See the section for Italy of the Trento Bike Pages.

Riding around the Laguna

Contributed by Andreas Caranti in September 1995
In the Spring of 1995 Tomas Edquist, from Sweden, contacted me for information about a tour he intended to take in Italy. In particular he wanted to know whether it was possible to cross from Chioggia to Pellestrina, and to Pellestrina to Lido, riding along the two islands that separate the Laguna of Venice from the sea. So I asked a couple of friends of mine, that have lived on Lido and in Venice for several years. They said not only that there are ferries that enable you to do that, but that the ride was particularly nice and worth doing.

I passed this information to Tomas, who eventually did the trip, and wrote a very nice report, divided in From Verona to Venezia: practical information, and From Verona to Venezia: the trip, which is available under Italy.

Now in the second half of August 1995 I spent a couple of weeks at the beach with my family. We were at Duna Verde, a village between Eraclea Mare and Caorle, on the Adriatic See, not far away from Venice. So I decided to do the trip myself. I set off one morning just before eight. It was cool, after the rain of the day before, but not unpleasant. I began with a 25km ride to San Donà di Piave. The ride was uneventful, but the itinerary I took exemplifies the kind of choices you are faced when riding in this area. I began on the main road to San Donà, but after crossing a canal, I turned right, followed the canal in the direction of Cortellazzo for a few hundred meters, and then took right, along the left bank (facing downstream) of River Piave. This narrow paved road has little or no traffic. It would have also been possible to cross a floating bridge on the River Piave (paying the incredible toll of a hundred Lire, that is about .06US$), and ride on the right bank of the river.

The road was flanked by wide fields. This is very fertile land, mostly reclaimed swamps. On my left I could see great nets, spanning across the entire width of the river. The day was perfectly clear, so I had a beautiful view of the Alps in the background. But my mountain bike was in for its flattest ride ever. On reaching Eraclea Paese, I crossed the bridge, and proceeded on the right bank, which appears to be less trafficked here. I reached San Donà, and got to the station, where I bought a ticket for me and a ticket for my bike to Boion. I changed train in Mestre, "Venice on the mainland", and took the minor line from Mestre to Adria. The conductor on the second train happened to be a mountain bike fan, so we had a little chat. (One of the advantages of having a nice-looking bike with front suspension is that you find many people willing to talk to you. This is not California, so front suspensions are still not too widespread.) He was off the day after for a holiday on the mountains in Asiago. On learning that I intended to ride from Boion to Chioggia along one of the branches of River Brenta, he gave me a good tip, that is, to take the unpaved road on the right bank of the river.

So I got off in Boion, rode south on a slightly-too-busy road, and then crossed River Brenta to ride on the unpaved right bank. I admit I had not prepared my trip too carefully, so I expected to see some of nice villas the Venetian had built along the Brenta, but I saw none. Silly me! Only later my attention has been called to the fact that this is a relatively new branch of the river. Originally, it used to flow into the laguna itself.

When the unpaved road ended, I crossed to the left bank, and soon caught the first glimpses of the Laguna. To me, the Laguna has an incredible fascination. It's a kind of suspended landscape, land and water and the same time. I started seeing the first typical bunches of poles that mark the parts that are deep enough for boats. They are called "briccole", and are made of wood of False Acacia (or Locust-Tree, "robinia" in Italian). No better material has been found for them, things like concrete don't last much in these waters. I survived a couple of kilometers of heavy trucks on the Strada Statale Romea, and got in Chioggia. It was market day, so the town was bursting with activity. Chioggia is a beautiful little Venice, with canals, Campi, bridges, churches and all. Don't miss the fish market.

From Chioggia I took the ferry to Pellestrina. The ferry only takes ten bikes at a time, so you should line up in time in peak season. A nice old lady that was going home after shopping at the market told that she had seen very many bikers this year taking the ferry. The ferry ride offered a nice view on Chioggia and the "peocere", where mussels are grown. I could have stopped on the dike at Caroman, ride on, but I got off on Pellestrina proper, the southernmost of the two islands that separate the Laguna from the Adriatic See.

Here I turned inland to see the port of Sant'Antonio di Pellestrina, which hosts quite a large fleet of fishing boats. These are useed to fish clams, and unfortunately do that by destroying the sea-bed. Then I moved on the dike on the sea side, and rode on it. At one point an inscription "Ausu Romano - Aere Veneto" celebrates the construction of the "Murazzi", these huge defenses against the sea. They were built between 1744 and 1782, and consist of an inner dike, an intermediate strip, and an outer defense made of huge blocks of Carso stone. The Venetians used to know how important it was to protect their floating world from the rage of the sea. Unfortunately the lesson had been forgotten for a while. If you look inland, you can see Marghera, where industries were built at the beginning of the 19th century, to provide jobs for the increasing population. In the sixties, the industries were expanded, and one of the Bocche that provide access for ships to the Laguna was enlarged and deepened, to allow big tanks in. The net result was the big flood of 1966, when the sea nearly swept away parts of Lido and Pellestrina. Now the lesson has been learnt again, and hopefully this kind of mistake will not be repeated soon.

By the way, my Latin is a bit rusty, so I asked a friend, a Latinist, how one should translate the above inscription. It seems "Ausu Romano" has probably the double meaning of "With Roman daring" and "By a Roman enterprise", whereas "Aere Veneto" means "with Venetian money". You can probably spot a mild joke here: "they put there daring enterprise here, but would have done nothing without our financial means".

I got to the other end of Pellestrina, at Santa Maria del Mare, and crossed to Alberoni, on the Lido. After a few kilometers one gets to Malamocco, one of the first settlements in the Laguna. Have a look at the little village, which is just a small piece of Venice. I had been here a week before, to see some friends. They took me to the local Murazzi (just turn right as you reach Malamocco, cross the bridge and turn left along a quiet canal: see a picture of Murazzi, from the home page of Marcello Foco), where we had a swim in the pretty clear water.

From now on Lido is just an ordinary quarter of an ordinary town. You may want to have a look at the famous hotels Des Bains and Excelsior. Venice now comes in full view: Piazza San Marco is just over there. But Venice is not for bikes, so I take the ferry to Punta Sabbioni. The previous two ferries were not so crowded, but here I join the flocks of tourists coming back from Venice to the big parking lots of Punta Sabbioni. When I get there, I take the minor road inland, which runs along the Laguna, which is also rather beautiful here.

At Ca' Savio I would have an opportunity to turn left, toward Tre Porti, and have an insider's view of the small villages in these parts of the Laguna. But it's getting late, and I'm reaching the 100km mark, so I proceed to Cavallino, and then through the heavy traffic around Lido di Jesolo. At Cortellazzo I cross the toll bridge, and soon I'm back home, after a splendid day.

Special thanks

To Enrico Zaninotto and Maria Rita Ceriani for sharing with me their expertise of this area.