I recently saw an episode of 60 Minutes talking about the violin makers of Cremona, in northern Italy. Cremona is the home of Antonio Stradivari and other greats, and a terrific museum on the subject. It just so happens there is an interesting ride that goes right through Cremona, and takes you to parts of Italy a bit off the tourist beaten path. While most of Italy is full of hills, another benefit of this route is that it is flat, and along a river.
The ride is along the Po River, starting in Milan, and taking you close to Venice. It is one of the flattest areas I know for cycling in Europe, and many times you ride on dikes next to the river that actually place you higher than anything else around! As mentioned, the ride starts in Milan and takes you through Pavia, Piacenza, Cremona, Parma (home to one of the oldest universities in the world), Mantua, Ostiglia, Ferra, and Ariano. You can go all the way to the Po Delta, but I prefer a detour north to the wonderful small town of Chioggia. From there, ride along the barrier islands to the Lido outside of Venice. Spend some time on the beach, or take a quick boat ride from there and you are in the heart of Venice. When you are ready to go home, take another boat to the airport! One caveat: the Po is the not beautiful river I have seen, but it serves its purpose for the ride.
Of course there are tourists in Milan, and almost nothing but tourists in Venice, but you will be pleasantly surprised how far you are away from the international tour groups along the Po!
Want to learn more about touring along Europe’s rivers, consider buying Michael’s book “Cycling Along Europe’s Rivers” www.amazon.com/dp/0615691897. Michael works in the international business development and space sectors from his home near Washington, D.C.