11th September 2012

I woke up on Monday morning

I woke up on Monday morning to find that my carefully made plan (to visit the Moto Guzzi museum only a few miles north up lake como first thing then push on north east) wasn’t quite going to work - chatting to the friendly couple from Denmark who were pitched next to me, I discovered that the Italians only open the museum for 1 hour every day at 3pm. So what to do? They recommended the local market in the morning and a bit of a potter, which I did - after all, just kicking back occasionally and taking it all in is just what this trip is about!

The market only runs once a week and so is a lively patchwork of all kinds of stalls from enormous fresh fruits to fish, clothes, cheese, spit-roast chickens and jewelry. The fun atmosphere there began as soon as I rocked up on Suzi - in the chaos of people and traffic, one lady waved at me and pointed vigorously at a newly available motorbike bay for me to use, while another biker rode to a halt next to me, gestured towards Suzi and asked “from London? complementi!”. Friendly faces were everywhere!

Later that afternoon I eventually made my way to the Moto Guzzi museum, which is at the site of the original factory - great fun, though I would have just loved to have tried out the wind tunnel! Eventually I decided to pitch up further north at the top of Lake como and chilled out for the evening, ready to push on up the Stelvio pass today.

This morning I woke up in a very cheerful mood from all the laziness of
the day before and pushed on North towards Tirano. The road was dead straight and the living was easy, so it was iPod time and before I knew it, I was cruising along at a heady 55mph singing along to T-Rex’s excellent “Truck on” with shameless abandon, followed up with the classic singalong favourite “in the jungle (the lion sleeps tonight). Deep joy! (unless you could hear it of course, in which case my profound apologies).

In any case, after a quick coffee break in beautiful Tirano and a lot of kiss-blowing on departure from a small group of charming albeit slightly tipsy elderly men who had taken a good deal of interest in my fleeting visit, I headed up to the Stelvio pass. If you look it up on a map it looks like a small intestine. There must have been at least 25 switchbacks on the way up (each one increasingly terrifying) until I eventually reached the summit at around 2800m. Up there amongst the misty, snow capped mountains, it felt like I had arrived in Tibet. Highly recommended.

After a similarly thigh-clenching downhill set of switchbacks, it was off through the south Tirolean valley towards Merano. This was another huge highlight - the road wound through mile after mile of perfect apple orchards with trees each 10-12ft high planted in tall rows as far as the eye could see, each laden with the most enormous red or green apples, ready for picking. This piece of fruity heaven was set against a tall wallpaper of mountains all covered in endless fuzzy caterpillars of wine plantations. Every so often several very tall, quill-like trees lined the edge of the road, as if to mark out an especially lovely spot. Everywhere I looked it was truly beautiful, a sharp contrast to the Stelvio pass but entirely memorable in its own way.

Now I’m camped up again near Lana in my first 4 star campsite. It’s all strangely high end but despite my slightly “swampy” inspired appearance (covered in insect bites and bruises), the locals have been perfectly friendly. After the excitements of the day, I’ll definitely sleep well tonight!