Wonderfully flat, off-the-beaten track; coastal routes, peaceful country lanes, ancient towns, sleepy squares
Quality, family-run hotels, by the sea or with swimming pools; superb meals
One of Europe's richest bird habitats in the Po Delta Nature Reserve
Historic Ravenna: UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site with Byzantine mosaics; great art city of Bologna
Postcard-pretty Comacchio, known as the 'Little Venice' of Italy
At a glance...
8 nights, hotel-to-hotel
Departs Selected Saturdays from 3 May '14 to 11 Oct '14
Continental breakfast and 6 evening meals
Sustainability rating: 80%
Route notes and maps provided
High quality bikes provided
Holidays with gastronomic meals.
Holidays with wine-tasting opportunities.
Varied routes for nature lovers and botanists.
Destinations with bird watching opportunities.
Discover stunning historic sites en-route.
Lots of swimming opportunities.
Great vegetarian meal options.
Holidays to enhance your wellbeing.
Perfect for couples.
Follow stunning coastal routes.
Beautiful lakes and rivers.
Cycling in Emilia Romagna
Best known as the gastronomic capital of Italy - parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar and Parma ham all come from here - Emilia Romagna also offers some of the most gentle cycling in the country. With pancake-flat country lanes linking huge swathes of vineyards and orchards, and offering ancient towns, formidable villas and revered shrines, it's a perfect choice for families or first-time cyclists.
This 8-night cycling holiday explores the eastern part of the region, where the gold sand beaches of the Adriatic stand alongside undiscovered art cities like historic Ravenna, once Seat of the Western Roman Empire, and Ferrara, Italy's 'cycling capital'. You'll also spend two nights in gorgeous Comacchio, a lagoon town criss-crossed by a series of canals and bridges rising out of 13 different islands and islets, and known affectionately as 'Little Venice'. The cycling routes take you through hidden hamlets, forgotten farming villages and along the pretty riverbanks of the Po Delta, where colourful fishermen's huts dot the broad silent wetlands.
The hotels on this circuit range from a magnificent C18 palazzo in the heart of Ravenna's historic quarter to a wonderfully restored farmhouse surrounded by vines, forests and truffle orchards. In Comacchio, you'll stay in an elegant boutique hotel and dine outdoors on a terraced boat romantically set in the waters of the Maggiore Canal!
Not quite what you're looking for - then why not take a look at some of our similar holidays?
We meet you at Bologna airport and take you (1 hour) to your luxurious hotel, perfectly positioned in the heart of Ravenna's historic quarter. You'll spend two nights here.
Day 2 - At Ravenna (Optional cycle: 22km/14mi or 32km/20mi)
Ravenna's early Christian churches and superb Byzantine mosaics have collectively been designated a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site, and showcase a wonderful blend of Greco-Roman tradition, Christian iconography and Oriental-meets-Western styles. You could easily spend the day exploring its old streets, fine shops and peaceful squares. But, if you do fancy venturing further afield, the beautiful beaches of the Adriatic are just 5 miles away - lots of cycling choices.
Day 3 - Ravenna to Comacchio 43km/27mi
Leaving Ravenna this morning, you'll pedal gently north through the protected landscapes and wetlands of the immense Po Delta Nature Reserve, a haven for wildlife and an ornithologist's paradise! Look out for pink flamingos, herons and great crested grebes - don't forget the binoculars! Your final stretch takes you along flat country lanes to delightful Comacchio, also known as 'Little Venice' for its network of canals and pretty brick bridges. Enjoy an early evening aperitivo watching locals cycle past on old rickety bikes as retired fishermen play cards in the piazza.
Day 4 - At Comacchio (Optional cycle: 14km/9mi or 52km/33mi)
Spend the early part of the day exploring the hidden maze of Comacchio, perhaps visiting the C9 abbey and adjacent bell tower (dating to 1063). We then suggest taking the dedicated cycle path to Porto Garibaldi, an atmospheric fishing port and original beach resort. If you get here in time for lunch, there are some amazing seafood restaurants with stunning views. Alternatively, a longer ride north through the Valle Bertuzzi Nature Reserve, takes you to the historic Benedictine monastery of Pomposa, where the 'Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do' scale of musical notes was invented!
Day 5 - Comacchio to Runco 48km/30mi
Today's route takes you alongside the clear waterways of the Comacchio lagoon, an area rich in fish and rare bird species, before heading inland along poplar-lined country lanes, towards the bread basket of the region: Ferrara. You'll spend the next 2 nights as guests of Giovanni and Christina Tosti at their rural, vine-engulfed farmhouse - crammed with paintings, antiques and period pieces, the familiar atmosphere is reminiscent of a nobleman's estate and exudes elevated country living!
