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Biking Vacation Italy: Po River Valley and Lake Garda ​

Activity Level: Easy  |  Daily Mileage: 15 - 35 mi  |  Daily Biking: 2 - 5 hr
Pre-trip Extension:
Portovenere & Cinque Terre · 2 nights $245

Post-trip Extension:
Bellagio & Lake Como · 2 nights $345
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Detailed Itinerary  

Day 1 - Depart U.S./Fly overnight to Pisa

Depart from the U.S. for Italy. The particulars of your arrival overseas are detailed with your flight itinerary and airline tickets.

Day 2 - Arrive in Portovenere - Cinque Terre

You arrive at the airport in Pisa, Italy, where a VBT representative meets you and helps you transfer (approximately 1 hour) to your centrally located hotel in Portovenere. The transfer company – depending on the time and number of guests – may offer an optional detour to Pisa, at your expense, to see the famous leaning tower. The rest of the day is free to discover and dine on your own using your VBT City Information included in your Final Travel Booklet as a guide.

Please note: If you arrive early, your hotel room may not be available until 1 p.m. You may store your luggage with the Reception Desk.

Please note: VBT transfer times and departure points are finalized in advance and cannot be modified for individual guests. If you fly in earlier than the scheduled program dates, transportation from the airport will be at your own expense.

You have the rest of the day free to discover picturesque Portovenere, stroll along the main cobblestone street to the ancient castle and church of Saint Peter, and dine on your own at one of the cozy restaurants on the harbor.

Day 3 - Meet Trip Leaders/Warm-up ride/Welcome reception

VBT No-Air Package guests: Meet your fellow travelers and Trip Leaders at 12 noon at our hotel in Mantua (the hotel address will be listed within your final documents). They will give a short overview of the day ahead and provide tips for lunch on your own in Mantua. At 2 p.m. be ready for a safety clinic and warm-up ride.

If your arrival at the hotel is scheduled later than 12 noon, or if you are delayed, please contact the hotel and the staff will alert your VBT Trip Leaders. In the event of delays or other problems with your arrival, please see page 3 of “For Travel-Related Emergencies.” VBT highly recommends flying to Italy at least one day before the tour begins. This allows you to rest and recover from jet lag before you begin sightseeing and cycling.

VBT Air Package and Pre-Extension guests: Board your VBT coach at 8:45 a.m.; our local representative will be in the lobby at 8:30 a.m. holding a VBT sign.

Our transfer to Mantua will last about 2 ½ hours and we will make a short stop on the way to meet our VBT Trip Leaders.

We arrive in Mantua in time for lunch on your own. The options in town are many and you will be delighted by this small historical town, so well preserved and little known. Early this afternoon, we settle into the modern Hotel Casa Poli, managed by four sisters. The inn is a former ancient palace, and the original house of one of the oldest families of Mantua, the Polis. Today this boutique hotel is the best in town, very comfortable and conveniently located.

Later, our Trip Leaders will hold a safety and bike-fitting session, followed by a warm-up ride along the lakes of Mantua.

Tonight, enjoy a welcome cocktail reception in the hotel courtyard, where we sample local Parmesan cheese wedges, salame mantovano, and Prosecco wine. We dine this evening at a trattoria a few steps from the hotel. Weather permitting, we take our meal under a pergola of thick vine, savoring homemade specialties like hand-made maccheroni with stracotto and agnoli – and wine produced nearby.

Day 4 - Cycle in the Po Valley

After breakfast, we ride to Bagnolo San Vito and Governolo. Our route takes us out of town and soon we will be cycling along a canal where bird watching is popular. From our bike path we will be able to see many local birds, particularly grey herons. Farming is the main activity of this area and we will encounter farmers at work in their corn fields and fruit orchards. The typical farms are quite large, as families once counted up to 10 children and agriculture was the most prevalent way to make a living. Most have at least a small vineyard and organic vegetable garden.

On the Po River we stop for an included home lunch at a local farm, where the Dordini family gives us a warm welcome. During World War II, the farm was occupied by the German Army and later became one of the headquarters of the allied forces. Photos and a movie recall that time. The Dordinis’ private swimming pool is available for a swim!

In the afternoon we cycle back to Mantua on a different route. If wish to have more time on own in Mantua, you can shuttle back to the hotel later. This evening we meet our local guide, who leads us on a walk in the city center of Mantua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and city of Romeo's exile in Shakespeare's timeless play.

Dinner tonight is on our own with many great options in town.

