Locanda Cipriani, Torcello

We’re on an Italian refresher course (well, one of us is) cycling around the Veneto to the west of Venice. We’ve done this cycling thing before, down the Danube from Passau in Germany to Vienna. Splendid. Here it’s eight days cycling with two-night stays in a series of quite astonishingly unmemorable little hotels. It’s the first week in June and the warm (hot) weather has arrived, after cold, rain and wind. It’s also very quiet – we’re the only people staying on some nights.

The scenery as we cycle is typically Italian. Not stunning, or beautiful even. Nor could it be described as pretty. It’s just countryside. A mixture of fields, houses and factories seen from pretty, safe cycle paths. It’s mostly flat, but with a couple of proper hills – think Box Hill if you’re cycle fans familiar with the South Downs.

The route to the top from the A24, known as the Zig Zag Road, is quite steep and is a popular test of fitness for cyclists.

Still, a welcome glass of (local, home-made) wine awaits, particularly in the Agritourism places. Simple, but unmemorable.

We visit Padova and Vicenza, by bus and cycle respectively. We stop and critique Palladio’s Villa Rotunda on the way. We’re strangely underwhelmed apart from appreciating the views through the house north-south, and east-west (or vice versa). Not as impressive as Villa Vescovi, a place where we could definitely live, although we’d have to install a kitchen first. And a bathroom or two. A rather duff e-bike sees our grandchildren’s 67 year old granny sail over the handlebars after a vicious stop. She’s practically indestructible, that woman, and cycles on the rest of the week with bruised ribs and a suspect broken right thumb. Aren’t grannies supposed to be sitting by the fire knitting, not racing around foreign countries on dangerous bicycles?

So, for relaxation and some real post-ride comfort we head off for the latter part of the research trip to Torcello, in the Venetian lagoon, and the pampering administered by the restaurant with (5) rooms that is Locanda Cipriani. It’s been recommended by a very dear and old friend so we know we’ll like it, though it’s slightly unnerving to see pictures of Princess Di and ‘Carlo’ – they’ve clearly been here even before @MarinaOLoughlin.

We pop into Venice for the Biennalle 2019 – “May you live in interesting times”. Unbelievably depressing, but one of the sites – the buildings of the Arsenale – is fabulous. 16,000 people producing one ship a day – early mass production in the 1300s.

Torcello is quite a long way out from Venice by vaparetto and so it’s really only disturbed by day trippers, a good number of whom come to Locanda Cipriani for lunch – maybe 150-200 covers? Reports of the island’s permanent population vary from 10 to 60 but in the evening though the restaurant doors are locked and only residents are served. There were six of us last night and four tonight. The gardens are heavenly and extensive, running up to the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and the Church of Santa Fosca, the oldest buildings in the lagoon. And that’s saying something. A garden worthy of Gertrude Jekyll awaits for the inevitable Spritz (Aperol or Campari – there’s a difficult question) and the water taxi (definitely not cheap but wonderful) comes right to the door. Keep your straw hat on and head down, and all the tourists are absolutely certain that you’re George Cluny (whoever he is?…Ed).

The unbelievably relaxing Restaurant with rooms Locanda Cipriani

Hemingway..he stayed even longer then we did…but he did that everywhere

Princess Di and ‘Carlo’ … must be seeing if he’s got enough for a tip…

It hasn’t changed a lot…

Peggy Guggenheim Gallery…we’ve got those chairs!

Cannaregio – our favourite bit of Venezia..

…with lots of big buildings standing on wooden posts

Cemetery island…

Cipriani is very quiet when the ‘tourists’ have gone…

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