Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

Biking in Friuli Venezia Giulia with side trips to Venice, Trieste and Slovenia

Biking in Friuli Venezia Giulia with side trips to Venice, Trieste and Slovenia

Old Oct 20th, 2022, 10:08 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 209
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Biking in Friuli Venezia Giulia with side trips to Venice, Trieste and Slovenia

We had an amazing trip to the northeast of Italy in late July 2022. I had been wanting to see this part of Italy, and we have done occasional bike rides, so I searched bike riding in FVG and came up with the perfect itinerary for us. We found a self guided tour with Eurobike - a German or Austrian company.
We tacked on short stays in Venice, Trieste and Ljubljana and were very happy with how things went (except for a couple snags the last day of biking)

I had been to Venice before but my husband hadn't, so we planned on 3 nights there before taking the train from Venice - Villach, Austria where we would pick up our bikes and join the ciclovia - the bike path. A month before we were due to leave there were some mudslides and flooding in that southern region of Austria, and we got a notification from the Austrian train company that the trip would now involve the change to a bus in Udine. The info was a bit confusing, even deciphering the German, so I got nervous and wound up booking a Flixbus trip straight from Venice to Villach. Unfortunately that cut off our last night in Venice, but things worked out.

We flew Aer Lingus into Venice, since we had old miles to use up from covid cancellations. Everything went smoothly and we arrived in Venice about midday. There was an option of taking the Alilaguna boat direct to our hotel, but the estimated time was at least 90 minutes. So we decided to go out and catch the ATVO bus to Piazzale Roma and then get the vaporetto. The bus trip was quick an easy. It was a bit of a zoo at Piazzale Roma, but we found a machine, got our tickets, walked to our stop (strangely a bit of a hike) and got on. With all the luggage issues with flights, this summer we only took carry on bags and it really did help not to have too much to carry. We had booked the Hotel La Calcina that faces the Giudecca canal in Dorsoduro, so we did not go down the grand canal. The vaporetto ride was quick, and we were soon at the hotel. La Calcina is a historic hotel, a bit dark but it had a nice waiting room next to check in. The decor was very traditional. There is no elevator, which we knew. We had a room on the second or third floor, can't remember, but it was not a problem, and we had a nice view of the canal. A/C worked fine.

The first day we had lunch at a nearby restaurant. There are several that jut over the water and you get the nice breeze and view. Then we walked down the side of the Dorsoduro to the point that faces San Marco and took the Punta della Dogana traghetto across to San Marco for about 2 euros each. The traghetti are always a nice option if you want to just go directly across, if you know where to find them. We had a nice wander around Piazza San Marco, then found a piazza to have a spritz, and then back to Dorsoduro for dinner at another Giudecca canal side restaurant. Although I usually do plan out restaurants, in Venice I wasn't sure where we would be at any time, so we just went with easy options.

The next morning we had booked a morning tour with Nadia from Friend in Venice I wanted someone to help orient us and give us some info beyond the main tourist attractions. Nadia was wonderful. I had her speak in Italian so I could practice a bit, although she does a lot of English tours. While walking she described the architecture of Venice, the history, and helped us notice things we wouldn't have otherwise seen. She knew I wanted to try cicchetti - and it turns out one of the top cicchetti bars (Cantinone Del Vino Già Schiavi) was just around the corner from our hotel. So we went and tried one with a glass of prosecco right away. Apparently the woman there won a prize for best cicchetti maker in Venice. We went into a few buildings so she could show us the splendid decor of the Venetian palazzi and some of the quirks of how the city structures were built. Nadia seemed to know quite a few people walking around. We ended up in a palazzo right on the grand canal, where we were able to take pictures on the balcony and then we were served coffee and pastries (believe it or not she treated us to the food & drinks). She finished off showing us some pictures in a book to tell us more about the history of Venice. It was a very pleasant way to spend a couple of hours learning more about the city from an insider's point of view.

After our time with Nadia, we decided to go to the Peggy Guggenheim museum. It was lovely and we had lunch in the courtyard. Later that day we visited St Mark's basilica on a timed ticket. Strangely it was not crowded at 3 in the afternoon, and we were able to stand and enjoy the mosaics as long as we wanted. I had been to the basilica in 2019 when there was a long line of people and you had to keep moving with the line. We looked at the pala, behind the altar, and then spent some time in the museum, went out on the upper balcony, and then wandered out to have a drink in the piazza.
I will continue later!

palatino82 is offline  
Old Oct 20th, 2022, 10:11 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 23,046
Received 4 Likes on 4 Posts
On for the ride, Peggy's is my favorite place
bilboburgler is offline  
Old Oct 20th, 2022, 11:56 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 11,389
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks for taking time to write this. Interesting and will be very helpful to several people making plans now and later. Love your details. Trip reports are one of the best ways to get new ideas, learn about guides, restaurants, etc. I am very appreciative that people write them.
Sassafrass is online now  
Old Oct 21st, 2022, 01:47 PM
  #4  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 209
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Venice - Villach

Now for the rest of Venice and a bus trip to Austria!
After St Marks we decided to take a ride up the grand canal on the vaporetto. We got off up near San Marcuola to go wander around the Jewish ghetto area. On an earlier trip about 10 years ago I had taken the ghetto tour out of a little Jewish museum, which was interesting. Turns out that the area was pretty quiet in a hot July early evening, so we just found a little bacaro and had more cicchetti for dinner. Then we took the vaporetto back the other way. Nothing too exciting that evening - just more wandering around Dorsoduro along the sea in the other direction. We wound up in Campo Santa Maria which was hopping, but the side canals were very quiet and dark.
Saturday we only had half a day. I am a nervous traveler, and we needed to catch our bus at 4. So I wanted to leave the hotel around 2 or 2:15. We had a wonderful visit to the Doge's Palace. I had booked entry for 9 am to beat the crowds. We caught the vaporetto to St Marks and it was quick and easy to get in. I did not book the Secret Itineraries tour. I had done that tour the first time, but this time we just got the audio guide and followed the main tour. Thinking back I am not sure what was so special about the Secret Itineraries, because we still went over the Bridge of Sighs and saw the prison cells on our own. The audioguide was very informative and it was not overly crowded at that time. After our visit we wound up going back to the first cicchetti place near our hotel, and from my photos it looks like we just had a relaxing lunch, collected our bags, and caught the vaporetto to go to Tronchetto - market where we would catch the Flixbus.

This was my first experience with Flixbus. I had already booked tickets between Trieste and Ljubljana on Flix, since the bus route was way shorter than the train route. So when the Austrian train changed our ticket to train/bus, I thought I would check out Flix. There was a direct bus to Villach from Venice, so I decided that would be easier than wondering how we would change transit modes in an unknown city (Udine). Tronchetto has a big tourist market. Not too exciting, but there was a bar to get some water and a bathroom. So it was fine to wait a little. The bus showed up right on time, and we loaded our bags in the old and climbed on to find our reserved seats.
It was a relatively comfortable passenger bus (what you would call a coach in England).

It was a four hour bus ride to Villach with just two stops - one at the Venice airport and one in Udine. The ride was relaxing - there was good A/C on the bus. It was interesting to look out the window - especially since the bus followed part of the route we would be cycling in the other direction a few days later. We pulled into Villach around 8 pm. Luckily our hotel was just across the street from the bus station. We had booked the Hotel City, the same place we would be staying the following night arranged by the bike company. We checked in, dropped our bags, and set out to find dinner.

It was our first time in Villach, and our first time in Austria (except for a college trip I took to Salzburg 40 years earlier). Villach is a medieval town on a river. It doesn't really look that old. It reminded me of an old English town with a high street. Anyway, I was desperate for some food and had looked up a pub (villacher brauhaus) that looked perfect a 5 minute walk from the hotel. It was very busy. We went in and they said they were not taking any more diners! So we asked about takeout and they said no. I was very disappointed, but we trudged on. We found the Goldenes Lamm restaurant next, which also looked good. They also said they were not taking any more diners! But I pleaded with the maitre de and luckily he found us a table. Not sure why they didn't want more people when there were obviously a few tables open. Finally we had a nice dinner - a schnitzel and beer was a great introduction to Austria. When we had finished and were leaving, they told us we should book up for dinner Sunday, since apparently quite a few places are closed.

So that was a Saturday night, and we had a meeting with the bike company Sunday at 6:30 to get our materials and bike, so we had time on Sunday to do something. I had found a nearby castle called Landeskron that looked interesting. So Sunday morning we inquired at the reception to figure out how we could get to Landskron. The receptionist gave us some information, but when we walked outside to find the bus she had indicated it turned out that the buses didn't run on Sundays. We wound up taking a taxi for the 10 minute ride to the entrance kiosk at Landskron. From there, there was a short 20 minute path that climbed up to the parking area, and then it was a short uphill walk to the castle. Landskron was a great choice. It looks impressive. There is no inside to visit, but there is a nice outdoor restaurant with great views, a gift shop and they also have birds of prey shows. So we went to buy a ticket for the show, then we went to reserve for lunch at the restaurant following the show. Before the bird show you could walk around and see some of the birds in cages. There was an excellent variety of birds of prey, which was perfect since my husband is a big birder.
Then we went to sit on the bleachers for the show. The show was interesting, since I don't understand German. The guy speaking did say some bits in English. It was a great display, since the birds actually flew right over us to poles at the top of the bleachers. It was very well done. There were lots of families with children there. It was definitely a popular Sunday destination and we were very happy to have discovered it. After the show we had a nice lunch overlooking some pretty lakes. When we were ready we walked back down to the entrance of the castle and called the taxi number.
At first the guy didn't answer. So we got another number to call. The second guy answered, so we told him where we were. About 10 minutes later my husband was walking around and saw a taxi, so we got in. It was unclear if it was the right taxi. Probably not because the driver was a woman with her daughter in the front. Next thing you know we get a call back from the first driver who had taken us to the castle, so we told him we were all set. Well, next thing you know we get a call from the guy my husband had connected with. He wanted to know where we were. My husband tried to explain that we got confused and saw another taxi and took it. Well, after hanging up he called our taxi driver! She basically told him tough and that he shouldn't get so stressed. She had a good laugh with her daughter. Moral of the story: it's a small taxi world in Villach. And don't count on any public transportation on Sundays.
Next up: biking from the mountains to the sea in Friuli Venezia Giulia!
palatino82 is offline  
Old Oct 21st, 2022, 05:34 PM
  #5  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 209
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Villach - Tarvisio - Eurobike

