Lake Como Bike Tour

Participants
From 2 to 8 People
Languages
Italian, English

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Lake Como Bike Tour

Not a simple round trip. To enclose Lake Como, one must travel by often reorienting the compass between north and south: those two branches, so literarily famous, must be ascended and redescended via all their curves, common origin and fork.

What we offer

Description of the experience

180 km to form an inverted Y. Three perfect ramifications for three stages of equal length; three ends to connect; three cultural points to stop at and endless natural spots to fall in love with. It is often said that there is only one road around the lake: why waste time and health dealing with parking, traffic, tunnels, car stress? Our itinerary is to be loved and conquered… by bicycle. These cycle-routes around Lake Como, all of medium difficulty, are recommended in late spring or early autumn, to avoid the crowds of the tourist season and enjoy ideal temperatures and colours. Thanks to the now widespread use of electric bikes, the itinerary is within reach of even the less trained amateur cyclists (of course while always bearing in mind the rules of the road and knowing one’s own limits). Although following the perimeter of the lake, each stage can stand on its own thanks to the ferry connections between departure and arrival points (always check timetables and availability on the Navigazione Laghi website). They can be extended into longer variants, especially for mountain bikers attracted by the peaks that surround the route (for lack of space, these alternatives will not always be explored here). Let’s get on the saddle and start pedalling. Obviously starting from the Pearl of the Lake.

STAGE 1. BELLAGIO - COMO - CADENABBIA

Length 65 km / Elevation gain 400 m

We are exactly at the centre of our inverted Y: Bellagio. From there, ideally, we can turn our gaze to the length and breadth of the three branches that we will ride. Leaving behind the famous lakefront, the villas and the shops, we choose the western branch and head towards Como on the “Lariana”: today known as the SP 583, at the beginning of the 20th century this road replaced the mule tracks of the ancient Strada Regia. Having reached and passed the longest village on the lake (Lezzeno, 7 km long), the route is quite variegated, with plenty of bends and short, but frequent, ups and downs, passing through one village after another. Nesso, Pognana, Faggeto Lario, Torno, Blevio: the road running through all of them remains halfway up the mountainside; to really discover them, one must descent to the lakeside, mostly via steep steps. Having pulled up our bike, we can choose whether to cautiously lean out over the deep gorge of Nesso or take refuge in the cosy little port of Torno. It is precisely via Torno that finally leads us down to the province capital: we have arrived in Como! The domes of the Duomo and the Tempio Voltiano immediately stand out; we can ride around the Sinigaglia stadium, or, leaving the lake behind, we can cycle up through the grid-shaped city centre to arrive at the first of the three iconic museums of our itinerary. The Silk Museum preserves and passes on Como’s textile tradition through an exhibition of machines, work tools and samples. The production processes that made Como the Silk Capital of the World are shown in their various stages down to the last detail, with hands-on and sensorial experiences for both adults and children. The vivid colours of scarves and ties are imprinted in our minds as we continue through the blue and green of the lake. In Cernobbio we daydream as we bike along the park, the suites and the floating pool of the Villa d’Este hotel, but we immediately have to focus on a fork in the road: in Moltrasio we have the chance to pedal more leisurely on the Vecchia Regina road, parallel to the SS 340 and at lake level. We end up in Laglio again (yes, of course you have passed by George Clooney’s Villa Oleandra) and continue on a narrow road between Colonno and Ossuccio (to reach Isola Comacina you would need a waterbike…) and on a wider one between Lenno and Tremezzo (home, respectively, to Villa Balbianello and Villa Carlotta). Cadenabbia, a hamlet of Griante, which welcomed, among others, Giuseppe Verdi, welcomes us too. With rocky cliffs behind us, we admire the point of Bellagio, more than 60 km after having started our journey there.

