About the challenge
Cycle across Italy from Venice on the Adriatic Coast to Genoa, Italy’s oldest seaport on the Mediterranean! Our exciting challenge takes us west from Venice, crossing the flat plain of the Po Valley. We pass terracotta-roofed towns with striking bell-towers and Renaissance churches, and small traditional villages hidden among the fertile fields growing corn, fruit and olives. Heading into the beautiful Apennines, we tackle strenuous climbs and exhilarating descents as we cross these verdant mountains. Our highest point is the demanding Colle del Cento Croci, a climb used in the Tour of Italy. A wonderful long descent takes us towards the coast and the ancient, picturesque city of Genoa, where we celebrate our huge achievement. With time to explore the cultural gems of Venice and Genoa, this trip combines diverse, challenging cycling with a wonderful Italian experience.
Day 1: Jersey - Venice
On arrival in Venice, you are free to explore the beautiful waterways and famous buildings of this city. Wandering the streets and discovering tiny bridges and hidden squares is a joy, while the main sights – St Mark’s Square with its beautiful Basilica, the Doge’s Palace and Bridge of Sighs, the Rialto Bridge and the photogenic Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute – are all easy to get to. Waterbuses provide a scenic way to get around by water. We meet up at our hotel in the early evening to assemble our bikes for the ride, have dinner and a trip briefing. Night hotel. (Lunch not included)
Day 2: Venice – Occhiobello
Cycle approx 125 km (78 miles)
Turning our backs on the Adriatic coast, we start our exciting challenge! The first part of our ride takes us towards Padua alongside an old canal which was an important transport route in the 16th century; there are many impressive villas from that era standing alongside it. At Stra, our route takes us south though fertile fields, crossing many small canals and rivers which drain into the Venetian Lagoon, still only a few miles to the east. Our terrain today is predominantly flat, allowing us to ease ourselves in relatively gently: it is, however, a long day in the saddle! We avoid the larger towns, but pass through several small towns and villages, all with a distinctive Italian flavour. Not long after our halfway-mark we cross the wide River Adige and head further south, skirting Rovigo. This low-lying area is known as the Polesine and was settled between 600 – 500BC, long before the Romans invaded the area. These early settlers built the canals, draining what was uninhabitable marshland. Crossing some of these ancient canals, we come to the mighty River Po, the country’s longest river which gives its name to the Po Valley – the vast, fertile plain of northern Italy. We cycle alongside its northern bank to the ancient, picturesque town of Occhiobello. Night hotel.
Day 3: Ochiobello – Near San Polo d’Enza
Cycle approx 137km (85 miles)
A lovely flat ride alongside the River Po gives us the perfect warm-up this morning. We cross the river after a few miles and head south, still on flat roads. The area we ride through this morning formed the border between ancient kingdoms, so castles and fortified towns are a common sight. Our route takes us roughly southwest through a string of small towns with fascinating histories and picturesque churches and piazzas. This area is proud of its gastronomy; local produce includes cheese, ham, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and mushrooms, to name a few! During the afternoon our terrain changes gradually from flat farmland to woodland and hillier terrain; there are no dramatic climbs, but we climb gently and by the end of the day have left the flat plains behind and are poised to take on the hills! Night hotel.
Day 4: Near San Polo d’Enza – Varese Ligure
Cycle approx 125km (78 miles)
Today we get to stretch our climbing legs! We start our ride on flattish roads through little towns to the south of Parma, which warms us up nicely. Then heading southwest towards the mountains, we follow the tumbling River Barganza upriver and uphill, through a lovely wooded valley dotted with traditional villages and ancient castles. By the time we reach Berceto, a lovely town with red-roofed houses and a striking castle, we are firmly in the Apennines. A long descent awaits us when we leave Berceto, through spectacular wooded mountain scenery, but the last part of our day is dominated by the climb of the Colle del Cento Croci (1055m), our first ‘real’ mountain climb. A long, gradual ascent that winds its way from the River Taro up into the peaks, the gradient becomes steeper in the final few kilometres so it’s important to pace yourself! Crossing into Liguria, we then freewheel all the way to the small town of Varese Ligure. Night hotel.
