Saturday, April 2, 2022

La Madonna del Ghisallo

 August 2019

I knew plan A wasn't working when a flash of lightning and a peal of thunder were added to the rain I was already riding in. I'm in Italy halfway up a hill between Bellagio and somewhere else. Plan A was a 35 mile loop southeast from Bellagio then west across the peninsula to the other arm of Lake Como via the Muro di Serrano then back to Bellagio. 

We're in staying in Lecco in the Lombardy region of Italy for a week. It is a beautiful town on the South East arm of Lake Como with rail service to Milan. Yes we do have a rental car but for $6 you can be in Milan in 40 minutes by train and you don't have to park it or drive in an Italian city. Jocelyne is especially happy to be in Lecco as there is a rumor in town that George Clooney has recently moved there - he must have heard we were visiting!

The journey has an interesting start with a 5 minute ride to the station in Lecco then a 30 minute train ride to Varenna followed by the ferry to Bellagio where I fortified myself with a coffee from one of those really cool Italian mobile espresso carts. Back on my bike it's not twenty minutes before the rain starts so I took shelter until it had stopped. By this time I was damp and cold and decided to make the shrine of the Madonna del Ghisallo my goal for the day.

The shrine sits atop the steep hill I have been climbing. It has often featured in the Giro d'Italia and Giro di Lombardia bike races and is a natural break point for cyclists. Seeing this, it was a local priest, Father Ermelindo Vigano, who proposed the Madonna del Ghisallo be declared the patroness of cyclists which was duly confirmed by Pope Pius XII. The shrine is covered from floor to ceiling with bicycles, jerseys and photographs of the great tour riders. Quite extraordinary.

There is even a prayer for cyclists.

O Mother of the Lord Jesus, We pray that you kindly assist and protect us in our cycling activities. We ask that you keep us strong and healthy in body, pure and fervent in spirit and keep us away from dangers both in training and in races.

I have not achieved my goal of climbing the Muro di Sormano but as I descend I know it has been a good day and the Muro will await my return. To have seen the bicycle and yellow jersey (with a buttoned collar and front pockets) worn by my hero Fausto Coppi in the 1949 Tour de France has made it very special.

Downhill to Bellagio, ferry and train to Lecco. Later, I walk with Jocelyne to a small lakeside restaurant for a glass of wine and a small pizza we didn't order "but sir, it is free with the wine". Does it get any better - well I guess if George Clooney had stopped by  .  .  .  .

For route information click here.

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