Although EuroVelo 8 is called the Mediterranean Route, its 1050km Italian leg doesn’t meet the coast until its final stretch. Rather, this is a gentle tour along the broad Po Valley of northern Italy, clipping the north of the peninsula on a lazy, looping amble along quiet roads and cycleways.
The first day’s riding descends to Turin, all Baroque architecture on a Roman grid pattern. This is where the Slow Food movement began, should you need any more excuse to take the route at a leisurely pace.
Skirting the foothills of the Apennines, from here the route has two ‘braids’ most of the way to the coast, one on either bank of the river. Both are flat, winding, piecemeal collections of single-track lanes and the occasional cycle path; your choice of which to follow is more likely to be led by refreshment and accommodation than any great scenic difference.
After Adria (fittingly) we meet the Adriatic Sea for a dreamy coastal route past harbours, fishing villages, causeways, lagoons and, oh yes, some little port or other called Venice. You’ll have to catch a ferry a few times en route. The quiet port city of Trieste marks the end of the Italian section, just before EV8 crosses briefly into Slovenia.
This is essentially a EuroVelo river route much like the Rhine, Danube and Loire. As such, it’s well suited for families and a ‘pick and mix’ approach choosing one or two sections. The infrastructure is rather more sporadic than the Central European routes, mostly a patchwork of lanes and agricultural tracks – but with cycleways being built beside the busier roads, there are few nasty traffic surprises.
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I rode this route from Turin to Venice and then onto Udine in April/May 2022. I loved touring Italy for my first time. The route is pretty rough in places and by no stretch of the imagination is it a complete eurovelo route and I had a couple of really challenging days at the start. However it is under development in a variety of forms and I recommend you take the bikeline ciclovia del Po book with you to help guide you. The early sections had some very rough gravel and I ended up using a few fast roads. Past Piacenza it was much better and past Mantova I even saw quite a lot of EV signs and the route quality was good. The route is very open to the elements and can get quite windy and I imagine in the summer it would be really hot. I found that the majority of the time you are cycling in elevated levees and you can drop of them to go into towns and villages for a snack or to find a quiet square with a bench for a picnic. If the route wasn’t the most scenic then don’t worry- there is a big compensation- the towns were totally spectacular- Italy at its most beautiful and of course there is excellent ice cream. The food in this area is quite rich and as a veggie maybe not my favourite Italian food region but I did fine.
On accommodation I used small hotels via booking.com and they were very reasonable (maybe I did well on pricing given it was just post Covid) and central in the towns. There wasn’t a lot of camping available as far as I could see. The towns were often spaced around 70km apart which worked well for me. I couldn’t choose the best ones but I enjoyed Pavia, Piacenza, Cremona, Mantova, Ferrara, Venice (you are routed through Venice lido along the islands which is very special- please note no bicycles in Venice itself) and Portogruaro. I got the train back to Venice at the end which was nice and easy and flew home from Venice with the bike.