On Sunday evening at around 6 pm we met the Eurobike consultant at a hotel in Villach to get the documents for our bike ride. The bikes had been dropped off at the hotel. They were not as good as the bikes we had when we did self guided trips with Cyclomundo in France, but we didn't really have options to change. The bikes were a bit clunky - more like bikes you would ride around town during the day rather than cycling on roads. Live and learn. I was disappointed before the meeting that the main document was in German. I had been communicating in English with the company for over 6 months, and they knew we were English speakers. When I called to mention that we needed the book in English, I reminded them that we had ordered helmets as well. The rep said he must have forgotten to read the emails. At least they had the helmets at the meeting Sunday. There were two other couples at the meeting who were doing a different ride. We waited 20 minutes while the rep discussed their ride. Finally she explained our ride and gave us the helmets. The company was not as good as Cyclomundo. And they were unable to get the English route book before we left Villach. We did have an app with the route, but the printed book had a lot more information. I had seen it on pdf before we left, but since it blocked my computer trying to download it, I figured I would just wait until they gave it to us before the ride. The rep promised us they would have the English book at the next hotel.
Sunday night in Villach we ate at a Greek restaurant that was bustling. Dinner was good, and I tried to practice asking for the bill in German. The bartender was watching me and sent us over some ouzo on the house.
Monday morning after braving the very busy breakfast room at Hotel City, we set out on our ride. The bike path was next to the river, right next to the hotel. When I looked up a bike ride in Friuli Venezia Giulia, I discovered that there is an actual bike path that goes from Salzburg Austria to Grado, on the Italian coast. We chose a five day ride that started in Villach and finished in Trieste - a city I have wanted to visit. Most cyclists end in Grado (remember this! it will be important later).
The path was gorgeous - right next to the river. We choose rides that are about 35 miles a day - an average of 3-4 hours of cycling. We like self guided since we can stop whenever we want to have a coffee or admire the scenery. This was our third bike ride in about 10 years, so we don't do them every year. The first day's route was Villach to Tarvisio, Italy. We enjoyed a coffee stop, then there was a bit of small climb as we crossed the border into Italy. We arrived in Tarvisio about noon. Just before arriving, we came to a crossroads on the bike path. If you go east, you can go into Slovenia. But we headed into the alpine town of Tarvisio, where we would stay before continuing south on the bike path.
It was too early to check into the Hotel Haberl in the center of town, but we were able to park our bikes there, and we set out for lunch. I had scouted out the top place on Tripadvisor. My husband begrudgingly followed me as we walked away from the center and down a different road that didn't seem to lead anywhere. After a 10 minute walk we found the Bar Trattoria Miramonte, which gets great reviews. It lived up to the expectations! It was a small two room place. We noticed local town workers with their neon uniforms at a couple of the tables. There was no written menu and there were 3-4 choices for each course. We got the ravioli stuffed with wild herbs in a sage butter sauce and a more traditional red meat sauce dish. The waitress didn't like it when we tried to order 2 of the raviolis. We should have insisted, since we both loved the ravioli. The other dish was good, but we know what we like. I had a salad, and then my husband enjoyed the apple strudel. In this part of Italy there is definitely a strong German influence. Not many English speakers around either.
After lunch we went back to the hotel to check in. It was a typical mountain 3 star hotel with a restaurant. There were some good public rooms to relax. Our bedroom was fine with a shared balcony, so we washed some clothes and set them out to dry. Later on we went out and walked around the town. At dinner time we weren't really hungry for a restaurant meal, so we went to the local grocery store and got some San Daniele prosciutto, focaccia, fruit and yogurt and ate in a nice park with a fountain and admired the mountain views. It was a cute little town - probably a beehive of activity in the winter skiing season.
We were just settling into bed that night when we heard some noise on the balcony. The people in the room next door had friends who gathered on the shared balcony to drink beer. What's more, there was no a/c so we had our door to the balcony open for air. I wound up going down to one of the reception rooms for a while with a book. At least the couches were comfortable and there was no one else around down there. When I went back up to our room the balcony party had ended, and we went to bed.
We didn't really get a great sleep since a dog (I think it was the hotel dog in a pen) barked a lot. And it was hot. Luckily it was the only hotel without a/c.
And in the morning we set off before 8:30 and the views were gorgeous. The air was a bit crisp, and there were clouds under the mountain peaks. It was a beautiful start to the day.

The cycle path was an old rail trail, so was quite flat. It went over bridges and through tunnels. After the second or third tunnel I figured out how to put the front bike light on. There were little alpine houses with flowers all around. My husband stopped with his binoculars to check out the birds. After about an hour we arrived in Pontebba and found a cute cafe to have a morning coffee. There was a bridge over a river into the town, and after coffee we went back to read all the historical signs. It seems Pontebba was the border town between various sides on the First World War. (Don't quote me on that, but it definitely was a significant area in WWI).
After coffee we headed south on the path, in what would be one of the most scenic parts of the ride. More bridges and stopping for photos with all the beautiful mountain views. Next stop was Chiusaforte, where there is a large bar right on the cycle path. There were lots of people having morning beer and enjoying the sunshine. There were bike tools next to the restrooms, which were outside next to the bar. We rode another hour to our next stop of Venzone. Unfortunately at some point the path stopped and we wound up on the main road. It was fine, but not my favorite part. Then we found the way into Venzone, a town that had been destroyed by an earthquake but was rebuilt exactly the same. It had a cute little center, but there was not really too much to see. However there was a lovely restaurant called Locanda al Municipio. At first it just looked like a couple of tables out front, but you walk through an arch and there is a full outdoor space with lots of tables. Luckily they had space. It was definitely the main restaurant of the town. There was a nice little pastry shop on the main square where we stopped for a treat, and then it was off to Ossopo - a very small place where they had booked our hotel. I will stop there for now!
palatino82 is offline  
Old Oct 21st, 2022, 08:34 PM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 1,909
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks for sharing your experience of cycling in the area. Looking forward to hearing more.
dreamon is offline  
Old Oct 22nd, 2022, 01:48 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 23,046
Received 4 Likes on 4 Posts
interested in their bike selection, did they ask for your dimensions as part of the ordering service and did they comunicate with you about the cycle style before arrival?
bilboburgler is offline  
Old Oct 22nd, 2022, 08:56 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 10,740
Received 1 Like on 1 Post
Riding bikes through Europe is glorious! Glad you did it and have taken the time to share your trip report. Thanks!
kleeblatt is offline  
Old Oct 22nd, 2022, 12:16 PM
  #9  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 209
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Bilbobuglar: They did ask for our height and described the two options for bikes, but they didn't show pictures.
The basic bikes supplied by Cyclomundo were much better and less like town bikes. They were 21 speed bikes. We have never used road bikes for the Europe trips, but just use the hybrid ones since some of the surfaces are gravel.
palatino82 is offline  
Old Oct 22nd, 2022, 12:37 PM
  #10  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 209
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Venzone - Ossopo - Udine and the FVG bike paths

