Day one began with an absolute stunning adventure from the very beginning! From arrival in Novara, to register and spending the night at a fantastic sporting hotel complex for a peaceful nights sleep, before heading off on route into the beautiful countryside to begin the day. The route started relatively flat, as we wound our way through the country roads of Novara, but it wasn’t long before we found the mountains and headed towards our first lake, Lago Orta. Simply stunning!
Not long to rest though, as we climbed through mountain gorges to our second lake, Lago di Mergozza, and to the most tranquil lunch spot you could ever wish for…even time for a quick dip! The welcomed food was fuel enough to get us through another two lakes but not before some wonderful scenery, Italian villages, short sharp uphills and technical downhills.
A choice of routes depending on our legs saw the majority of us taking the tougher option, but we met our fellow companions as the route re-joined at Verbania and we headed on down to our last lake of the day in Stressa…for that well earned drink and welcomed dip in the highly rated lakeside bar at the hotel…simply breathtaking and only day one!
We woke with excitement, keen to see what was in store for us on day two, and we couldn’t ask for a better start…cycling along Lago Maggiore, simply beautiful morning. That was the life….great times! Stopping for a coffee in Arona’s cobbled square gave the opportunity to just take it all in as we watched the Italian way of life, so tranquil…but time to get cracking…we headed across country, where things started to get a bit hillier. Fancy lunch in Switzerland anyone? Shortly after crossing the border we were ready for just that. Fantastic food prepared by the wonderful Gill and Pete, Chapeau’s caters . After lunch we continued along the lake-shore and back into Italy, enjoying some incredible switchbacks on our descent. Our next destination was Lago Como and the city of Como itself, where we headed up to the bar in the hotel to have a well-deserved drink and a dip in the pool on the rooftop terrace…great finish to a great day!.
Day three was the day that we all have been training for. Most people slightly apprehensive of the tough day of climbing that lied ahead…but there was no need for apprehension as the training had really paid off. Riding out of Como we started to climb above the eastern edge of Lake Como, with the most spectacular views across the water.
The smooth tarmac ran parallel with the lakeside and through quaint villages perched on the hillside, we could really take in those views as we continued all the way into Bellagio, where we stopped for drinks at the water’s edge.
It was decision time again…we had the choice of continuing along the lakeside, where the route flattens out, all the way into Lecco, or tackle the MADONNA! Majority of the group chose the later and were faced with a tough climb…such an overwhelming feeling of an incredible achievement as fellow cyclists at the top clapped and cheered, encouraging us to not give up as we reached the summit! We stopped for a well earned rest, took in the sights and celebrated our triumph. What goes up must come down right? The incredible descent over approximately ten miles, before joining the main route again, was just the reward we needed. After lunch, and the challenges of the morning, we welcomed the long relatively flat spin out to reach our hotel in Iseo.
Despite day four being a much flatter route compared to the days gone by, we still had a fair distance to cover before we crossed the finish line in Verona, so after breakfast we got our cleats back on and hit the road! Leaving the exquisite Lake Iseo behind, we headed on to our next place of tranquility, Lake Garda. Cycling along the lake’s edge, we crossed small bridges and rode down cobbled streets, occasionally stopping for a coffee and watching the world go by. A real sense of the Italian culture was evident as we turned those wheels, such a friendly place. Tired and overwhelmed with pride and memories from all we had achieved so far, we hit the final stretch toward Verona…the excitement building again as this tremendous adventure approached its climax.
Under strict instruction to gather at our holding point, to allow all cyclists to come together for our finish, we had a great chance to share stories and memories of the day so far. There was a real sense of mixed emotions, some sad that the ride was coming to an end and others overwhelmed by what they had actually achieved. We set off in convoy through the city streets, over the bridges and into the famous Piazza Brà for the last part of our truly magnificent adventure…and what a place to finish…the Colosseum in Verona! Photo’s and celebrations were many, and with champagne on hand we cheered and congratulated each other on another successful Chapeau ride!
“Had such a fabulous time with a group of amazing people. Doesn’t get better than this…bloody love cycling in Italia…Thank you Chapeau!” John Fletcher June 2016