After two months of cycling through the mountains of Europe it was time to descend to the ocean, and beach hop my way along Italy’s beautiful Adriatic coastline towards Venice. The day before I had cycled over Vrsic Pass, which was my final mountain climb of this trip.
It was now time to say goodbye to Slovenia, one of the best countries that I had visited on this trip, and cycle across the border into Italy.
The town that I had slept the previous night was Kransjka Gora, in winter it is one of Slovenia’s premier ski resorts. In summer though, the ski lifts sit idle
On my way out of town I stopped at a bike shop to pick up a new innertube to replace the one I had blown descending off the mountain pass from Bohinj Lake.It was then time to cycle the 10km or so to the border, and it was a very stress free cycle as there was a cycle path the whole wayIt was certainly a much easier day on the bike with the mountains as a back drop, rather than slogging my way over them, to the beautiful meadows that I was cycling through
As Slovenia and Italy are both Schengen countries the border post was not staffed and nobody needed to check my passport Once I crossed the border I saw a sign for a bike path and joined the Alpe-Adria cycling/hiking trail, which in this section ran along a disused railway.
The Alpe-Adria trail, it turned out when I later researched it, is a transnational cycle trail of about 700km in length as it runs through 3 countries -Austria, Italy and Slovenia. The route starts from the foot of the majestic Grossglockner, at nearly 4000m altitude it is the highest mountain in Austria, to the azure blue sea of the Adriatic coast.
It was weird cycling through the disused stations along the side of the track
For the next 70km or so, as far as the town of Venzone, it would be a completely traffic free cycle as I descended out of the mountains along the converted railway lineThe tunnels were also pretty surreal When I crossed the border into Italy the first 20km or so I was cycling through a plateau area and although the gradient was descending it wasn’t too noticeable.
After 30km, at the town of Pontebba, the cycle track turned 90 degrees south and I entered the steep sided Valcanale Valley.These mountains mark the transition point between the Julian Alps and the Carnic Alps. Squeezed into the narrow valley was the disused railway that I was cycling along, the new railway, a motorway, a main road and a river.
I did feel sorry for the villagers who used to live in a beautiful part of the world but who now probably don’t get much peace and quietThe great thing about cycling along an old railway track was that it was often high up on the slopes of the valley which gave me stunning viewsAt some point I would need to leave the cycle path as it would eventually turn east to it’s end point at the city of Grado, where I needed to cycle west towards Venice. However, on the map it looked like I could follow the river I was now following through the valley, the Fiume Fella, all the way to the coast.
Not all of the railway stations were disused; some had been converted into cafes, and as my mind turned to finding somewhere to sleep for the night I arrived at Chiusaforte StationI stopped to get a coffee and to look at the map to see where I fancied camping.
I got talking to the staff that ran the café, and they loved that I had cycled there from Vietnam. (via Oceania, South America and the Middle East)The guy on the left above, Galdino, was one of the regulars, and the other 3 were Elena, Paolo and Anna who all worked there.
They even got out the Prosecco out to celebrate my bike ride so far
What a welcome to Italy, and who knows one day I may be back cycling this amazing track one day with my wife.
I think that the one thing that I have noticed in Eastern Europe, and again here in Italy, is the number of tour cyclists, both young and old, who are touring on electric bikes. As it will soon be our 10th wedding anniversary perhaps I’ll get my wife one (I think she would prefer jewelry but hey ho!!!
The setting of the cafe was fantastic and I decided to eat there that night rather than cookThe food was sooo tasty, I know that it had a fancy Italian name but I can’t remember what that was. In English, it was baked cheese with polenta and basil tomatoes, a fantastic combination.
Paolo even phoned one of the locals to see if they had a room for me for the night in the local town, and for 20GBP I landed an apartment.
As I had electricity, and I was getting a little hairy, it was time to put the clippers to work. Once again, I had set off that morning without a plan, and the day had worked out brilliantly.
This was the view out of my bedroom window the next morningI sure was going to miss life on the bike.
