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Biking Vacation Italy: Cycling the Dolomite Valleys​

Activity Level: Easy  |  Daily Mileage: 15 – 35 mi  |  Daily Biking: 2 – 5 hr
Air package plus
10 days from only
$3845
Price includes roundtrip airfare.
Land only
7 days from only
$2495
Pre-trip Extension:
Venice · 2 nights $395

Post-trip Extension:
Verona · 2 nights $295
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Detailed Itinerary

Please note: For those traveling in 2013, your itinerary may vary slightly from what is presented below.  

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

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

Day 2 - Arrive in Venice

You arrive at the airport in Venice, Italy. Once in the arrival terminal, please locate the water taxi and Information desk. The staff of Venezia Taxi—one of the 3 operators there—will take care of you: they will provide a voucher and show you the way to your water taxi. From the airport pier, you'll transfer (approximately 35 minutes) to your centrally located hotel in Venice. The rest of the day is free to discover and dine on your own with the VBT City Information included in your Final Travel Booklet as your guide. If you are going to be delayed meeting our transfer representative for more than 15 minutes due to delayed or lost luggage, please have airport staff page our driver with your last name so they may be notified of your delay. You may also contact our One Call travel assistance to advise of your delay and they will contact our transfer service. Our drivers are only able to wait for up to 45 minutes from the time your flight lands after which you would be responsible for your own transfer.

Please note: If you arrive early, your hotel room may not be available until 2:00 pm. 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.

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

VBT No-Air Package guests: Meet your fellow travelers and Venice representative at 9:50 am in Venice. The meeting point is the bar called Café Marco Polo Darsena on the docks of Venice Marco Polo airport (address: via Luigi Broglio 8, Marco Polo airport). The bar is easy to find, very close to the water transport docks of the airport where motor taxis park. Our local representative will be holding a VBT sign. Once the group is gathered you will depart for Cortina d'Ampezzo by private coach.

If your arrival at 9:50 am is delayed, please contact our hotel in Cortina d'Ampezzo to advise staff of the delay, and they will pass your message along to your VBT Trip Leaders. In the event of delays, also 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: Meet your VBT representative at 9:00 am in the main lobby of our Venice hotel; he or she will be holding a VBT sign.

From our hotel, a water taxi will transfer us first to the mainland and the Venice Marco Polo airport, where we meet our private motorcoach and continue on to Cortina. The transfer will last about 2 hours, and we will make a short stop on the way. Our VBT Trip Leaders will meet us at our arrival point and escort us to our first hotel, in Cortina.

All guests arrive in Cortina in time for lunch on your own. Our hotel is located in the heart of the city, on the main shopping and pedestrian area, full of life, elegant shops, restaurants and trendy cafés. After lunch we settle in to our hotel. Later, our VBT Trip Leaders will hold a safety and bike-fitting session, followed by a warm-up ride.

Tonight, enjoy a welcome cocktail reception in the hotel's cozy bar. Later, enjoy our special welcome dinner in the hotel's elegant restaurant. Some local Ampezzan specialties like casunzei, or crescent-shaped ravioli, will immerse you in the culinary traditions of a region that has inherited influences of both Austrian Tyrol and Italian Veneto kitchens.

Day 4 - Cycle to Cadore / Picnic on Calalzo Lake

After breakfast, we start biking downhill along the Boite River valley on the Dolomites Bike Path, on which we descend from a 1,250 meters (4,101 feet) to 770 meters (2,526 feet) in Calalzo. The path was once a railway track that connected the little villages of the Cadore mountain community. Le Tofane mountain range marks our progress. Soon we admire the towering pyramidal peak of Antelao to our left and Mount Pelmo to our right, with its saddle-like summit. The latter is now a natural reserve area due to the discovery of many fossils and dinosaur footprints.

We are now in the Ampezzan Valley, one of the four historic Ladin valleys. The Ladins—a population evolved from Celtic tribes and Roman soldiers—are the inhabitants of these valleys. Long remote and secluded from the rest of Italy, they remain a proud people whose rare language, Ladin, is closely related to the Swiss Romansh, Surselvan and Friulian. It is also still spoken in nearby Austro-Italian border regions.

The two Italian provinces of Trento and Bolzano are administratively independent from the rest of Italy, meaning they maintain a degree of autonomy. In particular Cortina retains its own legislative system, one that is unique in the Dolomites: a council known as Regole d'Ampezzo. Under the regole and the ancient Celtic structure of property ownership, the 800 original families administer the community's common land, which cannot be split or sold to outsiders or other families.

