Today was my day. I had done some keyboard research before we left home and picked out a few things that I thought might be interesting to see while we were in the area. Dan had been talking about hiking up “a mountain” ever since we left Basel but I said that we could do that on Saturday if he wanted. In fact, I said that he was in charge of our plans for Saturday – if a seven hour mountain hike was what he wanted, then he needed to plan it and make it happen. But today? Today was already worked out and we´d do what I wanted. Lucky for Dan, I like to plan out interesting things.
We rode the motorcycles out of Chiavenna and south to Lake Como. I recalled this valley when we rode north last fall, but it was nice to see it again, and in better weather. The ride was quick and gorgeous. Because of the list I had created, I planned a nice loop around the top half of Lake Como and I chose to start on the eastern shore. This way we would see the sun shine on the opposite shore as we traveled and we wouldn’t have to look into the sun while enjoying our scenery. It is the little things, right?
Leaving our neighborhood in Chiavenna
Bellano is a small town right on the lake´s edge. It was bustling this morning and we had to watch ourselves as we navigated to the heart of it. Pedestrians and cars filled the streets and sidewalks as I carefully followed the signs for our destination: Orrido de Torrente . We parked the bikes in an unofficial parking spot, locked our gear to the bikes and set out to see this natural wonder.
I think the guy on the plaque is blessing our bikes
The Orrido is a river gorge, cut deeply into the rock and exploited by the hydroelectric company. We paid a couple of Euros and started our exploration. They had built a walkway, high above the gorge, to give a great perspective of the rushing water below. The rock wall that the walkway was built into often overhung the walkway, making me hunch over in order to proceed further. I could see ahead of me how the timber boards of the path stuck out into the air; it is a good thing I have no fear of heights.
Dan, holding up the wall
It didn’t take long to see all that the gorge had to offer. We sauntered back towards the bikes, but only after being accosted by a young man asking for money. He needed to buy some medicine for his mother who is “in the hospital”. It didn’t ring true and we declined to help. We unlocked our gear from the bikes, which meant that we unlocked a combination lock that secures a long cable that has been run through the sleeves of our jackets and through part of the motorcycle. It is simple, easy and doesn’t take up much space. And it also ensures that our stuff is there when we return.
From here it was just seven kilometers down the coast to the town of Perledo. I didn’t have an exact address for where we were going – just the town name. We exited off the main road and blissfully rode past the “road closed” sign, all the while remarking on what terrible condition the pavement was in. Tight switchbacks covered in loose asphalt did not inspire confidence and we kept our speeds low. As I rounded the third switchback I saw a work truck parked in the middle of the road. I suggested to Dan that he wait in the relative comfort of the corner while I rode ahead to see if there was a way around. There wasn’t. A couple of workers were sitting around and I pantomimed me going around. He shook his head and wagged his finger “no”. Ok, so I guess we’ll be going a different way!
The alternative route turned out to be a better route anyway. The destination was actually in the next town over, on the hill across the valley, so we were able to access it directly from the coastal road. Up and up it went, through a lush forest and with peek-a-boo views across the valley to the town of Perledo. And then the road ended – but in a good way. We were at the top of the hill and the rest of the way would be on foot. Once again we locked up our gear and set off to explore Castello di Vezio.
On the way to Castello di Vezio
Paper-mache sculptures are remade every year
Dan gives me a fashion show
I can’t see a thing!
There was a falconry show at 2:30, but it was only noon. Even though we planned to have lunch (pizza!) in Vezio, we didn’t think that it would take us that long to eat it. The birds would have to perform without us. We walked back to the (only) restaurant that we had passed on our way in and took a seat outside. It was perfect weather, I still couldn’t believe our good fortune. We ordered too much food (the pizzas were huge!!) and did our best to clean our plates. Failing that, we asked to take our remaining portions with us, so that we could enjoy a light meal that night. It was fun to sit there and watch people, tourists and residents alike, walk by as they went about their business. I can´t imagine what it would be like to live in a village as small as this. There wasn’t a street in the place wide enough to get a car through – just a maze of walls and buildings and little plazas, all stacked on the side of a hill.
