Discover the Veneto and it's many hidden treasures and witness the impact this region has had on the many facet of the Italian way of life. Our routes follows along the Venetian trading canals, visits the grapperias and prosecco wineries, passes through the hometown of one of Europe’s prominent sculptors, and examines Palladio’s influence on the world of architecture. The bicycling terrain, with the exception of one day along the gentle rolling foothills is mostly flat and easy. Any route can be altered to include more mileage or a more challenging hilly route for the enthusiast.
This is an ideal tour for cyclist of all ages or ability level as well as for families who wish to share the numerous cultural sights and enjoy the exquisite cuisine & wines at a pace & vantage point that only a bicycle allows
Day 1: Royalty along the Trading Canals
If you are in Venice; from the renowned San Marco’s Square you can board a boat for the mouth of the Brenta Canal. Otherwise we meet you in the trains station for a short transfer. We ride along this famous canal, which was tamed in the 17th century and it wasn’t long before the rich and elite were building their Villas along the waterway.
We soon cross the canal lock and cruise along the quiet Villa-laden canal and note countless palaces, mansions and famous estates including the famous Palladian Villa La Malcontenta. Here we get a taste of what it was like before modern day cars arrived on the scene. It wasn’t long ago the entire canal zone was filled with gondolas and ferry boats being pulled by horses along the shore. In the evenings the party would move from one Villa to another while the many fire flies would illuminate their way.
Our last stop is the renowned 114 room Villa Pisani, the largest of the Villas constructed in a baroque style and considered to be on a par with great palaces like Versailles. Today it is still considered a National treasure. It is also here where Mussolini chose to first meet Hitler and sign their alliance before WWII. We spend time to tour the Villa and its grounds and may even opt to take a chance of getting through the Hedge Maze reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland.
In what I feel is the most charming of the canal towns, picturesque Dolo is where we stay. Before dinner feel free to wander this market town, then after a delightful dinner your opinion is sought regarding our on-going survey of the best Gelateria in the Veneto.
Lodging: 3-star Albergo along Brenta Canal.
Dinner: family-run trattoria specializing in exquisite seafood.
Day 2: Enchanting Asolo
In the morning we transfer to the foothills of the Alps and enchanting Asolo. Although the town was an important Roman municipality in the 1st century its prominence wasn’t secured until 1489 when Venice invested the Queen of Cypress, Caterina Cornaro, where her splendid reign here lasted until 1509. Writers, Italian and foreign poets and artists brought by the historical events or attracted by the beauty of this place, visited and loved this city that soon became known as la Città dai cento orizzonti" (the Town of a hundred horizons).
The city has maintained a suggestive medieval look and the streets are typical: flanked by the gothic arcades of the old buildings and houses, with their facades decorated with frescos, their gracious mullioned windows and beautiful balconies all situated below the queen’s castle and surrounded within a colorful rural landscape that combine to create what I feel is the prettiest setting in the Veneto
Our ride takes us through a rural countryside and to a gentle climb along the crest of the hills covered in rows of prosecco grape vineyards, fruit orchards and tiny hamlets. After twenty kilometers on a along the flowing canals of a beautiful bike path we stop to view what is considered one of Palladio’s finest works--the Villa Barbaro. Bback in enchanting Asolo we invite you for a glass of the sparkling regional prosecco on the Piazza.
Lodging: Beautiful 3-star townhouse in the medieval heart of Asolo.
Dinner: at a fun Trattoria in town, featuring local specialties.
Day 3: Prosecco, Palladio & Canova
Ride through the enchanting hills of lush forest surrounding Asolo, past the farmsteads, and the tiny villages of the region. At a quiet hill town nestled at the base of Monte Grappa we arrive at the hometown of one Italy’s most prominent sculptors, Antonio Canova (1757-1822). Here an enormous marble temple is seen for miles around and may be the largest monument dedicated to an artist.
