Well to be truthful I thought somebody else I knew had done it. Turns out he had biked Lake Bled in Slovenia and only one leg of Lake Como. By this time it was too late, it had already made my list of things to do.
There wasn’t a lot of research available on the internet about biking the lake, but what I did find was a bike rental company that seemed to have the bike rental idea down pat. They even have a full listing of every bike they have available to choose from.
Once the bike was booked, Megan my friend that would be joining me and I, started looking at places to stay. Our 3 options became Bellagio, Varenna, or Como. All 3 in vastly different areas of the lake, it was a toss up, but Varenna won because the train tracks run up the right side of the lake and stop right at Varenna which also is one of the 3 towns the ferry’s run from (Varenna, Bellagio, and Menaggio). We wanted the best of all worlds and we wanted things to be easily accessible.
See how Varenna is on the right side by the train tracks and also has a green line for ferry routes. This made things very accessible when trying to get around the towns.
Yep, that’s our hotel. Don’t worry I have a better picture for you. It was right there next to the ferry, right on the water, quite a lovely hotel to stay at and the woman who ran it was sweet and thoughtful and used to say Cassandra this and Cassandra that in her Italian accent, it made me smile.
A shot of our hotel from the ferry. Right on the water! Quite a lovely place. Called the Olivedo Hotel, I found it on Booking.com.
Wanna see the room? It was definitely expensive and worth every penny.
I arrived a day before Megan and so would be starting the first leg without her. At this point I still wasn’t sure which way I would start the route. Leave Varenna and go to Bellagio and then maybe Menaggio. Could I even do that in one day? I had not even checked the elevation charts. What was MY plan?!
A peculiar thing happened on Friday morning which helped me choose my route and I couldn’t be happier because what I learned is that the first leg of the route should be Bellagio to Menaggio, its by far the hardest. If you don’t bike often, do this leg first, because you will be very sore afterwards, and once sore it would be hard to complete.
When I woke up and went downstairs to have breakfast and wait for my bike, I realized that my bike wasn’t coming.
At 0800 there was no bike which is the time I requested it be delivered to my hotel. At 0830 I called them. Basically they had forgotten about me even though I had booked and paid in advance. The woman told me that it would not be possible to receive the bike because the van had already left for rentals that morning. I was about to be pretty devastated.
Then she came up with the idea that they could get me a bike but I would take the ferry to Bellagio and it would arrive at 10:00. Good thing I had already had a start to the morning. I finished breakfast, packed up shop, and then went and caught the ferry over to Bellagio. A fifteen minute ride later and the ferry slid quietly into the dock at Bellagio.
Arriving I walked around the town and then waited in the square until the guy with the bike showed up. A couple of hour delay but with the recommendation to always bike clockwise so you’re be on the lake side, my route was decided. The first leg would be Bellagio to Menaggio.
The greens of these trees! BEA-U-TIFUL. After a few minutes of sitting on that bench, my bike, Scout (his name), arrived and I immediately set off. Already 2 hours behind schedule I wanted to get on the road.
This route was by far the most difficult of all 3 legs. There were many hills and many towns. Although it was the hardest, it was the most scenic. Took you through the most amazing towns, and was definitely what you should do as the first leg of the journey.
In Italy I always see signs for each town and as you exit the town there is another sign with the name and a red slash through it. That was how I knew I was moving from town to town on Lake Como. Almost every town had a church so it was also easy to know when I was in a new town judging by the church steeples.
As I biked and biked and biked passing through many towns on the way down the first side of the leg, I came down into the town of Como. Hey, Scout!
Keeping the water of the lake in sight I biked through a park and stopped by the water for a quick break, a drink of water, and a walk around.
Just after Como came the rain. A torrential downpour of sorts in which I tried to hide under a tree and to no avail. Sopping wet I got back on the bike and continued on, at least I had brought a rain jacket just in case!
Slipping and sliding into the town of Argegno, I stopped to dry off and eat lunch. Maybe with a gin and tonic. Hey, I was cold!
The restaurant was a pizzeria and the only place in town open after 2pm. Probably a good thing because everything inside was plastic and I left a puddle of water from my wet clothes under the chair. Just before entering the town a guy in a truck hit a puddle and almost had me falling off my bike, I was hit by so much water. All I could do was laugh, and be on my way.
After an hour delay, maybe I had 2 gin and tonics :), I got back on the road because Megan was on her way, the plane had left and I wanted to meet her at our hotel in Varenna for dinner.
