We started with a detour to the main cathedral in Como. Due to some traffic detours and one way streets it took a couple of tries to get there, but we made it. The cathedral was built in pieces from the 14th through 19th centuries, though the foundations date back to a church built on this site in the 9th century. Due to the staged construction there are a number of architectural styles used.
Our visit to the cathedral complete we (once again) maneuvered the detours and one-way streets to find SS538 headed to Bellagio. In contrast to the ride to Como this ride was quite pleasant, with views of the lake and not much traffic. At one point we started talking about a segment I had seen about a week before we left home talking about George Clooney owning a house on Lago di Como and that the cast of his next movie was hanging out at that house. We speculated on what it would be like, and I picked a villa along the waterfront with a boat dock/garage. That villa was near Laglio and we found out after the trip that his place is in Laglio and is on the waterfront with as boat dock.
About an hour and half after leaving Como we had a quick descent into Bellagio and decided to have lunch in town. We found a nice outside seating area, parked the bikes, and enjoyed a relaxed lunch while watching the people and the boats. Bellagio seems very shopper oriented and we resisted for the most part (Sarah visited one small stand selling carved wooden items).
It was time for a climb to Magreglio and a visit to the Madonna di Ghisallo, our pilgrimage to the home of the patron saint of cycling. The first couple of kilometers, continuing on SS538, is fairly flat. After a right turn onto SP41 we started to climb, not too steep at first but then we hit a fairly steep patch. Sarah had not read about the infamous 14% grade section and was caught off-guard. The 'surprise' grade and the heat was a bit much for a bit, but then we encountered a handy roadside fountain, with very cool and fresh water. A bit cooler, rested, and heart rate in check we continued on towards the Chiesa. The main climb was perhaps 7-8 km, then a short flat spot before continuing up for 3-4 more km to Magreglio. We stopped at the flattish section to look over some statues and memorials. One memorial is to motorcyclists, and oddly enough another is to the alpine fighters who fought in WW I and WW II.
The Chiesa in Magreglio is at the highest point on SP41; you top out right at the church. We parked the bike in front of the church, and started looking around at the sights. A new cycling museum is being built right next to the church. There are busts of Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali, the two big names of Italian cycling when Pope Pius XXII beatified the Madonna. On the east side of the church there is a statue to cyclists and cycling. But most of the sights are inside the small church. The interior of the chapel is probably 200-300 square feet of space. Ringing much of the chapel, about 10 feet above the floor, is a shelf holding bikes ridden to major event victories by a number of cycling greats including, Coppi, Bartali, Eddie Merckx, and Gianni Motta. There are dozens of championship jerseys and medals on displays. The altar area is gated to prevent access to the Madonna. And sitting on the altar is an 8x10 inch photo of Marco Pantani, an Italian cyclist who died earlier this year of a drug overdose. We spent probably close to an hour at Ghisallo, exploring the exhibits, taking photos, and resting in the shade of the trees in front of the church.
Since the church is at the top of the hill, riding out from the church meant a downhill either way. Woo hoo! We started south on a very enjoyable, and fast, descent towards Asso. At Asso we mulled over the options: continue downhill towards d'Erba and away from the lake and then have to go overland towards Lecco on what looks to be more major roads, or turn east onto SP46 towards Osigo and do a short climb before descending some more. Since the latter is all on smaller roads (SP46 and SS538) we choose that option. The climb is only a bit more than 100 feet over a couple of km, and then we enjoy another very fast downhill to the lake and a return to SS538. We had decided that we needed a rest day and Sarah suggested we look for something between the junction and Lecco on the lake for an experience bit more quiet than we would get in town. Within a couple of kilometers we come across a funky hotel near Moregallo, a nautical themed place called the Motel Nautilus. Sarah negotiated the price and arranged for a two night stay. The only downside is that there was no place to eat close by, so we needed to travel to find food.
We cleaned up (which always included the maid - me - doing the laundry) then grabbed a cold beer and enjoyed some quiet time while reading. We lounged around for the rest of the afternoon, then decided to ride off to find dinner. We rode towards Moregallo, southward, through a 2.2 km long tunnel. There is a sign to a restaurant and we started to explore but did not find it within the first few blocks. We gave up and headed towards Lecco, which started off with a trip through a 1.6 km long tunnel. It took some wandering around in Lecco before we found a pizzeria that was serving dinner; most of the food places we found were either closed, closing, or serving small snacks. There was some sort of sports fair going on and we were seated near a climbing wall and had a crowd of climbers taking much of the seating at the restaurant. We ate dinner, which was of fair quality, and found a bancomat to get some cash to pay for the lodging. It was then a rush to get back to the Motel Nautilus before it got too dark, a ride that included the 1.6 and 2.2 km long tunnels. Back at the motel it was time to enjoy a quiet evening sitting on the edge of the lack and enjoying a spectacular sunset.
Time to recharge the batteries, those in the body not those in the electronic devices. We had a lazy morning after a cappuccino and croissant breakfast. Lounging on the beach (gravel), reading, anything but riding. Late in the morning we started out for a walk, about 3 km, to a small restaurant. Lunch was a delectable wild mushroom pasta followed by a bowl of mixed berries topped with a scoop of gelato. The afternoon was more lounging. We were deprived of an afternoon beer as the Motel Nautilus had run dry.
For dinner we headed back in search of the restaurant in Moregallo. We took the old road and tunnel; they run just east (lakeside) of the new 2.2 km long tunnel. Soon after exiting the old tunnel we came across the pizzeria in Moregallo. We parked the bikes and waited to be seated. Dinner was salad and pizza (Sarah) or calzone (me) washed down with lots of house wine. The waitress had messed up the order for a mezzo (half) liter and brought a full liter. Fortunately the dinner was long and the ride back slow on a deserted old road.
It was another quiet beach evening at the Motel Nautilus, though the sunset was not as spectacular as the night before. By the end of the day I was ready to pick up the activity level; too bad we were pushing time allotted to the vacation and would be riding on the bikes less and on the trains more for the remainder of the trip.