Lunch is a picnic organized on the verdant banks of Lake Calalzo. Early this afternoon you have the option to shuttle or cycle back to Cortina, where you have the rest of the afternoon to explore on our own. You may want to follow our routes on an easy walk around Cortina, or visit the Ethnography museum that houses a collection of antique tools and cultural artifacts. In the summertime, ride a gondola up to the slopes of Le Tofane or Faloria to enjoy the breathtaking vistas of surrounding peaks. Or take a taxi ride and a walk to the open-air Museum of the Great War on the high peaks of Rifugio 5-Torri, one of the most exciting and moving itineraries in the Dolomites. Dinner is on your own tonight; in the summer you may opt to dine at a rifugio high on the peaks.

After dinner, we recommend a stroll in Cortina. In the summer, your visit might coincide with a cultural event, folk festival or classical music concert.

Day 5 - Cycle on bike paths to Dobbiaco, San Candido, Brunico

Today we take an optional moderate ride up to Cimabanche Pass through a wooded and scenic area. If you prefer an easier start, you may take a brief shuttle before joining an easy downhill and flat ride on bike paths to Dobbiaco and San Candido. The views on the way are spectacular: we pedal by the Pomagagnon Mountain, the Tre Cime di Lavaredo (the “Three Peaks”), and picturesque Toblacher Lake. En route, we might stop to pay tribute to the victims of World War I at the intimate cemetery at the foothills of Monte Piana.

As we arrive in Dobbiaco, the landscape changes: rocky mountain flanks skirted with green and roadside alpine lakes give way to open meadows and green pastures dotted with large, isolated houses, or masi. Snow-capped peaks rise in the distance. This is the Pusteria Valley, a paradise for bikers with its network of bike paths, bike hotels and bike shops aimed at promoting an environmentally friendly lifestyle and healthy discovery of the valleys.

We soon arrive in San Candido in South Tyrol, close to the border with Austria. Here we stop for lunch and a stroll in this thousand-year-old little city. You can visit the ancient, Romanesque Duomo della Collegiata—the oldest monastery in the Dolomites—and drink at one of the many stone fountains in the cobblestone pedestrian area. The Pusteria Valley is rich in history and legend as it was on the ancient trade route to Aguntum (now in Austria) from Rome.

In the afternoon we continue biking along the Upper Pusteria Valley to Brunico, through open lush meadows, forested woods and charming villages, always following the course of the Rienza River. We're cycling in the heart of South Tyrol and a strong Austrian influence is everywhere, from the language (all signs are first in German and then Italian) to the architectural features and local traditions. Our terrain is paved except in some short stretches in the woods. We offer both an easy and an easy-to-moderate ride. Later we arrive at our hotel in Riscone, beautifully located at the foothills of the Plan de Corones mountain ridge. You're sure to feel comfortable and even spoiled here: our hotel features a large garden, an indoor swimming pool fed by unspoiled mountain springs, in-room waterbeds and sauna options. Dinner is served at the elegant hotel restaurant and includes a large salad buffet.

Day 6 - Cycle through the Aurina and Tures Valleys

After breakfast today, we cycle north to discover the beauty of the valleys of Aurina and Tures. About 90% of our biking today is on easy paths along the Rio Aurino River. After an initial stretch through Brunico's open fields, our path runs by high mountains dotted with slope-hugging castles and cattle farms. Brunico was built in a strategic position at the crossroads of four valleys; castles once played the important role of watching and defending the territory. We pass tidy hamlets of wooden houses, high steeples, well-manicured gardens and cattle pens. Lunch is included today and is a special barbecue meal of tasty meats and crispy vegetables prepared by our host, Mani. From our lunch spot, we can take a short easy walk to the roaring Riva waterfalls. In the afternoon you may choose to explore more of these lovely surroundings and maybe walk to the higher waterfall. Bike back to our hotel or hop a shuttle to pamper yourself at our hotel spa. An optional easy-to-moderate loop is also offered if you feel energetic and wish to ride more!

If you're riding back to our hotel, pause on your way to discover the city of Brunico and its pedestrian area, full of cafés and gelato shops and boutiques. Or visit the Ripa castle, once the summer residence of the prince bishops. Today, it is one of the five museum-castles that world-famous mountain climber Reinhold Messner has transformed into a cultural center dedicated to mountain people from four continents.
 
Dinner is at our hotel restaurant.
 

