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June 2013

Part 7: Stelvio - Como - Torino

In the middle of June a cold morning finds me leaving that hospitable house at Mustair Switzerland behind as I'm heading South to make it to Italy. I soon climb up the tight bends of Umbrailpass and the higher I get the colder it is with lots of snow around. This was no surprise at 2500m so early in the morning. What did surprise me was that I had to do part of it on gravel as they were redoing the tarmac. Not the best thing fully loaded on those switchbacks but the view totally worth it (check video on main page). This route was not picked by me just for being the shortcut to make it to Italy where I'd seek my next overnight but most importantly for Stelvio pass, a well known must for bikers at only a few meters under 2800m:

Very cold, very empty (for Stelvio's standards) as I made it there as early as possible but very impressive. Pity it is too freezing to enjoy it a bit more up there so after a couple of pictures I get back on the saddle to start descending on the SS38 heading to Bormio. Fantastic km going down those countless super tight switchbacks and tunnels all the way down.

Have a look:

The rest of the route on SS38 heading West was nothing special til I arrive at lake Como where the view is nicer and the weather is pretty hot and humid. Actually it feels like I went from "cold as ice" to "hot as hell". In only a few hours I experienced a difference of more than 30C! Crazy.

I ride some pleasant km by the lake till I reach the place were my booked AirBnB is supposed to be close to Lecco. It's a kinda dodgy cramped spot with many houses around so I stop to have a look which one it might be for me when a super smiley guy on a wheel chair yells "Orestis!" I park my bike, unload my luggage and he leads me to my room. Later the lady who runs the whole thing arrives and... what a marvellous host she is. She even washed my clothes (free of charge as I would find out on checkout). As soon as I settle I decide to walk out in the heat, see what is what and hopefully find a spot to fulfil my picky Greek swimming needs:

Como doesn't deliver though. With the excellent memories of Lago di Garda still fresh on my mind I expected something better than what I meet in reality. Como is significantly less clean and less special in general. The dirty water makes me turn my back to it instantly. After a short walk with nothing that exciting to see or do and the sweat bath starting I decide to go back to my AirBnB and spend my time around there just resting, shorting my files and other stuff on my laptop. No worries as I need some rest anyway after days in a row being so busy doing all that nice stuff you already read.

Next morning my host really delivers some breakfast:

That's how one more day spent inside started. I leave this place next morning super thanking my host.

Next destination: Torino.

My good friend Antonello waits for me there and proposed me the most scenic route to make my way from Como. It's a bit like "take the long way home" but a zillion times better than the usual fast 'n boring one. The 232 offers a super sweet ride around Zegna and the Panoramica Zegna is a unique view point:

After all that nice stuff I arrive at also hot 'n humid Torino but I'm more than happy to meet Antonello again after a couple of years. Next day I make it to his trusty tire shop so my iron horse gets a brand new front one:

It's my second time changing tires at this place so this time I didn't need Antonello's escort. Funny how travelling often as I do can bring someone to the same tire shop abroad. I was for there for one more serious reason though - I really like the attention these guys pay to all details, marking the bolts they tighten, using properly set torque wrenches etc. If you ask for such stuff in Greece they look at you as if you came from Mars. I am double triple sure it is even worse in South Italy but at the industrial Italian North, especially here at Torino, birthplace of so much automotive stuff things are totally different. Thank you Frejus Gomme!

Antonello is renovating his house at Torino so I am kindly hosted at his mum's B'nB instead, around 50km North of the city where I am treated like a king. What a wonderful woman - no surprise her son is a top guy. Antonello's father was a dedicated biker and I am more than happy to visit the family's collection of rare old bikes. Look at them!

I've been riding bikes for so many years but never imagined that I would see in front of my very eyes ones with open sump(!), wooden brake pads(!!) and clutch made out of cork!!!. By the way, the right one in the picture is one of the 5 in total left globally. At the time I was around at least - who knows if all 5 still survive now.

I wouldn't miss a chance to ride of course so I made it up to Gran Paradiso, a masterpiece of trees, waterfalls and cure villages. Just take the SP460 and enjoy.

The icing on the cake is close to the end of the SP50 up at the lake Serru. Each image is more than 1000 words in this case:

I can't make it up past 2500m cause the rest of the road is still closed by snow (late June!). I turn back down and leave the snowy white behind for some green awesomeness:

Such a superb ride. Torino's surroundings are full of them. If weather was more friendly around this region we could consider the Torinezi bikers among the luckiest bastards.

Later on this day our good mate Tobias rides all the way from Switzerland to join us and we all have a great dinner at the local tavern, escorted by some fine red wine, followed by a tiny but delicious dessert:

Next day we all ride back to Torino for some walking around the center of the city. Kinda funny to watch some celebrations related to the European Union with dances from traditionally dressed teams:

I get the chance to picture one of Torino's iconic buildings, the local National Cinema museum:

It's a bit of an effort to find the right spot to picture the whole thing as this neighbourhood is a bit cramped and crowded and it's very tall but worth it. Just in case you don't know what it is about the neighbourhood is properly decorated to let you know:

We go back to Ant's mum BnB North of Torino. We might be out of the city but looking at the following image it's clear that people there worship the same things as the urban ones:

As we finish our meal at another local restaurant I am attracted to this weird old Moto Guzzi:

I mean... look how they addressed the issue "handles for the passenger" back in the day.

My time time around Piedmont region is over by next morning, time to kiss goodbye my sweet friends and hosts and continue my trip South East.

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