Day 5: Varese Ligure – Genoa
Cycle approx 88km (54 miles)
Our last day of cycling starts with a challenge: the Passo della Bocca (956m). Not as high as yesterday’s big achievement, it’s still a long climb and is steeper. The scenery again is breathtaking, which takes our mind off the less-than-gentle start to our day! At the top of the pass, we have time to enjoy the views before descending the zig-zagging road to the valley below. Riding west along the valley bottom, we have another short, sharp climb before the coast is before us. A lovely riverside descent takes us from the mountains to Genoa itself, where we ride to our finish point in the lovely historic section of the town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We have crossed Italy, and spend the evening celebrating this huge achievement! Night hotel. (Dinner not included)
Day 6: Depart Genoa - Jersey
Depending on your flight departure time, you are free to explore this ancient port – the birthplace of Christopher Columbus. Important for trade and naval warfare even before medieval times, Genoa was an important and rich city for centuries and there are plenty of impressive buildings, interesting piazzas and narrow alleyways to explore. Later we transfer to Genoa airport, only a short distance from the city, for your homeward flight. (Lunch not included)
Discover Adventure reserves the right to change the route or itinerary for safety reasons should local conditions dictate.
The cost includes all accommodation as well as flights, transport and all meals except three as specified in the itinerary. It also includes full trip support of experienced Discover Adventure leaders, drivers and mechanics.
The tour cost does not include personal travel insurance, three meals as specified, or a bicycle. It also does not include airline fuel supplement if charged by the airline, airport departure tax (if applicable), drinks and personal expenses, or entrance fees to any optional sites or attractions you may wish to visit. Remember to allow extra for drinks, snacks, souvenirs & other personal expenses. This recommendation is a guideline only. Please note that costs may fluctuate and we have no control over any changes. We strongly recommend you carry a credit card in case of personal emergency.
Flight and Transfer Information
Group flights leave from Jersey and go via London Heathrow or Gatwick and are booked through Discover Adventure Ltd under ATOL licence 5636. By travelling with Discover Adventure you are protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). You will usually receive confirmed flight details several months before departure. In Venice, we will be able to collect your luggage and take it to the hotel, allowing you to travel from the airport directly into Venice to maximise your exploring time. Our itineraries are always based on current flight schedules and are therefore subject to change by the airline. If you prefer to book your own flights please ask us for a land-only cost.
Accommodation is in 2-3* hotels, picked for their proximity to our route. The hotels are comfortable with en suite facilities; standards may vary between the hotels.
All food is included except three meals where specified. Lunches are generous buffet-style with plenty of energy food to keep you going. Dinners are generally eaten in the hotels.
Being vegetarian or having other dietary requirements is not usually a problem provided you let us know well in advance. Please do not expect as much variety as you would have access to at home. If you know there are plenty of foods you cannot eat you may wish to bring extra snacks from home so you can top up your energy supply. Any meals not included are listed in the itinerary and are generally when we are in towns or cities and you are free to explore and try other culinary experiences! There is always something to suit every budget.
Discover Adventure Crew
Your trip will be led by experienced Discover Adventure leaders. Our leaders are selected for their experience in harsh wilderness environments, knowledge of travel in remote areas, friendliness and approachability, sense of humour and ability to safely and effectively deal with any situation that arises. They are also trained in expedition first-aid. You are in very safe hands with a Discover Adventure leader.
All our leaders are from the UK or other English-speaking countries. Most work for us on an ad-hoc basis and have ‘real’ jobs in-between trips! We never send our leaders to the same destination for months on end – we want them to be as enthusiastic about your trip as you are.The number of crew and support vehicles looking after you will depend on the final size of your group, but the team will be looking after every aspect of your trip whether that’s transporting your luggage, ensuring your route is well-marked, making you lunch and sorting out any mechanical problems. At Discover Adventure we pride ourselves on our high leader: cyclist ratio and believe it leads to greater trip enjoyment as well as excellent trip safety.
Support vehicles are with the group all the time. All luggage, spares, food and water is carried by them. Space is limited and hard-sided luggage is not suitable, so it is essential that your kit is packed in a soft sailing bag, rucksack or expedition kitbag. Ask us about our specially-designed low-cost kitbags if you don’t have one already. You should also bring a small daypack or large waist-pack for items needed during the day as you will not have access to your main luggage until the evening. Bikes can be transported on flights in bike bags or – a much cheaper option – cardboard bike boxes: ask your local bike shop if they have any.