We take time to visit Canova’s gypsoteca whereby an examination of the casts, sketches and terracotta models demonstrate the development of many of Canova's works from the drawing board to the masterpieces which made him famous throughout the world. Of special interest is the Statue of George Washington which Canova first sketched, then molded in clay, baked in China clay, cast in plaster and finally carved in marble before shipping it to the United States. Unfortunately the statue was destroyed in a fire making the plaster cast version in Possagno a unique tribute to the first President of the United States. Why you may ask, is the plaster cast of Washington not in the United States? The United States on their part are doing all they can to get their hands on the statue, but Canova was most farseeing. Worried that his successors would dissipate the heritage in plaster and sketches he left the entire collection to the people of Possagno, who, he specifies in his will, can sell the plaster casts only after a unanimous vote of the town's population. So aficionados in the USA are fighting a vain battle. - this precious collection is set to be an integral part of this seemingly unimportant town for a long time yet.
From the marble stairs of his neoclassic temple we enjoy ride that glides past the vast views of postcard landscapes and into the Dal Bello winery where we learn how they produce the tiny bubbles of their quality “Prosecco” wines.
Lodging: same as day 2
Dinner: Free night out in town
Day 4: Ceramics & the Old World "Water of Life"
Gentle rolling country roads along the vineyards-lined Cismo River bring us to the fascinating town of Bassano del Grappa. As the name suggests, Grappa (eau de vie) is one of the specialties here. The centuries-old art of colorfully handcrafted ceramics is the other. We treat you to a tour of the ceramic museum, stroll through the picturesque alleyways and have lunch before continuing with our ride to a family-owned Grappa distillery established in the 15th century for a tour and tasting.
We later cycle through the vast farmland and to sleepy villages where two appearances of the Virgin Mary signaled the end of the plague and prompted the construction of a hilltop cathedral. This 17th century basilica now houses two great paintings and is the spot for views of nearby Vicenza. This impressive city turned out to be Palladio’s personal “showcase” as all the main buildings were designed or reconstructed by him. Filled with colorful markets, cafes and gregarious people this city is a favorite that should not be missed. We end the day with a private guided tour of Vicenza that highlights Palladio’s architectural wonders including his renowned theater (Europe’s oldest indoor theater!).
Lodging: Friendly 3*** hotel in the car free, quiet medieval heart of Vicenza.
Dinner: Great family-run Trattoria in the medieval walking district of Vicenza.
Day 5: Palladian Masterpiece, Vicenza
Our ride takes us into the Berici hills along quiet roads of rural landscape . We first make our way past the many villas of Vicenzan nobility; and visit Palladio’s especially interesting Villa La Rotonda. It was designed to be a pleasure pavilion and was later copied several times including in the U.S.A. for the Jefferson home in Monticello.
This scenic paths highlight along the Berici hills is known as the land of the Tocai Rosso wine and passes through severa quiet picturesque medieval villages & forgotten remnants of the regions noble past. Then the 24 medieval towers of completely walled Montagnana come into view, a memorable sight that ends a beautiful day of riding.
Lodging: Restored medieval 4-star within the walls of Montagnana—(Large, beautiful rooms.)
Dinner: outdoor dining in Montagnana
Day 6-7: Italy’s Largest Benedictine Monastary & Fango
After breakfast we pedal through the tiny hamlets situated along tree-lined canals facing the “green cones”--the Euganei Hills and ascend a path of chestnut and hornbeam trees, vineyards, orchards vegetable gardens and olive groves. Beautiful villas with large gardens as well as medieval castles dot this region that was once treasured by the Roman Empire. The attraction in ancient times as it is today is the curative properties of the nearby hot springs where “fango” mud baths are still enjoyed and can be arranged for anyone who wishes to bathe in the warm, oozing mud.
We enjoy a wonderful picnic lunch at the Abbazia di Praglia. This 12th century Benedictine Abbey is the largest in Italy and well know for homeopathic medicine and herbal cosmetics. We transfer back to Montagnana and as the setting sun puts a gentle light on the cobblestone & the red brick of the giant Duomo, we sit under an arcade in the piazza and enjoy a farewell drink before one last feast.
Hotel: Same as previous night. Dinner: exquisite award winning specialty restaurant of the hotel we stay--excellent food.
If you are not staying in Venice please inquire about information to and from the tour start or to your onward travel locations. Train departure times and tracks are subject to change, so verify before boarding and remember to stamp your ticket.