, ruins, and abundant outdoor activities, it would be very easy to spend a couple of years in Italy and still feel like there is so much more to see. In the 13 days we were there, we were able to experience some of the most picturesque areas that the region has to offer.
Innsbruck, Austria was our meeting place and almost everyone arrived a couple of days early to explore this charming city. The old world countryside inns and homes displayed flower boxes in full bloom, majestic mountains surrounded the city and the fall air was clean and crisp. What a great location to begin this trip.
Our seven days of cycling started in the pretty town of Brunico, located in the lush green Pusteria Valley surrounded by the stunning Dolomite mountain range. For the first three days we cycled along the river and through a forest on a paved bike trail system that was once a single-track railroad line. The trails led us through enchanting villages and through the occasional 100-year-old tunnel, still perfectly intact, carved into the mountainside. We stopped along the way to see a very memorable WWII cemetery, several beautiful crystal clear lakes, and numerous baroque churches and cathedrals.
Arriving in Cortina D’Ampezzo on our third day, the skies opened up and it began to rain. Fortunately we were only about 20 minutes away from our hotel. The forecast for the next day was grim—more rain—dampening our hiking plans. However, our hiking guide announced the rare event that the forecast had been wrong! It was our lucky day and it turned out to be a glorious one, beginning with a gondola ride to an area known as Cinque Torri, (Five Towers), where we began our lovely half-day hike in the Dolomites.
Our bike tour continued for another few days, taking us through the Prosecco Valley surrounded by thousands of acres of beautiful vineyards with grapes hanging on the vine. One evening we enjoyed dinner with a local vineyard owner who prepared a delicious meal paired with plenty of his prized Prosecco. Our tour continued through the cobbled streets of Asolo, known as the city of a hundred horizons. Our last day of cycling was very serene and filled with wildlife and lush old trees along the Sile River. The trail system included a boardwalk type trail that took us within 100 feet of a ship graveyard where ships had been deliberately sunk due to a protest against the rise of wheel transport.
After 7 days of cycling and hiking through the most northern section of Italy we arrived in Venice. With a complete change of scenery and continued perfect weather we traded in our bikes for our walking shoes to maneuver the maze of streets with many canals. We arranged a private tour to learn as much as possible about this incredibly decadent city. Some of the group took in almost every museum and historical place of interest possible while the rest us had a blast shopping, shopping, shopping.
Our 3B minibus set out for Florence for our last three days in Italy. Once again we arranged for a tour to get a good understanding of the history of this beautiful renaissance city. Our tour included V.I.P. entry into the most well known museums, allowing us to bypass the long lines. Both Venice and Florence, with so much history and culture and myriad of activities, can also be very relaxing if you choose to just sit in the square and watch it all happen. We can’t wait to get back there!