Coming over into the Val di Non of Trentino we got our first view of our accommodation in Cagno, overlooking Lake Cles. We were a bit mixed on if we would have much to do here over the next three days, it was far from any major attractions and we were staying in a small bed and breakfast overlooking Lake Cles. Our host Leonardo welcomed us with muddy hands out from the garden. Surrounding the house was large orchards of Melinda apples (better known as Pink Lady). We managed a few kilometres up the hill for some good views and panoramic shots. Getting up in the morning our hosts had put on a large feast for breakfast. We were the only guests, so they fussed over us cooking up eggs and bacon. Their English was quite good, despite the majority of their guests being either German or Italian.
Today we were going to get our first glimpse of the Giro in action as they cycled three monster mountain passes – Passo di Gavia, Passo di Stelvio and the finish on the Val Martello – a massive total of over 4km of vertical climbing metres for the riders – cycling hell. We were just doing the last 1,300m up the Martello and that would probably be tough enough! On the way we stopped by in Fondo to do some canyoning in the Rio Sass. The deep gorge was spanned by the village of Fondo with a boardwalk built into the cliff. Driving north into Tyrol the Italian words and signs started making way for German names (i.e. Castelbello became Kastelbell). The entire area was once a part of the Austrian Empire and was acquired by Italy after World War 1. A large majority still speak German.
At Val Martello we parked near the castle and got our bikes ready for the climb. With the rain starting to pour down, we started our ride, passing a few other cyclists with plastic bags on their feet. After we reached the snow line, the realised why they wore these as our wet fingers and toes started to chill. After finishing at the summit we quickly parked our bike and found a seat in the warm chalet. Sitting under the hot hand dryers and drying our wet clothes drew a few odd stares from the locals who were also eager to see the finish and were also sheltering from the snow outside. Half an hour before the Giro riders were due we made our way out, much warmer. We saw Quintana, who had created a large gap from his opponents, duel and break former Giro winner Ryder Hesjedal to not only claim the stage, but win the Maglia Rosa (pink jersey) from fellow Columbian Rigoberto Uran. On our descent, the roads had dried up somewhat allowing for some good speed and a quick exit with the car heater on full.
The next morning after a recovery ride around Lake Cles we joined the party at Sarnonico to watch the next stage depart at the local school. The hot sunny day was made even more refreshing by the sprays of pesticide to the face going past the orchards… We got to see Quintanas first day in the pink jersey and he looked pretty chuffed. Our host Leonardo joined us in the festivities with his mate Crazy Horse (we called him that because he looks like the lead actor in Boy) collecting all the promotional material – free cookies, hats and radler beers.
For the afternoon, we drove to Lago di Tovel, a lake which used to be coloured red with algae that strangely died out back in the sixties. There were current projects to reintroduce brown bears back into the wild here. Tam was especially keen to see one, asking a bus driver and a local if they had seen any – she only got a direction to the bar. Tam had to re-enact her best bear impression, which drew the same response. When back at our accommodation Leonardo also did a really good bear impression of his own.
Driving the narrow and long Passo del Mendola to Bolzano was a bit of a last minute decision. Bolzano was famous for being a real German city and we thought that a German meal might help break up days of pizza and pasta. On arrival a car behind us slipped the clutch and gave a small bump – no damage luckily, but it put Mitch on edge. We arrived in time to get the last of the Bozen markets, then wandered the streets to find an Osteria – popular in this region. The Osteria dai Carrettai had simple small cuts of meat and raw mince on bread. The whole place had everything self-service, even the wine. The place was really popular with the locals, but it took us a bit to get used to how things worked. We later found a German restaurant, digging into a hearty platter of meat, dumplings and sauerkraut. Driving back we encountered a fox on the pass and a heavy thunderstorm, our last serious rain of the trip thankfully.
Leaving our hosts the next morning was a bit sad – we were really fussed over and the place far exceeded expectations. Mitch was going to miss his eggs and bacon every morning. Turning out of the property we got lost in an orchard, when reversing out we were unlucky to have an accident with an apple tree and the Fiat. This put Mitch a bit on edge again for our drive south to Verona.