Although you can’t ride a bike in Venice itself, the nearby Po Valley is good cycling country. A tour of this area of the Veneto and Emilia-Romagna could take in cities such as Verona, Padova, Ferrara, Bologna, Modena and Ravenna. Marco Polo Airport, just north of Venice, makes a convenient starting point for such a tour, but it would be a shame not to visit Venice when you are so near, especially if you have never been before. A couple of days in this most lovely of cities would be an excellent way to relax at the end of a cycling holiday.
A plan that involves both Venice and a bicycle presents particular challenges – this is probably the least bike-friendly urban area on the planet. Piazzale Roma, the busy square where the causeway from Mestre on the mainland ends, is the only part of the island where cycling (or driving) is possible. Even if it were allowed elsewhere – and it isn’t – it is simply not feasible even to push a bike through the narrow streets that teem with tourists at almost every hour of the day. And space is at a premium in this city, so hotels don’t have room to store bikes, even if you could get your bike to wherever you are staying by putting it in a bag and treating it as a piece of luggage. Waterbuses (vaporetti) are the most sensible way to get about, other than walking, but they are usually crowded and have little space for luggage. Bearing in mind that a touring bicycle with panniers is really only transportable by its rider while it is assembled with its panniers on it, and that simply isn’t an option in a crowded city that imposes a ban on bikes, you have a problem. But that doesn’t mean that you will have to forgo a visit to Venice as part of your cycling holiday. Here are some of the options.
- There is a secure bike shed next to Mestre railway station, called the BiciPark. To find it, walk out of the main station entrance, turn right and walk about 80m. The park has 600 spaces. Many are hired by commuters on a monthly basis, but cyclists who turn up looking for a space for a few days have a good chance of getting one outside of the peak summer period. For a charge of €0.50 per day, your bike will be looked after in a building that is open and manned from 6am to 11pm all week except Sundays. You will need to take your own lock and buy a ticket, which you show when you return to collect your bike. Frequent trains run from Mestre to Venice’s Santa Lucia station, or you can take a no. 2 bus from the front of the station to Piazzale Roma.
- Unless you plan to arrive or leave Venice on a Sunday, or the Mestre BiciPark is full when you arrive, you will not need to consider any of the alternatives. I was flying out on Sunday at the end of a recent trip so I went to speak to Tourist Information in Venice on the Saturday afternoon to see what they suggested I did with the bike I’d left at Mestre. I’d already picked up a copy of the Venice cycling map at the BiciPark and noted that there is another cycle park not far away, in Parco di San Giuliano near Marghera Fort. The tourist officer explained that this was not a secure, manned bike park and she advised locking the bike very securely if I was going to leave it there as she’d heard of many thefts. As she didn’t think much of my other solutions (see below) I decided to go with this one and caught the no.2 bus back to Mestre. From the bus, I noticed quite a few bikes were parked in a rack alongside a building opposite Mestre railway station. Once I’d collected my bike from the BiciPark, I went back to investigate the place I’d seem from the bus. It was quite well protected from the weather, being under the overhang of a building. Several of the bikes there were secured with very heavy duty locks. After a little thought I decided I would leave my bike there, well secured to the rack with 2 locks. I also removed the saddle, both because it is quite a good one and because a bike without a saddle is a less tempting target for a thief. To find this informal bike park, go to the tunnel that carries the cycle route north-south under the railway line. The mouth of the tunnel is on Via Dante and the bike racks are adjacent to it on the west side of the road, alongside the building that stands on the corner of Via Dante and Viale Stazione. This building has an Avis office with a big red sign on the Viale Stazione side and is easy to spot. The bike racks can be seen from Google Streetview.
- There is another BiciPark in Venice itself. This is a covered park next to the public car park in Piazzale Roma. It is open round the clock, every day, and is free of charge, but it only has 25 places and they cannot be reserved. The other big drawback, compared with the Mestre BiciPark, is that bikes can be left there for at most one day and may be removed if left longer. It is therefore an option if you are planning a day trip to Venice, but not otherwise unless you want to risk your bike being gone when you return for it. Even then, it would be as well to arrive early in the day to have a hope of finding a free space. You may find yourself having to cycle back across the causeway to the much larger Mestre bike park.
- A final possibility, which I have not investigated in any detail, involves Trasbagagli. This organisation transfers luggage between the airport and Venice by road or water, particularly for tour groups. It has offices in Piazzale Roma and at the airport and offers a left luggage service at each, open every day from the early morning until 9pm. You would need to make enquiries about the possibility of leaving a bicycle in its ordinary condition, but there is no reason why a bike that is packed in a bag or box ready for its journey home shouldn’t be accepted for storage like any other piece of luggage. The cost at present is €5 or €5.50 per day, depending on which left luggage facility is used, which is a little expensive for trips of more than a day or two. You could cycle to the airport, pack up your bike and leave it for a couple of days, making the return trip to Venice by Alilaguna waterbus or the no.5 road bus. You may even be able to make an arrangement with Trasbagagli to leave your packed bike at Piazzale Roma and have them transport it to the airport ready for your flight.
Now you have the information you need to spend a few days in Venice as part of a cycle tour of the Veneto or Emilia-Romagna, start planning your trip!