by Luca Negri © 2018 Bike It! Bellagio
My pilgrimages, or pellegrinaggi, to Rome have been not just a physical challenge, but a spiritual journey as well. I've cycled from Lecco to Rome, Italy—a 450-mile trip—four times so far. The first time, I was just 15 years old, cycling with my father, brother, and some friends from my small town of Castello di Brianza in northern Italy. We were cycling to Rome for the Jubilee in 2000, and we brought a plaque with us to gift to the Pope. The 2000 trip was also the only time that I returned to Lecco from Rome by bicycle.
For my second trip in 2011, we brought a stone as a gift, a donation or dono, which we took turns carrying in the rear pockets of our jerseys. This stone had been collected by a friend of ours on top of the Pizzo Stella, a mountain that represents Don Guanella, a priest who grew up nearby. That year we were going to Rome for the sanctification of Don Guanella. It was my first of three pilgrimages to Rome with Don Agostino, my priest.
My third and fourth cycling pilgrimages from Lecco to Rome were in 2015 and 2016, when I was also accompanied by Casey. This October, I am making another pilgrimage, but this time I will start in Rome and cycle 530 miles, over six days, to the Madonna del Ghisallo here in the Lake Como region in northern Italy. I will again be accompanied by my wife, Casey, as well as a group of Americans.
Famous places such as the Madonna del Ghisallo in the Lake Como area are well-known because of their sacredness. Nearly 70 years ago, Pope Pio XII proclaimed the Madonna del Ghisallo as the patron saint of cyclists. In 1949 a relay was held in which a group of cyclists rode with a large bronze torch from Rome to the Ghisallo Cycling Sanctuary. The final leg of the relay was ridden by the famous Italian cyclists Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali. Today that same torch is still lit in the center of the chapel in remembrance of the “fallen” cyclists and as a testimony of faith to the living cyclists.
Each Rome cycling trip has allowed me to meet and build friendships with other cyclists, and with each trip I have grown as a cyclist. From first being brought along at 15 years old as a complete newbie to the sport, to now leading a group of non-Italian cyclists on this trip, shows how much this experience has shaped me personally and spiritually and remained a part of my cycling lifestyle.
This six-day, 530-mile trek from Rome to the Madonna del Ghisallo above Bellagio requires motivation. It is also an opportunity for devoted cyclists to bring a dono to Rome where it can be blessed before carrying it by bike and gifting it to the Madonna del Ghisallo. This will be an amazing trip full of significance, comraderie, exploration, self-reflection, and of course cultural and gastronomical appreciation. If you are interested in joining us for this trip, please contact us. Trip details: Pellegrinaggio Roma-Ghisallo 2018
Grazie mille a Fabio Bonanomi e all'archivio foto di Casa Don Guanella per le foto.
by Casey Thompson © 2018 Bike It! Bellagio
Great news for tourists! As a non-EU tourist, you are eligible for tax reimbursements (a rebate). Specifically, residents of all countries are eligible for these “tax-free services” (except Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Monaco, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden).
We are happy to share that Bike It! Bellagio is registered for “tax-free service.” What does this mean? When you buy any physical good for personal or family use, the purchase price includes the Italian VAT (IVA) of 22%. The “tax-free service” is actually a tax rebate of 12.7%, more than half of the 22% IVA. To obtain this rebate, request an invoice from any tax-free store during your stay and then bring it to Customs upon your departure. Here are the details:
(1) Purchase goods of your choice at a tax-free store (like ours!). The total value of goods purchased must amount to a minimum total of €154.94 to be eligible for the service (the total includes tax, the IVA). Remember, this total value must only include goods.
(2) The goods you purchased must be returning with you to your home country within 3 months of the date of purchase. (*Pack your items at the top of your suitcase, in case you are chosen for a random control check.)
(3) Ask for a detailed invoice with the tax-free sticker and form from our store. We will provide you with both of these documents in an envelope to take with you to the airport. This document will specify how much of the total value is tax (IVA). (We will need a passport and credit card number to complete these forms. The credit card is necessary, even for cash purchases, because the rebate will be posted to your credit card account.)
(4) When checking in for you flight at the airport, tell the airline representative at the counter that you have tax-free items to claim in Customs. You will be directed to the tax-free office where you will present your invoice and receipts. The tax-free representative will stamp your form, then you can post the form in the prepaid envelope in a mailbox at the airport (or even back in your home country). *The envelopes are prepaid, so you will not need postage stamps.
(5) Within 1 month (ideally), you will receive the tax reimbursement posted to your credit card account. The total reimbursement will amount to 12.7% of the total you paid.