Day 5 - Borghetto, Monzambano, Castellaro Lagusello

Today a beautifully scenic bike path leads us north toward Lake Garda. We stop at the picturesque village of Borghetto, called one of the 100 quaintest villages of Italy by the Italian Club and Guide “I Borghi più Belli d'Italia.” After a picnic lunch on the shaded banks of the River Mincio, we continue pedaling north to Monzambano, where we leave our bike path to ride to our final destination, the medieval village of Castellaro Lagusello, recently recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Our last stretch is over gently rolling hills that approach the Natural Reserve of Castellaro and its heart-shaped lake. Here, our host Monica greets us at our eccentric accommodations. Monica has personally decorated each apartment in a different style that reflects her personality. Her resort consists of only 13 suite apartments, all overlooking an ancient courtyard with a small swimming pool that was once the center of life of a farm.

There'll be time to explore the village after sunset. The secret, private lake is only visible through an iron gate. Perhaps you'll pause a while to meet and speak with the few locals so proud to live here. Later, join the group for a cooking class to learn how to prepare the local delicious Sbrisolona cake and have dinner at our hotel.

Day 6 - Cycle to Desenzano and Lake Garda

After breakfast, we set out on quiet shaded country roads meandering over the low hills of southern Garda. Before noon we arrive in the bustling town of Desenzano on Lake Garda. Here we have time to explore and stroll through the historic center that dates back to 1500, built by architect Giulio Todeschini. The piazza overlooks the Old Port, the quaintest part of the city where we find a small harbor, cafes, and bars. You can have lunch on your own here and do some shopping.

In the afternoon we bike along the shores to Rivoltella. You can take some time to visit St. Biagio Church, scenically situated on the lake. Later, take some time to swim in Garda's refreshing waters and then, bike back to our hotel this afternoon.

Dinner tonight is at a local wine maker, where we can savor local specialties specially cooked for us and taste some of the wines for which the area is so well known.

Day 7 - San Martino della Battaglia, Lazise on Lake Garda

Today, we follow lovely back roads past San Martino della Battaglia, where a crenellated tower and charnel house commemorate the bloody battle fought here on June 24th 1859 between the French-Piedmontese and Austrian armies. Our routes take us to Peschiera on Lake Garda where there is time to explore and have lunch on own. Our afternoon route leaves the shore and rises through scenic vineyards and fields, with views of the lake and mountains beyond.

Later, we reach our luxurious hotel in Lazise. You might indulge in the outdoor swimming pool, explore the gardens, or take a stroll in town.

Dinner tonight is on your own. Lazise offers some memorable restaurants along the lakefront.

Day 8 - Verona/Lake Garda

After breakfast, we cycle the country roads and bike paths along the Adige River and into the delightful city of Verona. Be awed by the Roman Arena, site of the annual opera festival from mid-June to the end of August.

The entire city has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a favorite for history buffs and shoppers alike. Enjoy an hour-long guided city walk after lunch. Then opt to bike back or shuttle to the hotel.

You may want to go for a swim on your return to Lazise. In the early evening we share a wine tasting and an introduction to some of the local favorites. Then we celebrate our week with a farewell dinner featuring local specialties.

If you are an opera lover and visiting from mid-June to the end of August, don't miss the opera shows in the Roman Arena of Verona. From Lazise you can take a taxi to Verona tonight for 45€ each way. A little tip: local opera lovers say the best seats (particularly for acoustics) are the very affordable “Unreserved Stone Steps in Sectors D or E (Gradinata D or E).” You can buy these at the last minute at the ticket office or – best - in advance on the website, http://www.arena.it/en-US/HOMEen.html. An open-air opera in the Arena is an unforgettable experience.

Day 9 - Explore Lake Garda/Free time/VBT No-Air Package ends

VBT No-Air Package guests: your tour ends this morning after breakfast. You can take a taxi on your own to the Verona train station or airport to continue on to many Italian or European cities. A taxi to Verona train station or Verona airport costs approx. 45 euro/$60 USD and the ride is about 30 minutes.

VBT Air Package guests: You stay one more day and night at your hotel in Lazise. You have time to explore some of the small pearls of the lake, like the cute villages of Bardolino nearby, or Riva del Garda on the farthest northern shore. Or, indulge in the thermal waters of the many spas around Lazise. Frequent ferry service will allow you to discover the lake's wonders quite conveniently. Sirmione is one of them. The Romans had already discovered the natural beauty and mild climate of the area and from the first century BC started building their villas on the Sirmione peninsula. Among them, the most important is the villa of poet Catullo, which you might visit during our stay. We leave our bikes to explore the ancient streets by foot, entering via the ancient bridge and gate of the medieval castle. 

Day 10 - Depart for U.S.

Early this morning, transfer to Verona Airport for your flight back to the U.S. VBT recommends that you check the transfer time in your “Transfer Reminder” the night before your flight. The transfer is prearranged and prepaid by VBT.

Please note: For guests with early-morning departures, breakfast at the hotel may not be available. Please check with the Front Desk to verify the times that breakfast is served.

Please note: VBT transfer times and departure points are finalized in advance and cannot be modified for individual guests. If you extend your stay beyond the scheduled program dates, return transportation to the airport will be at your own expense.

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