Patron Saint of Bacon
Main route through Vizea
With full bellies we returned to the bikes and rode back down the hill. Our next stop was on the other side of the lake so it was time to catch a ferry. The dock was easy enough to find and we parked the bikes off to one side while I bought our tickets. The attendant said that our ferry would load at 1:50, so we had about 30 minutes to wait. Just enough time to kick back, people watch and check out the various motorcycles as they pulled up. I returned to my bike to push is a few feet ahead, just to get it out of the way. I stood it up and began to push, but the side stand was catching on the ground. I titled the bike a little further away from me and – whoops! – away it went. It crashed down, not hitting the ground because the right pannier instead hit the VW Polo that was parked there. Uh oh. I quickly walked around the back of the bike to see what the damage was. The pannier was resting on the rear bumper, a shallow indentation where the pressure was the strongest. I grabbed at the pannier just as two other people reached for the rest of the bike and together we stood it up. I didn’t even have a chance to thank them (thank you, mystery people!) because just then the most stern and dour looking Italian woman I´d ever seen walked up. She didn’t even look at me; she went directly to the bumper of the car, looked at it and then looked at me and asked me a question:
“How much do you want to give me for this?”
Huh. I didn’t expect that! So I said back to her “How much do you want?”
“One hundred Euros”
At this point Dan came up and jumped in. No, he said. We have insurance; we’ll let them handle it. She shrugged and went back into the hotel restaurant from whence she had come. I followed. She returned with a form and sat down at the table by the door. I sat down across from her and she stood back up. I watched her walk slowly to the Polo, and then into the restaurant, then back out to the car and finally to the table. She did everything slowly and I was glad that we had time before our ferry came.
Filling out the paperwork
She filled out a section of the form and then looked at me.
She continued to fill out the form. Slowly. At one point I asked if I could just give her my information and be done with it, but she said no, that I would get a copy of the full report. After she had completed her portion she pushed it over to me. She translated what was needed for the different sections and I filled it in. When we were both satisfied with the information we signed it and she tore off the top sheet – it was carbonless copy paper! There were actually three forms copied and she handed me the second sheet. It is an efficient system but only leads me to believe that accidents are not an unknown thing here.
Now that I had my insurance form in hand I went over to Dan who was waiting by our bikes. I walked over to the Polo and looked at the dent – but I couldn’t find it. I rubbed my finger over the bumper and the plastic felt perfect. Dan said that she probably wouldn’t even file the claim and I was thinking “claim for what? There´s no damage!” Well see if anything comes in the mail one of these days.
Scene of the crime
Can you spot the damage?
The ferry dock at Verenna
Pulling away from Verenna, Vezio on the hill
Quite the set up on the ferry with us
We arrived at Menaggio on the other side of the lake and rode the few kilometers to our next destination: Villa Carlotta. My research had promised me about twenty acres of flowering bushes and trees and exotic plants. And it being spring, I figured that this would be the best way to spend the rest of our afternoon.
On the shores of Lake Como
Front row parking
We joined the crowds of people as they flowed along the sidewalks and entered the villa’s grounds. It was an impressive building, dating from the 1600’s.
Unfortunately for us, we were about two weeks late to the rhododendron party. There were a couple of flowering bushes left, but most of what we saw were dried up blossoms.
Still, not a bad view
We went into the villa and enjoyed the beautiful friezes, artwork and sculptures. That it survived so perfectly for so long is amazing.
Faux stucco on the ceiling – I never would have guessed!
We continued our garden explorations but we had seen most of the gardens already.
I was a little concerned about potential traffic problems on our ride back to Chiavenna. It was Friday afternoon, after all, and the road along the shores of Lake Como was not a fast one. Dan merely said “it is what it is” as we pulled out of our parking place and headed north.
The first few kilometers were good. There were flowering trees on the hillsides and a sailing regatta out on the lake. The road passed through many tunnels which was both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it meant that we didn’t have to sit in traffic in small towns, but a curse because we would miss seeing those same small towns.
I told Dan that there was one more place on My List, but it was mostly just to see “an historic, well-preserved city center”. If nothing else, a quick ride through would probably be enough for me. As we got closer to the town in question, Gravedona, the traffic got worse. Dan complained about the back up. So much for “it is what it is.” There were actual traffic lights (!) and they were red (!). I told Dan that we didn’t have to look at anything beyond the road we were on, and continued north towards our apartment and our leftover pizza.