With some help of the air-conditioning unit, we wake up refreshed and ready for another day of TWIKE adventuring across northern Italy.
We’re looking forward to a few things today – first of all, getting out of the endless flat-lands of the Padovan Pianura, driving along Lake Como’s stunningly beautiful coast, taking the ferry from Menaggio to Varena (a ferry TW560 has been on quite a few times already…first in 2010) and climbing all the way to Madesimo on the Splugen Pass at 1400 above sea level – a nice last full day in Italy!
Before we leave, however, we take the big black marker which is prominently on display in the main room and leave our mark on the wall, like all the others before us.
Just outside Garlasco is the Sanctuary of Santa Maria della Bozzola Garlasco – quite a few people told us to go there as it has a very special architecture and is a main point for pilgrims to go when on their way to Rome.
As it’s essentially 1 km from where we spent our night, we decided to check it out.
The front belies the interior, we didn’t expect such an expansive structure behind it.
As always, religion is one thing, but for Italians, a special vehicle is absolutely worth coming outside and having an extended chat with the owner – especially, if the owner speaks Italian!
After this quick detour, we’re back on our quest to cross the Padovan Pianura and get to the Swiss Alps. Driving along flat and straight roads is not very interesting…
Eventually, through the haze, we finally see the Alps getting closer.
Just a few minutes after the pic below was taken, we were stopped by some Carabinieri who, it turned out, weren’t really interested in checking our papers but rather to have an extended conversation about the TWIKE…Italy!
After our 20 min police-induced break, we were back on the road direction Lake Como and Menaggio.
I really like when driving the TWIKE one can see major European cities being shown!
Another 20 minutes later, we finally get to the lake – the landscapes are just stunning! It is no wonder this is the place many celebrities move to and why many scenes depicting luxury are shot here.
We steer clear of the main road that takes the bulk of the traffic trough a series of tunnels and stay on the mostly single-lane old road leading to Menaggio. The views are great and there is virtually no traffic.
Since we were getting hungry, we stopped at a random trattoria with a very small patio outside. Overall it had a very cozy family-run charm to it – which was the reason why we stopped there.
A glance at the menu tells us that there is only ONE thing we can order from it: Fritto Misto del lago. Yes! A last Fritto Misto for me, making me super happy!
The young server seemed a little overwhelmed by the two other parties of 4 that arrived a quarter of an hour later than us – our food arrived within a duration which was acceptable for an Italian trattoria – we weren’t in a hurry.
The Fritto misto was sublime. Perfectly executed – very dry on the outside, perfectly cooked on the inside – wow!
Look for yourself!
When we were done eating we decided that we wanted like to tell the cook personally how much we enjoyed the food he made and made our way inside the Trattoria to be greeted by a woman in our age which turned out to be the mother of the server taking care of all the prepping, drinks and bills. We asked her if we could have a quick chat with the cook as we wanted to tell him how tasty the food we ate was.
She pointed us in the direction of the kitchen and after opening the door, were greeted by a very old man toiling away on his own. This turned out to be the father of the woman inside the Trattoria …keeping the kitchen running at 81 years old!
We thanked him for the great food and he told us that if we liked it this much that we would have to hurry up as he was not going to be able to do this job every day much longer.
We decided to sit down inside and whilst ordering some coffees and digestivo started chatting with the owners – turns out that with all the new rules and regulations plus all the cost-of-living challenges, running this place would be absolutely impossible if they would have to pay the cook and server anything close to what a normal salary would be. Only because they are family and can leverage some synergies can this place exist. Should granpa decide to stop working, it would spell the end of this place and it would have to close or sell to a restaurant chain.
Similar to the barber I met in Diano Marina, these places are all doomed and within the next few years many a great place to eat or stay will just vanish.
We, however, when we wanted to pay, were super surprised to be told that all coffees and digestivi (we had had a few) were all on the house. (if you want to go to this place: here it is)
Happy and full we get back into the TWIKE and off we go. Our next stop is Menaggio, where we will take the ferry to Varena.
Some places are just too nice to not to stop and take pictures with the TWIKE!
When we arrive at the ferry pier, we meet a group of solar biking enthusiasts on their way across Europe on muscle and solar energy. Super dedicated people and a joy to speak to – finally we can have qualified conversations about watt-hours per kilometre!
The tandem bike has over 3m2 and around 3.2kWh worth of storage.
Driving onto the ferry is always a nice thing to do with a TWIKE – compliments included!
We continue driving along upper Lake Como and whilst the mountains come ever closer. We are still at 200m ASL until, finally, we see the signs for Switzerland.
With the first street signs mentioning destinations within Switzerland, we know that the rest of our drive today will no longer be too long – we also know that we’re still at 200m altitude and our place for the night is at 1450m.
1200m across 38 km doesn’t sound like too much of a climb…until
It’s only 11 to go and we’re still at 250m altitude.
With the Splugen Pass now officially starting, we have 29 hairpin bends and still 1200m to climb left – we’re looking forward to it!
With more than enough juice, we get to the junction that takes us off the Splugen Pass and towards Madesimo – a small village mostly living off hiking and Skiing. My daughter and I stayed here during a trip to Austria in 2016, which we had to cancel after the third day due to a hardware failure … not the TWIKE, but me!
We start our charge, check in and then venture out into Madesimo for the first drink of the evening.
The place was deserted. Most shops are closed – one restaurant and one bar were open. It was eerily quiet and we were able to relax without any other noise other than the faint voices of Italian radio in the background.
We then headed to the restaurant and had some very tasty Italian dishes – our last truly Italian meal for this trip.
We walk back to our chalet at 15°C and very fresh air, looking forward to sleeping with an open window and hearing nothing more than the wind blowing though the pine trees.
Let’s check the stats for today: