Stage 7: Montagnana to Mantova

Distance: 69.71km

Time: 3 hours 25 minutes

Speed: 20.4 km/h

Ascent: 121 metres

Total distance: 385.2 km

Total time: 20 hours 31 minutes

Wordle scores: Captain 3 Stoker 6

Word of the day: “Mezzaluna” (metz-a-loon-a) – a half-moon sandwich!

The Captain writes:

We’d acquired the ingredients for one of the Stoker’s favourite “travelling meals” – Spaghetti con aglio, olio e peperoncino (with garlic, oil and chilli peppers) when exploring Montagnana in the afternoon, and set up a table and chairs outdoors beneath the towering red brick walls of Montagnana. A very romantic place for an evening meal, I’d say!

The sun began to set as we finished our wine.

For dessert (well, we did climb a big hill yesterday!) we walked into the large town square, Piazza Comunale, and bought some delicious gelati artigianali before returning with weary legs to our lodgings.

By the time we awoke the rain from yesterday had moved away and been replaced by a bright, hot, sunny day. There was just time before we left to climb the Mastio di Ezzelino – the tall tower overlooking our lodgings. After all, what’s a couple of hundred steps when you’re facing a 70 kilometre day?!

Thankfully it was well worth the effort – panoramic views over the town itself, of our lodgings, and of the Euganean hills to the east.

Before our departure we took breakfast in Piazza Comune, served by Italy’s grumpiest woman. Perhaps. So grumpy was she, in fact, that we limited our purchases to beverages only, and bought our morning brioches and cornetti from the very friendly bakery next door!

For the early part of our day we were on quiet rural roads, amid crops (maize, soya, tomatoes, zucchini, apricots, apples, kiwi fruit). The Stoker commented that if we spotted some onions we could probably construct a ratatouille for lunch!

Our legs didn’t seem too bad this morning, and, after a ceremonial pedal along Montagna’s main thoroughfare we maintained an excellent pace as we headed in a westerly direction towards Mantova. We’d decided to visit Mantova as we had excised it from the route on our 2018 trip, largely because we were getting fed-up with cities. We have visited once before, but only for two or three hours, so spending our rest day there seemed serendipitous.

We did finally spot some more of the white birds we saw a couple of days ago, and this time got close enough to identify them as cattle egrets. Probably!

Approaching the centre of Legnano we came to a halt in front of a large flight of steps. Surely not, we said! Closer examination showed that there was a large lift adjacent to the steps. This proved just big enough to accommodate the tandem, perhaps with about a centimetre to spare.

The lift took us up to a bridge crossing the river Adige – another river on which we have boated (and in which my sister Jenny and nephew Dennis swam, braving very strong currents). Today, too, it was moving very swiftly.

Not long after Legnago, in the town of Cerea we unknowingly took a wrong turn. For reasons best known to himself, Gilbert re-routed us in a wide circle back to the centre of Cerea. Fortunately after three or four kilometres the Stoker spotted that we were heading in a distinctly unhelpful direction, and we worked out a better way back to the planned route.

As a result of our navigational mishap we stopped for lunch earlier than planned, in the town of Nogara, where I ate the mezzaluna piadine described at the top of today’s entry, and the Stoker ate something resembling a Turkish Pide, with a molten-hot filling!

It would be overly generous to describe most of the remaining kilometres as enjoyable. Busy roads forced us onto tedious cycle paths, with frequent barriers, designed to prevent cars and motorbikes from using them, but failing to anticipate that anyone might be riding a long tandem. Fortunately the traffic abated after the town of Gazzo.

Finally the renaissance architecture of Mantova appeared on the horizon, and we cycled on the bridge over the large lagoon which protects the northern flank of the town, before stopping, just shy of the seventy kilometre mark, at our lodgings on Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. Our host had left a bottle of cold water in the fridge. It was most welcome!

Tomorrow, we’re cycling nowhere! After seven days we have awarded ourselves our first rest day. We hope to get out on the lagoon for a boat trip, and to explore Mantova’s piazze.

Our journey so far: Trieste to Mantova

Here’s today’s route and a short video

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