The following morning, Oct. 8th, we set off from Zelo for Mantua, our final destination on this tour.
After riding for 15 km, Rosita led us to a cheese processing facility where they make Grana Padano, an absolutely delicious, tangy, hard cheese. I had never heard of it before but others in the group were almost salivating at the hope of getting samples. Our guide explained how the cheese was made, a careful and complex process. Then she took us into the warehouse where the 40-kg wheels of cheese were being ripened. Each wheel is turned every 2 weeks and aged from 9 months to 2 years before sale. Following the tour, we all trooped outside where they did indeed treat us to healthy sized chunks of Grana Padano and, of course, wine. What a great way to start a day of cycling!
A few kms later, we stopped in Bergantino, where the main industry is making amusement park rides. Not a small-time endeavour, the rides manufactured in the town are sold to amusement parks all over the world. We toured the museum, had a presentation on how the industry has evolved, saw many examples of older rides and carnival instruments (player pianos, calliopes) and how they use present day technology in the new rides. This was definitely a change from touring churches and castles!
After lunch in Bergantino, we hit the road (levees, mostly) again for another 30+ km. We met the barge, moored alongside another boat, just outside of the small town of Governolo. We hauled our bikes onboard and set off to cruise into Mantua. Sam and Sara, our chefs, fed us snacks while we lounged on deck, enjoying seeing the bird life on the river, including white herons, swans and egrets.
Rosita walked us through some areas of Mantua that evening but she was disappointed that her favourite gelateria was closed. So was the ducal palace but, since we are staying here for 2 more nights, we should be able to tour it another time.