Friday, September 22, 2017

Of Switchbacks, Alfa Romeos, and The Alps

On Tuesday, Dr. C. and I were hoping to drive the Stelvio pass from Merano to Bormio, but the weather wasn't cooperating, with high winds, freezing temperatures, and what they call wintry mix, which is weather-speak for God awful rain and snow mix.  So it was on to plan B, we thought Wednesday would dawn with better weather, so we decided to drive around to Bormio which is at the end of the Stelvio pass, and we'd drive the Stelvio on Wednesday our last day in the Alfa.
Gorgeous scenery

As we began our drive, we could see that the higher altitudes were getting snow, and it was pretty cold in the Alfa as we were driving.
For this trip I'd been using Google maps for our navigation and done really well, that is until we got to the town of Male---male in Italian means bad, and we were in for a wild ride.  Google maps had us turning off onto SP29, a narrow road called Passo di Gavia that would take us into Bormio.  Click here to learn more about it on the website dangerous roads.
So we turned off the road we were on, and proceeded to climb from 2400 ft to 8955 ft, down a 1 1/2 lane road, with 15 switchbacks, and traffic coming the other way that included a camper, and lots of bicyclists.  Some times this road is used for the Giro di Italia, the Italian version of the Tour de France.

The cows come home

There is one in every crowd

barren landscape at this altitude

A lot of this was white knuckle riding and driving for Dr. C. in a 48 year old car, that wasn't happy in the high altitude, and cold temperatures, something to do with carburetors vs fuel injection.  It took us 2 hours to drive about 20 miles.  As we descended from the Passo I noticed signs saying we HAD to have chains if we wanted to drive the pass, and if the gate was closed, the road was closed---oh well.
The scenery in this part of Italy is spectacular

Looking for Heidi, goatherd Peter and Grandfather

Once we got back on the main road, we heaved a sigh of relief and headed for our hotel in Bormio. After driving Passo di Gavia we thought the Stelvio Pass would be a piece of cake.  We got to our hotel unloaded the Alfa and checked on the weather for the next day.
Beautiful morning in Bormio

The next day dawned clear in Bormio, but the Stelvio was at freezing temperatures, and the Alfa wasn't up to the climb or the temperatures.  We decided to call it a day especially after our hair raising drive the day before.  Driving south to Lake Garda to return the car, the Alfa loved descending from the high altitudes, and was running like a top by the time we reached the rental agency.
Like most Italian businesses they were closed for lunch so we headed for the lake and a delicious meal after our long drive.

Short macaroni with sausage, onion and tomato

Pasta alla vongole, Dr. C.'s go-to
Travel is all about learning new things, and meeting new people.  We thoroughly enjoyed this trip to Northern Italy, meeting wine makers, eating exceptional foods, and seeing this spectacular part of Italy.  We especially loved driving a classic Alfa Romeo which garnered lots of interest, and was a fun car.  Thank you to our friend Matteo at Discovery Your Italy for arranging the car rental.  His agency has just been named to the A-List at Travel and Leisure magazine, and it's well deserved.
We are now back in Spello and adjusting to life here in our beautiful hill town.  Ciao for Now.

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