Lake Como South - An Autumn by the Sea - CycleBlaze

October 22, 2018

Lake Como South

Today’s ride had a bit of everything: a balanced mix of narrow, cliff lined roads with light traffic on your shoulder; abandoned highway; occasional short tunnels; paved country lanes; sketchy dirt paths through the woods; grueling 25% pushers; and a rockslide.  What more could you want in a day ride?

Our route began by following the western shore of the southwest leg of Lake Como, down to its end at Como itself.  This is a really dramatic part of the lake - the mountains rise steeply up from the lake, at times leaving barely enough room for the narrow road.  With so little real estate available, there is no other route than the main road.  The traffic isn’t too bad, especially on a weekday morning, but it does keep you focused.  It’s a beautiful ride, passing ivy covered cliffs, opulent villas and charming lakeside resorts, but it’s hard to fully enjoy it because you have to keep alert to the traffic.  The road does see plenty of bike traffic though.

Conditions are a bit different this morning as we cross the lake to Menaggio again. We wonder if we might get wet today.
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Looking south, with Bellagio’s peninsula on the right. Straight downlake about twenty miles is Lecco, at its southeastern end.
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Shedding some light in Varenna
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Sadly, we find that Villa Carlotta isn’t up for sale. We’ll have to continue looking for our new future home.
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Jen GrumbyDagnabit! We were really hoping to visit you there.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyActually, we’re still holding out for that flat in Cremona.
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1 month ago
Kathleen ClassenI’m sure if you made them an offer they can’t refuse...
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Kathleen ClassenWell, we considered that, of course. It seemed so heavy handed though. We like to keep a bit lower profile.
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1 month ago
The Church of San Lorenzo, at Tremezzo
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The harbor at Tremezzo
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The Church of San Lorenzo is a recent construction, within the last century. I’m not sure when it was completed, but after the war memorial in front of it that was placed in 1924.
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It looks a bit tight here, pressed against the cliff. Actually though, this is one of the better sections. At least it’s wide enough for striping.
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The beautiful Church of the Madonna, at Brienno, stands at one of the nices parts of the ride. For a few miles we’re on the remains of the old highway, while the main road tunnels through a cliff. Our road tunnels almost beneath the church, which is dramatic seen from both directions.
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In Como we stop at a supermarket and pick up lunch materials, and then take them over to the attractive lakeside park where we sit on the wall, taking in the warmth of the sun, the fine views, and of course the lunch itself.

After that, the climbing begins.  We could have ridden back up the east side of the lake, but we’ve decided to go over the top, through Ghisallo again.  The lakeside road on the east bank looks a bit worrying, and I was sorry on our first pass through that we didn’t have time for the museum.  So, up it is. 

Slowly up, that is.  We’re following a different route for the first half of the climb today, one I made up because the roads looked quiet.  They’re quiet, alright, and challenging, and very slow going.  First, we lose time on a dirt path that tapers down to nearly nothing and leaves us anxious that it will die out altogether.  Then,we find ourselves laboring to push our bikes up several series of supersteep switchbacks, much too steep for us to do anything but push (with difficulty) our loaded bikes up to the next plateau.  Then, a barricaded but otherwise sound-looking road that has been severed by a rockslide.  

The bottom line though - we don’t make it up to Ghisallo until about 5. It’s too late for us to visit the museum, so I’m missing it this time as well.  Drat!!  Rachael is kind enough to let me at least peek in briefly so I can get a sense of what I’m missing, but then we need to race down the same crazy switchbacks we rode two days earlier.  We’re hoping to get to Bellagio in time for the 5:30 ferry, but it will be very close.  All the way down I have visions of just missing it, and living to regret my short peek into the museum.

But, we make it!  With one minute to spare!  What a fine feeling that is, and a great way to cap off an interesting, adventuresome ride.

Our lunch spot, sitting on the wall at the lakeshore park in Como. After this we leave the lake and head for the hills.
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Great goggles! Not great enough to tempt us to toss down some of our turkey for him though.
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If he can’t have the turkey, he’ll try the pigeon.
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Looks promising enough. There’s a sign to the right that says authorized access only. This is the route I mapped though, so it must be OK. We authorize ourselves, and roll on.
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I wonder - is it possible to flatten your tire on chestnut hulls?
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I’ve no idea why she’s smiling pushing up these 25% switchbacks. I sure wasn’t smiling.
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She must have been smiling anticipating the breathtaking views at the top. They didn’t need to be as good as all that, really - our breath was already taken by the push up.
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Looking upvalley to Asso. Here you can see the reward for our labors - pushing up that cliff got us onto this beautiful balcony road.
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Here’s another beautiful bit of road we were unsure of, because access is chained off. We called across to a couple nearby, who waved us on. We probably would have gone on without their OK anyway - the alternative is a long way around, and it’s getting worryingly late in the day.
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This seems likely to be the reason for the barricade: the road is blocked by an impressive rockslide, that’s been here quite awhile by the looks of things. Fortunately it’s only about thirty yards across, so we could just portage the bikes through it.
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XII century church of Saint Alessandro stands not far below the summit of Ghisallo.
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The shrine of Madonna del Ghisallo, the patron saint of cyclists
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We used up all of our spare time getting here, so I spent literally less than two minutes peeking in the cycling museum. We really may have to come back a third time, but not this year. The museum looks like a fascinating place that you could spend a long time in. This is a gallery of the winners’ jerseys for the Giro d’Italia.
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The second descent from Ghisallo was even better. Less traffic, no other bikes startling us by speeding past our shoulder.
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Ride stats today: 49 miles, 4,100’

Today's ride: 49 miles (79 km)
Total: 1,553 miles (2,499 km)

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