Giro di Cappuccino : Bike-packing in northern Italy

The original plan for our summer vacation by bike was to take unknown paths and ride from our home in Innsbruck through Austria to Slovenia and finally into Croatia. Since the time was limited, the stages were somewhat ambitious.

A covid infection that Melli caught shortly before we were due to start meant a two day delay of our departure, so the routes were redesigned, which led to a shorter, but no less exciting tour. The plan was still to rely on our sleeping bags, allowing the greatest amount of flexibility for where we’d spend each night.

Giro di Cappuccino : Bike-packing in northern Italy
Giro di Cappuccino : Bike-packing in northern Italy
Giro di Cappuccino : Bike-packing in northern Italy
Giro di Cappuccino : Bike-packing in northern Italy

Day One: Brenner - Bolzano
The goal was Bolzano in beautiful South Tyrol on a well-developed bike path. After a short train ride to get us in range, we set-off from Brenner (or Brennero) in sunshine towards our first Italian cappuccino under some palm trees. After 45km we arrived at Brixen, the perfect break spot. This was followed by another 40km along a river. There were a few bike packers on the route, most of whom had Lake Garda as their destination. In Bolzano, we had a snack before we started thinking about our place to sleep. After much back and forth looking for a safe spot in the city, Clara used her negotiation skills at a small hotel to secure us a bed for us despite it being high season.

Day Two: Bolzano - Molveno

Feeling well rested and starting the day with a double espresso, we set off on what was probably the most strenuous stage of the tour. From Bolzano our next destination was Lake Molveno. With mixed feelings we rolled 40km alongside the Adige river to a small village called Mezzolombardo. Whilst Meli was suffering as it was not even a week after her infection the cappuccino in Mezzolombardo awakened the motivation to dive further into Italy.

Two hours later we had already reached the top and looking back it wasn't half as wild. And above all, it was worth it.

                                                                                                                 
A turquoise blue lake with a unique mountain panorama awaited us, perfect for an after-ride dip. After the obligatory Aperol spritz and pasta, we looked for a place to sleep by the lake. Everything would have been too perfect if we hadn't been startled by lightning, thunder and raindrops. Although it was relatively warm, our Café du Cycliste rain jackets were our saviour. Luckily there was a public bathroom a few hundred meters away, which at least protected us a little from the storm. Admittedly, a toilet floor is anything but a romantic place to sleep. However, adventure was what we were here for.

Giro di Cappuccino : Bike-packing in northern Italy
Giro di Cappuccino : Bike-packing in northern Italy
Giro di Cappuccino : Bike-packing in northern Italy
Giro di Cappuccino : Bike-packing in northern Italy

Day Three: Molveno - Riva del Garda
After surviving our somewhat uncomfortable night, we were all the happier to see the sun the next morning. The weather forecast for later wasn't ideal, but we started towards Lake Garda with healthy optimism. A few metres of altitude awaited us, after which we were rewarded with a beautiful descent to Lago di Tenno. After a lunch break in Riva del Garda, we decided to take advantage of the good weather and continue along the west bank to Limone Sul Garda. Quite a stressful affair to be honest in high season on a busy road. Since the sky was already getting dark again, we soon made our way back to Riva. We arrived together with the thunderstorm. We didn't feel like spending another night in an outhouse and luckily found shelter in a friend's holiday apartment.

Day Four : Riva – Desenzano del Garda

After a good salad and a glass of wine for dinner, we started the day with yoghurt and fruit by the lake, and, of course, our morning coffee brewed on our gas stove in the little Bialetti.What we would have done without this we do not know, it always gave us power to begin each stage. Melli’s coffee must have been particularly strong as she had a lot of power today and I wanted to enjoy the view along the long-awaited dream of cycling by Lake Garda. So I sent Melli ahead and we met after the first break for a cappuccino in Garda. I wasn't that slow after all. After a short break we set off again in the direction of Desenzano, our destinaiton for day four. After rewarding ourselves with extremely good pizza we had the sleeping arrangement question to contend with again – this time we had no toilet floor and no friend to help us.

                                                                                                                 
So we rode a bit out of town and looked for a meadow or a roof where we could spread out our sleeping pads and bags. After about 10 minutes we discovered the perfect spot: a large, beautiful green meadow with an incredibly beautiful view of Lake Garda. Perfetto! I have to say that I slept really well until it got wet, not wet because it was raining, but wet because this meadow was equipped with an automatic irrigation system. Not so perfect. We moved a few metres away to a dry spot and we laughed at each other but soon fell asleep again. But this automatic watering system fooled us again, and soon we were soaked even more.

Giro di Cappuccino : Bike-packing in northern Italy
Giro di Cappuccino : Bike-packing in northern Italy
Giro di Cappuccino : Bike-packing in northern Italy
Giro di Cappuccino : Bike-packing in northern Italy

Day Five: Desenzano - Verona
We rose early having managed to dry off and prepared breakfast, ready for Verona. Melli rode off quickly and with full motivation for our final leg, but then there was a sudden BANG and Melli's tire burst. Thankfully it was the final day and we weren’t in the wilderness, and the cycling gods kindly offered up a bike shop 100m further up the road.

With Melli’s bike feeling good again we started in the direction of Verona through beautiful vineyards, small Italian villages and quite gorgeous roads. A few hours later we were standing in the spectacular Piazza delle Erbe admiring the Madonna Verona. Dirty and tired, we were glowing with a real sense of achievement, proud of ourselves that we’d mastered the whole way by bike and that everything worked out so well.

We enjoyed our last cappuccino and headed to the station to take our train back to Innsbruck. What a journey. We sweated a lot, laughed a lot, covered many kilometres and meteres of altitude, but we made it. Thanks to Café du Cycliste we were able to sit on our bikes for hours and enjoy riding long distances. Thanks to everyone who made this dream come true and supported us, we hope for more adventures soon.

Clara & Melli

FURTHER RIDING