My sister Laura gave me a “Cycologist” t-shirt as a gift, so my first order of business this morning was to get my official “1st day of biking” picture in my new shirt, taken next to the barge.
After dinner last night, Elena gave us an overview of today’s ride. The plan was to ride about 20 miles through the countryside around Mantova (shown in blue on the map).
Today worked out well as a “shake down” ride. It gave us all a chance to get used to our bikes and get our bike legs fired up in preparation for the longer miles coming up in the next couple of days. It also allowed us to check out our fellow riders to get an idea of how the group was going to function for the week. Early impressions were favorable!.
There seemed to be quite a network of trails in the Mantova area and we shared them with quite a few cyclists out for Sunday rides today. I’d guess that out of 20 miles, about 19.5 miles of them were on trails, rather than roads.
And then we were officially off! The first thing that happened was that Elena started us out along the roadside bike path rather than the riverside bike path (both of which are easy to access at the area where the barge is moored). The roadside path we were on took us across a bridge over the river -but we actually needed to be on the path that went under the bridge, not over.
We got turned around and the first spot where we could change to the riverside path was down a short hill with loose gravel at the bottom. One our our riders ended up falling there, right in front of Mike. We took a time-out and several riders helped Elena get her bandaged up. Like a trooper, she got back on her bike and finished out the day’s ride.
The pace was slow, but that was expected. We averaged about 8-9 miles an hour. These types of tours can be guided or self-guided (or both)… We could have ridden off on our own, but we wondered where the fun in that would be.
Today mainly took pictures when something caught my eye and just enjoyed being outside on a nice sunny day.
As some of you already know, I’ve taught myself to take pictures while actively riding my bike. I will only put the brakes on and stop for something that needs a bit more time to put into focus. Sometimes the situation isn’t good for a stop or a picture on the fly -so I don’t always get pictures of everything I might like to.
One interesting stop this day was at the Bosco Fontana- a large nature preserve area. We pulled up to a set of gates in what seemed the middle of nowhere.We parked our bikes across the street and walked through the gates and down a long gravel road that was bordered by nothing but forest.
The Gonzaga family originally owned a very large area of land here and used it as a hunting reserve. We eventually arrived at the spot where, we could see the the “little house they built in the late 1500s to use while hunting.
At some point in time, this land came under the jurisdiction of the local government. Elena said it is a rare example of what the ancient forests of this area of Italy looked like before more modern times. The management approach for this preserve seems to be to do nothing to interfere with nature. Nothing is artificially maintained or trimmed. A large percentage of the property is off-limits to visitors to reduce human interference.
Google isn’t helping me find out how (or if) the lodge is being maintained in any way. There was a somewhat cleared area where we could see it -but as you can see from the pictures, it seems like the plan is to let nature have it’s way with it. If that is correct, it makes me sad because it is a beautiful building!
A bit further down the road, we had a “lunch break” in a small town along our route.
Our route took us slowly back to Mantova and our home away from home (the Vita Pugna). The last several miles retraced the first few miles of our route, so not many more pictures got taken.
Back at the barge, Mike and I showered and went to the sundeck to relax. Most of the group went to an arranged guided tour of Mantova, but we felt that we’d seen enough of the highlights on our own the day before. It was also quite hot by the time they were all leaving and we decided to stay put and “play it cool.”
It didn’t seem like that long before it was time for dinner. After dinner, as we would every night for the rest of the trip, we had a briefing for tomorrow’s ride. By the time dinner and the briefing were finished, it was already somewhere between 8:30 -9:00 PM. Most everyone chose to drift off to their cabins to unwind and get organized for the next day’s adventure.
Categories: Italy 2022: Planes, Trains, Bicycles & Barges!