The distance between La Spezia and Bellagio is the longest we’ve had to cover when going to the next destination. The shortest path is just under 300km, but a significant chunk of it goes through twisted mountain roads where you cannot go anywhere near the 130km/h that are allowed on the Italian Autostrade. In fact, we were going to omit Autostrade (equivalent to freeways in North America) completely due to smaller roads being more picturesque and us having limited road experience in Italy. With the GPS set to avoid freeways, our route was estimated to take close to 6 hours to complete.
We got out of the city and soon were on twisty mountain roads. They were narrow to begin with, and additionally repairs were in progress in many areas. After about 40 minutes of driving our trip took a 180° turn as we got into a dead end. I’m pretty sure it was the same road we took on the way to La Spezia, but just two days later they decided it needed some major fixing and closed it altogether. I suppose it was a sign that we should head to the freeways after all. After some backtracking we were on the A15 autostrada.
It’s a toll road, and how exactly toll booths work in Italy was something I could not find out easily in advance and was a little worried. I was hoping it wouldn’t be like the 407 in Ontario where by default it just snaps your plates and sends a bill later. Rental agencies have a tendency to charge you an administrative fee of say 30, 50 or however many euros they want for paying off any tickets, fines, or any charges you accrue while using the car. Not to worry, the toll booths made you stop, insert a credit card, and take a ticket before letting you through. You insert the same ticket into a machine when you exit the freeway or when you get into a region where the road is free. It displays the amount it charged you and lets you go. No keepsake receipt provided, unfortunately. It appeared that an option to arrange non-stop travel was available for locals, who would just need to use designated lanes, and (just a guess here) some transponders or registered plates.
Going through the mountains on the Autostrada was actually fun too. Since making it twist and turn to follow the valleys would eliminate any potential speed advantage, the road is actually positioned above the valleys on numerous thick columns. That’s of course for the areas with low mountains. After a while the peaks became too high to pass, and the road headed into a tunnel, just like the trains at Cinque Terre.
After finally getting to Bellagio and finding a parking spot for the car (free, but not easy), it was time to take in the scenery. Scenery is something Como is famous for, so without further ado, here goes.