30 October 2010

A Week in Northern Italy

I had some extra vacation time, so decided to take a week in Northern Italy, just checking out some of the towns and lakes.

October 24, 2010

This was the first time I'd used Mototouring's airport drop-off capabilities, and I was very interested to see how it would work out.  In short, it worked pretty well, although I've got to tweak the process a bit.  Basically I landed and called the number that Eligio had given me for the shuttle to pick me up and take me to the parking lot.  Of course the guy on the phone didn't speak any English, but I understood that I should go to Exit 4 from the terminal.  Right as I walked out the exit a shuttle bus pulled up, but neither the driver nor any of the passengers spoke any English, so I had no idea if this was the right bus, or where it should take me.  So I called Eligio, he talked to the driver, was taken to the lot, where I found the bike, but not the key or any of my gear.  Called Eligio again, he told the parking guy where my stuff was.  Then it took me about an hour to pack up my stuff, most of which I didn't need for this trip anyway.  Anyway, I landed about 11:00, and by 12:30 I was on the road to Lugano—not a bad set up, and now that I know the ropes it should go even smoother next time.

The bad news was that the weather was pretty crappy—cloudy, foggy, damp, and cool.  I hadn't really decided where to go, but thought I'd check out Lugano, because I wanted to get some shopping done this trip.  I was there by 14:30 or so and checked into the Hotel Walter, probably the most over-priced hotel I've ever stayed in during my mototravels—120 euro for a tiny room, although it did have a balcony overlooking the lake, so I guess I shouldn't complain too much, and I can't imagine what the high seaason rates would be.  Here's the bike parked by the hotel:

Couldn't sleep hardly at all that night, sat out on the balcony smoking cigars watching the rain till about 03:00…


October 25, 2010

Well, the weather didn't improve overnight.  In the morning it was cold and drizzling, here's a shot:

Pretty dreary.  I decided to go to Bellagio by riding to the western shore of Lake Como, then down the western shore to Como, they up the road to Bellagio from the southwest.  It was a great ride, and the road to Bellagio is awesome, but it is very narrow with lost of blind curves and at this time of year, wet leaves, so I rode pretty slowly.  I finally got to Bellagio.  It wasn't quite what I expected, but it was nice enough, lots of pix are below.  The weather remained awful the first day I was there, as you'll see in the pictures.  The first hotel I tried had already closed for the season, so I went to the next hotel I saw, the Hotel Metropol, which I later read was the first hotel to open in Bellagio.  It was nice enough, and has balconies with awesome lake views.  I have not seen so many American tourists in one place in a long long time, I don't know why there were so many…

Here's a shot from my balcony. This is NOT a black and white shot, let's just say it was a pretty gray day:

OK, here's a black and white shot of one of Como's ubiquitous ferries:

Another ferry shot, from my balcony.  The ferry dock was right next to the hotel, so I saw lots and lots of ferries:

I'm guessing that not too many tourists get to see waves breaking over Bellagio's harbor wall, but I did!

Anyway, the town is nice enough, but pretty dead this late in the season.  Here are some shots of the town:


October 26, 2010

I decided to stay in Bellagio a second night, and just kind of ride around the area today, I wanted to see what other towns were worth staying in on future trips.  Mennagio sounded good, and Varenna, so I wanted to check them out. This morning was bright and sunny, looked like a great day.  I got up early, watched the ferries for a while, and enjoyed the glorious view from my balcony.

After breakfast I took the ferry over to Menaggio, there are great views from the ferry as well…


Menaggio turned out to be pretty unimpressive, as were most of the other towns, other than Varenna, which looks nice.  I also kind of liked Lecco, in a beautiful spot at the bottom of Como's right leg, although the guidebooks descibe it as "industrial"…looked nice enough to me.

October 27, 2010

Good thing I planned to check out today, because the hotel was closing for the season this morning.  I was the only passenger on the ferry to Varenna; in October even Bellagio can look lonely:

I wasn't really sure where to go today, I wanted to go to St Moritz, in the mountains, but it looked like the Alps were under lots of snow, so that was out.  Then I thought about Bolzano, which is quite a bit lower, but to get to Bolzano I would have to ride in a big loop, and I wasn't sure I wanted to do that…so I decided just to play it by ear, took the ferry to Varenna, and set off north along the eastern shore of the lake.  When I got to the end of the lake I thought I would turn east toward Sondria, and then south to Brenno, and then take a little road from there to the east, which would take me to the road to Bolzano.  The road to Sondria was quite boring, a long flat valley in the shadow of the snow-capped alps. If I kept going straight, over Passo de Tonale, I would be heading straight towards Bolzano. but that pass is quite high and I was pretty confident that the road there would be snowy.  I turned south and had to go over the Passo Aprico, which is only 1200 meters, but that was high enough for there to be snow on the side of the road, so I'm glad I didn't go any higher.  When I got to Brenno, I looked at the mountains to my left, where the road I wanted to take would be, and they were covered in snow, and I decided it would be a Really Bad Idea to take the steep, narrow, twisty road shown on the map, and reluctantly kept heading south, toward Lago Iseo. 

I reached Iseo at Lovere, on the northern shore, and stopped for coffee and some tiramisu…the town was pretty average, so I rode down the western shore, a great road carved right between the lake and the hills, through tunnels, half-tunnels, etc., with nice views.  Here is one shot:


Next stop was iseo, a large town on the south-eastern shore of the lake.  I also looked pretty blah, and I couldn't find a hotel that was open with a lake view, so I decided to press on to Brescia, maybe I'd stay there.  Brescia was also rather blah, didn't care to stay there, so I headed toward Sirmione, on Lake Garda; I'd read a bit about Sirmione, and it sounded like a cool spot.  When I got there, it looked like a rather modern touristy lake resort town with a bunch of hotels closed down for the season.  Blah, kept going to Verona. 

Finally, in Verona, I found a nice town, somewhere I'd like to stay.  Lots of pix below, but even just riding into town you can tell it is nice place.



Had a very pleasant evening in Verona, had hoped to stick around for a while during the day, but the hotel had a strict 11 am check-out policy and wouldn't budge (?!).  Maybe I'll stay somewhere else next time. 

October 28, 2010

The plan today was to head to Bergamo, very close to Verona.  The problem was that I didn't get around to reserving a room until yesterday, so most of the hotels were already full (usually I don't reserve, but old town Bergamo has very little accomodation, so I made an exception.  So I made a reservation in "Gourmet" a hotel/gourmet restaurant just outside of the old town.  The good news was that there was parking, and the hotel was about 200 meters from the gate to the old city.  The bad news was that the hotel is pretty blah, with no balconies.  Oh well.  From what I had read, I thought I would really like Bergamo, but in fact I found it pretty boring.  Here are a few pix:

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