Gone Bike About...

Brixen (Bressanone) – Toblach – Cortina d’Ampezzo – Belluno – Torbole – Peschiera del Garda – Brecsia – Bergamo – Como (620km)

The area of Italy we cycled
Easter was late this year and it was Darina’s turn to surprise Kurt. So, she took advantage of the situation and whisked him off to one of her dream destinations: The Dolomites. Situated in the north of Italy, these spectacular alpine outcrops have even made it to the UNESCO World Heritage list for their natural beauty and geomorphology. A train ride to Brixen brought us to the heart of this mountainous wonderland and the start of our bike trip.
Where is she bringing me?

Brixen (Bressanone)

Apple blossom season The Dolomite cycling season is generally summer, and would entail climbing one pass after the next with the surround sound system of 5,000 motorbikes an hour! However, Darina was one step ahead and found a relatively new bike route built predominantly on an old train line going in and out of, rather than up and down, the mountains!
Castle ruins
Easter-egg tree in Niederdorf
Dolomites ahead
We picked up the “Dolomite Cycle Trail” in Toblach (Dobbiaco) and followed it for about 250 km south and westwards to Promolino. This well sign-posted route is a fabulous way to experience the scenery pre-season and one we can highly recommend. The early stages actually double as a cross-country ski circuit in winter! As there were still patches of snow around, mid April is probably the earliest you could venture on this trail.
Here goes!

Lake Toblach

Old train station
Die Drei Zinnen
Monte Cristallo
Passo Cimabanche 1530masl Having said that, most of the hotels in Toblach are closed in April after a busy winter skiing season and before the hikers and bikers arrive in force. We did find that most towns have at least one hotel and restaurant that are open year round, so we weren’t stuck.
Lunga Via delle Dolomiti (Long Dolomite Cycle Trail)
One of these towns is famous for being the birthplace of Italo Marchioni. For your next table quiz: He was the lad who invented the ice-cream cone!
Contemplation in Belluno
Easter egg bowling in Belluno
Belluno The architecture of many towns was Venetian in style and reminded us of previous trips in Croatia and Montenegro.
All the old telephone booths in Feltre have been converted into book crossing zone. This international project is based on the belief that a book should not be left sitting on a shelf, but in constant use. Members leave their books here for passersby to pick them up and read them, before passing them on again. Ideally, they log onto the book crossing site and register the books so that the donor can follow their whereabouts.
Book crossing in Feltre
The trail to ourselves
… most of the time!
Cortina d’Ampezzo
River Brenta cycle route From here we followed the busier River Brenta bike route for another 50 km before crossing over to the Etsch (Adige) valley route and down to Lake Garda. This was all very easy, care-free cycling and apart from serious headwind south bound, we enjoyed lovely spring weather and vegetation.
The Etsch river valley
The best thing about all of these fabulous bike routes was that we got glimpses of the hideous bumper to bumper tail backs down as far as Lake Garda. We just rolled past and hoped that they were all booked into holiday apartments so that there would be a bed for us in some hotel or albergo along the way!
All roads lead to Lake Garda
Lake Garda ahead The world and its granny decended on Lake Garda for Easter weekend. Having cycled through Süd Tirol, where German is an official language, we were now in the province of Venezia and looked forward to practising our few words of Italian. Not a chance! We were greeted in German everywhere we went. Must have something to do with the bikes!
Cycling along the shore of Lake Garda
Desenzano del Garda
For a little bit of culture and to help logistics, Darina added a few cities in the province of Lombardy to the itinerary. Brescia with its Roman ruins, castle and decorative piazzas was an unexpected gem for us and a must-see when you’re in the area. Under the 1st century BC Roman Forum, there are 4 rooms from a republican sanctuary containing original mosaic floors and fabulous wall frescoes.
The Roman forum, Brescia
Underground frescoes & mosaic floors
Piazza della Loggia, Brescia
Brescia cathedral – old & new
Brescia castle
No traffic problems here! The provincial cycle route leading through quiet country roads all the way from Lake Garda to Lake d’Iseo was an additional bonus and, incidentally, something the tourist information office in Brescia was totally unaware of!
                      Lake d’Iseo
Bergamo has a certain charm with its upper walled city overlooking the modern town below, but has a lot to learn when it comes to catering for cyclists!
Piazza del Duomo, Bergamo
Bergamo Citadel
Lake di Annone
Asako, Angelo, Noemi, Darina & Kurt While the bike route following the Briantei Lake group, sounded like a good idea on paper, it was not designed for “going places”, so we took to the road for the last 20 km! Como was a lovely end to the trip with its beautiful lake setting and mountainous backdrop. It was also a great chance to meet up with friends from Australia days and catch a train back home.
Como Cathedral
Lake Como
There’s no place like Italy to satisfy a cyclist’s appetite, and as we were jumping on the bikes again, we didn’t have a bad conscience tucking into the odd dolci after dinner!
Seafood spaghetti
Leg of pork
Leg of fish!
Apéro After a day on the bike, it was always nice to bridge the gap between the shower and dinner with a drink in a photogenic part of town. What took a while to get used to was the fact that instead of a couple of peanuts, we would be served a complimentary platter of pizza slices, sandwiches and olives to accompany our tonic water and aperol spritz! Kurt was delighted, but Darina always wondered how she would be able to face dinner afterwards!
This part of the word is a cyclist’s paradise, as it is criss-crossed with numerous European and national cycle routes including: The Dolomite Cycle Trail The Puster bike Cycle Way The Drau Bike Route Via Claudia Agusto Munich to Venice The Etsch Cycle Route The Brenta River RouteSo, if you’re ever short of ideas, this is a great place to start.
Well-signposted bike routes
St Gallen, April 28th The train journey home included a 20-minute ride through the Gotthard Basis Tunnel, the longest railway tunnel in the world at 57km. A week after returning, we were reminded of Darina’s gambling nature for choosing to cycle the Dolomites so early in the year. A record 26cm of snow fell overnight, making our trip seem like a marvellous dream. And so it was!