Day 6 - At Runco (Optional cycle: 54km/33mi)
The tiny hamlet of Runco lies in the rural countryside close to Ferrara. Take the train or enjoy a lovely relaxed cycle through immaculately-tended vineyards and fruit orchards, passing aristocratic villas, rivers and canals, to reach the splendid UNESCO World Heritage city of Ferrara. Known as Italy's 'bicycle capital', this vibrant university city, boasts a wealth of intricately decorated palazzi, hidden squares and alleyways, all surrounded by well-preserved walls and gateways, and packed with mediaeval and Renaissance art.
Day 7 - Runco to Budrio 38km/24mi
Your final day's cycling takes you south on a series of usually traffic-free country roads, through charming farming hamlets to the ancient mediaeval town of Budrio. A pretty town with cobbled streets and atmospheric piazze, it is best known for the invention of the ocarina, a musical instrument similar to a flute and made from terracotta. There are lots of little cafes if you fancy a spot of people-watching, before you make your way to Roberta's charming agriturismo, home for the next 2 nights.
Day 8 - At Budrio
Considered by Italians to be the gastronomic capital of the nation, the university city of Bologna is just 25 minutes away by train. With one of the largest, and most perfectly preserved historic centres in Italy, this great art city is also home to the oldest university in Europe. There are over 40kms of ancient terracotta-coloured porticos and marbled walkways to discover, so you'll soon work up an appetite for your final dinner, served on the agriturismo's terrace!
Day 9 - Leave Budrio
After breakfast, we take you to Bologna airport to catch your flight home.
Where you stay
During your holiday you stay at the following hotels. If you'd like to extend your time at any of these or, if you'd like to enhance your stay with an upgraded room, just let us know at the time of booking.
If you'd like to keep your bikes with you for any extra nights we can arrange this for you for just £22 per adult per day and £16 per child per day. Please contact us for further details.
Hotel Galletti Abbiosi , Ravenna (4 acorn)
The magnificent Palazzo Galletti Abbiosi Hotel is conveniently positioned right in the heart of Ravenna's historic quarter, located within easy reach of all the city's top landmarks and attractions, including the famous C6 Basilica of Saint Apollinare Nuovo with its figurative mosaics that date back to 500AD. This luxurious hotel is housed in a C18 palace, once the residence of Ravenna nobility - there's even a 60-seat chapel inside the building, which Count Galletti Abbiosi commissioned himself.
The hotel has now been fully modernised, fashionably blending traditional charm and sophistication with contemporary design and comfort. It boasts stylish public areas and elegantly decorated guest rooms, each equipped with the latest amenities including free Wi-Fi internet access.
Right in the heart of beautiful Comacchio, in one of the most characteristic and suggestive parts of the town, along narrow paved streets and just steps from the town's C19 clock tower, lies the wonderful Locanda La Comacina. A boutique-style hotel with 14 elegantly furnished, air-conditioned rooms, each with modern amenities like LCD TV and minibar. The hotel is managed by the ever-present Carli family who for generations have been looking after their guests, ensuring their stay is as comfortable and relaxed as possible. Dining is outdoors on a terraced boat set in the waters of the Maggiore Canal and illuminated by candle light for a romantic dinner based on antique recipes of fish and local dishes.
In rural countryside on the outskirts of Ferrara lies Le Occare. It's an ancient vine-engulfed country house built in the mid-C18 and surrounded by gardens and 30,000 square metres of woodland. This 3-bedroom property is owned by Giovanni & Cristina Tosti and has been in Giovanni's family for the last four generations. The house is furnished with antiques and period pieces including hand-woven rugs, ornate polished silverware, black and white photographs and oil paintings.
Cristina and Giovanni have restructured their land, by planting pine, poplar and walnut trees, to encourage the growth of truffles and they often go truffle hunting with guests over the autumn.
In the farmhouse restaurant Cristina serves only typical Ferrarese dishes, which are all home made (even the pasta and bread!) using the organic ingredients grown in their garden.
The Agriturismo La Dondina is ideally situated just outside the small town of Budrio, sitting amongst cultivated fields and ancient farmhouses. The origins of the building date back to the 16C when it was a hunting lodge used by the Dondini counts, before being transformed into a farm with stables. In 2001, the property undertook its final transformation, and the stables were converted into the characterful agriturismo that it is today, with each bedroom being named after the last horse that lived there. The comfortable rooms are brightly decorated, with antique furniture and exposed wooden beams; all are ensuite with views onto the garden. Your evening meal is taken in the agriturismo’s cosy restaurant. The produce here is organically grown and features heavily in the traditional dishes on the menu. The pasta and bread is also all home-made, and vegetarians are particularly well catered for.
