We set off from Venice on our adventure up into the mountains.
Our first ride was along the valley and into the foothills to loosen up after our travels, and for everyone to have the opportunity to iron out any kinks in their bikes or sort out saddle heights and other measurements on the hired Pinarello’s.
This light ride was followed up by a spectacular welcome aperitivo and dinner as a spectacular thunderstorm rolled in overhead, setting the scene for a week of heat combined with refreshing, evening summer rain.
Sella Ronda was on the menu for the second day and as usual, it delivered a superb day on the bike. We started with the 11km’s up to Passo Gardena, followed by Passo Sella, Passo Pordoi and its 33 hairpins on our descent and then as a light summer drizzle began, so did our final ascent up to Passo Campolongo. As we descended Campolongo, flying back into Corvara, Gardena was looming across the horizon. Such an amazing scene.
Day 2 was also a big day for our non riding partners who enjoyed a 17km and 500m evl hike up to the magnificent Santa Croce, sitting high up amongst the Dolomite peaks at 2045m. As the terrain continuously changed and views opened up at each stage of the ascent, our non riders embraced every part of the challenge.
Our 3rd day in the Dolomites is one of our favourites, taking on the loop of Passo Giau and Falzarego. This represents about 83km and 2450m of elevation. We rode up Passo Campolongo and Colle Santa Lucia before we took on Passo Giau and its 10km of 10%. This is a climb that never disappoints. There are 29 hairpins on the way up and as you get past the first couple of hard kilometres, you round a corner and little glimpses of magic start to appear. The higher up you go, the more the peaks reveal themselves until you round corner 25 and the full jaw dropping rugged peaks are close enough to touch. It is unreal.
After all regrouping for lunch and coffee we were soon on our way down and looking for our next climb and challenge of Passo Falzarego.
This was all while our non riders enjoyed a day on top of the magnificent Kronplatz mountain of the Dolomites. Taking the gondola up to its imposing 2275m summit, they enjoyed a hike, lunch at a magnificent restaurant with 360 degree views and a visit to the spectacular Messner Mountain Museum, dedicated to the supreme discipline of mountaineering. An all round amazing day of nature, culture, history and local cuisine.
Day four saw the riding group rip down the valley, with the main event of the day being the ascent up to Passo delle Erbe. After turning off the main valley road and crossing the river, the road went up in dramatic fashion. This wasn’t just a little pinch. This required total concentration and effort until we rolled through a tiny village as the church bells were ringing and the gradient eased at the 4km mark. This was a tough climb with the gradients varying greatly as we made our way up. After taking in a coffee and the rugged alpine view at the Rifugio, we were ready to roll once again down the hill. This was an incredible descent down the winding roads and open green fields, and then back up the valley.
Day 5 was the day we said goodbye to the Dolomites and hello to the Prosecco Road region of the Veneto. The landscape and architecture kept changing as we travelled south until we reached our new home for the next few days, tucked away in the Prosecco hills.
We unloaded the bikes, and set off into the hills and vineyards. Our ‘rest day’ ride was broken in two with a sensational pasta con cervo or local deer, and an espresso. After time to relax by the pool and indulge in an aperitivo, we departed for dinner to a rustic family run trattoria that specialises in spiedini al carne cooked on fire. This is a slowly cooked skewer of goodness that includes pork, chicken and beef. This was a taste sensation. Accompanied by an incredible array of home made antipasti tastes, this dinner was one of our highlights.
Our 6th day on the bike was a big one, with Monte Grappa on the horizon and an expected temperature of 38 degrees. We set off early to beat the heat and took the most direct route to the base of the climb, which included an early bonus of a little strade bianche Veneto style. After reaching the base and refilling the bottles, we were underway. This is one of our favourite climbs in Italy, for a couple of reasons. The first is it’s a serious challenge. The second is the diverse landscape that you traverse.
We first encountered some hairpins, and then forest, some more hairpins, and then we took the smaller side road which provided much appreciated shade, as we hugged the side of the hill. We then kept going up and around a corner, taking us on to a part of the hill protected from the wind, but very much in the sun. It took every amount of concentration and effort to keep the pedals turning as we slowly ticked off the hairpin turns in the searing heat. We joined another road where the gradient levelled out but you could still see the road rising up on the edge of the mountain. Thankfully the breeze had kicked back in and it wasn’t as steep, as we could see we still had some work to do.
We reached a point where shepherds were shearing their sheep and where we descended into a valley, encountering a large herd of cattle and a symphony of bells. It was magic. We rolled along the flat plain and past six very disinterested donkeys, before starting to climb again through three tunnels, cut out of the edge of the mountain. The last few km’s disappeared quickly as we were engrossed in the stunning view that continually unfolds around you.
We all regrouped at the rifugio and refuelled with another sensational pasta al ragu before heading back down the mountain, absorbing the different perspectives and in particular, what we had just achieved.
On returning to the villa, it was straight to the pool before a belated aperitivo di benvenuto or welcome drink with our host who shared a few of his sensational prosecco’s and wines, some great stories of the region and much of his knowledge. Dinner was a beautiful and authentic Venetian affair in at the villa. A great way to cap off an amazing day.
Our final day on the bike in the Veneto was all about riding the Strada del Prosecco. With a cooler start to the day and plenty of km’s and metres in the legs, the undulating loop that took us from Conegliano to Valdobbiadene, and through some of the beautiful Prosecco hills, was surprisingly quick as we took on every hill and literally flew down the other side. After another beautiful pasta for lunch and a leisurely 2km back to the villa, we celebrated a week’s worth of incredible riding with a beer or two.
The day was not yet over though as we were all off to a prosecco tasting where we had the privilege of sampling 6 different Prosecco’s, all in a beautiful glass encased tasting room to ensure you caught the magical views from every angle. As we all relaxed into final day celebrations and began to sample prosecco number two, the weather in the hills started to change and before sample number 5 arrived, a sensational storm rolled through with plenty of thunder, lightning and some hail. This was quite a show. After bottles and cases were purchased, we tried our best to dodge the rain, piling in to the vans and heading to our beautiful farewell dinner.
What a day and what a superb way to end the tour.
If you’re interested in joining us on our Dolomites and Prosecco Road Tour in 2020, visit our tour page.