Continuing on, there were a few more towns to Menaggio.
Biking into the town, I originally missed the turn for the ferry and continued on, coming around the bend. Backtracking, I headed to the pier for a cafe while I waited for my ride back to Varenna.
I don’t think there’s enough lavender here, do you?
After we met up and I had showered, we walked just down the road and found a place overlooking the lake. I decided on pasta so I could get my carbs for tomorrow’s journey.
After dinner, I won’t lie, I was pretty exhausted and although our hotel was extremely nice, it definitely was full of people from the older community, so we headed back to watch the news and head to bed early for a big start to the morning.
Day 2 saw us up bright and early, eating breakfast and jumping on the ferry back across to Menaggio to continue our route right from where I had left off.
Yesterday I didn’t need the GPS once, but I was really glad Megan was with me because the roads got a bit confusing on the loop around and we wanted to stay off the highway if possible so we checked her GPS a couple of different times to make sure we were doing things correctly.
In true Italian fashion the beauty of the towns continued on but I also started noticing their distinct uniqueness from each other. There would always be a town then a stretch of road then another town, they did just morph into each other.
Well randomly as we were biking we saw a sign by the gate stating that this house was used to film the final scene of Casino Royale the James Bond Film. Ummm come again? We randomly (with no prior knowledge) happened upon this house on the bike trail! That’s a fact.
Here’s the scene.
Then a minute later we ran into these guys. They were stopped in the tunnel back there. Not sure what that was about but have some guesses. Megan was convinced they came out of a hidden garage door behind a wall of vines in the tunnel whereas I was convinced they had just been helo dropped onto this road because its blocked on both sides since its supposed to be for the bikers. Apparently rich people can do whatever they want around these parts.
Waiving that Italian flag proudly on the lake. Most of the people who had lake houses actually on the lake were a far climb from the road. Meaning they had elevators that would take them up to the street and their cars. What a high class area!
As we turned and made the strait shot across the top of the lake, we didn’t see many towns only some occasional farms and these rolling hills. It was a welcome contrast to enjoy this kind of scenery for a bit.
Once we got back, we sat down and ate outside as the rain blew through, that was very good for me since I was planning to continue on. Having just completed 75 miles out of 100, I only had 25 left to go and didn’t want to give up. Megan saw the weather and decided to stay in and nap while I continued on. eeee!
Climbing up to the top of town, I snapped a few photos of Varenna as I trudged slowly through. I knew that rain wouldn’t be gone long and wasn’t looking forward to being soaking wet while bike riding again.
Right before I came into the town of Lecco, there were a couple of tunnels and one of them was very very long. I did not like this ride. It was more of the highway than anything else and it was a bit scary. I got lost in Lecco for about 20 minutes because my GPS was having a hard time figuring out exactly where I was.
This was my least favorite leg of the whole journey mostly because it was all uphill in the end. Talk about a real life struggle.
One thing I forgot to mention is the fact that in the entire 2 days of biking, I never saw another female out on the road. All the biker’s were male and well over the age of 40. They were all decked out with their fancy gear and road bikes, meanwhile, I was just in workout clothes with a backpack and mountain bike. It’s safe to say I stuck out like a sore thumb. Pretty standard.
Coming into Bellagio I climbed and I climbed a couple of hills before I actually got there. Even flicked off a guy in an Escalade who almost ran me over. By this time I was becoming increasingly angry and near tears. I actually had to get off my bike and walk up the hill for awhile because I was so exhausted, I felt like I couldn’t pedal anymore.
As always, just when I think I can’t make it, I somehow magically (at least it feels like magic) make it and there I was flying down that last hill and intersecting the same road I left on yesterday morning when I first started the trek.
After dropping off the bike and taking a quick pic with it, I had to run to catch the ferry back to Varenna so I could meet Megan and get ready for dinner.
Coming back to the room she had a gin and tonic waiting for me and snapped a quick picture with all of my gear on. That gin and tonic was damn delicious. Mission accomplished!
Even though I was tired we got ready for dinner and headed to catch the ferry to a fancy restaurant in Bellagio. We couldn’t resist some gelato and the typical Italian firework extravaganza, this time from a boat on the lake. A much better display than I normally see in Naples.
Catching the last ferry across to Varenna at the end of the evening we happily made our way back upstairs, packed our bags, and got ready for bed. We’d be leaving early the next morning to head to Milan and the World Expo 2015. More coming on that soon!
This article appeared first on The Cassey Excursion.