Transfers included from Bologna airport at 11:45, and back
to Bologna airport at 09:30. Please call our sales team on 1-800-567-6286 or email email@example.com to arrange connecting flights.
Everyone who goes on a Headwater holiday will be emailed a link to our post-holiday questionnaire where they can give us an honest assessment of all aspects of their holiday - everything from how quickly we answer the phone to how clean the hotels were - plus, of course, an overall rating and comments about their holiday.
Any feedback collected is posted straight to our website - totally unedited. So, for the real tales, twists and turns of our holidays, look no further than the reviews from our previous travellers.
Reviewed by Mrs Day on 05/08/2014
This was a super flat cycling itinerary, attractive to novices. However a good percentage of the route was fairly uninspiring and some of it was on very busy roads. There were some lovely routes to savour and some very special accommodation highlights ( Cristina Tosti's hospitality in particular, was outstanding) but overall we thought our last trip around Lake Constance was better value for money and offered more variety and a better quality ride.
Reviewed by Mrs Ripley on 05/08/2014
We combined the Secrets of Tuscany Walk and the Exploring Emilia Romagna Cycling. This option worked extremely well. We arranged extra nights at Hotel Touring, Bologna at beginning and end of the holiday. Transfer from first to second holiday was seamless with a lift to Castel Bolognese and short train journey to Ravenna.
The village of Palazzuolo, Locanda Senio and Bar Gentilini provided perfect respite between walks.
It is well worth seeing the mosaics at various sites in Ravenna. Locanda La Comacina and Comacchio provide an idyllic destination. Agriturismo Le Occare is a little isolated and lacks atmosphere, especially if you are the only guests, although Cristina is a very kind hostess and excellent cook. Santa Maria Maddalena is disappointing. The bar is expensive, extra payment was expected for pool towels and loungers, breakfast fare was dismal with awful coffee and no home baking, as promised. Contrary to the current brochure dinner is not taken in the agriturismo's leafy gardens. We were provided with a lift, by the owner, from Bagnarola to a restaurant in Budrio. Ristorante del Mulino was very good but the fact that you have to be taken and picked up curbs your freedom ( we would have considered cycling the few kilometers but there are no lights on bikes)
As noted by some previous Headwater guests some of the stretches of roads were ,on occasion, fairly busy and/or with heavy, large lorries.
We walked or cycled every kilometer which Headwater suggested in the route notes and enjoyed having two holidays rolled into one!
Reviewed by Mr Evans on 07/07/2014
We chose this holiday because of the flatness of the terrain - we can't manage some of the strenuous rides we have in the past. However this inevitably meant that there were some times on the holiday when we were faced with long roads stretching out into the distance with not much change of outlook. This wasn't true of the whole of the holiday however and there were many other days when the environment was varied and interesting. Virtually everyone we met was warm and welcoming and the food was very good. The towns of Ravenna and Bologna have lots to interest not just those who want to spend their time in old churches. We really enjoyed the holiday and would visit the area again.
Reviewed by Mrs Shelley on 26/06/2014
Accurately graded,excellent accommodation: all but one providing food of a very good standard. Excellent bikes and guidance notes.
Reviewed by Mr Tyler on 11/06/2014
Flight connections from Birminham via Germany had clearly been well thought out.
All concerns about accuracy of directions were dispelled. Although the bikes were very heavy, they were robust and the gears easy to use. We did not take the 52km loop ride on our fourth day because it seemed over-long. In terms of accommodation and food, Ravenna scored highly with a palatial room and extensive choice at breakfast. Local guide's recommendation of Ca' de Ven as a good restaurant was spot on. Comacchio had the best location and the evening meals were excellent, with friendly staff.
At Runco, the hostess, Cristina, was pleased to share her home and truffle wood. The many small luxuries were a delight.
At Budrio, management were a little impersonal. Food was taken across the road at Accademia Dei Notturni, there were no written menus and the steward, although very friendly, had no English. We think the main course of our meal may have been missed on the first night. No wine prices given. Courtesy bus was appreciated.
Reviewed by Mrs Lewis on 04/06/2014
The holiday was good. The cycling was on flat roads . Sometimes the long straight, flat roads made the cycling a bit tedious especially if it was into the wind.
The final hotel Ag St M Magdelena was not good. Meals were taken in a place across the road, wonderful location but the food was poor. Pool closed. We did not receive an itemised bill and found the wine and drinks in the 'restaurant' expensive.
