We’re now over 250km’s into the trip and we’re sitting at almost 5000ft in the Swiss Alps after some serious climbing up the Italian side of the Alps today. Italy has been amazing, 3 epic days riding and a day of rest at the beautiful lakeside town of Omegna.
So after the last blog we left the historic town of Biella behind and headed east for a short distance before turning north and into the hills above the wine growing town of Lessona. The roads were fairly easy going initially and we clocked up the kilometres cruising through the wineyards and villages of the foothills to the Alps. What we have discovered is that each of the towns here seems to have their own made up shop opening times and I defy anyone to find a lunchtime pasta joint north of Milan! The people though are so friendly and despite our non existant Italian there is never any hassle getting what we need through sign language (except pasta that is!). Even confirmation of the next town is met with friendly shouts of “Avanti” which roughly translated means “crack on mate, your on the right road”!
We’ve got the packing squared now with bike kit in one Altura Dryline pannier, casual clothing etc in the other. After we reached Masserano the hills got steeper and the views got better. The weather was holding out as well despite the forecast, although we did have the Endura waterproofs placed on standby in the top of the packs.
We were in the zone, pedalling away and loving the sun that had decided to return to Italy after the previous days downpour. The road got steeper as we climbed up through a series of small hamlets and villages. A 2000ft climb is challenging under normal circumstances so it’s safe to say you need to work it a little more when you’re carrying 3 weeks worth of kit with you! The toe clip pedals that came with the Ridgeback Voyage bikes take a bit of getting used to and Louise has the bruises on her legs to prove what happens when you don’t get out quick enough. We probably should have stuck SPD’s on for this trip but we wanted to be as authentic as we could, using the kit as it comes off the shelf or out the box without upgrading. If it’s good enough to sell to a customer buying from Ae7 then it’s good enough for us to use! Or if we do recommend an upgrade it’s talking from experience of using the kit and not just upselling for the sake of making extra cash.
The great thing about climbing is you know you’re going to get to come downhill at some stage and the descent down into the small town of Pray didn’t disappoint! I did laugh at the name and said a quick prayer for the downhill to continue and the brakes to work at the bottom. They both did! Louise’s Camelbak Aurora ran out of water just before we got to a town called Valduggia. Now as chance would have it we passed a local establishment called Bar Sport and I presumed there would be water available inside. I also made good use of the stop to grab a cold local beer which turned into 2 as the barman kept putting plates of tapas onto the bar. I had a great sign language conversation with the friendly barman about the route and he waved us off along with another couple of customers shouting for us to have a good journey.
Another climb and another descent brought us our first glimpse of Lago d’Orta or Lake Orta and the view blew us away. We pedalled on to the top northern end of the Lake to the town of Omegna and came to a halt after another 80kms in the saddle. The sun was shining and it’s difficult to put into words the feeling and beauty of the place. We came to a stop outside a bar on the lakeside and we drunk a well deserved wine. We tried to order Pasta but yes you guessed it, they didn’t have any! The barman did however walk us 2 streets away to show us a restuarant that did serve pasta and wow, we were not disappointed.
Now, I know we were craving the food and I know we’d just cycled for 80kms in hot temperatures with some steep climbs but I can honestly say La Bottega del Centrale in Omegna served up the best pasta we have ever tasted. The owner was clearly passionate about her cooking and her food as well as the wine she sold! The pasta was freshly made on the premises and we devoured the plates put in front of us without talking other than to indicate how great it was!
So the wine & food was sorted, all we needed now was somewhere to stay and the hotel nearby provided another twist of good fortune. The only room left was a penthouse suite and because it was so late we were able to negociate a massive discount. In fact the whole place was so good we decided to take the next day as an early rest day to enjoy the surroundings. It turns out an early rest day was a good idea as we needed the surplus energy for the next days ride up into the Alps and across to Switzerland … but that is another blog!