Dreaming of Lake Garda and the Veneto with Alain Rimondi
As we continue to spotlight our Pedaling Lake Garda and the Veneto bike tour this month, tour leader Alain Rimondi takes us through each place sharing his insights and impressions about this corner of Italy. While Venice has historically grabbed the world’s attention, there is so much more to this region than La Serenissima. With rich history and culture, varied landscapes and scenery and stately cities and charming medieval towns, the Veneto beckons us to discover it by bike.
Dreaming of Veneto by Alain Rimondi
When I was invited to write about this tour I instantly thought of Andrea Palladio, the Renaissance Italian architect who practically changed the way the world looks today. I have often stood in front of the clean, white, linear façade of a Palladian villa and appreciated the revolutionary architectural rules and concepts he created, and felt a balm to the soul. As much as I would like to simply stand and admire his creations, my head usually starts to spin as I imagine how I would construct my own villa, which paintings I would use to decorate the interior, and who I would host for a garden barbecue. I delight in this game of imagination and get transported beyond just what we see on the surface.
Let me return to reality though and try to describe how and why a journey across the Veneto region can help your imagination go wild. If I describe it as a proper Italian should, using food as a metaphor, I would compare it to a fresh smoothie – the Veneto is like a mélange of different elements that blend into a sweet drink. These are some of the delightful places we will bike through just to continue sparking your curiosity: Lake Garda, Verona, Mantua, Vicenza, Padua and Venice, and the villages along the way.
Nowadays a water sports paradise, because of its regular strong winds, Lake Garda happens to be the largest natural lake in Italy, and it has been the stage for some of the most important events in Italian history. It marked the ancient boundary between Medieval Lombardy and the mighty Venetian Empire and it sits on the crossroads between the Italian peninsula and the Germanic regions across the Alps. Peschiera del Garda, on its southern shore, invites us to cycle through its wonderfully preserved medieval fortress, and there we can admire the intense blue waters and the Alps in the background from its picturesque lake front.
From Peschiera del Garda the Mincio River begins, and we travel down it to find the Renaissance city of Mantua, surrounded by water on three sides. This stately and lovely city has been the “magic sparkle” that inspired artists like Virgil, Dante, Dickens, Hans Christian Andersen and more.
Next, we move north towards Verona. Even Shakespeare found inspiration for one of his masterworks in this area – Verona, we all know, is the setting for his most famous, and tragic, love story.
The countryside surrounding gorgeous Verona is the land of Valpolicella where Amarone, one of Italy’s richest, strongest red wines is carefully crafted. Vineyards and charming, picturesque towns dot the land, waiting to be explored. We are in wine country now – and will raise a glass of Amarone or the delicate white Soave – another famous blend, as university students have been doing here since the year 1222! Here we feel the vibes of Padova (or Padua) founded by a Trojan prince over an earlier Roman settlement, this is the city where Saint Anthony (patron saint of lost things and Padova) lived and died.
At this point you may think there is little else that could round out the trip. But the Veneto offers so much, including its lovely cycle paths and rural country lanes that make a bicycle the best way to discover this corner of Northern Italy. And of course, majestic Venice awaits, the perfect place to end this tour.
Now that we have wandered through the Veneto together, I am ready to tell you what my perfect villa looks like in my imagination. It would not be Palladian style, because stones and marble require lots of work. Simpler, like a wooden mill along the river, with the sound of water always present, would better suit me. You’ll find me near the water in the little town of Borghetto, the starting point of this journey and where I hope you can join me.
For details on the itinerary that Alain took us through see our tour page: Pedaling Lake Garda and the Veneto with a confirmed departure on October 4-11 t with space still available and August and September dates available for 4 people or more. 2020 dates to be announced soon – stay tuned!
Always a customer favorite, tour leader Alain Rimondi grew up in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy, a land that fed him arguably the best cuisine in Italy! After a year-long solo bicycle tour around Europe, he discovered his passion for bike travel and met Cycle Europe (based in Forlì, also in Emilia Romagna) starting a career as a tour leader. He currently studies Tourism Management and lives in Trento, in the very heart of the majestic Dolomites (a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site). Alain feels fortunate to be ever inspired by the beauty that surrounds him and loves to share his passion with other adventurous travelers, pedaling and discovering together that which awaits behind the corner. More about Alain in this recent interview.