Reviewed by Mrs Bolton on 31/05/2014
This was our first cycling holiday and one that we thoroughly enjoyed. The only problem we had was following the instructions to find Bagno Massimo n.84
in Punta Marina, which we subsequently found did not refer to a specific 'Bagno' but the whole area. It did waste rather a lot of beach time.
Reviewed by Mr Henniker-Major on 14/05/2014
Easy biking, good food, great historic cities and cultural sites...lucky with the weather
Reviewed by Ms Livesey on 26/09/2013
Reviewed by Mr Harris on 20/09/2013
We enjoyed the cycling route, althoughit was not particularly scenic compared with other Italy holidays, but we knew the Po delta area would be flat.
Disappointed not to be met at Bologna airport which meant our party had to phone Headwater and the Taxi transfer company and wait over one and a half hours on a very hot day. The anxiety that this gave was a bad start to what was supposed to be a nice break, and no one seemed to accept the responsibilty or even cared that we were thoroughly let down.
On day 3 the road up to S Alberto was very busy with very large lorries overtaking us, quite dangerous, then just before S.Alberto the road was being completely resurfaced, so we had to ride over the grit for about half a mile.We ended up with a puncture in the rear wheel. I repaired it, which was difficult as the hole was near the valve. but one hour later the tyre deflated again. The tube had split so I decided to change the inner tube. However the spare tube provided in my kit was of the wrong type, wider, and with a schrader valve, rather than the racing style valve. Clearly it was for another type of wheel. Fortunately my wife's kit had the right sort of tube. Changing the tube meant removing the rear wheel, but my kit had no spanner, again fortunately my wife's kit did.
When we got to the hotel, I phoned Bike RentalPlus and asked them to supply another tube in case we had another problem. They denied that they would have supplied the wrong inner tube and thta they were not oblged to prove inner tubes anyway! Then said I should buy another from the bike Shop in Comacchio (until then we did not know there was one) She said the hotel would refund the cost. Bike Rental did phone back next day to see if all was now OK and said the htel would refund the 9 Euro. On departure however. The hotel refused to!
Fortunately we had no more punctures. and we enjoyed the rest of the cycling.
Generally we felt that there were too many people involved in supporting customers, with no one person being a local contact point or overall holiday coordinator. Who was responsible for booking the transfers?
We felt the food at the 2 agroturismos was not what we would have expected. Le Occare owner was very pleasant, but food small quantities and menu poor.
Having cycled 28 miles we needed more than a small plate of spagetti and what looked like a poached/baked egg in breadcrumbs! The next evening was better. At S.m. Maddelena we were clearly on a low price and quality menu compared with non cycling guests.
Reviewed by Dr Lucas on 31/08/2013
An excellent holiday with easy cycling along quiet back roads through beautiful fertile countryside. The hotels were all of a good quality, with individual features which made them memorable. We saw very few tourists and felt immersed in 'real' Italy.
Reviewed by Ms Slade on 02/08/2013
Friendly and helpful locals (with one exception). Very easy cycling (though very hot in July and shortage of shade). Three beautiful cities within easy reach. Lovely food. Le Occare was particularly charming. Main downside was very troublesome midges/mosquitoes!
Reviewed by Dr Madhvani on 25/07/2013
Well organised rural cycling holiday
Reviewed by Mr Donnelly on 15/07/2013
The chosen holiday was beautiful, easy cycling, great towns to visit, good Food!!
Reviewed by Mr Barrow on 30/06/2013
In the heat, which reached 38C, the terrain was often too flat and monotonous to be truly enjoyable.
Reviewed by Mrs Gittins on 28/06/2013
A very enjoyable and relaxing cycling hooiday for leisure cyclists who do not want a too demanding route. Beautiful soft scenery and lovely hotels.
Reviewed by Mrs Chessum on 14/06/2013
This is our second Headwater cycling holiday in Italy. On both occasions we had a thoroughly good time. Arrangemenrts worked like clockwork; directions were accurate and easy to follow; bikes good quality; hotels lovely. A special thank you to Sarah in the admin team for being unfailingly helpful. Very different from our Headwater cycle trip to the Loire last year when I had cause to complain both about the quality of the directions and about the cleanliness of the hotels. This trip has restored my faith in Headwater, although I still feel wary of booking another of the France trips!
Reviewed by Mr Barnett on 30/05/2013
Excellent holiday, first class directions, poor arrangements for bikes if you wish to take the train to Ferrara or Bologna let the whole experience down.
