Friday, 19 October 2012

Como | From Tempio Voltiano to Faro Voltiano climbing the Balcony of the Alps and Brunate Rifugio Cao.

Como is certainly a marvellous and fascinating city, highlighted by its stunning and incomparable lake well known all around the world, the capital of the Lario also boasts a magnificent medieval historic core, an unforgettable lakeside promenade, a monumental patrimony simply outstanding but it offers a great itinerary from Tempio Voltiano to Faro Voltiano climbing the Balcony of the Alps and Brunate Rifugio Cao, a magnificent experience for all those who love a great outdoor activity and one of the most popular sports in the world called cycling.

It is  a great route of approximately 8000,0 metres simply fascinating bewitching all the passionate  cyclists, especially indicated for all those who consider themselves good grimpeurs, that famous and iconic francophone word which identifies a climbing specialist, kinds of athletes who for special physical features have developed muscles very appropriate  for hard climbs with a notable endurance on highly inclined roads.

It is also an ascent absolutely inspiring for those who are looking for superb emotions, unique feelings and strong vibrations facing a long steep wall but at the same time enjoying historic sites, striking landscapes, unforgettable views of a waters basin considered a dreamland, a destination always in the top list of a multitude of tourists.

In a fantastic journey surrounded by a stupendous nature, art reminding centuries of considerable history, verdant forests, marvellous colours and a scenery frequently chosen by painters with the stunning images of the Prealps and Alps, that notorious climb is since a long time ago a sort of myth for many fans of that sporting activity on two wheels and a special site of daily training of local professional cyclists born in the area

Some of them, former or current had and have in that site as a sort of beloved friend to improve their performances and it It is enough to mention the unforgettable Fabio Casartelli Olympic gold medalist at Barcelona 1992 who sadly died in a crash on the descent of the Col de Portet D' Aspet in the Tour de France during the 15th stage of the 1995 Tour de France born and bred in Como or Guido Trentin, Lorenzo Di Silvestro and Luca Paolini, athletes with victories of important races in the international calendar.

The start of that itinerary is from the emblematic  Tempio Voltiano situated on Lungo Lago Marconi, the lake side promenade flanked by the splendid public gardens, a green urban area containing  sculptures kiosks, attractions for children just ten minutes walking from the iconic Gothic Cathedral elevated in 1396 by the master Lorenzo degli Spazzi using fine gray marble from Musso and only five minutes from the emblematic Porto, the harbour where you can take a boat enjoying a great lake cruise on the Lario.
The monumental neoclassical temple erected as museum conserves the memories of the great Alessandro Volta, famed physicist, scientist, chemist, pioneer of power and electricity,  inventor of the electricity battery, Voltaic Pile,  discoverer of the methane, a genius born in Como on 18th February 1745  (If you are interested I wrote a post about the city)

The city dedicated him, one of his most illustrious sons that monumental construction commissioned by the enterpreneur, businessman and politician Francesco Somaini and erected  by the architect Federico Frigerio, inaugurated in 1928 to celebrate the centenary of the death of that fantastic scientist.

That majestic structures contains documents, projects, tools, drafts and archives of study used by that great man during his scientific experiments. That impressive site is one of the landmarks of  that beautiful centre of Lombardy, a symbol which is also one of the first attractions all visitors want to admire simply for what that character represented and made for the entire humanity.

Alessandro Volta was professor at Pavia University, one of the most distinguished Academical Institutions in Italy and Europe, a figure who was venerated by Napoleon Bonaparte  who nominated him member of the Congress of Lyon in the Cisalpine Republic and furthermore  receiving from that leader of France the medal of the Ordre national de la L√©gion d' honneur, the Legion of Honour founded in the French Republic in 1802 considered the highest title for military and civil merits.

That eminent character was in addition a prominent exponent of the Royal Institute of The Netherlands, awarded by the Royal Society of London with the prestigious Coptey Medal, the oldest surviving scientifc award in the world, titled with the Order of the Iron Crown, a considerable order established on 5th June 1805 linked to that legendary crown  which coronated on 10th July 774 Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor and  apart all that he also became  Senator of Italy.

