Antonio is one of us, a member of the community, a diehard Guzzi fan, a man who absolutely adores his 850 Le Mans (and why not?) and loves nothing more than to go for a ride amongst the bends and exceptional views that surround our little ancestral nest: Mandello del Lario, the home of Moto Guzzi.
He has sent us this brief report on one of his autumnal rides along the picturesque road that skirts along the banks of Lake Como before clambering up the slopes of the Grigne mountains and then heading off to the Valsassina.
The style of the report is down to earth and by no means sentimental, but reading between the lines you can nevertheless recognise the same kind of love and tenderness that every true Guzzi fan feels for his Moto Guzzi and for this magnificent location that sits between the lake and the mountains and has witnessed every Moto Guzzi produced from 1921 to today being born, racing and inevitably becoming an integral part of the brand that we all love so much.
Our thanks go to Antonio and you guys enjoy the read.
(A map is provided at the end of the article so that all you guys can follow the same route)
“It’s late November and the days are getting shorter. But being out on the bike at the right time of day is even better without the scorching summer heat. I hop on the back of my Le Mans and, just like an old thoroughbred, she seems to know her own way to Mandello. From main road heading to the Valtellina, we take the turnoff to Abbadia Lariana and the lakefront road and we get to the “Holy Land” (Mandello del Lario), but instead of turning off to Via Parodi and heading towards the Moto Guzzi factory, we continue heading north. The afternoon sun is about to disappear behind the mountains on the opposite shore, so we decide to follow it and start going uphill, on the beautiful panoramic road that clambers its way up the slopes of the Grigna, heading towards the Valsassina.
CLAMBERING UP THE GRIGNA
From the lakefront road, after having passed through Lierna and Fiumelatte (the town with the shortest river in the whole of Italy), we turn off to Varenna, pass through the historic town centre and then turn right, following the road signs for Esino Lario and the Valsassina. The mountain slopes are quite steep here and the road clambers its way up in an almost never-ending series of tight hairpins. I have always been impressed with the handling of the Le Mans, almost from the very first time I rode her. The bike’s excellent handling is the result of extremely well-balanced mechanical features and the cross-frame rotation of its twin-cylinder engine, whose gyroscopic effect never stops you leaning into the bends. The very long first gear always helps you get the right amount of acceleration you need. But you have to be careful because the road is not very wide, many of the bends are blind and there’s always quite a bit of traffic. You have to carefully evaluate when to overtake the cars going uphill and be careful of any cars coming in the opposite direction. Between the numerous houses alongside the road, lake views suddenly appear from time to time and it feels as if the lake seems to be dropping further and further down.
We pass a turnoff with a signpost indicating the way to Vezio Castle, a 12th Century castle that was part of the fortification walls built to protect Varenna. These days the castle gardens host a colony of birds of prey that a local falconer breeds and trains to hunt. We’ve visited this place numerous times before, but not today because we just feel like taking a nice long ride.
The number of houses continues to increase and soon we enter the centre of Perledo. This is a little village clinging to the slopes of the Grigna and whose narrow little roads all converge at the beautiful S.Martino church. It is said that Empress Teodolinda had the church built as a refuge from the rigours of public life. At one of the hairpin bends there is a lay-by with a walking path that heads off into town. I stop the Le Mans at this hairpin bend to take in the view of the lake and the Vezio Castle, built on a rocky buttress and overlooking the lake from above.
I get back on the bike and ride off up the hill. When the row of houses ends the road swings south, midway up the slopes of the Grigna. We are now riding through a forest on the mountain slope. Every now and then the rock reappears because long stretches of this road were physically carved out the rock walls. At this time of year, the local vegetation is lit up by the amazing autumn colours. The road is finally free of entranceways to homes and we can give the throttle just a little twist, but being careful because many of the bends in this area are blind and it’s hard to figure out exactly where they will end. Going at the right speed makes this ride in the full, still warm autumn sunshine a very pleasant experience indeed. You can stop and take a break at one of the picnic areas equipped with tables and benches, from where you can enjoy spectacular views of the mountain and the lake below. A few years ago the Provincial Council put up some “American-style” signs that I think are just a little strange.