It’s Sunday morning and a beautiful sunny day. I take my bike and head down along the Adige River. This is a little ritual shared by thousands of people from Verona. Every Sunday, in fact, the stretch along the river, or the Lungadige Attiraglio between the Ponte Catena (Chain Bridge) and the area of Parona, is closed to traffic. In this way, the road is full of people on foot, skates, rollerblades, skateboards and especially bicycles — rather than cars.
It’s a simple and spectacular route, running along the river in the direction opposite the river’s current. You can also go down to the riverbank where there is an unpaved path directly along the water. Pedalling on, the green hills of Valpolicella appear on the left while the mountains rise up in front.
Usually, I go up to the bridge at the Diga del Chievo (the Chievo Dam), which is in a district in the northwest part of the city. I pass through this area and come back to the city along a bicycle path that winds along the Camuzzoni Canal. It’s a total of about ten kilometres there and back, going in a circular route, which lets you see a different, more common and rural side of Verona.
It’s just one of many possible routes there for those who love cycling. Verona is a city of cyclists, where there are many devotees. At the same time, bikes are being used more and more as a way of transport around the city and as an alternative to automobiles. In recent years, many kilometres of bike paths have been created. Verona, in fact, now even hosts the largest bike event in Italy which takes place in September at the Veronafiere Congress Centre.
Another of my favourite cycling routes involves the river once again. But, it’s on the other side of the city in an area known as Parco dell’Adige Sud (South Adige Park) . The route starts by turning right just after crossing the San Francesco bridge. You then go across the maneggio del Boschetto (Boschetto Stables) and continue on a well-beaten unpaved track, winding your way through woods, meadows and agricultural fields.
From there, you cross the bridge of San Pancrazio. At this point, you can enter one of the most remote, unknown parts of Verona. This place is in a tight bend of the Adige, making it isolated. It’s not by coincidence that the Lazaretto or a hospital for infectious disease patients was built here in 1549 with the onset of the plague. All that survives today is the chapel designed by the neoclassical architect Sanmicheli.
Remaining closer to the city centre, you can experience a thrilling adventure going along a route that has been chosen twice, in 1999 and 2004, for the World Road Cycling Championships. Here you need a good bicycle with gears, a good supply of water and, even better, good physical condition since the climb is very steep in places.
This route crosses the Torricelle, or the hills behind the city, which are characterized by forests, military fortifications and glimpses of scenery. It runs along Via Nievo and then meets up with Via Castello San Felice where the road begins to climb. If you think the climb is too hard, you can always stop half-way up at the beautiful Colombare Park. It’s an ideal spot to to rest and recover.
Only the fittest will be able to make it completely up all the Torricelli’s seven turns leading to the the top. At the summit, you turn right on Via Caroto and ride toward the city. You’ll come to the Vernonetta neighbourhood. From there, you can easily get back to the historic city centre.
If you don’t have a bike at hand, you can hire one from the “bici condivise” (bike sharing) stations that have existed for some years in the city. With curiosity and instinct as your guide, you can push yourself to discover a new side of Verona. It’s different from the one immortalized in postcards, but still very beautiful.