Leaving Venzone we were following signs for the FVG 1 bike route. Our destination was the Hotel Pittis in Ossopo. (By the way - Eurobike was collecting our luggage each day and dropping it at the next destination). At this point in our journey we got a little lost. We thought we were going the right way following the signs, but my husband forgot to check the app. We arrived in Gemona following the signs, but we were supposed to be west of Gemona. We managed to redirect ourselves using the main roads and arrived at the Hotel about 4 pm just as it was starting to sprinkle a bit.
The Hotel Pittis felt like a relic from the 1970's. Luckily it had a/c. It also had a radio in the room that was very mid-century with lots of heavy wood paneling. It was run by a family and a very calm place in a small town. We discovered there was a fort that was a 2 mile climb behind the hotel. Not wanting to ride anymore that day we started walking up to see it, but then it began raining a bit more, so we turned around. We enjoyed an aperitif and then dinner on the portico covered sidewalk in front of the hotel. I don't think there are many other options for eating in Ossopo, but the hotel was great, and when we asked for grappa after dinner the waiter (family member) brought me to the drinks table and let me taste a selection before choosing.

The hotel was quiet and comfortable, and the next morning we set out for Udine, the historical capital of Friuli. We first rode through a nature reserve that was very relaxing, and then turned east and rode through rolling hills of vineyards. We passed some small towns with pretty little churches. There was lovely scenery all around.
In entering Udine we passed the stadium, where Chelsea would be playing a friendly soccer match in 2 days. Arriving in the city we stopped for a drink and I scouted out a lunch spot. We chose il canarino, a historic osteria and followed Google Maps. It was a one room place, pretty full but we got the last table. The food was fine. This was definitely the trip where the food was good but not super special (except for the Tarvisio restaurant). Although the ambiance in each place was unique and interesting. The canarino was bustling with locals. After eating we wound our way to the hotel, the Clocchiati Next. It was a cool looking modern 4 star hotel with a pool. We took a dip and rested for a bit while I scouted out a laundrette. I was ready to wash some of our clothes. I found a place about a 15 minute walk and took care of that. Then we went for a pizza across the street and then we walked into the town to check out the night life. Our hotel was not in the most historic part of the city, but it was just a 10 minute walk to the walls. The center was very lively. We have often found that on summer evenings there are dj's or bands set up in various areas throughout the cities. The main square was beautifully lit with medieval looking buildings all around and loads of outdoor restaurants and cafes. After wandering and taking some pics we got a gelato and walked back to the hotel.

palatino82 is offline  
Old Oct 22nd, 2022, 12:51 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 11,389
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Enjoying, thank you.
Sassafrass is online now  
Old Oct 22nd, 2022, 05:46 PM
  #12  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 209
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Udine - Palmanova - Aquilea - Grado

This was our fourth day of cycling straight south from Udine - Grado. The route was very flat, again next to a lot of cultivated fields. The first stop we made was at Palmanova, a town with a unique star shaped fortification. We headed straight for the middle piazza and had a coffee. We didn't spend too long there since I had looked out a winery along the route, and we had a 10:30 tasting scheduled in Strassoldo - another 30 min down the road. We were running late so I called the cantina to mention that. Then we hopped back on the bikes to head towards the Villa Vitas winery in Strassoldo. We had no trouble finding it since it is right on the main road. Luckily the person hosting our tasting was able to accommodate us running late. I had booked the tasting through cantine.wine. It was only 5 euros per person to try 3 wines for a 30 minute tasting. It was just us, and we listened to an informative description of the winery (sorry to say I don't remember too much but there were also apartments you could rent and some grounds to walk around). But the tasting was very enjoyable and the host did not really limit us to trying only three wines. It was especially interesting since we didn't know the Friuli varieties very well. Being on the bikes we were unable to buy any bottles to take with us. But it was a fun extra experience and we had a quick look around Strassoldo which is a medieval village with a castle.

We wanted to get back on the road since our next stop was Aquilea, where we planned to stop and visit the ruins of the Roman town. Shortly out of Strassoldo we found the restaurant recommended by the winery lady. We had a nice lunch at All'Anfora, again a very popular spot which had both an outdoor patio as well as a large indoor seating area.

Aquilea was a prominent Roman town with extensive ruins. Some views reminded us a little of Ostia Antica, near Rome. The most impressive site was the Basilica. The floor is covered with mosaics from the 4th century. The mosaics were gorgeous and then there were also some even older spaces underneath with frescoes. I am afraid I am not good with super detailed descriptions of these places, but definitely don't miss Aquilea if you are ever in this part of Italy!

After Aquilea it was getting pretty warm and we still had another 30-45 minutes of cycling to get to Grado. Grado is actually an island and we cycled along the road that connects it to the mainland. It was cool to finally be at the sea, having started our cycling trip in the mountains. There were a lot of families on holiday there. It took a bit to find the hotel, since the area is a bit spread out with loads of hotels and holiday residences. We were at the Hotel Rialto in Grado. After we checked in and locked up the bikes we took a walk outside to try to find the beach and get a drink. The beach was a 5-10 minute walk, but it was a little weird since they were charging an entry fee. We are used to Italian beaches having spent many vacations on the island of Elba, but had never seen anywhere that charged people just for walking onto the beach. They actually let us in because we said we wanted to go to the bar on the beach, but it wasn't really what we were looking for and the late afternoon sun was beating down, so we turned around and walked further down the hotel street to find a real bar where we could get a spritz. In general the Grado beaches were flat with shallow water and certainly nothing to write home about. We have been spoiled by our trips to Elba where the topography is more interesting (an island with mountains in the middle) and where there are more than a hundred beautiful cove beaches with crystal clear water.
We were pretty worn out from riding our bikes that day, so we wound up eating dinner close to the hotel, but luckily it was one of the best restaurants in town, the Bistrot Ratatouille. We had a nice dinner there and then walked into the main tourist drag to look around. Lots of shops, restaurants and gelaterie and people out for their nightly stroll.
Stay tuned for Eurobike fails and the trip to Trieste!

palatino82 is offline  
Old Oct 24th, 2022, 02:37 PM
  #13  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 209
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Grado - Trieste

On our Eurobike ride, many people finish the ride in Grado. The Alpe-Adria ciclovia officially stops there. But we had chosen the 5 day option that would finish in Trieste.