Your safety, and that of the rest of the group, is our highest priority. Our trips are designed and planned with safety in mind. Your crew will be equipped with radios and mobile phones, first-aid kits, and other safety apparatus where necessary. They always have access to our 24-hour emergency back-up in the UK. Our leaders are responsible for safety on the trip, and will make any changes to the itinerary they deem necessary should local conditions dictate.Pre-trip administration – such as compulsory medical questionnaires and travel insurance – is all done with your safety in mind.
Preparing for the challenge
The cycling is predominantly flat for the first half of the trip, and very hilly on the final two days. We ride mainly on small quiet roads. Distances are fairly long, averaging 120km per day; you should make sure you are fit enough to manage these distances confidently – especially in hilly terrain.There is one long, tough climb on each of the last two days. Using professional cycling terminology, they are rated 3rd Category, which designates them official mountain climbs (though the second-least severe of the 5 categories used). They will give you an unbeatable sense of achievement: you must have trained for this, be used to cycling and very familiar with the range of your gears.Traffic is light most of the time but you must be vigilant for traffic and other cyclists, especially in poor visibility or on narrow mountain bends. Watch out for traffic overtaking on mountain descents as you are riding up – they may be on your side of the road. You cycle approximately 470km (just under 300 miles) on this trip overall, though this can vary depending on exact hotel location and any necessary deviations. Because of the terrain, distance is no indicator of how hard any given day may be! The last two days are especially challenging, with long mountain climbs. Distances are fairly long considering the terrain.We are always happy to talk through the trip in more detail with you if you are worried about your fitness at any stage.
We strongly recommend that you ride a road bike/racing bike for this trip due to the long distances involved on well-surfaced roads. For a trip of this difficulty, it’s really important that you ride the bike you have been training on so you are used to it. Although training in the gym is useful, there is no substitute for getting out into all weathers and really getting to know your bike – especially the range of your gears as you climb.
There will be a range of spares in the vehicle along with a full tool kit; however, it is impossible for us to carry spares for every eventuality. It is vital that if you bring your own bike it is in excellent working order before departure. It is imperative that you supply your own helmet and wear it at all times while cycling, with straps done up.
Clothing & Equipment
We could be exposed to bad weather at any time even in the height of summer so be prepared for quickly changing conditions and temperatures, particularly in the mountains. We provide you with a detailed packing kit-list on registration, as well as details on useful discounts you are entitled to as a Discover Adventure customer. We are always available if you need advice.
It can be very hot cycling in this region – or wet and cold! Rain and mist is always a possibility and it may be windy in the valleys; the weather can change rapidly especially in more mountainous areas. The weather and temperature at the foot of a climb can be dramatically different to the top, where it may be foggy, in cloud or much colder.
Our challenges attract people of all levels of experience and fitness, all ages and backgrounds. We expect all participants to train hard in advance to achieve this challenge, but we respect everyone’s limits. We design our challenges so that everyone can go at their own pace: this is not a race.For logistical and safety reasons we sometimes need to re-group, so the front-runners will find themselves waiting for the slower ones. Please relax, and remember that this is a team effort that enables people to achieve their personal goals and earn sponsorship.
Passport & Visa
A valid ten-year passport is essential; we recommend it is valid for at least three months after arrival in Italy. There is currently no visa requirement for UK citizens. Other nationalities should check entry requirements.
We insist that you have had a Tetanus injection in the last ten years, and highly recommend protection against Polio. You should always check with your GP or travel clinic for up-to-date travel health advice as it does change.
Worldwide Sustainable Tourism
Long before ‘Responsible Tourism’ became a recognised phrase, we designed and ran our trips to ensure they made minimum impact on the environment and a positive impact on the local communities we pass through. AITO, our Trade Association, has recognised the work we do in this area and has awarded us 5 stars as a Responsible Tour Operator.
Discover Adventure Projects
We are supporting a tree-planting project in Peru and a children’s home in Tanzania on a long-term basis. If you would like to ‘give something back’ please consider donating £5 to our projects when you sign up. Please see our website for more details.
We encourage all our customers to offset emissions connected with their trip. You can offset at any time in the lead-up to departure by visiting Climate Care via our website and making a donation to a worthwhile project supported by them.Alternatively, if you wish to take more practical action in the UK you can volunteer for a day with The Conversation Volunteers and work on an environmental project local to you. Work may include construction footpaths, dry stone walling, creating wildlife habitats or planting trees in your community. Volunteer today at www.tcv.org or call 01302 388883.