Mantua Day 2 - Italian Reconnaissance -- Lombardy and Lakes - CycleBlaze

July 21, 2021

Mantua Day 2

Ride Day

A ride day for our staccato tour. The plan of staying 2 days in each town means we can have one day for a long ride, and one day for exploring the town. The best thing is not moving our stuff every day. We also get to learn a little more about each place than if we were riding through. 

Breakfast covid style means that we are presented with a lovely buffet laid out on a table, but cannot touch: we must ask our host for specific items. The host gently corrects Ken’s feeble pronunciation attempts. Ken takes these to mean he has passed the first test and is deemed worthy of educating. Zelda just points for the most part.

He asks about our evening and Ken describes seeing many bats. But the word for bats is not quickly understood in French or German. Zelda finally googles it: “ il pipistrello,” for those who need to know. The host roars with laughter, “you should have just said “Batman”. You know, Batman and Robin. Then I would have understood. Yes, there are many pipistrelli about, especially under the old mill at the canal.” 

Our goal today is to ride along the River Mincio out to Peschiera del Garda, a town on the southern end of the Lago del Garda. It is a stretch on the little bikes and in the heat. We will be happy if we make it to an intermediate palace. 

Ride out along the Mincio river on the EV7. Wonderful car-free canal and river ride. Most of our way takes us through a corridor of nature-preserves that surrounds the river — sometimes with wider parks around, sometime with active farm fields coming up to the edge of the river. There are many canals of all sizes interacting with the Mincio, which is a decent-sized river: where we can estimate it from the outlines of the concrete lining, it seems to be about 100 feet across and 25 feet deep. The path alongside gives us mixed surfaces, mostly paved but some gravel, so we go slowly at times. About 5 miles in we see a pair of giant screws, 10 feet in diameter and 50 feet long, inclined at a 45 degree angle in the river. They are installing a pair of water screws for electric generation. Old is new again. The first section of protective shrouding has been placed and they are bolting it on. When we return the entire thing will be covered. Nice to be able to see the inner workings for this brief bit. 

We stop at one of the small cascades where a cafe is set up in the shade. For the first time we start to see German tourists on e-bikes who are making multi-day trips. They are mixed with the bike club riders who have been whizzing by in packs. The cafe would be a fine place to spend the rest of the day but we soldier on.

Hard to tell if this is unusually high for July given control of water level. Refreshing breeze.
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What would Archimedes think?
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Water screw installation.
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As we get closer to Peschiera del Garda there are many cyclists. Rental shop e-bikes are numerous and it starts feeling like a seaside resort. Temperature is around 88 and the far hillsides start to emerge from their humid shrouds. We can make out the shape of the first two layers of hills but not beyond that. The river water changes to a darker turquoise, maybe from the mineral content, and is incredibly clear. Despite the heat there is nary a swimmer in it, not even a shoreline wader. There must be a rule that others know (and actually obey!) that we are blind to. 

A surprise greets us as we get closer to the lake shore: an immense star-fortress in the Vauban style rears up 40 feet above our heads, blocking any view of the lake until we bike across a drawbridge and through an archway. A few turns inside the castle and we emerge onto the lake-shore where we can see the mountains ahead of us. PDG itself is a tourist strip and probably has been for thousands of years. The fort includes an old declaration that this is the property of Venice, some 100 miles or more away. The Venetian lion was later taken down during the Austrian occupation, but reinstalled in recent decades. We get a ringside seat to view the water, the passersby, and the traffic. Serious cyclists are dodging buses and motorcycles which looks risky as heck. It is easy to watch and devour a salad, pizza, and three large bottles of mineral water. 

PDG, part of the moat around the star fort.
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Lakeside lunch. La Garda.
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One of the highest points of the fort looks out over the lake and northward. Clearly an ideal vantage point if you are concerned about intruders. Now it has a playground and small seating area which seems like a good re-purposing. Ken takes a run around the fort while Zelda cools down. 

Cooling down and happy on top of the hill.
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A dragon boat! They were clearly learning the drill (no one really working together yet). What a place to learn though.
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Our return is the same route as the outbound except we are certain it is faster. This benefit of an out and back ride is that you know where you are going and it feels like home. Turns out to be less than 10 minutes faster in actual moving time. 

Ken heads to the grocery store to collect dinner — salad, hummus, chips, beer etc. Dining in restaurants every evening is way too much bother after a full day. We are probably asleep before others are starting to dine. 

Still looking fresh after a full day of riding.
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Sorry about the separate maps. Missing that nice symmetry of an out and back. Big news is the FLAT! Look at the vertical axis for the elevation numbers. From 25 to 60 feet. Even on Bromptons we can appreciate this. But that 10-foot hill around mile 28 was a killer.

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Today's ride: 82 km (51 miles)
Total: 212 km (132 miles)

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