Spring Cycle Runs in the Ferrara District

Written by  Francesco Conconi
The bicycle is not only a handy means of transport in the city; it is also the ideal way to appreciate the countryside.
The bicycle is the ideal means for those who wish to visit a city or its surroundings. Inside a car or a bus we are isolated from the countryside and, in any case, these vehicles always go too fast to allow us to appreciate what we see.
On foot we can cover only limited distances and we get tired. On a bicycle, instead, we can cover considerable distances, in direct contact with the surrounding environment, while indulging in a pleasant form of physical exercise that is only mildly fatiguing.

As far as physical effort is concerned, the bicycle is a means of transport that I do not hesitate to describe as perfect. Whereas walking or running obliges us to lift the weight of our own body with every step (60, 70, maybe even 100 kilos, decidedly hard work!), cycling allows us to glide away almost effortlessly: a little push on the pedals is sufficient to cover several metres.

This explains why elderly people, who may find walking very tiring, can travel quite considerable distances on a bicycle. By virtue of precisely this energy-efficient factor, the cyclist, only mildly tired by pedalling, is far better able to appreciate to the full the countryside he is passing through.
There are few cycle tracks in Italy. The cyclist is obliged to pedal in the traffic, which is hazardous and rendered unpleasant as a result of air pollution. In Ferrara, cyclists are more fortunate: around our city and farther down the valley towards the delta, there are hundreds of roads and side roads with little traffic, ideal for cycling.
These roads not only lead to places whose existence would be otherwise unsuspected, but also allow the cyclist to explore the heart of the great plain, running easily across it until he almost becomes as one with the countryside. It was cycling down these roads that, despite my being born in the mountains, brought me under the spell of the broad fields of the plain, which I gradually came to love.

Perhaps I am stating the obvious, but before proposing some cycle runs starting from Ferrara, I have to say that in my view the best time of year for bicycle touring is between March and June, when colours, scents, sounds, and climate reach a perfection that has no equal in any other season.
I have set out my proposed cycle runs in accordance with the most important parameter: that of distance. I would suggest that these runs be tackled in a progressive manner, so as to avoid spoiling the pleasure of the first outings by committing the easy error of overestimating one's powers of physical resistance:

To the Madonna del Poggetto (25 km). A traditional pilgrimage for the people of Ferrara. In the shade of the poplar woods surrounding the church, on summer Sundays people still play at "bac e pandon", which british folks call tipcat.

Along the Volano to the Val Pagliaro weir (45 km). Along this route, you will find the "Mensa", between Sabbioncello and Formignana, and the villa of Denore. The remains of a mill on the Po may still be seen near the weir.

Towards Bondeno, between the Po, Panaro and Cavo Napoleonico (45 km). On the way back you pass the sanctuary of the Madonna della Pioppa and Via Diamantina.

To the Wood known as Panfilia di Sant'Agostino (60 km). The wood, with its cycle tracks, is known for its truffles and for the fair held there every summer.

To the Vallette di Ostellato (80 km). With a tour of the farmhouse holiday centres; after setting out from Ferrara and following the shady Via Comacchio, you will come across the Romanesque church of San Vito.

Valli di Campotto (90 km). A nature reserve near the town of Argenta, where there is also a museum. The reserve has excellent cycle tracks.
Towards the Po Delta (100 km). Along the Gran Linea, then on to Mezzogoro and Ariano. The return route runs alongside the Po to Serravalle, Berrà, Ruina, and Fossadalbero.

From Ferrara to the Euganean Hills (120 km). A visit to Vo Euganeo and Arquà Petrarca; on the way back, a visit to the Delizia Estense at Este.

To Monte Calderaro (120 km). As far as Argenta, then across the Romagna, and back.

To Bologna (120 km). Along country roads before climbing up to San Luca and coasting down the Osservanza, which offers the finest view of Bologna, then back home.

Two days in the Po Delta Regional Park (70 km from Ferrara, then it's up to you). As far as Pila and Bacucco, with an overnight stay at the Po Delta Park refuge at Gorino Sullam.

For those who have always cycled in the city, these distances may seem impossible without prior training. But this is not necessary. A day in the saddle, with stops for rest and refreshment, is less tiring than a day spent hill walking. And even if you pedal slowly, in the space of a day you can cover distances that you would never have believed yourself capable of.