I hardly remember the day I bought the ticket to go to the BAM CAMPFIRE 2020 edition, it’s been months and miles! Nevertheless already at that time, I had thought that even going to BAM could have been a journey. Thus began the planning, how to go, what to visit on the road, what to explore not already covered? Our journey began like this, with a tour that would take us not only to Lessinia (which I had already known thanks to Ciclozenith) but also to Valpolicella and then for a relaxing day on Garda Lake.
Day one: Verona – Bam Campfire (84 Km – 1,640 Sunny at first with a bit of soft hailstorm at the end!)
The departure for the day was for me from Ronco all’Adige, where I joined Stefano, another cycle traveler the night before. The alarm wasn’t too early and to get to Verona we were able to travel along the Adige embankment through a partly gravel cycle path, up to Verona. The meeting was scheduled in Piazza Bra in front of the arena where all the other groups from different cities would also meet. Being so many in the square was the first emotion, seeing familiar and new faces, looking at the details of their bikepacking, feeling part of a movement that is growing and that year after year has new fans who have probably been inspired by some of us! Our group consisted of 5 friends from 3 different cities. Friends with whom I had never cycled with, others with whom I had not pedaled for a long time, and others with whom I have often organized to ride! The route we followed to get to the BAM was not the one suggested and shared by the organisers, but it was a way to extend our gaze to the views first of Valtellina and then of Lessinia along the way. So we started, 5 of us: myself, Stefano (from Verona), Francesco (from Bologna), Andrea, Vladimir, and Giorgio (from Milan). We cycled through the streets of the center of Verona: Piazza delle Erbe, Castelvecchio Bridge, and di again along the Lungadige. From there the road began to climb towards Valpolicella, Montecchio, Grezzana, Azzago. The view between the vineyards and towards the lowland paid back our effort with beauty. The landscape changed when we entered the Lessinia from Cerro Veronese. Towards Velo Veronese we began to meet numerous travelers who, like us, were heading to the Rifugio Lausen in high Lessinia, it was already a party and we were not yet arrived. In a short time from Velo Veronese we deviated following the road to the mountain retreat, when a few km from the arrival we were surprised by a strange icy rain, it wasn’t a hailstorm, it seemed almost snow, despite the 10 degrees of temperature. We put our jacket on and continued on our bike, not knowing that our road would become an accidental climb up to the end.
We had to push our bicycles for one last bit, but the arrival, the mountains around, the green of the lawn, the tents already pitched. Needless to say, it was breathtaking. I cannot describe the unique atmosphere of the BAM CAMPFIRE, perhaps it was because of the many bicycles all around or the colored tents with hanging flags or the warmth of the fire or the stories of the travelers. Only the magic of travel can explain its beauty. The evening passed quickly. I wished I could have stayed at the campsite for days, but you can’t always stay where you want, sometimes you have to leave, even if you don’t want to.
Day two: Rifugio Lausen – Veja Bridge – Garda Lake (80 Km – 1,030 Elevation – Cloudy)
Waking up at the Lausen mountain retreat wasn’t less exciting than the day before. In the morning the black, electricity-rich evening sky had given way to breathtaking views. Someone said it could be seen as far as the Venice lagoon, but I was perhaps too sleepy to see it. Breakfast in real camp-style was not enough to wake me up. Everything was slow around me, or maybe it was just me who wasn’t ready to leave yet. Around 11.30 we were finally ready to leave, our bicycles were loaded and the road was going downhill, for most of the track, but still tiring after the evening and the few hours of sleep. The views along the route were as enchanting as the day before, after about 30km, we arrived at the stop scheduled for a visit at the famous bridge of Veja, the most important geological monument of Lessinia and also an archaeological site of extraordinary charm. The tradition claims that the “Ponte di Veja” inspired two famous Italian artists: Dante Alighieri, who referred to it for the description of the “Malebolge” in the “Divina Commedia”, and Andrea Mantegna, who portrayed it in several paintings. At the junction for the path to the bridge, we realised that the road was not really a road, but a mountain path. We only had two options, follow the main road for more than 20km to reach the entrance of the park from the other side or climb the trail. We decided for the second one and as we feared after a few meters from the beginning of the path, this became an impassable route with the bikes. The rest of the climb was destined to be covered with the bicycles carried on our back, jumping from one rock to the next, a real feat in perfect explorer style. Without the help of my friends, I would never have been able to load the bike up to the bridge. But even this did not stop us, we reached the bridge coming from below and crossing its angular rocks, cut by time, ready to hit the road again from there. After the visit to the bridge, the route planned to go up to the last hill before quickly reaching Lake of Garda. Myself, Stefano and Andrea would have continued in that direction, while the other members of the group headed home. It was late and the sky was grey, leaving by bicycle for a tour at 11.30 is never easy because it soon becomes late. Upon arrival on the lake, the sun was almost setting, the last descent towards Garda still offered us a view full of colours and then took us to our destination for the night. The San Remo campsite in Torri del Benaco, a basic campsite, but with two very welcoming hosts who run it. We quickly pitched our tents and after the shower (finally) we were able to enjoy a hot dinner in the center of the small town before passing out in our tents.
Day three: Torri del Benaco – Riva – Limone – Desenzano – Peschiera (122 km – 590 Elevation – Cloudy)
The night at the camping on the lake was much quieter than the one at the Campfire. The higher temperature, the silence, we were able to rest and in the morning, even if the sky was covered, we immediately felt ready to face the long lake tour. The ride around Garda Lake isn’t demanding, it has some ups and downs, but very pleasant. Despite its incomplete cycle paths, sometimes beautiful, sometimes non-existent like where the tunnels connect one village to another. The dark clouds with the sun’s rays that occasionally emerged and reflected on the water were creating an amazing natural portrait. The villages with their little ports, the atmosphere of the sea in the mountains. A real pleasure to cover it all around. Our tour started from the east coast to reach the apex in the Trentino area towards Riva del Garda and then continued on the road towards Limone where the suspended cycle path awaited us closed to the transit of bikes from that side. An incomprehensible choice. Less than 3km of a cycle-pedestrian path, potentially beautiful, but closed at the entrance for bicycles if you come from the north. Probably because it has been placed on the road in a dangerous spot (just outside a tunnel), but obviously none of the cyclists stopped in front of an unjustified barrier and so we, like all others, went over the gate to enter it ride it through. At the end of the suspended cycle path, we went down to Limone del Garda, where the village was still populated by tourists. Initially, we thought to take the ferry to return to the opposite coast, shortly after lunch, however with the low-season schedule we would have had to wait two hours, so after a quick break, we went back on the bikes and continued towards Salò along the state road 45 bis called “Gardesana Occidentale” which for several stretches led us into long tunnels not really safe for cyclists.
Fortunately, it was Monday so the reduced traffic made our transition less risky. Shortly after Salò we followed a suggested bike route through the countryside that would lead up to Desenzano del Garda. From Desenzano, we followed towards Peschiera where our tour finally ended. I was very happy of having decided on the tour around the lake in this season. It was just perfect!
TOTAL BUDGET 3 DAYS ALL-INCLUSIVE: 121 euro