Mantua/Mantova - An Autumn by the Sea - CycleBlaze

October 6, 2018

Mantua/Mantova

 So let’s start this entry by expounding on a mystery: are we biking to Mantua, or Mantova?  Why the two spellings?  Well, Mantova is the Italian name, and Mantua is the Latin and Emilian name.  I’d never heard of Emilian, but it’s the dialect that was spoken in Emilia, the region of Italy that roughly corresponds to the lower Po valley.  

Mantua looks like a wonderful place to stay for a couple of nights.  First though back to Peschiera, which began with a pleasing breakfast at our B&B - a cheerful, homey place run by a friendly elderly couple.  It felt like a short stay with your grandparents (but not mine - they’re probably not much older than I am).  Afterwards, Rachael retired to the room to nurse her cold a bit longer while I went out for a stroll about town.

Seeing it this morning, Peschiera is a much more interesting place than I gave it credit for last night.  Nowadays it mostly survives on tourism, but it was a regionally important fortified town with origins in Roman times.  It has an interesting architecture, spread across three small islets at the point where Lake Garda drains into the Mincio River.  Two of the islets are fortified and surrounded by high walls that you can walk around to get an aerial perspective on the town and lake.

Peschiera’s fortified walls, and the beginning of the Mincio River
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Looking north across Lake Garda, with Mount Baldy rising on the right. There’s been a big change in the weather overnight, with rain predicted to arrive in early afternoon.
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The bridge connecting the middle and western islets.
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Looking south down the Mincio River. What do you think our odds are of arriving in Mantova dry?
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In Peschiera. Much more attractive this morning than when the streets are filled with those pesky tourists.
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Leaving our lodging in Peschiera del Garda. Note the name, and stay here if you’re passing through.
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We came this way largely so that we could ride the cycle path through Mincio Park.  I’d read what a special place and what a fine ride it is, and it definitely lived up to its reputation.  The Mincio River is short, about forty miles in length, beginning as the outflow from Lake Garda and ending when it empties into the Po River south of Mantova.  The entire river is a protected natural area that supports a great water bird population, is an important fishery, and is part of a UNESCO designated site for its complex and advanced hydrolic system dating back to the 1200’s.

It makes for a fascinating ride.  In planning this part of the tour, we considered riding it both directions and returning back to Peschiera.  We won’t be doing that, but it would have been a great option.

It’s a very easy ride.  Thirty miles, very flat the entire way.  I’d have been happy to take it slower than we did, but Rachael kept reminding me that rain was due to arrive in early afternoon, and we wanted to be off the road by about 1:30.  And a good thing she did, as it turned out.

She nailed it.  We arrived at 1:35, which was about five minutes too late.  It started raining just as we reached the outskirts of town, forcing us to hide out beneath an overpass for a few minutes until it stopped.  Five minutes later we pulled up by a restaurant in the heart of the old city and made it inside just as the rain returned with a vengeance.  It didn’t let up until early evening, so we spent the afternoon holed up in our eccentric but well located apartment.

Porta Brescia, the western entrance to the walled city. Also, the start of the bike route to Mantua. The cannonballs show you the way.
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Leaving town, we enjoy a last look at Peschiera’s impressive walls.
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Leaving Peschiera
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And there she goes! I’m sorry I didn’t think to get a better picture of this delightful German woman from Ulm who stopped and chatted with us for several minutes while her husband patiently stood by.
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From the looks of it, the Mincio must be a terrific fishing river.
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On the Mincio, beneath Peschiera’s walls: an immature and an adult great crested grebe
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On the Peschiera-Mantua bike route, through Mincio Park. The park protects the entire length of the river, from Lake Garda to its end at the Po.
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Fifty (count them!) gulls, Mincio Park.
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Steve Miller/GrampiesI got fifty one ??
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Steve Miller/GrampiesI know, darn it, I should have shot one, but it’s a refuge.
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2 months ago
In Mincio Park. The variety in the vegetation in the park is pretty amazing,
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I’ve never seen a greater concentration of swans than here on the Mincio. We must have passed at least a hundred of them today.
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One swan good, five swans better
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In Mincio Park
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Are you looking at me?
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The grey heron, a bird I mistook at first for our similar great blue heron.
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In Mantua. We’ve arrived just in the nick of time. In the time while I was locking up our bikes over there under the ducal palace, the sky opened up. Rachael made it across the plaza to our restaurant dry, but I was pretty wet when I broke for it.
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Note the road surface. This was as good as it gets in the heart of old Mantua. The streets themselves are something else. I’ll include a photo of them tomorrow.
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On the wall of our excellent lunch restaurant. Our room wasn’t ready yet and it was pouring out, so of course we had to stop in.
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I like trying local specialties, so of course I had to try the maccheroni al torchio con Stacotto d’Asino (which sounds more appetizing than macaroni with donkey sauce, I think you’ll agree).
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Jen GrumbyDonkey sauce sounds terrible! Good thing you ordered stacotto d'asino!
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbySounds a bit weird alright, but it was very good. Way better than canned chicken!
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2 months ago
Jen GrumbyRon is sitting next to me whole-heartedly disagreeing.

But me? I think I'd prefer the stacotto d'asino over canned chicken. ;0)
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2 months ago
Our rom in Mantova for the next few days is fascinating, and a bit of a death trap. We’re in the fourth floor of a five hundred year old building. Those beams are logs, a foot in diameter at the tapered end. At the low end of the room the cross beams bottom out about five feet off the ground. I’d make such a poor lab rat - I brained myself the first three times I went to the bathroom.
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Suzanne GibsonBetter keep your helmet on!
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2 months ago
A creative solution to a unique problem.
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Suzanne GibsonAll these places you are visiting now are so familiar to us - glad you are enjoying them so much. Btw we cycled the Mincio in pouring rain 😭.
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonWe could have seen it in the rain too, if we’d been just an hour later. We’re lucky Rachael is such a taskmaster. This is such an amazing area, isn’t it? We’ll have to make it through here again some season.
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2 months ago

Ride stats today: 29 miles, 300’ elevation gain

Today's ride: 29 miles (47 km)
Total: 1,273 miles (2,049 km)

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