Tuesday 31st August 2004
to Mantua (Mantova)
We had breakfast in the garden this morning – the weather was cool (relatively speaking!) and there was some cloud. We used the cycle track alongside the Mincio until it ran out after about 15km on the outskirts of Marengo. The cycle map we had obtained from Valeggio tourist information gave two alternative routes from here on to Mantua – but neither gave any indication of the change of road conditions. We suddenly went from quiet cycle track to very busy main road with heavy lorries passing by. ithin a few hundred yards we stopped to look at the map to check that we had taken the right turn. We had crossed over the river and the map showed the river another 3 miles away at Góito. A passing cyclist (an Austrian living in Italy) confirmed that we were on the road to Góito. We later found out that for the last mile of the cycle track what we had been following was not the river but a side canal shown as a thin blue line on our map. What we had crossed was this canal. We carried on into Góito and immediately got lost. We did however manage to find food for our lunch at a supermarket on the far side of the town and then we cycled the ˝ km back into the center to look for a signpost but ended up by asking the way. The directions we got took us back out past the supermarket to a more major road. Fortunately we had lost the heavy lorries. Within a couple of kilometers we passed a turning which led back into the town and was the road we had been looking for in the first place! Never mind. The two maps I bought are turning out to be useless – although the scale is adequate (1 to 200k) they are just not accurate enough to guess where the junctions are and more than half the roads aren’t shown. The roads are also shown so faintly that with or without reading glasses the map is very difficult to read.
We carried on to the village of Sacca where we turned off onto a very minor road which would take us on the back route to Rivalta. We stopped here for a while beside the river for a bite to eat. We then carried on towards Grázie which has an unusual church that had caught my attention in the guide book. Outside in the large piazza there were pavement drawings – no artists to be seen however – and inside the church were to be found strange statues of scenes from some medieval times depicting people being hung from the gallows and other bizarre events. There was even a stuffed crocodile hanging from the ceiling!
This left us 5km to travel into the city of Mantua which sits on a bend of the river Mincio where it opens out to form large lakes surrounding the city on three sides. We eventually found the tourist office – having asked at least three people the way – and gained information on B&B’s in the town. We were also given a free Tourist Club Italiano Map of Mantua Province which was on a slightly enlarged scale (1:175k) to their normal maps. The definition was far superior to what we had been working from and on the reverse it had loads of information on places to visit in the Province. (Note that the normal Tourist Club maps don’t have this tourist info and are to a scale of 1:200k). The map covered the area that we had travelled and almost went as far as Ferrara (from Brescia in the west to Vicenza in the east and from Schio in the north to Reggio in the south). It is well worth sending off to the Mantua Tourist board for a copy using www.aptmantova.it). I decided rather hastily to buy a Tourist Club map for the country to the east of Ferrara without waiting to see if I could get a similar map from the Ferrara tourist board. (As it happened they didn’t have anything similar!) My new map covered the whole of the area that we were cycling in – I had bought two maps in the UK to cover the area we wanted!
Having sorted this all out we retired to the lake/river to eat our lunch in the shade of a tree. The weather today had been much better for cycling – the sun didn’t break through the cloud until midday which kept it much cooler. About 3.30 we made our way to a B&B about 2km from the centre – we were made very welcome. The accommodation at €64 was more expensive than the previous night (€50) but still cheap compared to the UK. We then walked to the Palazzo Tė and marvelled at the incredible ceiling and wall paintings (architect and designer Giulio Romano).
For an evening meal we consulted the guide book – an inexpensive restaurant was to be found on the far side of the town centre. We thought we would walk into town and maybe pass some alternatives on the way. We didn’t find the eating areas – (the next day we did!) and ended up at the ‘inexpensive’ one “L’Ochina Bianca”. I don’t remember paying so much for a meal for a long long time - €43 for two courses – it was nice but we couldn’t afford to have cheap meals like this every day! We decided to make it our wedding anniversary treat – as last nights attempt had failed.
Mileage today 31.4 Total mileage so far 77.8.