Italians have a love affair with the car, but since some of the best cars designs are Italian, its hardly surprising. They are also big consumers and goods are transported around the country to meet demand. The countryside has a far greater density of housing, large working farms and industrial units in the countryside than the UK and on surface I can see no economic doom here in the north.
So, the inevitable outcome of this is lots of traffic on the country lanes. The yellow roads on the map get their fair share of speeding cars and trucks towing trailers. The said, Italian drivers, especially truck drivers are the most considerate as a nation by a large margin.
Crystal clear warm water. No need for a shower after bathing here. San Giulio is a delightful village on a peninsular that has many treasures to seek out. The high street is not wide enough to take cars and is scattered with eateries that spill into the small piazza. This is all a stones throw away from the waters edge. That night I found a bit of green by the lake, made food, swam, did some jobs and pitched as the sun when down. Due to it being such a nice place I found a small campsite the next day and remained there the whole day and next morning chatting to fellow campers, swimming, eating and shopping for more things to eat!
Varbania, the main town is large and busy with the lakeside reserved for marinas and ferries. The roads bordering the lakes are a bit to risky to cycle so using the ferry is a sensible option. Its a fast crossing and from Verbania to Lavino made even faster by chatting to a Dutch cyclist while scoffing a chocolate desert pick-me-up.
Lago de Varese
The cycle path around the lake is a welcome change. Quiet and laid back. While using someone’s WiFi connection in a village backstreet, I was engaged in conversation and soon had a small collection of well wishers bidding me good luck on the journey ahead. Italians know their bikes its always a good conversation starter.
Stopped for the night at a bypassed section of the old road. it was an old roundabout, with signs and old street lighting. all over grown now. It must have been a hive of activity in its time but now all eerily silent. The enterance is blocked with large stones to prevent cars and motorbikes getting in. The nearby new junction is now all flyovers and slip roads. What I like about these sites is the smoothness of the ground. Campsites usually have gravel or sunbaked dust to pitch your tent on, where as here its perfectally smooth asphalt. Its cleaner and much more comfortable. There are many more advantages over wild camping if all you need to do is eat, sleep and get up early the next day.
Lagi di Como, Lagio Lecco
Finding the quiet backstreet route thanks to my phone, I avoided some of the traffic, but not all. Arriving at the city centre of Como it was like entering an Oasis of Calm. People who say how can you cycle around these cities have no idea of what the roads leading in and out of these places are like to cycle on.. In Como centre, shoppers clutching bags of designer stelletos are the greatest danger on the back streets. There is a regular ferry service from Como to Bellagio, another town 25km away so it seemed the sensible option. Chatted to a retired German couple while watching the scenery drift by. There was a flurry of activity when we passed George Clooneys modest abode. The ferry picks up and drops off at a number of town and villages and every time the numerous crew come out to carry out their assigned tasks. Bellagio is a bit touristy an other than the baker where sweet treats can be purchased, theres not much there for me so I carried on by bike my last lake.
At 21 Euro for one night, its the most I’ve paid in both France and Italy.. but not the UK.. for a small square of ground and the use of a tap.
The swim in the lake, which is compulsary is notable for its views. Swim out and you can see for miles, the distant ‘toy towns’, backdrop of the mountains and the dropping sun casting its long shadows. The water was so still that evening I felt like I was swimming on a mirror.
Getting ready for bed, two friendly motorbikers turned up and soon we were finishing off wine and beers. They were doing a test run for a trip to Africa.. Sounded great fun.
I convinced them another swim in the morning was a must so off we went.. All laked out I decided to skip Garda and search out the quiet countryside.