I started my cycling day back on the old railway line as I continued my descent through the valleyAs I descended the valley started to open upThis gave the river, railway, main road and motorway a bit more room.
As the valley had now opened up this meant that I could now take side trips up the tributaries which joined the main river
The view was spectacular.
All of these tributaries were eventually for me ‘dead ends’, as there was no way over the mountains without a rope and a pair of climbing shoesThere was nearly always a village though where I could stop for a coffee and, now that I was in Italy, a pastry
As there was no way through I always needed to come back to the main valley and the amazingly gorgeous River Fiume Fella
As I continued my cycle down the beautiful main valley on top of a hill in the distance I could see what looked like a monastery, and decided that it looked too good to pass byTo get there I had to cycle through the village of Moggio, another beautiful cobble stoned village
Once I reached the top of the hill it was indeed a monastery with a beautiful cemetery
From the top of the hill I could now fully appreciate the scale of the valley I was cycling through
I descended down from the monastery and I had earlier crossed the river I stayed on the opposite bank to the old railway I was now back on my favourite roads – gravel tracksEventually the tracks ended and I had to cross back over the river on an old railway bridge where I soon arrived at the walled town of Verzone
The town is a fortified medieval village, although much of what I was looking at was rebuilt after the huge 1976 earthquake that flattened many of the buildings in the area.
Another stunning place.
This was where the ‘old’ railway section of my ride ended, as the old rail line was now the ‘new’ railway. The Alpe to Adria cycle route continued to the city of Grado on the Adriatic coast, but to the coast it was now on sealed quite roads. It had been a fantastic find.
Here is a short video to show you what a great trail it is:
As the cycle path now turned east, and I needed to cycle west, I decided to follow the river to the coast.
That was for the following day though as my immediate concern was finding somewhere to sleep that night.
On my map Lake Cavazzo was about 10km away back on the other side of the river. As it was surrounded by a forest I was hoping that I could find somewhere suitable to camp for the night.
First things first, I needed to get back across the river, and once I found a route across the channel was immense. The river at this point was easily nearly a half a kilometer wideOnce across I was glad that I had ditched the main roads as I was now back on the terrain I like so much
The tracks led me to the village of Bordano and I was back looking at a huge mountain.I knew that I would need to get over a saddle to reach the lake but didn’t expect it to be this big !!!
I pulled over at a café to double check my map as I didn’t have enough daylight left to complete the climb if it was this big.Once I checked the map it showed that I would have a steepish climb of only for a few kilometres before I descended down to the lake.
On the ride up there was some fantastic art on the switchbacks along the way.The climb out of Bordano wasn’t too long and as I had cycled downhill for the most of the last 2 days it was not exactly taxing.In front of me know was a short descent into Interneppo, which was a village on the lake.For some reason, every building in the village had some form of ‘art’ on it’s walls.
No idea why the town had decided to decorate every house in this way, but it looked very pretty.
In the village there was a spring, and so I stopped to fill up the water bladderI then cycled to the lake in search of a place to pitch my tent.
Another fantastic end to a great day on the bike.
The next morning it was time to get my head down and finish the ride to the coast. It was about 120km away and as it would put me within spitting distance of Venice then this would be my last century ride of my cycle tour. As it was a ‘special occasion’ I wanted to try to get there on off road tracks as much as possible.
My rough plan when i set off was to stick to the western side of the river that I had been following for best part of 2 days as this was the least populated.
When I set of that morning the mountains behind me looked spectacular in the early morning lightIn front of me for the first time in a long time I could see no mountains, just a couple of small bumps in an otherwise pancake flat landscape. It was going to be an easy day on the bike (I love it when 120km seems like an easy day !!!)A flat landscape was a sight that I had often longed for in the last couple of months as I cycled through Eastern Europe but now it was in front of me it kind of meant that my trip was ending. Once I reached the Adriatic Sea then I would only have 60km to cycle before I reached my final destination of Venice.
Most people, like myself before I researched it, think of Venice as one place but in reality Venice Lagoon consists of more than 100 islands, of which many can be visited by ferry.
