OMG, OSG! - An Autumn by the Sea - CycleBlaze

October 19, 2018


Once again the sky is beautiful when we wake up this morning, as it has been most mornings ever since we landed in Dubrovnik eight weeks ago. We’ve really had phenomenal weather, and it looks likely to continue a while longer yet.  The ten day forecast in the region looks generally fair for the whole period.  We may end up with excellent riding conditions that carry us all the way back to the coast.

We’re only seeing two sunrises here, so I might as well include the whole set.
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I’m sure there must be a good cycling route for the short distance from Lake Maggiore to Lake Orta, but we sure didn’t find it.  Today’s ride had its moments, but in general it was a pretty unappealing slog through busier streets and roads than we like.  I’ve included the map, as advice - look at the way we went, and then look again.

Not too much to say other than that about the ride, but that’s fine - it wasn’t a very long ride in the first place.

About a mile south of the hotel, we left the busy shoreline road for this quiet balcony road that lies a few hundred feet above it. Lovely riding, once we got up there.
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These were the best miles of the ride by far. Unfortunately, they only carried us for about five miles before dropping back to the lake and the outskirts of busy Verbania.
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A last look back at Maggiore
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We enjoyed a few more rough but quiet miles today, on a path through a protected area beside the Toce River.
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Omegna, the commercial center of the lake at its north end. We stopped for lunch at a waterfront cafe here before biking the few remaining miles to our hotel.
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Instead, I want to tell you about Orta San Giulio (OSG, hereafter), our home for the next two nights.   I dream up our itineraries far in advance, and do a fair amount of research at the time to pick routes, rides and destinations that look appealing.  Since I’m SO OLD now though, little of the details of this research sticks in my head over the months between planning and execution.  I remembered that I wanted to come to OSG, but had forgotten why exactly.  I have been thinking we were coming here because it was a quieter, less touristed lake than the big names, and small enough to make for a nice day ride to loop around it.

I forgot that OSG is a world heritage site, and phenomenally attractive.  There’s not much to the beautiful village itself, which drapes the waterfront of a small peninsula, almost an islet about a mile across.  The peninsula is a rounded knob, and nearly everything above the waterline is protected land: Sacre Monte (the Sacred Mount of Orta).  It is a sprawling religious sanctuary honoring Saint Francis, the likes of which neither of us has ever seen.  It consists of a church and I think sixteen chapels scattered across a beautiful, grassy hardwood forest.  I think even the trees are protected - many look ancient, and areas are roped off here and there with warning signs to watch out for falling branches.

The chapels are unique, in my experience.  Each of them is similar - the walls are fully mirrored, and in the center of the chapel is an elaborate diorama representing an episode in Saint Francis’s life.  The scene consists of nearly lifesize, nearly lifelike terra cotta figurines.  They were all built within about a forty year period, roughly between 1600 and 1640, and are remarkably well preserved.  Making the tour of the entire circuit is quite a moving experience.

Oh, and there’s a small island in the lake (Isola San Giulio), just offshore from OSG that is totally amazing too.

In time, I’ll show you more of this; but for now there are just these token photos.  OSG is a stunning place to visit, but its WiFi is awful.

Chapel XII: Jesus dictates the Rule to Saint Francis
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In the herb garden on the Sacred Mount: the last echinacea blossom of the year
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Isola San Giulio is amazing in any lighting conditions. I’ve seen photos of it blanketed with snow that look spectacular too.
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Another submission for the Cycle365 Coffeeneuring challenge: Pinot Grigio in OSG
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Today's ride: 30 miles (48 km)
Total: 1,717 miles (2,763 km)

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Jacquie GaudetMaybe you can’t remember all the details not because you’re *old* but because you are doing longer tours with shorter breaks between than before—so much more to remember!
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7 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Jacquie GaudetSuch a charitable explanation! There’s some truth to that though - I’ve gotten accustomed over the years to having a long time to imagine and plan out these tours. We’re doing things more seat of the pants now.
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6 months ago