So.....last week I took a few days to explore some of the route of the upcoming Veneto Gravel
event route in Northern Italy.
I'm entered in the event but changing circumstances mean that I am unable to make it to the start line in a few weeks.
Like many I'd been avidly watching the Indian Pacific Wheel Race and was itching to get out and put some miles in and so I emailed the organisers, got a copy of the route and set off with 4 days at my disposal to see what it was all about.....
I vaguely planned my daily mileages so that I could fit in a visit to Venice during the trip as I've never been and it seemed daft to ride past and not have a look.
The drive over from Chamonix took 4 hours as I decided to join the route as it passed through Verona as that's the closest point to me and so involved the least driving.
I got everything sorted on the Sunday evening and was up and out the door by 08:00 on the Monday keen to get going and get a big (for me) day under my belt.
The route on the first day was mostly gravel riverside trails that follow a meandering path towards to sea and so there is very little by way of hills (2800m over the whole 600km route!!!) and so in that first day I clocked up a pleasing 100miles (163.5km) of joyous gravel trails, quiet back lanes and interesting little Italian villages.
Day two saw me with very little to do due to having done 160km of the 210km I needed to do in the first two days and so I had a nice rest and set off at a leisurely pace with a sniff over 30 miles to cover in order to get to Venice on the Tuesday.
By 13:00 I was nearing Venice and so my work for the day was complete - result!
Bikes aren't allowed in Venice proper and so I took a room on the mainland, ditched the bike, got changed and jumped on the train over to Venice to play tourist for the day.
I wandered all over the islands, sat in cafes, took loads of photos and generally played the role of excited tourist (especially when I found a craft beer pub with over 25 beers on tap!!!). I sampled a few of their delicacies before eating big in a local pasta place and heading back to my room for the night.
Twas a lovely day out!
As I wasn't going to have time to complete the whole route I decided to backtrack a little on day 3 before rejoining the route in Vicenza for day 4.
So I improvised an almost traffic-free route for the day and was not disappointed as it was totally in keeping with the rest of the route by being flat, stunningly beautiful and gravelly and hell.
Another lovely day of moseying through the Italian countryside ensued and before I knew it I'd done a respectable 100km and decided to call it a day.
My 4th and final day saw me only 70km away from Verona and so I took my sweet ass time tootling along enjoying the views and soaking up the sun (it reached about 28°c every day.....in March!!!).
This was the only hilly day I had (I missed the main hilly section on my version of the route) with a few climbs of up to about 100m alt gain.
I passed castles and massive villas aplenty and before I knew it I was back in the urban scrawl as I made my way back to the car in Verona.
I packed the bike into the car and drove home in time to see the kids before bed - job's a good 'un!
So.....what did I think of the route???
It was one of the most ridiculously pleasant bikepacking trips I've ever undertaken. No hardships, no killer climbs, 100% rideable, perfect weather, no real wind to complain about, really amazing and really cheap food and wine and at the end of it all my legs weren't even broken.
I absolutely loved it!!!
I'd highly recommend getting your ass there asap as it's such a bloody lovely trip.
The one thing I'll mention as a negative is that as it's all very close to civilisation there are very few wild camping opportunities to be found. There are plenty of abandoned buildings but they're rarely out of sight of a small village or a cluster of inhabited houses and so I ended up in nice and very cheap b&bs each night (as I was in no rush to be a purist about it all).
If anyone fancies it I can send them the route once the event has been run (promised not to until that date) and I also plan of getting out there again in the summer sometime as it's such a nice route.
I've put together a little movie of the trip too for your viewing pleasure:https://vimeo.com/211066720