Reviewed by Mrs Spriggs on 29/09/2012
Generally accurate description in the brochure in terms of difficulty and accommodation. The only point I would like to make is that on occasions the roads were quite busy compared to previous Headwater holidays. Especially the ride to the abbey on our rest day at commachio.
Reviewed by Mr Munn on 24/09/2012
This was our 11th cycling holiday with Headwater in consecutive years and at our present ages of 72yrs and 69yrs we intend to continue. We have considered other companies but have adopted the principle "if it ain't broke don't fix it!" so it will be Headwater again next year.
This was probably the easiest Headwater tour that we have undertaken.The total of 295km was, as indicated in the brochure, on pan flat roads. The scenery was lovely and all the hotels were ones that we were happy to stay at.
The quality of the bikes and other equipment was good. We are raising one localised issue with Headwater separately and are confident that the reaction will be positive.
Reviewed by Mrs Ryan on 18/08/2012
great holiday, not as pretty as Piemonte but a lot flatter, Cristina in Runco was a superb host and we were only let done by the service in the last hotel.
Reviewed by Mrs Hancock on 23/06/2012
We loved this holiday: our enjoyment was very much helped by the weather which was excellent. The bikes were very good quality and the cycling easy. The hotels were well chosen and in or close to 3 very interesting cities.
Reviewed by Mrs Rodely on 16/06/2012
Enjoyable, very friendly and helpful staff and people who we came into contact with. The hotels were all very comfortable, the routes easy to follow and the suggested visits on the non moving day were good. A holiday much enjoyed.
Reviewed by Mrs Shrubsole on 16/11/2011
Italian people, food and countryside were absolutely delightful.
Reviewed by Mrs Sharman on 21/10/2011
Reviewed by Mrs Stevens on 24/09/2011
Cycling itself was rather uninteresting with not enough villages or sights en route but the variety of accomodation and towns to visit was very good.
Reviewed by Mrs Gambrill on 24/09/2011
It was a lovely holiday, cycling was very easy fortunately as the weather was very hot!
Reviewed by Mr Marcheselli on 24/09/2011
We had a great time but did not like being in a group.
Reviewed by Mrs Millar on 30/08/2011
This was our 9th holiday with Headwater and I'd rate it one of the best. The area was so interesting the weather was great and all of Headwaters research and input was the icing on the cake
Reviewed by Mr Harrison on 23/08/2011
A region visited not for its beauty more its architecture.
Reviewed by Mis Hopewell on 11/08/2011
Slightly dissapointing based on our 2 previous headwater holidays. Would recommend Headwater but not this holiday.
Reviewed by Mr Wignall on 06/08/2011
Another excellent Headwater Holiday
Reviewed by Mr Katesmark on 02/08/2011
Excellent way to expolre this little known part of Italy. Comacchio was delightful and the lotel food excellent.
Reviewed by Mrs La Roche on 14/07/2011
Had a fabulous time.
Reviewed by Mrs Sims on 09/07/2011
this was our 7th Headwater and ranks 6 out of 7 -not one of the best but we will come again because we have had sme of our best ever holdays with you. will recommend Headwater but not this one.
Reviewed by Mrs Mackie on 09/07/2011
A most enjoyable holiday with wonderful weather conditions
Reviewed by Mr Fiske on 09/07/2011
Did not live up to our expectations or the normal Headwater standards.
Reviewed by Dr Wheeler on 29/06/2011
Mostly very good
Reviewed by Mr Kingsbury on 29/06/2011
Along with the others on this trip we had a few reservations.Most felt it wasn't the best Headwater trip they had been on and we probably wouldn't recommend this one. It was hard starting in Ravenna and dealing with the traffic of a large city. The food was mixed. Some of Headwaters promises just were simply not true - "Wellness Centre" at Santa Maria Maddelina - it was a garden shed with a firmly locked jacuzzi!
Reviewed by Mrs Freeman on 16/06/2011
Another enjoyable cycling holiday with Headwater. Shame about the weather; it rained last year too.
Reviewed by Dr McLean on 07/06/2011
The holiday was a great success despite the potential for the ash cloud to spoil it. The staff at Headwater (Karen) was extremely supportive and kept us updated the day before our holidays which was very encouraging and helpful.
Reviewed by Mrs Shiel on 07/06/2011
very good holiday - the bkes were very good, the roads good and the accommodation excellent
Departure dates & prices
Self-guided cycling, hotel-to-hotel. Managed by Headwater appointed agent.
Selected Saturdays from 3 May '14 to 11 Oct '14, for 9 days (8 nights). Non-standard departures are possible on request.