We rollled into Mantova early as there was certainly no point staying in our hotel overlooking a busy interchange in Caselmaggiore any longer than necesssary. The ride through Sabbionetta and countryside was very scenic. We also did the unthinkable - followed our guide book for a section, followed the local map for a bit, then went solo and finally all three routes rejoined just outside Mantova. It worked fantastic and going solo, we just rode and did not worry about signs, maps nada. Very liberating.
Mantova had something we had not experienced for quite a while - tourists speaking english. Lots of them and it seemed they were on bikes as well. But we did not have time to chat as budget lodging was seeming elusive. Then a phone call later and we were on the most scenic ride out of town ever.
Mantova was a great find - farmers markets, gastronomy fair and surrounded on three sides by water. We rode bikes, ate amazing food, drank great wine and artisan beer and chatted with wonderful people. Sad to leave, but with Julia's knee cooperating, it was time to go.