Day 1, Sunday July 17th
Trip to Lake Orta
With our one day longer stay it was now time to move on to our next stop in northern Italy. I had reached out to my friend Beppe from Tourissimo and he recommended a smaller lesser known lake than its big brothers (Como, Maggiore, Garda) called lake Orta.
To get there we had to drive over 2 Alp passes from France passed Briancon to Italy. They had hairpins but were not too bad. At one of the passes we had a coffee break and enjoyed the view of the glaciers.
After we entered to Po valley, we drove along the toll roads towards Turin. There were many toll stops and definitely had to spend some euros. After Turin we were on the direction towards Milano and with 20km to go we exited the highway for lake Orta. Initially a auto road and then it turned into a provincial road through the towns. We had called ahaed to campsite Orta, but they could not take reservations, they had one spot left on first come, first serve basis.
Once we arrived the spot was still available. But they were concerned considering the size of our camper of it fit. So we checked it out, it was a tight fit. It took us a little manouvering into a tight spot along a hedge. We got some help from some of the folks that already had their sites setup.
The spot was great 10 meters from the lake's shore, with beautiful views. We did get warned by the other campers about the persistent pesky small mosquitos. They recommended a specif brand of mosquito deterrent that turned out to be very effective.
I had to ride 2 miles to the next town to the grocerystore to by the citronella bases detergent. While there also bought a bag of chips and another bottle of rose. The cold rose's had been very nice drinking material with the hot weather.
When I got back we chatted some more more with a Dutch couple from near Rotterdam. It was interesting to hear about their views on Covid and politics without it being to awkward.
We then went for a swim in the lake. I was told it was the cleanest water of lakes in Europe. Where I went it the water was indeed very clear, but did have some water plant debris brought up by the propellers of the boats. One particular speed boat, apparently Dutch, had as a sub name "Fuck armoede" (Fuck Poverty). Not sure if it was meant to be a political statement or a personal attitude.
From the Dutch couple we got a great tip about the pitoresque town Orta San Julio on the peninsula across the water from the Campsite. It was a 25 minute hike, first along the main road but soon on beatiful pebble paved little roads and alleys partially along the lake's shore.
When we entered the town central square we saw a number of outdoor restaurants and picked to one in the middle of the square with a great view on the island isola San Guilio.
We had a 2 course meal with a bottle of Prosecco. I started with a macaroni pasta and then had a Milanese, a breaded veal fillet. At some point when the sun setted there was some consternation at the table around us. The mosquitos now became especially agressive and the guests and restaurant staff were sharing their bug spray.
After the sun had setted and we had finished our meal we decided to get some gelato (Italian icecream). We found one a little further into an alley. It was delicious, I had three different flavors but now cannot remember the flavors anymore.
Instead of walking the way we came I took a route more across the peninsula. First we saw a beautiful chucrch, and when we passed it we walk along some very and somethings very dark alleys, which caused some concern, but soon we dropped down on a road we walked on before that was well lit.
Well fed but tired we immediately went to bed. With all the tents and caravans so close to eachother on the campsite it was a little noisy with crying children and people going to the bathroom. But I still slept very well despite the heat.
Day 2, Monday July 18th
In the morning I decided to go for a run around the peninsula. There was a road called "Via Panorama" which sounded very promising. And indeed running along that road gave me great views of the lake and its shores lined with mountains.
When I got back Paula was already swimming into the lake and I joined her for some cooling off as well. After a quick breakfast we were on our way to our new destination. The town of Merano in South Tirol in the Dolomites. We had been there before 5 years ago.
We first drove towards Milano and then headed north towards Bolzano, there we took the exit to Merano. In the meantime we had called ahead to campsite VogelSang in Silandro (Slanders). In this part of Italy people speak mainly German. Therefor all signs were both in Italian as well as German.
After we had installed the camper van, we went to the town pool with our free entrance passes from the campsite. Since it was a hot day, it seemed the whole town was out and about in the pool. It was very cozy and fun to see the families with kids hangout and play. We did a few laps into pool. We then had a drink and snack at the pool's cafe.
On our way back to the campsite we passed the various sports fields and there were lots of activities, the local soccer team practicing, ladies working out on some music led fitness class. Some skateboarder in the skatepark and on a turf field there seemed to be a pickup soccer game going on.
We changed from our bathing suites into our regular clothers and walked to town for dinner. We found a nice restaurant, with great outdoor seating. No mosquitos were insight this time. Again I had a (penne) past and had some Dunkelweissen.
We watched the avond etappe when we got back and then went to bed.
Day 3, Tuesday July 19th
Since we were close to the foot of the Stelvio climb, it made sense to ride up it again. So I made a route that followed the bikepath to the town Prado de Stelvio at the foot of the climb. Paula joined me for the first bit. The bike parth meandered through the apple orchards roughly following the river. The bike went slowly uphill and Paula thought she did not have a good legs as it felt heavy, when she returned after about 4 miles she realized, she had been riding up "vals plat" ie steadily uphill.
I continued the bike path until I entered Prado di Stelvio. In no time I was climbing. Since I was still tired from my earlier efforts on the Ventoux and Alpe d'Huez, decided to take it easy and kept a 200 watts pace. With that pace the climb felt like it took forever, just over 3 hours.
I was a bit concerned about my water supply, I had brought a bottle with an energy drink and one with regular water. And not even halfway they were feeling a little light. Fortunately there was a natural spring on the side of the road where I could replenish my bottles and splash some water on my face and neck to cool off.
By this time the sun had risen quite a bit and it was getting warm. I had already completed half the switch backs but there were still a bunch to go. The switch backs made it that you would ride with the wind for a bit, where it got hot and then against the wind where you could cool off. Unfortunately the sections into the wind were shorter.
When I reached the 10th of the 48 switchbacks I took a little break to eat another bar and take some photos. I talked to an Austrian who had crossed another pass from Austria to Italy.
Then I rode the final 10 switchbacks before reaching the top of the Stelvioat 1pm. I was now very hungry and thirsty. But first maded a photo with the Fausto Coppi statue and the Stelvio pass sign. After ordering a half liter of beer and a half liter of Cola and a pizza set down on the patio and overlooking the car drivers, motorists, cyclists, hikers and skiers, who had made it up to the top.
At some point, while inhaling my pizza, I noticed a female rider with a movistar jersey. She made a turn on the top right in front of me. She a had a black bike with pink lettering and a pink helmet. Then I thought that looks like Annemiek van Vleuten the famous Dutch cyclist who had just won the Giro d'Italia for women. Later on Strava I could confirm it was her, as she had posted her ride to the Stelvio for that day.
After finishing my drinks and pizza I continued and descended back on our road through Swiss. I got the hang of decending again but still was not commiting as much as I would do on my Seven with disk brakes. When I reached the valley again I quickly entered the bikepath and followed it for 20 miles back to the campsite.
That night Paula had made dinner at the campsite. Afterwards we took a stroll to the town for a gelato dessert.
Day 4, Wednesday July 20th
Drive to Achensee