STAGE 2. CADENABBIA - COLICO - VARENNA

Length 60 km / Elevation gain 50 m

Heading north, we set off again towards Menaggio. From this point, we more frequently encounter tunnels, built to allow riding along the sinuous profile of Lake Como; except for a very short one, all of them can be avoided, thanks to parallel cycle lanes or detours through villages that would otherwise remain unexplored. One of these detours takes us in one shot through Cremia, Pianello del Lario and Musso. Even though we are on two wheels, we cannot fail to notice the numerous wakes cutting through the water beside us: boats have always been the favourite mean of transport on Lake Como and there is a place that collects and remembers the shapes, sizes and uses of local hulls. The Lake Como International Museum of vintage boats in Pianello, housed in an imposing 19th-century spinning mill, has about 400 examples including rowing boats, gondolas, fishing, hunting and smuggling boats, pleasure and racing motorboats, sailboats and old work barges: a journey aboard and into the past of navigation, but all remaining on dry land and in the present (check opening hours beforehand, on weekdays visits are on request). In Dongo there is also an appointment with history: the parapet running fast between trees and benches is the very one where Mussolini and the hierarchs of the Italian Social Republic were shot in 1945. Another little gem in town is the Museum of the End of the War in Palazzo Manzi with multimedia content, mementos and tales about those days and the Resistance. Returning our focus to the road, Dongo is also the point where we once again get away from traffic: among the numerous campsites, we can detour onto a long stretch of cycle path that, sometimes bringing us back on asphalt, takes us to Gera Lario via Gravedona ed Uniti and Domaso (however, better be equipped with a gravel or electric bike, as the terrain is mixed). We arrived at the northernmost point and the turning point of our tour. The Passo bridge, with its three large arches, connects us to the Pian di Spagna Nature Reserve, where the Adda river flows into the Lario and around which the mountain groups of the Orobie and Retiche Alps begin to rise. Elevation gain in this stage is almost zero, but we can find some peace with a hike in the Reserve or, after Colico, with a visit to the Abbey of Piona, set in the Olgiasca peninsula and still inhabited by Cistercian monks, or to the incredibly medieval village of Carenno Plinio. We are now in the province of Lecco, heavy traffic is channelled onto the SS 36 road to Milan and our two-wheeler can follow the quieter SP 72. At Dervio, and then at Bellano, the land takes up a few more metres, creating two protrusions (ideal for a quick swim), in this area of Lake Como, on whose branches we are travelling along. Right here, however, there are two detours for those who love going uphill: the first at Dervio, along the Valvarrone valley and towards Premana (don’t forget to turn back every now and then to enjoy the view) and the second at Bellano to take the Valsassina valley (which will be useful in the next stage). The charm of our destination prompts us to continue fast (watch out for a couple of evocative but dark tunnels) and reach Varenna: its quaint colourful centre can be enjoyed from a lakeside boardwalk and its perched surroundings rise up till Villa Monastero, San Giorgio’s Church and the Castle of Vezio.

STAGE 3. VARENNA - LECCO - BELLAGIO

Length 60 km (74 km via Valsassina) / Elevation gain 700 m (1200 m via Valsassina)

From the little pearl that is Varenna (no offense to Bellagio, which keeps on observing us from the middle of the lake and to which we will return today), now fully trusting our bike and legs, we can choose the difficulty with which to continue: we can reach Lecco by riding along the lake, therefore with no elevation gain but forced to enter the motorway for a few km (the rocks conformation after Abbadia Lariana did not allow the creation of alternative roads) or by returning to Bellano and climbing up via the Valsassina valley that we encountered in the previous stage. The Valsassina, also famous for its cheeses, in about 35 km leads to the province capital with an elevation gain of 600 m, getting us close to the landscape of the Grigne, the rocky features of this branch, and with the possibility of trespassing into the Bergamo valleys. For those who have chosen the “easy” route, Mandello del Lario, home of the 100% Italian Moto Guzzi, can be a stopover before sighting Manzoni’s shores. The town and lakefront of Lecco are of course worth a visit, depending on the time we have available. We are more or less halfway of our last northbound ride. The next fork is at Onno, which we reached via a flat, quiet road and home of one of the most inviting beaches on the lake. However, we are not beach bums and we want to close the tour in the most symbolic way possible: so we climb towards Valbrona (5 km at around 5%) where we begin to see signs of the cycling veneration of this area. The fountain “In honour of the cyclist” makes us feel important and refreshes us. The climb continues to Lasnigo, which reveals Roman remains and the Romanesque church of Sant’Alessandro. In Barni we are now in a hilly environment and reaching the top in Magreglio repays all our efforts: we arrive at the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Ghisallo, the patron saint and protector of all cyclists, overflowing with relics and ex-votos. It stands at the top of the equally sacred Ghisallo climb (which we will tackle downhill to close the tour), protagonist of the most important races and a popular tourist destination for cycling enthusiasts from all over the world. Next to the church, we find Elio Ponti’s “Monumento al ciclista”, depicting of course cycling legends Coppi and Bartali, and a little further on the Ghisallo Cycling Museum, the third, last and inevitable stop on our cycle-cultural itinerary. Founded and inaugurated by Fiorenzo Magni, the museum collects pink jerseys and bikes that have made the history of this sport, with many thematic insights and autographs of many past and present champions. Satisfied by now with the amount of ridden kilometres, we are ready to swoop down towards Bellagio for a well-deserved ice cream (or plate of polenta, depending on the season and hunger level): but first, we admire from Ghisallo or, a little further down, at Piazzale San Rocco in Civenna, the whole crown of mountains that frame Lake Como, the expanse of water that fills it, and the beauty that it has granted us, one stroke of the pedals at a time.

More information

Included
  • E-Bike
  • Professional guide
  • Entrance tickets to museum
Not included
  • Hotel pick up and drop off
  • Lunch
  • Anything not specifically mentioned in the inclusions
Requirements

Proper cycling clothing

Difficulty

Very easy tour

Practical tips

Please bring your own bottle of water, sunglasses or clear lenses and apply a sunscreen

Important information

For any need please contact Whatsapp:

+39 380 1995222

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