Sondrio is a small town in the mountains close to the Swiss border. We chose this place to stay as we’ve heard that this area is beautiful and also, it was a good half way point between Milan and Liechtenstein – one of highlights of this trip for me, just because its so unknown.
Our host, Francesco, splits his time between his parent’s place in Sondrio and Milan, where he’s at university. The family house in Sondrio is just outside of the town in a quiet area backing onto the vineyards.
We had a lovely evening with his family: another delicious, simple home cooked meal; wine from their own private vineyard and engaging conversation. Although it may seem grand to have your own vineyard, Francesco told us that his great grandfather was only able to set it up through back breaking hard work. The hills behind are more like cliffs, and he and friends hand built the terraces over a period of years. Jake also learned that Francesco’s father, Michele, rides motorbikes too so they made plans for a ride the next day.
Unfortunately I can’t tell you exactly where our ride took us but it was fantastic. With Louise and the baggage on the bike my riding is somewhat subdued, so to have a morning just on my own was a nice change. Michele is a keen rider, and knows the mountains roads in this region like the back of his hand. He took me on a tour of well over 100 miles (160km) up and down the twisting mountain roads. I would be lying if I said we took it steady the whole way, however I wasn’t about to risk my life (or anybody else’s) just to have a blast on the local roads.
While they were out riding, I took advantage of this time to get out walking into the vineyards. Behind Francesco’s house is the Castel Grumello: built in the 13th century this castle had a fantastic view over the whole valley.
Climbing up to the castle was hard work, especially in the heat, but it was definitely worth it. On one side, I could see the town of Sondrio and on the other, the valley. It was fantastic. I decided to make my way down through the vineyards but got a little bit lost: every path I took seemed to end at the end of the vine so I had to scramble down to the terrace below.
After lunch Francesco had some things to do in the afternoon so Jake and I borrowed some bicycles and rode into Sondrio along a path following the river. The town is lovely – a small, pretty average town but so typically Italian; beautiful but luckily without the tourism that sometimes spoils and takes charm out of places.
While Jake rested his knee with a beer (or 2) I continued along the river for a few kilometers with the bicycle, enjoying the freedom and the beautiful landscapes.
That evening we managed to catch the sunset outside Francesco’s house.