Not far that exhibition you can see The Life Electric, a contemporary sculpture ended in 2015 dedicated to Volta designed by Daniel Libeskind, a Polish-American architect, artist and designer with several works in many important cities, such as Berlin, Dublin, Toronto, Manchester and Copenhagen among others.

If you reach Como by car and you have your bike, a very good suggested choice is to park in the parking fee of Sinigaglia Stadium flanking the lake very close to Volta Temple and that itinerary is in its kind very significant because it starts from a point of the city centre ending to to one of its nearest mountainous nearest areast both related to that  phenomenal inventor and where he lived.
From there you can start cycling taking Via Cavallotti, a street situated in front of that imposing monument not far from  the famous Hotel Metropole Suisse, a charming 19th century building erected in the constantly lively and scenic square Piazza Camillo Benso Conte di Cavour, a very central focal point of the city's life facing the lake just two steps from the enchanting medieval borgo.

 Continuing along Via Varese, a strategic artery leading to  Via Carlo Cattaneo, a further important municipal axis in that point you will be at approximately 800,0 after Volta Temple in the beating municipal heart.

Along it you have to continue towards  Via Cesare Battisti and cycling for about 800,0 / 850,0 metres you have to follow the course of Via Tommaso Grossi, an urban hallway next to the famous Via Dante Alighieri consisting in the main road linking the station of Como Nord Lago to the medieval walls of the city.

From that important city's corner cycling for further 300,0 meters you will cycle in direction of  Via per Brunate leaving the mesmerising image of the Lario to start the climb  towards the town with the same name and Rifugio Cao situated on the top of that stunning and exciting ascent.

In that concrete point  the city is situated at 248,0 meters of altitude and the summit of your destination is situated  at 980,0 metres, that means in a simple math calculation a difference in height of 732,0 metres, a date pretty interesting and beloved for all those who love cycling.

That magnificent climb is highlighted by approximately fifteen fantastic bends with further five curves which  could be considered with that definition for a total of twenty. It also has in addition two long straights , a couple of other pretty undulated sections with a medium length and a short stretch to take "a break".

The average media is around 9,7%, 9,8% with some great points over 14%., it is 8,0 km long so facing its slopes it is suggested to use short gears. The last kilometre is  around 8,5%- 9,0% and the final approximately at a 5%. 
Cycling in agility for a cyclist with a weight around 75 kgs it is certainly the best choice forgetting to push inappropriate combinations  trying to develop meters, not all people have the legs of Eddy Merckx or Bernard Hinault who during their careers with those kilos (the French champion from Bretagne a bit less)  both able to use often on those kinds of climbs 42x21 42x22, 42x24 gears.

The Belgian also used on similar ascents a 44 tooth chainring but he was a sort of superman thinking that in his thirteen years from 1965 to 1978 of a professional career he cycled 400,000 kilometres with  an average speed of 37,0 km/h and with a lung capacity of over 7,5 litres.

Forgetting those sporting icons, Cao Brunate is a climb from true Grimpeurs with good physical conditions, reactive, with great feelings with the altitude and of course with good legs. Recommended gears for an amateur cyclist can be a 39x26 or a 39x23 but naturally all depends on your legs while for people with an inferior level is suggested  a 39x28.

The first 3000,0 / 3500,0  metres are really very hard, demanding and challenging, a real test for every cyclist using gears with criteria but also fundamental is mental determination, balancing efforts and energies, looking for pushing large gears trying a brilliant performance since the beginning could be later a bad surprise.

