Ski Safari Swaps Skis for Cycles on a Freedom Treks Weekend
In March, the Ski Safari team joined sister company Freedom Treks for a long weekend to discover what makes a Freedom Treks cycling holiday so special.
For many of us it was our first weekend on two wheels and swapping skis/snowboards for bikes brought a mixture of excitement and trepidation. However, once we were in Italy, it took little to allay the fears of even the most novice cyclist. We sampled a selection of guided and self-guided routes, learning about the Veneto region and what makes a successful cycling tour.
Finding our Wheels
We flew into Venice and travelled on to Vicenza, where we picked up our rental bikes. The bikes didn't faze anyone, in fact they proved to be a lot less faff than the usual ski rental organisation. Easy to adjust to size, they had flawlessly tuned brakes and an effortlessly smooth gear shift. Perfect for our mix of everyday cycling commuters, part-time cyclists and those who hadn't picked up a bike for as long as they could remember!
Once everyone was happy with their bike, we began with a short section of Freedom Treks' Bolzano to Venice tour, which was a fabulous start to the weekend. Undemanding cycling along a paved route with a tremendous sweeping backdrop of pretty farmland on one side and grand, vine-lined hills on the other.
The Usual Après
A special treat at the end of our first ride easily substituted for our usual après entertainment - a visit to a local vineyard for a tour and to sample the wine and food proudly produced there, all while basking in a glorious sunset.
The Not-So-Usual Lodging
On to Chioggia, where our home for the weekend was waiting, the superior class Ave Maria, a generously equipped boat that features on the Mantua to Venice tour. Beautifully designed with spacious communal areas and ample room in the cabins, the boat allows you to explore during the day and dine, relax and sleep at night without the hassle of packing and unpacking between destinations. It also allows for unscheduled rest days should you wish to take a break from cycling, something a couple of our team chose to do!
After a morning exploring Chioggia, known as "Little Venice" with its waterways, bridges and Venetian-style architecture, we began our main day of cycling, following a 30km route towards Venice. Our bikes, which had been stored on the boat, were wheeled off by our crew all ready to go.
Following a beautiful waterside route with traditional Italian fishing towns and stunning views of the sea, we cycled on towards the Ca' Roman nature reserve, from where we hopped on board a public ferry for the short journey to Lido Island, home to the International Venice Film Festival. We stopped in the town here for a well-earned beer before reaching the other side of the island and the Ave Maria, moored and waiting for us.
A highlight of the trip for everyone, the Ave Maria then navigated through the lagoon while we relaxed with a selection of mouthwatering antipasti and an Aperol Spritz on the sundeck, with the Venice skyline bathed in the setting sun as our spectacular backdrop. Absolutely incredible.
Venice's northern lagoon, which makes up part of Freedom Treks' Venice to Porec tour, allows cycling through wonderful wetland landscapes with abundant wildlife. We fortified ourselves against the morning's light drizzle with warming coffee stops and a little prosecco, not at all deterred by the sun's brief disappearance, before returning to the boat and then catching a vaporetto water bus from Giudecca to Venice's centre, a novel experience for those of us who hadn't been on one before! We had a very enjoyable couple of hours sightseeing and visiting a few local bars.
We finished our trip the following morning with a guided walking tour of Venice's magnificent sights. We visited St Mark's Square and ambled through the streets, crossing famous marble bridges and admiring the magnificent architecture all around. We learnt about Venice's place in history and the famous and wealthy who have called the island home. There were plenty of gondolas of course - just not the type we're used to!
We ate most meals on board the boat and all wholeheartedly agreed that the food was absolutely fantastic. Throughout the weekend we enjoyed food inspired by the Veneto region, from beautifully flavoured pasta and creamy risotto to melt-in-the-mouth veal and an imaginative tiramisu. What our chef was able to do in a small kitchen, feeding 23 of us every morning, afternoon and night was pretty impressive. Plus, although normally frowned upon when breakfasting in ski accommodation, we were actively encouraged to make up a daily packed lunch from the breakfast buffet, complete with sandwich bags provided and extra energy-boosting snacks for the day.
When this weekend was announced as an alternative to our usual ski weekend there was a mix of anticipation and apprehension amongst the ski team, with some unsure what a cycling tour would bring. But by the end of our time in Italy we were glowing about our time on the bikes, cycling through wonderful scenery with friends, marvelling at Italy's beautiful architecture and enjoying magnificent food. Just a few comments from the team below are testimony to their enjoyment!
"I enjoy being on a bike almost as much skiing, and while this was a lot more of a leisurely pursuit than anything I have done before, I would happily do it again. In fact, I have even floated the idea of cycling around Germany to my “ski lot” and I think it’s likely to come to fruition very soon." - Luke, Ski Safari Sales & Marketing Coordinator
"This was my very first cycling holiday and I only bought my first bike in November, at the age of 37! I loved the trip and the cycling was very leisurely and relaxed. If I can do it then anyone can!" - Claire, Ski Safari Operations Manager
"The perfect weekend away." - Andy Knights, Ski Safari Sales Supervisor
"I loved this trip. While initially a little ambivalent about switching from skiing, I was very pleasantly surprised at how much more relaxing a cycling trip can be than a skiing one, while still being active and entertaining" - Vicky, Ski Safari Marketing Coordinator
"The cycling days were fun and relaxed, going along at our own pace. We enjoyed experiencing both guided and self-guided journeys during the trip. The guides were excellent and when we cycled without a guide we found the maps to be of a really high quality, with brilliant route notes to back this up." - Andy Hemingway, Ski Safari Product Manager
"I haven't cycled for a couple of years now, and can say that the weekend reaffirmed my enjoyment of getting about on 2 wheels. So much so, that I have found a bike which I fully intend to buy soon!! - Kirstin, Ski Safari Operations Supervisor
"It was wonderful to show the ski team why I love cycling holidays so much. Leisurely pedalling through beautiful scenery, stopping for coffees and ice cream and just simply switching off from the stresses of daily life" - Catherine, Head of Freedom Treks
Experience it Yourself
Call our Freedom Treks team on 01273 224066 or visit their website for more information on the cycling holidays available.
Boarder/Skier: Five ski seasons: La Plagne, Les Deux Alpes, Kitzbuhel, Serre Chevalier, Courchevel, and all the UK organisation in between before joining Ski Safari in 2008.