Day ride from Orta San Giulio - An Autumn by the Sea - CycleBlaze

October 20, 2018

Day ride from Orta San Giulio

We’re staying here in the Leon d’Oro (Golden lion) hotel, a waterfront establishment with a pretty deep history.  The photos that line the walls go back about a century, but it celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2015, and before that it was a tavern/inn since the mid 1600s.  It is currently run by quite elderly sisters, descendants of the original owner.  We’ve seen one of them around, and she’s definitely slowing down.  I wonder if this is the end of the line?

According to the literature in the lobby, Orta San Giulio was a favorite stop on the grand tours of Europe in the mid eighteen hundreds, and Nietzche stayed at this hotel.  It’s easy to believe - it has a grand dining area with a large capacity facing the water in one of the best spots in town.  It’s quite quiet now of course, because we’re so late in the season.  There were only a few other parties in the dining hall the night before last, and it looks like the hotel is working down to a skeleton staff.  

The expansive dining hall of the Leon d’Oro Hotel. Such a splendid location, but almost vacant now.
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We began the day with a walking tour through town, and then another walk up on the hill for a look down on the island in the daytime.  It’s a lovely place to walk and wander and would reward a longer stay, I’m sure.  The town itself is small but quite appealing.  It helps of course that it’s largely carfree, and nearly impossible to drive into.  The access road just barely fits a smallish car - when one carefully crawls through, the pedestrians all have to crowd into nooks and doorways to make room.

The central plaza, Orta San Giulio
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This is one of the two drivable entrances to town - one from each end. It’s interesting when a car tries to squeeze through.
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The stairway from the plaza up to the church. The climb continues on behind it to Sacre Monte.
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A closer look at the stairway. Very artistic, with the grain of the stones alternating from horizontal to vertical with each step.
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In Orta San Giulio
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In Orta San Giulio
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What an incredible wisteria! I wonder how old this is.
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In Orta San Giulio
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In Orta San Giulio
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The walk to Sacre Monte serene this morning, and feels like it can’t have changed much in the last four hundred years. It is so quiet and secluded now, but I wonder what it must have felt like in centuries past. I can imagine this road filled with pilgrims completing a significant journey.
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Isola San Giulio, from Sacre Monte
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The lower slope is lined with some fabulous villas. This one looks like it has a decent view.
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Our ride today was a loop across the ridge to Lake Maggiore, whose southern edge is only a few miles to the east.  It was a pretty, quiet route - I suspect that this would have been a better way to get here in the first place - but quite hilly.  We spent the entire ride, it seems, going steeply up or steeply down.  For only a 30 mile ride, we climbed 3,500 feet - a lot for a ride that ends up where it began.  By the end, we’re both leg weary.  It must be time to pump the tires, or lube the chains, or take a rest day, or all three.

The narrow strip of land between Orta and Maggiore is green, pastoral, and quite hilly. This is at one of the rare level stretches.
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We heard this herd before we saw them, their bells clattering as they hustled down this steep slope, their driver in the rear. I told k a video of this too, but decided not to post it because a couple of cows were behaving badly and I was embarrassed. How do they do that while running downhill, anyway? A neat trick.
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A crooked fence
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Nice to have someone other than just Rachael in the road shot for a change.
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We’re off route briefly, taking a ‘short cut’ down to the village below.
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Steeply down. Too steep and rough for us t9 bike anyway. Why is Rachel always smiling in these pictures? Doesn’t she know it’s no fun to walk your bike up or down hill?
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If you follow our track through here, watch out for the vicious speed bumps.
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There are several interesting things in this shot of Carpugnino, including the statue of the cat sheltered beneath an umbrella.
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It’s an interesting approach, casting the village population in stone. I wonder how many times it has been painted over and restated.
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We must have bikes through a dozen villages on this short ride.
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One last look at Lake Maggiore
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We’re at another transition point in our tour.  This morning we head south into the Piemonte for the transition back to the sea.  We don’t know yet how long we’ll be in this region - it looks like great biking, but it will depend on the weather.  Change is definitely in the air though.  It’s chilly this morning when I stand out on the deck of the hotel, watching the early morning fishermen on the lake and the gulls swooping and keening just offshore.  It is unseasonably warm and dry still, with the highs around seventy; but It looks like that will change soon - five days out, and the forecast is for a ten degree drop, snow in the mountains, and sporadic showers in the valley.

We’ve also reached a personal milestone of sorts on this trip.   We’re in our ninth week now, making this the longest we have ever been on the road.  It is also almost exactly the midpoint of the European part of the tour - our flight from Barcelona to Taipei leaves on December 17th, just eight weeks off now.  So how are we doing?

We’re doing great, and better as we go.  We used to both be ready to return home after five or six weeks, but what we’re doing now definitely feels different.  It feels more like a new lifestyle than a vacation.  We’re finding our rhythm, are doing well at balancing out our days.  It feels sustainable.  It helps, of course, that we’ve had stunningly good weather, good health (save for Rachael’s brief cold), and an occasional good meal to end the day on.

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Ride stats today: 31 miles, 3,100’

Today's ride: 31 miles (50 km)
Total: 1,748 miles (2,813 km)

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Jen GrumbyCongrats on week no. 9 and a sustainable and often-times exhilarating lifestyle shift. Y'all are an inspiration!!
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyThanks, Jen. And thanks for following along. We keep watching out for just the right place over here that you two can join us at. None of the villas at Orta seemed just right, but we’re still looking.
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1 month ago