As there was so much to see I wanted to save the last 4 days of my trip for exploring Venice Lagoon. With this timetable I really needed to reach the coast that day.
As I cycled towards the sea I stumbled upon an amazing site – Lago Di Cornino
The waters were crystal clear and even in the deepest parts I could see the detail of the rocks on the bottom. The lake was apparently formed 10,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age.
The startling blue and green colours come from the different algae which grow – the lake-bed is covered by green algae that forms dense underwater ‘meadows’, while the rocks are colonized by blue-green algae. An amazing sight.
As I continued my descent to the sea, and I was in Italy, there was only one real crop that I could be cycling through – I was back in wine country
This certainly made my job of finding off road tracks to follow much easier
I wasn’t really following the map anymore and took tracks which continued southwest(ish). Sometimes I came unstuck and ended up in fields with no way outThis was the life though – cycling along through wine country with the sun on my back.
Every 10km or so I would cycle through a small villageWhere I could stop for a coffeebefore continuing my ride along tracks for kilometer after kilometer.
As I got closer to the coast small rivers became major obstacles as I needed to keep crossing them.Never an easy option especially as I wanted to stick to off road tracks.
On the larger channels where there were cycle and hiking trails ferries took cyclists and hikers across and my map showed that I could get to the coastal town of Caorle by following a cycle trail that would hopefully take me to a ferry.
I followed the cycle trail to the ferry pointHowever, when I reached the ferry there was a boat but no sign of lifeAfter waiting 10 minutes with no success I had no other option than to backtrack 5km and to finish my ride to the coast on the main road.
On the way there I hit my target – another century ride notched up.
As I cycled into the town I reached my goal for the day of completing my last century ride of this trip and that evening I cycled into the seaside town of Caorle with a smile on my face.
Where I had been expecting to find a small fishing village I had ended up in the middle of a major resort areaStill, as I hadn’t seen the coast for over 2 months I was happyIt looked like it could be a busy place during the day as lining the beach were thousands of sunbeds all neatly lined up in rowsMy original plan had been to camp on the beach and after cycling +120km I couldn’t be bothered cycling up the coast to find somewhere to campso I took a room at a hotel for the night.
After showering I went for a walk into the old part of the city to find somewhere to eat.I may have completed my final century ride but my culinary food tour was not quite over. In the EU, Italy is the highest devouring nation of the food I ate that night for dinner, and in the late 1800’s this meat, which is very high in Iron, was prescribed by doctors as a cure for anaemia. Any idea what I ate?Horse meat salad – and yep, it was very tasty.
After dinner I had a couple of pints but all of the beach bars were rammed playing loud music. It was not exactly the quaint fishing village that I had envisaged when I had set off that morning. Still, when in Rome as they say….
The next day it was time for a bit of beach action – I hadn’t been to the beach for a few months and I had originally planned on staying a couple of nights in Caorle. However, when I walked to the beach that morning to get a coffee I definitely wasn’t alone
I now only had 5 days left of my year on the bike and the distance from Caorle to Venice was just 60km. The plan that I formed over breakfast that morning would be to spend that day cycling down the coast from beach to beach before having the last 4 nights exploring Venice Lagoon.
After finishing my fantastic coffee, another thing that the Italians do well, I walked back to the hotel to pack and continued my cycle along the coast to try to find somewhere a bit quieter.There was a walking path on the beach (signs said no cycling but what the hell) and once I left the hotel I cycled back to the beach to pick it up.
I didn’t get very far on my cycle though as at the western end of Caorle there was an estuary (I really should take more care of checking the map before setting off)
This was the point that the river I had followed out of the mountains entered the sea. To see it flow out into the Adriatic was a nice ending to my journey down the river.
Getting across this river was much easier than trying to cross the one into the city the night before as there was both a ferry and it was running.
Once across the estuary I cycled down the breakwater wall to try and pick up the beach path again. The only problem was that the beaches on this side of the estuary were private and there was no ‘walking’ path. Plus, for as far as I could there were just rows of sun loungers set out on the beach.
