We started the day with a massive breakfast! After we awoke in our comfortable hotel beds, I declared my intention to investigate the hotel breakfast, given that any bakeries were too far away. Bert had some leftover bread from previous days but I wanted something good before we set out. To our surprise, there was a weekend special for breakfast – something like 10€ for 2 people. We’d have been stupid not to sign up… and sign up we did.
That yogurt turned out to be a bust (it was sweetened) but everything else was great. I took the opportunity to load up on tea and juice, ate a fruit, and, of course, loaded up on carbs and protein. We were the last ones to leave, eating until well after breakfast had ended. They took away the remaining food but not before we had devoured more than our fair share.
Stomachs and bags filled, it was time to leave Milan and set out for Lake Como, at the foot of the Alps. We dropped by that football stadium again, so Bert could see it in the light. I’d say it was definitely much uglier by day but too each his own. We loaded up the GPS and headed north.
Somehow the way to Como reminded me of driving to Wasaga Beach. You’re kind of just driving through nowhere for a long time, with some shops and places to eat along the way. It’s not so bad because you know you’re going somewhere good, so you just kind of put your brain on autopilot and keep on going. The major difference from Wasaga is that as we got nearer, we began to see the mountains! We stopped at Aldi to load up on food (I also took the downtime to call Jelena!) and eat a little. It was exciting to see what an Italian Aldi had on offer – it didn’t disappoint. I wish we had an Italian Aldi in Frankfurt.
The road began to slope gentily upwards as Como came nearer. I knew by the route that there was a bunch of elevation gain, followed by a big drop. Let me tell you, it was worth it! We turned a corner down a steep slope and everything opened up before us. There we could see the lake and the mountains – everything. It was beautiful and amazing. These kinds of descents are what a cyclist lives for. As we made our way further along the lake, we remained in awe of its beauty and that of its surroundings. I instantly realised why this is a major vacation destination, especially for the very wealthy.
Our stomachs decided it was time to look for a place to eat and we agreed that as soon as we found a bench with a view, we would stop and have lunch. It wasn’t long before we found that spot.
As we ate, we noticed a strange, older man hovering around. He offered to take a photo for another tourist and then asked us if we also wanted photos. I tried talking with him a little, using my broken Italian, while he documented our lunch at Lake Como. Was he another guardian angel sent to oversee our journey? We thought maybe Gigi sent him from the Trebbia Valley to ensure we made it to the Alps. Lunch was great – more bread, butter, salami, cheese, and fruit.
While our mouths depleted the food supply as per our stomachs’ instruction, our eyes focused on the swimming area below. We asked our new friend if it was free to swim (sometimes you have to pay to get to the water in Italy, which I find totally insane). He said he couldn’t see any reason why we would have to pay and was certain it must be free. Based on his certainty, we confidentally packed our bags, locked our bikes, and gleefully traversed the stairs towards a refreshing break from cycling.
Stop! Stop! A teenaged boy had appeared from the restaurant below to inform us that this was a private beach. We asked him how much and he pointed to the sign: 10 euros per person! We wanted to swim but not that badly. I asked if we could just jump in, jump out, and be on our way. He said he’d get in trouble – we couldn’t blame him. But then he spoke more quietly and asked us if we really only wanted to jump in the water and be on our way. He explained that just 200 metres down the road, there was another entrance to the water, next to a yellow house.
We hurriedly dashed back up the stairs and back to our bikes. Hilariously, the old man was now facing his motorcycle, busying himself with his bag of things, obviously too embarrassed to talk to us further, after having led us to our doom. Turns out he was a false prophet. We rode in the direction the boy told us about and found a small entrance for boats, where we could get into the water. This was going to be the last swim of the trip and the first freshwater one – we weren’t going to miss the chance!
The water was cold at first (a big shock from the Mediterranean) and the lack of salt meant we had to work a bit harder to swim but it was both refreshing and an amazing setting in which to bathe!
We decided that since the day was going so well, we would eat into some of tomorrow’s kilometres, to make the day before the mountain climb easier – and to open up the possibility of doing half the climb a day earlier. Although we fell behind at the start of the trip, we were always working hard to get back on track and catch up little-by-little.
We pressed on and made it a couple camps past the originally planned one. Before that, we dropped by a supermarket just before closing, so we could fuel up for dinner. I had to pee (as usual) and asked after a bathroom. I felt really bad because the shopkeeper brought me into the back room, which was actually their private apartment, and let me use his private bathroom!
We arrived at the camp, which was right on the lake (not with a view but can’t complain). Our tent was between some Ukranians and a German guy. Bert introduced himself to the Ukranians, who seemed unhappy to be living in Italy but didn’t want to return to Ukraine. They said nothing ever changes in Ukraine and that the politics will always be bad. Bert tried to ask the Ukrainian guy about the new president but he wasn’t interested. I didn’t get the impression that when Ukraine sent these guys that they were sending their best.
The German guy, on the other hand, was very cool! Manfried came from Cologne to bike in the Alps and in Italy. He actually came down the Splügen Pass, the very pass we planned to go up! Although I had read the roads were in need of repair, he let us know that they had actually very recently been repaired and that all the pavement was fresh. He also recommended we just go halfway up and continue the next day – which is good because we had put ourselves in a position to do just that. We talked a lot with Manfried, another great personality from our trip.
I set about making dinner. Firstly, I had bought fresh filled pasta from the supermarket. Half was filled with ricotta and the other half was filled with spinach. I jumped at the chance to buy fresh filled pasta because making your own filled pasta is a lot of work. It was good but I couldn’t really prepare it properly with what we had.
While we were eating that small portion, I had rice cooking, which we mixed with fried sausage and a side of cucumber. It was good.
After our normal chores (washing clothes, washing dishes, preparing the tent, etc.), we were ready to go to bed. A big day was coming up but first we’d have to face the rain.
Did you miss a previous day’s tales or are you looking for an easy overview? Then check out the European Biking Tour 2019 page to get a list of all the days and reports from me and Bert!