The Saint Valentine’s tour.
Here’s the story of a lovely trip along two valleys and around two lakes. It was the weekend of Saint Valentine, so I’m saying “lovely” not only because of the great tour but also because it was the weekend of Valentine’s Day! We started brainstorming a while ago. Iseo Lake is known to be very popular during this time of year for couples and even for weddings. The lake of Iseo has several villages that are meant to be the perfect setting for a romantic movie. OK, I won’t get too cheesy, since I travel with a friend rather than a lover, but I do think we sometimes need a bit of romance in our lives.
Day One: Romano – Selvino – Endine Lake (gpx)
Where to start? From Romano, of course, Romano has become the centre of the From where did we start? From Romano of course! Having become a friend of Simone’s, Romano has become the centre of the world almost like Rome. It is a nice tiny town, but nothing to compare with Rome, however, it was easy for me to reach Simone there the day before the departure and so we started the tour from his house doorstep! The day started out cool with some frost, so before we left Romano I had a delicious green brioche with pistachios, which unfortunately wasn’t enough to become the “Hulk” cyclist that I wished to become! Our ride started along the Serio cycle path, quiet and silent gravel, sometimes rocky, up to the outskirts of Bergamo where our planned track took us through the train station tunnel to get into town and reach our friends Raffaella and Paolo who were waiting for us at the Bikefellas café for a second inevitable breakfast, due after 30km! Unfortunately, we found out when we arrived that Bikefellas caffè opens at 11 o’clock on Saturday, so we had to head to another anonymous bar instead. Our route proceeded throughout the city and soon along another part of the Val Serviana cycleway nice but not always connected, in fact just before Nembro we ended up walking up to a staircase. Nevertheless, our goal for the day was to climb the popular turning bends of Selvino, a 10-kilometer incline with reasonable sloping, but also an open-air museum of champions, where in every turning bend we could see the name of someone who made his mark on Lombardy Tour history.
Honestly, I barely knew one name out of all, but I still enjoyed reading about all of them and complaining with my friend Raffaella about the fact that no one of the champions was a woman, let’s excuse them saying that it belong to the old days when women couldn’t attend the competition. We continued up to Ganda (1100 m of altitude) where the air became cool and changed its taste; we could feel the presence of snow somewhere, not too far away. We then descended fast to San Fermo near Gazzaniga, where we stopped for refreshments. I allowed myself to have hot chocolate and brioches. Having regained our energies, we returned to the saddle and rode along the Val Seriana cycle route up to Clusone, one of its most beautiful parts. Clusone is a small town full of remarkable historical buildings. The town doesn’t look very interesting when you get off the cycleway and cross the main road. But trust me, if you climb up and you will find some beautiful buildings with fascinating decorated facades. The big surprise is in the town centre, a tower with a picturesque clock, churches and some other buildings worth looking at. We spent a bit of time reading about the Fanzago’s astronomical clock, housed in a medieval tower, the local mathematician Pietro Fanzago designed this mechanical marvel in 1583 which still works today with all the original pieces! In one single clock, he managed to organise a lot of information: days, months, zodiac signs, moons, and of course time. After the stop in Clusone, we proceeded through Cavallina valley and in not more than 20km we were already on the shores of the lake of Endine. It was time to greet our friends Raffaella and Paolo who had gone back home whilst myself and Simone stopped for a beer into the local brewery “Birrificio Valcavallina” an anonymous place hidden into a courtyard, that surprised us with intense types of crafted beers. Luckily from there to our BnB we only had 5km to ride, it was already dark and incredibly cold, we reached Palazzo Eleonora in the centre of Monasterolo del Castello, an oasis of tranquillity and relaxation, where we could have a very hot shower before heading to the centre for the inevitable luscious dinner.
Day Two: Monasterolo – Iseo Lake (gpx)
An icy morning greeted us when we woke up. Monasterolo lies on the coldest side of the lake. The lady who greeted us the previous evening and made our incredible breakfast told us that a week earlier, the lake was still frozen and residents went ice-skating. It is a traditional event there, locals say: “When the lake howls you realise that the ice is forming”, the icy-lake is one of the most interesting natural phenomena in the Province of Bergamo. It is the pre-Alpine lake that freezes at the lowest altitude in all of Europe. The inhabitants are particularly proud of it, even though in the last 50 years due to the climate changes the phenomena had happened for a shorter time in the year. We missed the ice, but we still had the icy wind cutting our faces whilst we were leaving the shores of the lake.The climb up to Foresto Pratico and down to Pratico did not take long and we were finally on the shores of Lake Iseo. When we reached the shores of Iseo, all changed. The weather became more agreeable, and the sun warmed the journey. There isn’t a complete cycleway around the lake, but part of it can be seen here and there. Sadly as many times happens in Italy for those large-scale projects that involve multiple municipalities, it’s almost impossible to see them completed.
We enjoyed the easy ride, the landscape, the silly pictures we could take in Riva di Solto with one of the San Valentine’s backdrops. Between Pisogne and Vello there is the most scenic part of the cycleway, it runs along the lake, like a balcony below a rocky wall it takes cyclists and pedestrians close to the lake’s blue waters and far from the main road’s noise. Incredibly even if we stopped many times to take pictures and admire the lake we managed to reach our destination for the day before sunset. Actually, we arrived so early that we decided on a detour that took us uphill and then because we followed a sign for the “Via Della Valeriana” down toward a medieval staircase! However we arrived in Iseo and we went for our BnB “La Locanda di Diana”, a friendly place, I mean a friendly man welcomed us, the room was warm and so was the shower, but what has surprised us is that we didn’t get from the advert in Booking.com that it was the train station lodge. Unnecessary to tell you that we have woke-up many times because of the noise of the early morning trains. The rest of the evening in Iseo passed smoothly, we walked around and got a maxi double burger from a local pub that I highly recommend for those with hungry bellies; it is called Paddock and it is located not far from the train station.
Day Three: Iseo – Polaverno – Romano (gpx)
On the third and final day of our tour, a grey sky and a cold wind were going to accompany us. We left Iseo and climbed up to Polaverno and then on to Ome, which is already part of Franciacorta, a region with a thriving enological tradition despite a relatively young history; the first Franciacorta sparkling wine was only produced in 1961. There is a lot to see in this area; however, we only had time to explore a few spots, and it was so cold that our hands were frozen so we couldn’t even take pictures. Then we went back to Iseo and had a hot cappuccino before visiting the Natural Reserve “Torbiere del Sebino“.
It is considered a key area for biodiversity in the Po Valley in Lombardy; if you are coming to the area, it is definitely worth exploring, especially on a sunny day. We followed the path and left the lake behind carrying on along Oglio river, another gravel cycleway easy to ride, but not always properly marked with road signs. It started raining along the route throughout the day, so we decided to take a shortcut and go back to Romano where our tour ended. It’s too bad I wasn’t able to enjoy our last day as much as the other days, but I can’t complain since February is still winter. At least I didn’t freeze to death on our last day! The area is worth the exploration, especially on a sunny day. We followed the path and left the lake behind carrying on along Oglio river, another gravel cycleway easy to ride, but not always properly marked with road signs. Along the road, throughout the day it started raining a bit, so we decided to take a shortcut and go back to Romano where our tour ended. I’m sorry I couldn’t enjoy our last day as much as the days before, but I cannot complain February is still in winter and I’m lucky enough that I had a chance to see so much without freezing myself completely!