Tunnels and roundabouts all the way to Milano

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August 3rd 2013
Published: August 11th 2013
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The clear,fine and warm weather continues although this mornings temperature at Passo del Tonale was bit cooler than we have had in recent mornings it was still hitting 20C as the sun spread over the mountain town.

Another breakfast included with the room rate and again there was good variety including boiled eggs although they were the hard boiled versions.

We had two options to get to Milano today and one of them was over another mountain pass which would have ultimately taken us down the side of Lake Como and past George Clooney's Italian home.The other was to continue down through Bergamo and would not have included another mountain pass climb.

However,we put off making that decision as we slowly drove out of the ski resort town.This was because Gretchen noticed that the gondola that stretched from the roadside up to a terminal high on the mountainside was operating today.Yesterday the gondolas were out of action and suspended in mid air.

So a spur of the moment decision was made and we purchased return tickets for the gondola ride that would take us a further 800 metres up the mountainside to where the permanent snow was still lying on the ground.We weren't exactly attired how we should have been with me in a short sleeve shirt and shorts and both of us wearing sandals.

We had a gondola to ourselves as there weren't exactly huge numbers of tourists taking the ride at the early hour of the morning as the day trippers from Milano and Bozano etc wouldn't arrive until later in the morning.Unfortunately the perspex windows on the inside of the gondola had been badly scratched by skis over the years of operation restricting our vision of the scenery.

We passed by people hiking up the mountainside and we realised why the ticket sales person had asked whether we wanted a return or a one way ticket thinking that we were going to walk back down.It would have been the only way we would have walked as the hike up the mountain side looked very steep and strenuous and while the idea of hiking down the mountain side sounded interesting ,we weren't prepared with just sandals on our feet which wouldn't have been the best idea on the shingle and rock surface.

There was only 3 pylons for the gondola to pass over before we got to the upper terminal and alighted out into bright sunshine.It was then I realised just how unprepared I was in the bright,hot sunshine with no hat protecting my head of 'thinning hair'!Stupid me!I spent the next half hour that we were up there walking around with my hands on my head trying to protect my scalp from severe sunburn.

We took a walk up to a WW1 memorial dedicated to both Italians and Austrians who fought against each other in the Great War.Just what took place up here during the war wasn't clear from the large memorial titled 'Monument to Brotherhood'.

There was still a fair amount of permanent snow around although the paths were clear to make walking around the plateau area behind the gondola terminal easy enough.We could have travelled up the mountainside further by taking a chairlift but then we really would have been in permanent snow and as I said we weren't equipped for that.

Last night as we strolled along the main road that runs through the town we had noticed two nuns all in white strolling just like us.And here they were again this morning having taken the gondola and sightseeing just like us.Well,nuns have to have holidays like anyone else of course.

The ride down started out with a bump!As the gondola leaves from you were got on board it swings out over the edge and there is a bump that gives you a bit of a surprise as you start to descend in what seems to be in a rapid way although that is as much to do with the steepness of the descent as anything else.

It was a fabulous experience and well worth the €11 each return ticket.

We had been up the mountain for an hour or so and therefore decided to give the mountain pass and George Clooney's house on the shores of Lake Como a miss(Gretchen's idea, not mine!)and took the direct road the R42 down the valley towards Bergamo.

We were pleased we were heading the way we were as the traffic flow up the valley was heavy and it seemed like everyone was heading to the mountains to try and escape some of the heat.

An interesting feature of this and other roads in similar mountain valley like terrain we have experienced in Europe was the idea of pushing a tunnel through a hill that stood in the way of the road so as to keep the road as straight as possible.One of the tunnels was 5.2km long!It was still a fair distance to Milan but without those tunnels it would have been a damn sight longer in distance.

In one of the tunnels Vicky suddenly piped up and suggested we do a U-turn!We think the heat of the day must have been getting to her and she became confused by all the tunnels we travelled through.

As we neared Bergamo we had the option of finishing off the drive on the A4 which was the toll road but we stayed with the 'old' main road that tracked through all the little towns and villages.

By now though it was early afternoon and the locals,as they do,had all gone inside and to bed for the afternoon.This took a lot of local traffic off the road and our progress picked up except for the interminable roundabouts that were at the start,middle and end of each town and sometimes even a couple of others in the town itself !

We lost count of the number of roundabouts we encountered but they exceeded the huge number of tunnels we travelled through on the drive.

The GPS made our drive into the city of Milan easy and we quickly found the location of our apartment.Luigi,the owner,was very helpful with information about supermarkets and access to the city about 5 km away by bus and subway.

It was too hot at 36C to walk to and from the supermarket about 1km away and so we drove which certainly was the best idea in the blazing sun.

With tomorrow being Sunday we knew the supermarkets would be closed so we stocked up for our 3 night stay in Milan to save another trip.

We had noticed the many different ethic people in the area as we entered the supermarket from Asian to Africans to people who looked like Mexicans.They all sounded 'local' from their Italian accents,which sounds interesting when the person talking has Asian features.The supermarket was catering in a big way for Asian tastes with a large refrigerated cabinet with items such as sushi and other seafood delicacies.

On our return to the apartment we took more notice of the apartments location with several railway lines right next to the building.However,even with the number of trains passing by so close the noise from them was very low and it doesn't seem as though we will be bothered by them when it comes time for sleep.

It was more comfortable being down closer to sea level after a couple of nights at altitude where breathing after doing some exercise was easier and getting rid of that light headed feeling we had both had.

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12th August 2013

What about a knotted hanky?
Just had an image of you with a knotted hanky on your head for sun protection Grahame...like the boy scouts say-always be prepared!
12th August 2013

What a great idea,if only.Unfortunately Gretchen got me out of having hankies a few years ago and tissues is all I am allowed these day.The tissue I had might have done the job had I thought about it at the time.A check later in the later in the day revealed no sunburn,thank goodness.

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