The rain and snow had us a day behind our outlined schedule at this point, so we decided to use the train to help us get back on track. We awoke to find that it had rained overnight, and was threatening more. We got ready to depart then went down for breakfast. Breakfast was a minimalist affair, rolls and coffee. The saving grace was that the older woman running the dining room provided gigantic mugs of cappuccino, probably 12-14 ounces or so rather than the usual 4-6 ounces. I used the time during breakfast to write down route information, from the Lonely Planet guide, for riding from Bormio to Tirano. SS38 is closed to cyclists, with some long tunnels, so we needed to skirt around through small villages on lesser roads for much of that distance.
We rolled out and onto the road right after breakfast. There was a very light rain on and off all morning. Just outside of Bormio we turned off SS38. We were soon near Valdisotto where we stopped to look at the scar from a landslide in 1987 that buried 3 burgs. We continued on the back roads paralleling SS38 and the Adda River, but we did get confused by a sign somewhere near Sondalo. The sign appeared to indicate that going straight would put us onto SS38. So we wondered around, including a steep climb, before going back and riding past the sign in question to find out that the road diverged a couple of hundred meters later with one fork continuing on as a side road and the other merging onto the highway. In Grosotto we found a fruit market and stopped. Sarah bought us peaches while I got some cash from the Bancomat next door. We continued on through the towns of Mazzo, Tovo, and Lovero. The last short section that the Lonely Planet guide recommended goes past some vineyards near a monastery before ending at an intersection with SS38. We were only a couple of kilometers outside Tirano, so we waited for a break in traffic, made the left turn across the highway, and pedaled into town.
We found a restaurant with outside where we could watch the bikes while grabbing some lunch. We had planned to catch the train here, but since we have made good time and in order to get some more exercise we decided to continue down the Val Valtellina to Sondrio. With lunch out of the way we continued through town, missed the cued turn from the Lonely Planet guide, and ended up cruising down the valley on the main highway (SS38). We were fine with this until about 6-7 km before Sondrio when the grade started upward. Sarah felt uncomfortable with riding that section, so we found a parallel route south of the highway. This alternative had a surprise, a section where we had to ford a small stream. After we crossed the stream the road went through a small village and then turned northward and across SS38 into Sondrio. We found the train station and I went in to buy tickets for us and the bikes. We had about 20 minutes until the train left, so Sarah went down the street and procured some gelato. Life is good.
The train to Varenna was fairly empty as we started out from Sondrio. We traveled down the valley to Lake Como, then turned south along the eastern shore. At Dorio a large group of students, probably 12-14 years old with two adult chaperones, boarded the train and settled into the car in which we were sitting. It provided some entertainment as the children all had multiple pieces of luggage in the overhead rack and pieces kept falling down. One poor guy had his sleeping mat come down on his head at least 5 or 6 times. The conductor came through as we entered Bellano and told us that the next stop would be Varenna; it was nice he gave us time to prepare.
At the Varenna train station we unloaded the bags and bikes and then ourselves. The conductor came over to make sure we had everything before he signaled the engineer to continue on south. From the train station we rode downhill and through town to explore the lodging options. We chose to try the Albergo Monte Codeno which was almost directly across from the ferry dock. We secured a room, again very modern, stored the bike in the hotel's wine grotto, and rested before getting ready for dinner.
For our pre-dinner stroll we took a walk past the ferry dock to check the schedule to Menaggio, then continued along the walkway along the lake. We soon found a small bar with a great view of the lake for supper. Besides our salads and pasta with smoked salmon we ordered bruschetta which came as a huge slab, probably 10-12 inches long by 7 inches wide. We consumed it all while watching the ducks and swans course along the edge of the shoreline looking for handouts. Being on an active vacation meant that gelato twice a day was not a bad thing. We stopped at a gelateria as we walked along the lake after dinner and got our second scoop of the day.