Day 7 - The Isarco River Valley, the medieval towns of Bressanone and Chiusa

This morning we leave our beautiful hotel and pedal across the wide Plan de Corones plateau. On the way we can admire the traditional masi farmhouses above Brunico. Soon we rejoin the picturesque Pusteria Valley bike path along the Rienza River and enjoy a beautiful ride though more forests, tiny villages and covered bridges. Before lunch near the ruins of the Rio Pusteria fortress, we have the option to shuttle into the medieval city of Bressanone or continue riding to Bressanone on a moderate stretch through a thickly wooded, scenic area. Bressanone, at the confluence of the Rienza and Isarco rivers, has been a very important bishop town, evidenced by the Duomo and its beautiful frescoed and sculptured cloister, the Hofburg Bishopric and the stone city gates. The narrow, porticoed streets and multicolored house facades will capture your heart. Lunch is on your own here.

Early this afternoon we cycle on the beautiful bike path down the Isarco River Valley and through the medieval city of Chiusa, another pearl of this valley. There we can stroll along the cobblestone main street and maybe follow the suggestion of one of our local leaders, who says that gelato here is the best of the valley.

From here, we shuttle to the next destination: Merano. Our modern Hotel Terme Merano is centrally located on the pedestrian Kurpromenade on the River Adige, opposite the historic Kurhouse. Relax, perhaps enjoying the wellness center, before dinner on your own.
 
Like Cortina, Merano is a vibrant cultural city, offering concerts and entertainment on summer evenings.

Day 8 - Resia Lake, apple trees and vineyards in Val Venosta

After breakfast, we shuttle to an altitude of 1,500 meters (4,921 feet) to Lake Resia, near the borders of Austria and Switzerland. The lake is famous for the steeple emerging from its waters, from a church that was submerged after the village of Curon was evacuated, dynamited and flooded following the construction of a dam. More energetic bikers may want to bike the loop around the lake, including an uphill ride. For all our guests, our route follows the course of the river Adige and descends gradually. The ride is particularly picturesque with spellbinding landscapes. Surrounded by mountain peaks, we cycle through dozens and dozens of sprawling apple orchards, for which Venosta valley is particularly famous. We also pass vineyards and castles adorning the slopes. Starting in late August, we roll by many tractors and farmers tending to their fields. It's sure to be one of your more memorable rides. Our recommended stop for lunch on your own is the Renaissance village of Gorenza.

If you are a very strong biker, you can opt to bike all the way back to Merano. Otherwise we have planned to shuttle you by local train (a 20-30 minute ride), a very popular and convenient way of transportation for bikers in this area.

Later tonight in Merano, raise a glass of Blauburgunder wine and toast our week over a farewell dinner.

Day 9 - Free time in Merano / Transfer to Verona / VBT No-Air Package ends

VBT No-Air Package guests: your tour ends at our Merano hotel today. The morning is free. You can take a taxi on your own to the Merano train station. Most trains connect in Bolzano. The taxi to Merano train station costs approx. €10-15, and the ride is about 5 minutes.

VBT Air Package guests: After breakfast, say "ciao" to your Trip Leaders and spend the rest of the morning discovering Merano. For only €5—a special price for VBT guests—you can enjoy the amazing Terme Merano thermal pools in the beautifully designed building set in a five-hectare (12-acre) garden. For more information, visit www.termemerano.it. A private underground tunnel connects our hotel to this public facility.

If you prefer, shop and stroll the historic city center. Or take a walk out of the city to visit the Truttmansdorff gardens and castle, where Austrian Empress Sissi lived. The gardens' 12 hectares (30 acres) are beautifully landscaped and were voted the most beautiful Gardens of Italy in 2005. After lunch on your own, be ready to leave at 1:00 pm on the private motorcoach to our hotel in Verona, where we will arrive at about 2:30 pm. The bus is reserved exclusively for VBT Air Package and Post-Extension guests. You have the rest of the day to explore or relax in Verona.

If you have chosen the independent Post-Trip extension to Verona, you remain at this hotel for three nights. When you arrive today, a local guide will meet you and hold an informative hospitality introduction, followed by an orientation tour of Verona. The rest of the day is free to explore on your own with VBT's City Information included in your Final Travel Booklet as your guide. If you are visiting from mid-June to the end of August, don't miss the opera shows in the Roman Arena, a very short walk from our hotel. 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 online at http://www.arena.it/en-US/HOMEen.html. An open-air opera in the Arena is an unforgettable experience.

Day 10 - Depart for U.S.

Early this morning, transfer to the 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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