How NOT to do Venice

When I was visiting with Velo Veneto in Castelcucco in June, I decided I was going to climb Monte Grappa AND go to Venice on the same day. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

The climb up to Monte Grappa from Bassano del Grappa is an amazing climb; last year the Giro had a time trial on this road, so we climbed up the Grappa from another village and rode across the top to see the racers suffer in the rain up the front of the massif. It’s a 22km, HC climb&emdash;not easy no matter which way you go. That’s one of the awesome parts about staying with Velo Veneto in Castelcucco; you can ride up the Grappa on one road, descend down a different road, and still have time to go to Venice via public transportation…if you are in good running shape. (Ed. note – Velo Veneto provides a private shuttle service to make this easy. Why Jamie didn’t take advantage, nobody knows…)

I rushed back from the Grappa loop and caught a bus to Castelfranco. When I got off the bus in Castelfranco, logic would have you assume that the train station would be near the bus station. This is not true. Luckily I met a young kid, just off a work shift, that took the time to walk me the 1.5km to the train station. Unlike my last experience at the Castelfranco train station three days before, I caught the correct train, and 45 minutes later I was strolling around the canals of Venice.

I love Venice. It’s crowded, over-touristed, and a little stinky, but it’s an incredible example of historic preservation, even in the face of ruinous effects of salt water and the pressures of globalization. (Although I did recently learn that many of the older buildings expel their human waste directly into the bay. Maybe that’s some historic preservation that should be re-engineered).

I knew I only had an hour and a half in Venice before I had to be back to catch the train to Castelfranco to catch the last bus to Castelcucco, but I didn’t count on how difficult it is to navigate through Venice. The city grew radially out of a small settlement with no planning grids, and the roads are a spaghetti bowl with countless dead ends. I tried to give myself sufficient time to get back to the train, but as the minutes passed by and I seemed to be navigating myself in circles, I realized I would have to run to catch the train.

So I ran, asking non-tourist looking people directions without slowing my run, and I think I ran about 5km before I finally found the station, sprinted to the train, and hopped on just as the doors were closing. I didn’t get a chance to double check the sign on the train to make sure it was the train to Castelfranco, so I asked a woman on the train. She took one look at my wide eyes and sweat dripping down my face and backed away quickly, saying she didn’t know. Ha.

I then realized that I would also only have 10 minutes between when the train arrived in Castelfranco and when the bus in Castelfranco left for Castelcucco, and since the train station was 1.5km away from the bus station, I was going to have to sprint again. When the train doors opened, I hit the ground running, and sprinted across town, past the surprised men hanging out at the bar, probably the same guys that have watched me either run or drag bike boxes down this particular sidewalk. It seems I can never just walk.

Anyway, the bus was pulling out of the station as I rounded the corner and jumped over a fence. I did an all-out, 50-meter dash and banged on the back of the bus with my fists. The driver stopped, and I got in, and I thought the adventure was over. No. Even though I had bought tickets from an official on the bus on my way to Venice, apparently now things had changed and the bus driver drove the bus to a bar and told me to RUN and buy a bus ticket at the bar.

I did make it back to Castelcucco in time for dinner, much to the surprise of Jason and the hotel staff that had taken bets on my chances of making the last bus. I’m thinking that this itinerary is not something I would suggest for any of my friends.