We woke up at the Grado hotel, ate breakfast, and were ready to go by 8 am to try and beat the afternoon heat. We went down to the garage where we had locked our bikes, and they were nowhere to be found! Interestingly the evening before I had seen a Eurobike van with a trailer attached, and I vaguely wondered whose bikes they were picking up. Ours as it happens! I was very stressed, went back into the hotel and tried calling a few Eurobike phone numbers. I got through to someone in the office and told them that our bikes had been taken by mistake.
She said she would call me back. Meanwhile we sat there fuming, not really knowing how this would turn out. I never mentioned that it wound up taking them until Ossopo - three days after our ride started, to get me the English version of the route book. Luckily the Eurobike rep called back and said they could get us the bikes in about 20 minutes. When they pulled up in the van, the guy got out and gave us the bikes, and he showed us that our tags had said Trieste - he just hadn't read them! We were pretty annoyed with Eurobike.
So we set off an hour later than planned.
The ride out of Grado (a different way than we approached) was actually beautiful, next to a natural marshland reserve. My husband was stopping with his binoculars to check on the birds regularly. He saw a large amount of bee eaters, a sacred ibis, loads of herons and more.
It was very peaceful. We came to a crossroads of several bike routes and followed along our course towards Monfalcone.
Coming into Monfalcone we passed a beach area where there were some tourist shops so we stopped for a drink. We looked at the map and decided to stop in Duino, a town with a castle for lunch. We then rode through Monfalcone, which didn't leave a huge impression, and joined up with more of a main road towards Trieste. The bike company had mentioned that the last part of the ride was on a main road. There was plenty of space so it wasn't too bad.
We arrived in Duino, which actually has a 14th century fortified castle as well as an older ruined one that you can spot from the grounds. The position on the coast is very pretty. We visited the castle and by then we were fairly hungry. Unfortunately there didn't seem to be much in the town except for a bar right next to the castle which did not look too interesting.
In the end we went inside the bar, and the inside had a bit more character with wood benches, so we opted for a drink. The sandwiches on offer didn't look appetizing, so we wound up just having a Spritz with the obligatory snacks (usually potato chips but in this case some other crackers) It was good enough and after our drinks we got back on the bikes for the last push to Trieste. Now we were in the afternoon heat so the rest of the journey felt long - maybe another hour. Because we were tired we did not stop to visit Miramare castle, a very famous castle close to Trieste on the coast. More famous than Duino, but we had looked at pictures of both the night before and we opted for Duino.
As we approached Trieste we passed the Barcola beach, which is a bit like a boardwalk - some pines and loads of locals sitting next to the water. No sand visible, but very popular. Then it seemed to take forever to come into the city itself. We arrived at the train station, oriented ourselves, and headed for our hotel - the Hotel Victoria Letterario, the last hotel booked by Eurobike. I had booked a second night since we wanted to stay in Trieste 2 nights. We arrived at the hotel and one of the receptionists walked with us a block away to put our bikes in their garage. Then we went back to check in. Eurobike fail #2 - I heard the receptionist arguing with Eurobike about our reservation. Someone had failed to confirm and they were both finger pointing. The hotel was fully booked, and they did not have a room for us. I was pretty upset with Eurobike. The Eurobike rep said we would have to take a taxi to the other hotel they worked with - the hotel Coppe. Both hotels were 4 stars, but we had been looking forward to the Victoria one since it has some history, and also we had booked our second night there. So we left the bikes and took a taxi with our saddle bags to the other hotel. The receptionists were very nice and let us choose between the three rooms they had open. Then they asked for our passports. For about 15 minutes I had a major panic when I could not find my passport. I had given it to the reception at the Victoria hotel and I remember getting it back when I was on the phone with Eurobike, but I couldn't remember where I had put it. So we were starting to feel like everything was going wrong that day! Luckily the receptionist was understanding and said I would probably find it when I got to the room, and she was right. Eurobike had told them to put a bottle of Spumante in our room. It didn't make up for the hassle! Later on we wound up getting reimbursed 200 euros total for the fiasco the last day of our trip.
Finally we took a shower. This is the one day our suitcases didn't arrive until 5:30. But we always took a change of clothes with us, so we managed to shower and walk over to see Piazza Unità - one of Europe's largest piazzas bordering the sea. It really shows off the Austrio-Hungarian past of Trieste and it is splendid. We found the famous Caffe degli Specchi and we were set for an hour. I think we actually sat inside the first afternoon, since it was pretty hot. We finally had lunch - zucchini flowers wrapped in prosciutto with bufala mozzarella. The cafe was gorgeous and the food was excellent. It wasn't even expensive, given that it looked like it was so upscale. I think the Spritzes were 5 euros and they came with chips, nuts and tartines.
We went back to the hotel and found our suitcases, then made dinner reservations at Vecio Buffet Marascutti 1914 - a traditional restaurant.
Dinner was a 20 minute walk and we detoured by a few of the historic caffes. We found the illy shop near Piazza Unità and bought ourselves some limited edition Biennale espresso cups. It was nice to visit a different area of town where the restaurant was, although after a day of cycling we didn't wander too much.
The restaurant that night was fine. It had a cozy looking inside, and you could hear them pounding the veal (I had schnitzel again). I can't even remember what the local specialties were, or the food so much. Someone on Tripadvisor said the host was surly, and he definitely was brusque, but not unfriendly. It got busy, but wasn't a place to linger over your meal. The more interesting part was walking around the canal after dinner and seeing the synagogue and the Orthodox churches, which were lit up nicely. We visited the Antico Caffe San Marco, which is a caffe and bookstore. You can definitely feel that there was a strong intellectual history in Trieste.
The next morning we walked across town to see the Museo Revoltella. The bottom floors of the palazzo show what life was like in the second half of the 1800's and the top three floors are a modern art gallery. I especially liked the library with the old copies of classic books, and the art was very interesting. There is an outdoor seating area up on the top floor (looks like it once was a cafe) with some nice views of the harbor.
Walking back from the museum towards Piazza Unità we found a great street full of interesting shops, including a deli with an enticing cheese counter. Turned out to have some seats for dining and a large menu on the chalk board, so we decided to sit and enjoy a charcuterie platter with some local specialties and a glass of wine. It was a fun stop and after eating we bought some of the red onion jam they served with the prosciutto. I had a look at the map and I couldn't say where it was exactly. But it was a treat.
Next we went back to the hotel Coppe to pick up our bags and took a taxi back to the hotel Victoria, where I had reserved the extra night.
By that point I was feeling a little tired of the city touring, and we decided to book the Hotel spa - a jacuzzi / steam bath / sauna combo that you can reserve for 90 minutes. The water therapy was just what we needed, and later that afternoon we felt very refreshed and headed back out to Caffe degli Specchi, our favorite spot in Trieste. We got a front row seat outdoors, and spent the next 2 hours watching the sun set. The piazza was even more beautiful at night. We went ahead and ordered dinner there, since the food had been so good the previous night. I had a delicious parmigiana.
After a good night's sleep and a delicious breakfast (the only hotel we were in that made the coffees to order - everywhere else just had self serve machines - we had a couple hours to kill before catching our Flix bus to Ljubljana. It looked like the Cathedral of San Giusto had some pretty mosaics, and it was about a 20 minute walk, which was perfect. We climbed up the streets and staircases to the church. It is on a pretty site with a great view of the city and a big monument. The church itself was beautiful and very old looking. There was a bell tower we did not go up. We did manage to have a look at the inside although it was Sunday and they were getting ready for mass. There was a big scout troop there too - looked like they were getting ready to go somewhere and boarding buses in the parking lot. There was an outdoor cafe.
It really was interesting and I was glad we had a look. I am sure I could have found a few more things to do in Trieste - a friend had taken the excursion to Muggia by boat, and I had looked out a hike on the Napoleonic Way that we didn't do. But I have a feeling we will return.
Next: Flixbus to Slovenia - Ljubljana and Bled.
palatino82 is offline  
Old Oct 25th, 2022, 12:39 AM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 23,046
Received 4 Likes on 4 Posts
Wow, what a cock-up. When we started cycle touring we used your method of travel but quickly moved over to bike hire and booking our own accom and taking everything with us. (we have never tried the taxi moving the bags trick but as we get older maybe) and so if it goes wrong it is down to us and in a way that feels more comfortable. We also normally only book our rooms at breakfast for the coming night so any detours can be planned for. But a great report thank you.
bilboburgler is offline  
Old Oct 25th, 2022, 03:39 PM
  #15  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 209
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Bilboburglar I can’t imagine bringing everything on the bike! It was something for us to squeeze it all into carry on size bags! And this was the first time we had any problems. I am a huge independent planner but for the bike trips I appreciate the guidance and routes on the quieter roads or cycle paths, and the luggage transport. Self guided leaves us enough freedom to stop where we want along the route and choose where we eat.
palatino82 is offline  
Old Oct 26th, 2022, 12:23 AM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 23,046
Received 4 Likes on 4 Posts
We use https://www.esterbauer.com/ for routes, not all in English but the detailed maps are fantastic.
We stay in Airbnb every week to get access to a washing machine and a day's rest which halves our clothes requirement, finally we take our oldest clothes (after Covid we have some very old ones) and just discard towards the end ;-)
bilboburgler is offline  
Old Oct 26th, 2022, 04:24 PM
  #17  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 209
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Trieste - Slovenia - Venice Airport

