On a sunny Sunday in January, we drove up to the triangolo Lariano – the peninsula jutting into y-shaped Lake Como, whose tip is Bellagio. It’s an area famous in Italian bike racing history (there’s even a church dedicated to cycling, with relics of famous racers – including their bikes) As we drove, part of the road was stencilled with Muro di Sormano, over and over again. We had never heard of this, and thought it must refer to some ancient ruin of a Roman or medieval wall.
After lunch at the top of the hill in Colma, we noticed a tourism signpost for “Muro di Sormano – 2 km” with an estimated walking time of two hours. This seemed like a lot of time to cover two kilometers. So we started walking down the very steep slope of a newly-paved road, which was painted with altitude markers and stencils of local plants, and viewing spots where you could look out and identify the mountain peaks all around. More mysterious were the large quotations from Italian cyclists, painted on the ground so as to be read from the bottom up.
We ran into a local couple who were happy to tell us all about it. I love hearing stories from people like this, who have been in a place forever and known every inch of it for decades. Myself, I have a breadth of knowledge about many parts of the world, but I will never have the depth of knowledge that comes with being deeply, permanently rooted in your native soil. I’m not sure I would trade, but I do enjoy seeing the other side.
As they explained, the “wall” of Sormano is the road itself. It used to be part of the Giro di Lombardia (and maybe the Giro d’Italia). Because of its steep grade, the cyclists perceived it as a wall. Which doesn’t appear to have stopped them – in one part of the video you can see what are apparently the record times for covering this damn-near-vertical distance.