Geo: 46.0252, 9.05328
The ride from Cortina to Lake Lugano was eight hours of bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go, for most of the trip down to Milano. Throw in some high temps and even higher humidity - plus Europeans ending their August summer holiday - and you have the “perfect storm” for a miserable ride. If it wasn't for some lane splitting and following other bikes along the shoulder we might still be on the road. We finally arrived in San Mamete, Italy to discover that our accommodations felt like a wonderful, small “villa” overlooking Lake Lugano. After a totally exhausting travel day, we took the next day for kicking back, lounging around our wonderful grapevine-covered terrace, and catching up on our reading. Long naps were also the order of the day.
On Monday, we headed about 20 minutes east to Menaggio on Lake Como. There we booked passage on the ferry to visit towns across the lake, including Varenna and Bellagio, the sunny day becoming very hot and humid. Varenna is a lovely traditional Italian village with walking paths along the lake, charming buildings and cobblestone staircases leading to the church square and upper portions of the village. After a walk through the village,
we stopped at a lakefront restaurant for a nice Italian lunch. Unfortunately, Deb didn't feel too good after lunch and we think she may have gotten food poisoning from her shrimp cocktail. After lunch, we took the ferry to Bellagio where Deb tried to recover in the shade and Dave and Janet took the 1-hour walking tour of the lakefront town. It felt much more touristy and less charming than Varenna.
Tuesday, Dave and Janet braved the overcast skies to head over the hill from Lugano to Locarno on Lake Maggiore. After a change in route plans, they decided that a shorter ride from the lakeside town of Vira, over the pass at Alpe Di Neggia and back down to Luino was more prudent given the threat of rain. The ride up the mountain was extremely technical with more than 35 tight switchbacks, complicated by terrible pavement most of the way. Fortunately, traffic was fairly non-existent except for a few serious cyclists. At the pass, numerous yaks were grazing in a field, with Lake Maggiore visible in the distance. The ride back down to the lake was less challenging, although the roads were extremely narrow, passing through or next to
numerous villages built with stacked rock and flat stones, hanging precipitously along the side of the mountain. Arriving in Luino, they stopped for a classic Italian lunch at an outdoor ristorante just as a gentle rain started. By the time lunch was over the rain had stopped and they proceeded up over the mountain again back to Lake Lugano.
Both bikes were due for some service, so Dave and Guenther headed down to the Bike House in Como that evening. Bike Shop is a new, modern BMW/Kawasaki dealer. Their service bays are as spotless as a dental office. Their team did a great job getting us taken care of promptly (an oil change for Dave and new front fork seals for Gun). That evening our neighbors (vacationing from Bonn, Germany) joined us for dinner, arriving with 2 wonderful bottles of Montepulciano (Italian) wine decorated with local herbs and flowers.
It rained again on Wednesday, but after lunch, we took some local rides around the lakes. Dave and Janet came back from Lake Como through the Val d'Intelvi, a pretty little mountain valley between Lugano and Como (where George Clooney supposedly likes to ride his Harley). Wednesday night we were
entertained by a massive thunder and lightning storm accompanied by torrential rain throughout the night.
Despite forecasts for more showers on Thursday, we all rode over to Menaggio again, this time for a boat cruise along the central part of the lake to view some of the gorgeous villas from the water. The high point of the trip was a 1-1/2 hour visit and tour of Villa del Balbianello, with its beautiful gardens and buildings. The collection of artifacts and artwork by its most recent owner/explorer, Guido Monzino, was impressive. The villa is also known for the filming of Princess Leia's wedding in Star Wars and a James Bond 007 movie. The sun fought to break through the clouds and kept the rain away, enabling us to return to Menaggio where we enjoyed a nice lunch outside at one of the restaurants in the lakefront market square. We took the long way back to San Mamete and returned without encountering any showers.
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I can see your having fun. Sorry it took me so long to find this blog. Going to see Mary Grace today, very excited. Hugs Deb and Spike
All your pictures are really beautiful. Hugs Deb
Magnificently picturesque area