The sky is threatening rain since noon, and I can’t blame anyone but myself for the soaking.
But let’s not go ahead of time.
I depart from Chiomonte (where I’ve stayed overnight) without any hurry for leaving behind the Piedmont, that authentic and original Italian region. Down the Dora Valley -which Google stubbornly refuses to name in its maps- the road is excelent for a biker and the landscapes are awesome for a traveler. There’s only one thing that can -and actually does- spoil the ride: the drivers. Some time ago an Italian guy I met in Poland told me that, in his country, a car was like an extension -when not a substitute- of the penis; and I’m these days recalling very often that remark. But I’m obliged to correct an innacuracy: these stupid and innecessarily aggressive driving habits are not exclusive of the convex sex, but apply also to the concave one. Be as it may, I want to state here clear and loud, emphasizing it in bold letters: Italians at the wheel are assholes (in general, of course). They do all kinds of mischief, being their favourites: sharp speed-ups and jamming on the brakes, with a special fondness for absurd overtakings that go nowhere. For instance, they won’t hesitate in recklessly overtaking you at full speed for inmediately afterwards slamming on the anchors and taking a turn only thirty metres ahead; or passing one by one all twenty vehicles in a caravan that will vanish only one kilometre further, upon a double lane. Yes, we also drive a bit like this in Spain, but nowhere close to this. And I have to admit, though reluctantly, that such annoying Italian habit has spoiled my crossing this country.
As I’m heading Austria, I have no choice but to drive near Turin; and, despite always picking the side roads, traffic around this city is heavy no matter where you go. Besides, this is Lombardy, a rich and touristic region between Turin and Milan, which means more cars and heavier urban developement.
On a not-so-far horizon to my left and ahead of me some dark, ugly clouds are building up and thickening. Along a route that I wouldn’t be able to reproduce, I’m heading Como, south of the lake by the same name, and I’m getting into the lion’s den, driving towards blackish, massive mountains steaming gloomy vapours that bring to my mind the Kingdom of Mordor: their summits are embedded – nay, stuck into the lead-grey clouds, and from their hillsides smaller clouds tear off, like if from smoking craters. Pity that, often, the most dramatic and imposing landscapese occur when weather conditions are bad for taking pictures. My hands are cold, rain is certainly coming and the last thing I feel like is to get off the bike and start photo-shooting. Also -and quite groundlessly, by the way- I believe that some kilometres further I’ll still keep beholding the same scenery and have newer chances for nice photos.
But I was wrong, and those Dantesque sights soon change into something else, not so spectacular though more threatening. This is the closest I could take with my camera:
Despite heading straight to the darkest of the horizon, I don’t stop. I rely on my corduroy jacket, on my water proof pants and on my luck. I hope I’ll make it to Como and find accomodation before the storm begins.
And the funny thing is, somehow I do! Rain is only starting when I come across a motel in the outskirts of Como; but I don’t altogether like it: ugly, nonappealing, placed in an industrial estate and unattended to the point that I can’t even find the entrance. So, I pass by and head the city centre. But then the sky breaks loose, and in less than five minutes I’m irremissibly soaked to the bone. When I finally halt and shelter under a hotel’s porch, I’m dripping like a chicken, jacket and pants good for nothing; and even my helmet is flooded, as I neglected to stop the vent openings. Definitely, one can’t always come through weather harshness unscathed.
I can’t easily find accomodation in Como, though, and the rain hampers my search. The most affordable hotels are fully booked, and those with vacancies ask me for astronomical prices; so, when it clears up a bit, I decide to ride some kilometres further, soaked and all, and try in some other town along the Western shore of the lake, where centuries ago run the Roman road called Via Regina (Royal Way). In Cernobbio I find a place fitting my likes: a nice and warm hotel, right downtown. The receptionist is a helpful, experienced fellow. In general I find Italians are well mannered and nice, except when driving. It’s as if, on foot, their aggressivity disappeared. A kitchen help who’s outside, smoking a cigarette, kindly shows me, when he sees me unloading the bike, where can I park it under shelter.
Once I hang up my clothes, and dress dry ones, I go out for a walk and some supper. Cernobbio is a elegant and beauty villa by the shore of lake Como, full of palace-like houses, hosting a number of appealing restaurants, a small marina with yatchs and outboards, a romantic park, narrow streets, pleasant atmosphere. Undeniably a tourist resort, rather well-off. I take a snack and drink a beer somewhere, plus a delicious icecream. No wonder why Italy is so famous for that. For rounding off I pop into a singles club without chicks, and after drinking a boring beer I go back to the hotel.
That’s it. I’ve learnt the -narrow- limits of my riding wear. Whomever told me that corduroy is water-proof was lying, or didn’t know a word about it.