Hoping to finish this now!
From Trieste we decided to go to Ljubljana, which several friends had highly recommended. Looking into routes between the cities, the train seemed oddly too long (4-5 hours?). But Flixbus did the trip in 90 minutes! (This was the original choice to use Flixbus, and then when we had the train problem between Venice - Villach I fell back on Flix). So we caught the bus at the autostazione, right next to the Trieste train station Luckily I poked around and went inside the place, because it turned out that we did not catch the bus outside, where some buses stopped, but inside in a covered area through a door. The coach bus pickup area is quite hidden.
There were a lot of people at the Flixbus stop - not all for our bus. When our bus arrived (they all have signs in the front window with the bus number and destination, and the app works well alerting you when the bus will arrive, and they were usually bang on time), we got on. This one was much more crowded than the first Flix bus we took. One of the Flix bus people was trying to pack the luggage hold. It all worked out, and it was a quick and easy trip into Ljubljana.

In Ljubljana, it was a 15 minute walk to our hotel: City Hotel, which seemed like a central location and we got a good deal by booking early.
After checking into our room we took a five minute walk down to Preseren Square to start poking around. It was a bit underwhelming - being just a small place with stones, no grass, and a fountain in the middle. The big pink church is there. I am not sure why I thought it would be like a park square with grass, or a larger space. We got some photos of the famous dragon bridge. The river was quaint, with several impressive bridges, but on a small scale compared to the bigger European cities. You had to be right next to the bridges to see the river. The area on either side of the bridges was very lively, even more so at night, and lined with cafes and restaurants. If you went back a block there were more shops and restaurants. It was definitely a hopping place and very manageable. After seeing the tourist area and the market stalls - we stopped for some Strukli at a place right next to the river that was good - we decided to go have a look at Metelkova a neighborhood that is known for graffiti art.
Some reviewers on Tripadvisor said it was sketchy. It is perfectly fine to visit during the day, although there is a rule not to take pictures of people. There were lots of buildings with really interesting murals and designs painted on them. There were other tourists around, and clearly some people who lived there too.
It was a unique place and worth a stop. It was only about a 15 minute walk in the other direction from our hotel.
One important thing about Ljubljana - book your restaurants in advance! We struggled to find a place to eat that wasn't booked, but luckily chanced upon Gostilna Breg, on the side of the river across from the castle and down at the opposite end from Preseren Square. The food was excellent. I believe we had a charcuterie plate and dessert, and can't remember if we had more. We tried some local wine. I loved the honey on the cheese board with blueberries in it. It was a charming place with excellent cuisine. It was a nice stroll back to the hotel. The bridges looked very nice lit up at night.
The next day we had planned on going to the castle in the late afternoon, so we booked at the castle restaurant, which has a tasting menu and was supposed to be one of the best places to eat in town. So we had some time to kill. After all our touring, I decided that I wanted to try and get some exercise. I found a local olympic sized pool. Now how to get there - well, one of the impressive things about Ljubljana is their city bike service. You only need to pay 1 euro to register. Then you can take a bike from any kiosk (they are all over the town and they are listed on maps) and if your ride is less than 45 minutes you don't even pay anything!! So armed with my Google maps I checked out a bike and rode about 20 minutes to the pool, where there was another kiosk right out in front. It was a beautiful pool. I was a little confused by the electronic bracelet locker system, but someone kindly helped me. While I was swimming, my husband took out a bike and rode to the Tivoli park where he went birdwatching. He also had a great time. It was nice to get around by bike. In fact, after lunch that day we rode to a laundromat to wash our clothes. It helped orienting us a bit and we saw more of the city.
In the late afternoon we took the funicular up to the castle. We made sure to leave a couple of hours before the dinner reservation because my husband insisted he wanted to make sure he had enough time. When we got up, it was a little confusing about where to go. There were some steps, but then you are on a large open stone patio area, and there are different paths you can take. We didn't bother going to ask for information, but it wasn't necessary. There wasn't too much to see - just different wings with some rooms, a chapel. For me, after visiting a lot of castles in England and France, this one seemed too modern and lacking interest. It just felt odd. The restaurant looked onto the patio area, and they were setting up chairs for a movie under the stars later. In the end I think 30 minutes would have been sufficient! We wound up going into this nice looking bar with comfortable seats where there was absolutely no one (and this was early August) and had a pre dinner drink.
So honestly I would give the castle a miss.
The castle restaurant was very good. We got the tasting menu and it was interesting. But the meat dishes were too big for tasting size, so we felt overly full at the end.

We had one more full day in Slovenia, and I chose to book a full day tour through Roundabout travel. Actually I booked it on Tripadvisor. The full day small group tour would take us to Lake Bohinj, Lake Bled, Vitnar Gorge (or something like that) and a medieval village. We were given an 8 am meeting point at a nearby hotel.
Right on time our guide showed up (sorry can't remember his name now!) in a van. There were 8 of us on the tour and my husband and I were in the front seat with the driver. It was an excellent way to see more of the city and get some great information. I think they vary the stops depending on the day. We drove first to Skofja Loka, about 30 minutes away and our guide took us around for about 30 minutes. It was a cute little place and we enjoyed hearing about it. Then we got back in the van and drove on to Lake Bohinj - maybe another 30 minutes? Lake Bohinj was absolutely gorgeous. It was striking how natural the places were and the guide said that over development was prohibited to safeguard the natural aspect. There were a few hotels and some cafes, and we were dropped off to wander around for 45 minutes. The water was gorgeous and there were people swimming and jumping off the bridge. We had a coffee and went down to wade in the crystal clear water.
