View of Castle from coffee stop in Bellinzona
Had a brilliant nights sleep to make up for the previous night and woke up refreshed and ready to go. Breakfast was generally good although the bread was not up to much – still managed to make a sarnie which came in handy much later in the day as we didn’t pass too many cafes. We bought bike tickets for Monday as the hotel was opposite the railway station and then went in search of a replacement bike helmet for Mike. Not wanting to spend >CHF100 he decided to make do without! See below for a video of our ride to Bellinzona
Todays cycle was quite long at just over 70km but lots of down at the start (>1,200m) and not that much up. Or at least that’s what we thought until I persuaded Mike to cycle up to the middle castle in Bellinzona (after a very large and delicious iced coffee (more of that later). Our cycle down the valley in the morning sun was really beautiful.
- the road kept clear of the main highway, which we caught odd glimpses here and there. At one point we were travelling alongside the highway, on a separate cycle path which was very well maintained and was probably used for access by maintenance vehicles. It was nicely screened by trees and I thought what a great concept.
- the valley gradually widened and we started to have views of villages perched on steep slopes up the mountain side
- we passed through a rocky gorge with the Ticino River giving us enticing views of clear mountain pools separated by rapids/cascades.
- We bypassed an old village (Giornico) with a lovely view down the Ticino from the bridge we crossed over. We then cycled past a number of churches (photo is of San Nicolao) and an impressive old electricity generating station. Made us both think about how important hydroelectric power is to Switzerland and the long history behind this technology.
Apart from Giornico we didn’t really pass through many villages as the bike path skirted past them. So when around about 11.30 we saw a parasol with 3 ladies sitting outside having their coffee it seemed to good an opportunity to pass up. Great decision as that was our last opportunity until we reached Bellinzona close to the end of our ride. For our (very small) lunch of one mini sarnie, cereal bar some prunes and almonds we sat in the shade of some trees down a farm track. Glad we had some provisions as we still had a long way to go.
Shortly after our break we passes a granite quarry. Very impressive to see. As the wind was picking up it was good to have a section through the woods on a forest track by the river where we were protected from the wind and it was nice and cool. When we came out I felt like I hit a wall, and so was very happy that Mike suggested parking ourselves on a couple of benches outside a church under an old oak tree
Our next section was through flat fields on little paths until we got to the outskirts of Bellinzona. The cycle path was well designed to avoid the main roads and we eventually found ourselves by the railway station looking up to the castles Bellinzona is famous for. We were both tempted by a smart patisserie (Il Porto) where Mike suggested an iced coffee – little did I know it was an expresso topped by ice cream and other goodies. Not what I was expecting but very nice and appropriate for the Italian part of Switzerland. Also well earned. We could see the middle castle from our table and as it was still early decided to make a detour up the hill to it. A bit further up than I thought and very steep. Mike managed it all but I resorted to pushing over the worst section. Well worth it when we got there and we had beautiful views across the valley. See below for a video of this section of our ride
We then dropped back down into the town where Mike got himself a very smart cap to provide some shade tomorrow and we bought some supplies for our ride the next day. Not sure how many places would be open on a Sunday and another long ride was ahead of us. The ride / walk through the main shopping area was characterised by many old smart buildings full of character – as well all lots of people out enjoying a Saturday afternoon.
Our hotel was just outside Bellinzona in Giubiasco (Hotel La Tureta). This was our smartest hotel of the tour, beautiful location on a small park. After showers and kit washing (which we were still able to hang it out the window over a small balcony to dry) we went down to the terrace for a beer. Lovely watching kids playing in the fountain opposite and the play park nearby. The gelato shop opposite was well located!
Had not quite had enough exercise for the day! So we went for a late afternoon walk to an old (romantic bridge) next to an old bar where some punters were playing old fashioned skittles. Carried on up a steep path through a chestnut wood before retracing our steps and a well earned dinner. We had a unique bottle of white Merlot with our dinner which was an excellent accompaniment to both my main of lamb (v tasty) and Mike’s fish. Unusual for a wine to pair with both so well.
PS when I read this out to Mike over our beer, he said I had tricked him into climbing up an 11% grade to the castle and also it wasn’t the only I had told him we were headed to – oh well he proved he was strong enough to handle the challenge. Click on play to see a video of our ride and screenshow of our photos
Link to detailed route page and map click on route title