Not exactly the quite tranquility that I was looking for.
I decided to cycle back to the main road and head 10km further down the coast and then pick up the beach again.After 10km when I cycled back to the beach it was exactly the same – rows and rows of beach chairsAs you had to pay for the sun loungers the locals seemed to be making use of all the free space availablePerhaps even worse – at the back of the beach there were now water parks full of screaming kidsStill, as it was hot there was only one thing to doLooking at the map there was another estuary about 5km further up the coast and from there it seemed that ‘civilisation’ ended.
I was now one of those tourists that you see cycling along in a pair of ‘speedo’ swimming shorts and nothing else. (apart from my cycling helmet of course, which actually probably looked weirder!!)
This time, I didn’t need a ferry to cross the estuary as there was a floating pontoon bridge.It was a private toll bridge, but cyclists could cross for free.
Above the estuary there were huge nets hanging on wiresThe nets were controlled by a motorised pulley system and at night time ‘fishermen’ lower the nets into the estuary and then haul them back up 30 minutes later to see what they have caught.
There is a funnel area in the centre which collects all the fish, and a boatmen rows out and empties the funnel into his boat before the net is lowered again. Not sure that this is fishing in the traditional sense but a great sight though.
As I had crossed the estuary it was now time to cycle back to the coast to see if I had indeed found my own ‘private’ beach. This was more like it, no rows of sunbeds and just a few sunbathers.
I continued down the coast on the walking path for another couple of kilometres before I finally found my own ‘private’ beach where I spent the rest of the afternoon
It had taken a while but I had finally found what I had been looking for. This was sooo much better than having to share the beach with 5000 or so other tourists back in Caorle.
As always, there is that inevitable point in the day when its time to think about eating dinner and to find somewhere to sleep.
On this section of the coast freedom camping is not allowed and all day on the beaches and along the roads I had passed signs like the one belowWith the amount of tourists that I had seen along the coast that day I can see why they have banned it. Instead, all along the shore there are huge campsites every 10 kilometers that seem to be set up for families on their weeeks vacation, think Butlins or Pontins, and each one advertised that there was live music and entertainment in the evening!!
Not exactly what I was looking for….
The nearest town to the beach that I was on was Ca’ Di Valle, and so I said addio to my ‘private’ stretch of coast and went in search of dinner When I reached the town it was more in keeping with what I had been expecting to find the night before – a lovely fishing village and it wasn’t hard to find a pizza place overlooking the sea.Even better than the pizza was that the owner knew somebody in the next village that rented rooms and after another amazing feed I went in search of a bed for the night.
As I lay in bed that night in the distance I could hear music wafting its way on the wind – the chicken song, YMCA, Footloose, Working 9 to 5, it seemed like the evening’s entertainment at the nearby campsite was just getting going. Thank heavens I had decided to give camping a miss !!!
The next morning was going to be my last full day on the bike as I would be catching to the ferry port to catch a ferry to Venice. Well, not quite Venice as there was a slight flaw in my plan.
As usual I tend to come up with ideas without doing any research. In my head one of them was to finish my ride by cycling over the causeway which links Venice to the mainland and cycling to Piazza San Marco where I would finish my ride with a beer on the steps of Saint Mark’s Basilica, arguably Venice’s most beautiful sight.
However, after doing a bit more research it turns out that bicycles, along with all other forms of transport, are banned from entering the island of Venice, which kind of put a spanner in the works.
Plus, it turned out that there were no places to camp, and as dorm rooms started from 40 Euros a night accommodation wasn’t exactly cheap.
Instead, plan B, which always took more thought than plan A, would be to catch a ferry to Lido, one of the other islands in Venetian Lagoon, and use it as a base to camp at night while island hopping during the day. (there were over 30 different inhabited islands to visit in the lagoon).
Well, that was the plan, only time would tell whether it actually came off. Either way, island hopping around Venice Lagoon was going to be an awesome way to finish my year on the bike.