This is taking a bit longer than I expected so I will stop there and save the best for the next post: Bled!!
palatino82 is offline  
Old Nov 9th, 2022, 06:43 AM
  #18  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 209
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Well time to finish this off in case anyone is looking for more info about Slovenia and getting back to Venice airport!
By the way our Bled excursion tour guide was Jan. After our stop at Lake Bohinj it was off to Lake Bled. It was a beautiful drive through the mountains. We passed some youth cycling teams (obviously sponsored by Pogacar by the look of their jerseys) huffing and puffing and were glad we were in a vehicle. I recall quite a bit of traffic, although we didn't seem to get held up, but again, I was glad that we were being driven by a local and not trying to do it ourselves. Usually we do have a rental car and are happy to do our own thing, but it looked like a big summer traffic jam, both around Lake Bled and on the highway between Trieste and Slovenia.
Anyway, Bled is breathtaking. The water is a particular bluish green and the island with the church looks just like it does on all the stock photos - you just want to keep looking at it because it's so pretty.
Before stopping in the town our guide took us to the castle. We just stopped there about 45 minutes, and some people opted not to go in. It wasn't really an indoor structure as much as a central outdoor area and then little parts you could walk through - definitely didn't need much time. There was a winery and a honey shop and a stand to get the famous Bled cream cake. But there was a great patio with a view of the church, so we were very glad we had paid to go in. We got some very nice photos from there. Then the guide rounded us up and drove us back to the town. He gave us a couple of restaurant recommendations and then he drove us to the Villa Presneren and dropped us off for a 2 1/2 hr visit. We walked to the hotel garden and went down some stairs and we were on the walking path by the lake.
Since it was lunchtime, we opted to first find a place to eat. I have been searching and searching and cannot find the name of the place we ate, which had a beautiful view of the lake. It was a multi-level place with the first floor open so the tables had a view of the lake. There was a bar on the first floor. We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food and had a mushroom soup starter that was eloquently presented and then a salad, all with plenty of fresh air and a nice view of the lake.
After eating, we decided to test the water. People were set up all along the shore of the lake and there were spots to easily jump in. I forgot to mention we had changed into our swimsuits in the restaurant bathroom. There were not public restrooms that we saw or any kind of waterside bathhouse services like you might find in Italy.
So we each took a turn swimming in the gorgeously clean water. There are no motorized boats that I remember - just the traditional wooden boats you can rent to row or be rowed to the island. We opted not to visit the island and just relaxed a bit. After the swim we walked back towards the Villa and found the path up to the Villa Belvedere - a strange cube structure with some historical significance since Tito had entertained heads of state there. It was like a relic from the 1970's - a two room place with a kitchen, all done out in wood paneling. In the main cafe room there is a socialist mosaic and at one end a lone record player. One side faces the lake and there is a balcony where you can have your cream cake enjoying the view, which is what we did. The waitress was very slow and grumpy. But it was an experience and definitely both the mural, the view, and the Bled cream cake were an experience. The "cream" cake by the way turned out to have a think layer of custard, much to my British husband's delight.
After our coffee and cake it was time to meet the group back at the villa next door. We had one last stop that day - Vintgar Gorge.
Jan explained en route that he would need to drop us at the Gorge and then drive to a different place to pick us up. He explained the signs we should follow. When we arrived he got out with us and we paid our entry fee. As I recall they were starting to limit entry. The parking lot was full. But we were able to pay and go in. Once in it didn't seem overly crowded, and there was a path that you followed alongside the gorge. The water and the scenery was very nice and it was a fairly easy walk at this point through the gorge with many photo stops. Despite coming in our group of 7 (one man had stayed in Bled - something he had previously arranged), we didn't walk together in a clump - people just did their own thing and so it felt relatively solitary except for occasionally passing other couples or small family groups.
The walk was about 45 minutes, and then at the end we saw the signs Jan had indicated towards Santa Caterina I believe. So we veered off in that direction. At this point the trail went upwards and I remember thinking that it might be challenging if you weren't reasonably fit. The path went through a woods and was probably another 30 minutes of walking. It started to rain lightly and all of a sudden we saw Jan approaching us from the other direction carrying umbrellas! We were the first ones he encountered, and apparently the parking spot was a little further ahead, and there was a big outdoor restaurant where we could get a drink if we wanted.
As we got to the restaurant and went to look at the view across the hills there was a rainbow! Quite a fitting finale to a wonderful day.
Within about 30 minutes the rest of the group had arrived and we set off back towards Ljubjlana at about 6 pm. It had been a long but satisfying excursion and one I would highly recommend.
Upon getting back into the city about an hour later it was dinnertime. We hadn't made plans, not knowing how long the day trip would be, and as we walked down to the river all the restaurants were jam packed! Absolutely no luck finding a place. We were in the mood for pizza. I did manage to find one place, pops place pizza, that did not take reservations, so we headed there. When we arrived there was a line of about 15 people, so we figured it was our only shot and stood and waited about 30 minutes. We had a nice view of all the people at that restaurant and all the restaurants lining both sides of the river enjoying their meals! It was luckily worth the wait. The pizza was excellent. Walking back to our hotel later the views of the bridges and fountains lit up in green was very pretty. It had a been a packed couple of days but a great first taste of Ljubljana and Slovenia.