The most difficult section is in proximity of Garzola after about 2,0 kilometres a borough of Como integrated in the municipality in 1855 with its boundaries developed between 270,0 and 450,0 metres in that specific point, the only thing to do is push the pedals, the bicycle saddle there will be a pleasant memory for a while because you will face that beloved 14% and be careful with the handlebar because sometimes the face could have with it a strong impact.(I tell you that from my experience)

The climb continues between 9,6% and 10% but reaching a very demanding section of
 12,5% almost in correspondence of the bifurcation of the road leading to Civiglio another splendid hilly neighbourhood of Como. After 250,0 / 300,0 metres there is a little decalage of inclination around 8% descending progressively to a 6,6% until approximately a 3,5 
when you will reach the boundaries of Brunate, a  pleasing  time to take a great breath.

During you climb your efforts will be rewarded by a unique and impressive view of the lake because you reached the so called Balcony of the Alps for its marvellous views of a large section of the Alpine chain which marks the borders between Italy and Switzerland.

You will have the chance to admire, a large part of the  the Swiss Canton of Ticino, the imposing Gran Paradiso, the stunning silhouette of the Monviso, that iconic peak which gives the source to the Po river, the majestic Monte Rosa and the Alpine section of the Valsesia and the Val D' Ossola.

In addition from the road the top you can have a magnificent view of the city of Como with its port up to the old town admiring the Cathedral, the Broletto and in front of you the splendid image of the renowned  lake side resort of Cernobbio, the magnificent Villas established on its shore among them the luxury and stupendous Hotel Villa D' Este with its incomparable bay. (If you are interested I wrote a post about Cernobbio and that accommodation)

The centre of the town is located just over the famous Funicular Station which has linked Como and Brunate since 1894 and it is still the quickest connection between the capital of the Lario and that municipality. That cable railway is unique to its kind in Europe carrying the tourist in one breath, from the shore of the lake to the balcony of the Alps in only 7 minutes with a maximum slope of 55%  and you will be on the top at 715,0 metres of altitude in a sort of Eden where the scenery is true poetry.

You will be  delighted by a panoramic view to immortalise in pictures but also in you memories forever. That centre of approximately 1750,0 inhabitants also has an old history to narrate, it was probably one of the first points of the Lario where the local Celts, the Insubri met a colony of Etruscans establishing a notable cultural interchange.
The Chiesa di Sant' Andrea Apostolo, a stunning Church dating back the 14th century but totally remodelled is a highlight just like the picturesque grid of scenic streets and winding alleys of that jewel which also has other attractions as the Chiesa della Madonna di Pompei next to Via Alessandro Manzoni in irs historic core and a further located in Via dei Piani another one dedicated to the Sacred heart of Jesus Christ.

Crossing the inhabited centre the road is narrow and you start to climb once again with slopes ranging  from 8, 5% to 9.5% for other 3,0 kilometres until the Faro Voltiano  Volta Lighthouse situated altitude of 906,0  meters, situated in the neigborhood of San Maurizio.

Built in 1927 to honour the famous physicist and citizen of Como.It is a tower 29,0  meters high with an internal spiral staircase with 143 steps. From the summit you can admire the entire city of Como but also the entire shore along the emblematic coastal road Via Regina with Cernobbio, Carate Urio, Moltrasio, Laglio and further north towards Argegno, Menaggio Tremezzo and Menaggio, Switzerland and a large part of the Western Alps. It boasts  with an intensity of 100 amperes and a power of over 50,000 candles made by the engineer Gabriele Giussani and the the light of the Faro can reach up to 55 km away, a masterpiece considering the age.

From Faro Voltiano to Brunate Rifugio Cao there are other 750,0 meters and four bends climbing a section corresponding to a 9% descending to a 5% in the final metres before to reach the 980,0 metres of altitude.That ascent is extremely loved by many cyclists and transmits them emotions testing both ability and capacity.

An amateur with a good training and athletic preparation, reactive legs can climb those 8,000 metres in approximately 40 minutes. 

The most beautiful thing anyway is apart the sporting performance an active tourism outdoor, that fantastic route will give you the chance to admire unique landscapes and the beauty of Lake Como from a superb panoramic point spreading from there all its inimitable charm.

Francesco Mari

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