BACK TO VENICE
The next day was a full travel day. We walked back 15 minutes to the Flixbus stop in the morning and took Flix from Ljubljana to Trieste. We hit traffic on the highway, but the bus driver detoured and we were only about 15 minutes late getting into Trieste in the end. Then we had about a 90 minute layover before taking the train to Venezia Mestre - the stop before Venice - where we would stay overnight close to the Venice airport. We didn't want to wander too far, but we were able to find a decent air conditioned bar that also offered lunch. It was perfect.
Then we hopped our 2 pm local train for a slow ride stopping in every town that got us into Venezia Mestre about 4:30. From there the B&B we had booked, Ca' Beatrice, recommended taking a taxi to their place, about 20 euros. At that point we weren't going to wait around and sort out the public buses. There are hotels in Mestre, but I thought it might be nice to have a country experience. Plus the B&B was very close to the airport. The B&B was comfortable but a little odd. When we arrived there seemed to be a soccer team there having a meeting. We were the only overnight guests I noticed. And it wasn't really like other agriturismos I had stayed in in that it wasn't really a working farm. However it was fine - and I had read there was a good restaurant attached, so we ate at the separate restaurant. It was definitely popular with the locals. Heavy on the meat. As I said before, this was a very cool trip but not so many memorable culinary experiences.
The next morning the owner drove us to the airport and that was the end of our adventure. Despite the small snags with Eurobike at the end of our cycling trip, I would actually definitely sign up to do it again! I was really happy with everything we did on this trip and enjoyed seeing some new places and some different cultural influences, and I would love to return to Trieste and maybe combine it with the upper part of Croatia. I hope this info is helpful to anyone looking at traveling in these areas!
palatino82 is offline  
Old Nov 9th, 2022, 11:12 PM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 2,240
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thank you for the report! It was a fun read.

The tourist office for Friuli-Venezia Giulia is really helpful.. some other parts of Italy could take some lessons from them. They have a page about cycling on their website. https://www.turismofvg.it/en/cycling
Apologies if you seen it, but maybe it can be useful next time.

rialtogrl is offline  
Old Nov 10th, 2022, 12:29 PM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 56,585
Received 5 Likes on 3 Posts
<<After the swim we walked back towards the Villa and found the path up to the Villa Belvedere - a strange cube structure with some historical significance since Tito had entertained heads of state there. It was like a relic from the 1970's - a two room place with a kitchen, all done out in wood paneling. In the main cafe room there is a socialist mosaic and at one end a lone record player. One side faces the lake and there is a balcony where you can have your cream cake enjoying the view, which is what we did. The waitress was very slow and grumpy>>

Thank you so much Palatino82 for bringing back memories of our honeymoon in 1978 one week of which was spent on Lake Bled which we enjoyed very much, slow and grumpy waitresses and the cult of Tito not withstanding. He owned quite a lot of the land around the lake which made exploring quite difficult but unlike you we did get to the island which later featured in the Star Wars film Phantom Menace, much to my surprise. And thank you too for a very entertaining and informative TR. You had quite a few obstacles to overcome, but did so with good humour and aplomb which I much admired.
annhig is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information -