You may be wondering why the reimbursement is made by credit card and not in cash at the airport. Getting your reimbursement in cash is inconvenient, as you would receive euros and not your home currency, thus waiting for the credit card reimbursement is the preferred way to obtain your tax rebate.
If you would like to order a Bianchi bike from Bike It! Bellagio to take home with you after your stay, know that you will receive a rebate of 12.7% on the total purchase price. This 12.7% is significant savings, especially on new bikes!
What to Know When Buying a Bianchi in Italy
If you are interested in ordering a new Bianchi with us to take home with you after your stay and take advantage of the tax-free service, we recommend the following:
· Research the frame geometry and know your size before ordering. You can also send us your measurements for suggestions. Order your bike with us at least 1 month in advance of your arrival date.
· Know the cost of transporting a bike with your airline company. Depending on the airline company and where you’re flying, this cost typically ranges from 50 to 200 euro. If you purchase your bike from Bike It! Bellagio, we will provide a heavy-duty cardboard bike box, which includes several protective covers inside the box.
· Notify your local bike shop that you will need to assemble your new bike and ask for a price. Bike shops typically assemble a bike for $85-$100 in the U.S., depending on the shop and type of bike.
by Casey Thompson © 2018 Bike It! Bellagio
Bike It! Bellagio has created a Strava club to encourage YOU to get out and explore Lake Como on two wheels during your stay. Our mission is to create a small community of athletes from all around the world who have been to Lake Como and become inspired by the idea of exploration of an area through our challenges. We have created three challenges for you to take part in when you come to Lake Como! The first two promote the most famous climbs of the area and are close to home (Bellagio): The Madonna del Ghisallo and the Muro di Sormano, the two most important checkpoints of the annual Giro di Lombardia. Two of our guides from the “Easy Riders” crew, Elio and Mario, will be doing the Ghisallo and the Muro, respectively, for time, at the beginning of the season. Whoever comes closest to or matches Elio’s Ghisallo time during the season will win a prize. Whoever can beat Mario’s Muro di Sormano time during the season will win a prize as well…it may be tougher than you think! Be sure to record your activity and put it on Strava to make it count in the competition.
The third challenge is the Bike It! Bellagio Official Climbing Challenge! Every week, we will feature a new climb and route to encourage you to get out and explore! During your stay, try our featured climb (and route) of the week and see how you do, as well as see how many other traveling cyclists are exploring the same roads as you. Anywhere you ride around Lake Como is scenic, fun, and unforgettable. This is not a challenge to see how fast you can climb, but rather to value our territory and give every area of the lake that may be missed by the average traveler a chance to be explored by you! However, we do have a challenge for the locals: participate in the challenge, complete each weekly stage from March to November, and you will be rewarded with some swag!
Many athletes, at all levels, are Strava users. Strava—the “social network for athletes”—has become one of the most popular activity tracking applications since its launch in 2009. A type of social network, Strava allows users to share their rides, runs, hikes, swims, ski sessions … and so much more. I got on Strava in 2013, and I think it is one of the best apps for athletes around the world. Its idea of segments and challenges motivates many people to improve in their sport, as well as just get outside and have fun! In addition to using Strava for accomplishing segments or seeing how many minutes or seconds I am off a QOM or PR, I especially like Strava because it allows me to connect with other cyclists, runners, triathletes, and seeing their maps and photos of their typical rides or where they’re travelling! I like seeing where other people train, as it gives me an idea of what their terrain is like, and the photos let me see the beauty where they live. Our world is beautiful (especially Lake Como, Italy!), and there’s SO much to be explored. When I travel, I use Strava to look up popular rides or runs for the area. It’s a great tool that allows you to make your sport a part of your vacation time.
by Luca Negri © 2018 Bike It! Bellagio
Cycling has always played a part in the Casa Don Guanella of Lecco on Lake Como, as the community director, Don Agostino Frasson (Father Agostino), is an avid cyclist himself. As many of you may know, I worked for the Casa Don Guanella community in Lecco for 8 years, and still today I feel a part of this community and now continue to volunteer and give my support. I am on the Granfondo Don Guanella race committee, using my territorial knowledge and helping with route planning and other organizational aspects.
I remember when I began working for Don Agostino and going for out for our first, long bike rides during our free time. There were only a few of us in the beginning, but every year, more cyclists joined the group. Still today, the number of cycling friends in “Don’s group” continues to increase.
Don Agostino’s passion for cycling is infectious and his ability to promote that passion in other cyclists and cycling fans is inspiring. As he often says, “la bicicletta e’ un mezzo di evangelizzazione!” (the bicycle is a means of evangelism!”). Surrounding him is a growing community of cyclists from the region, where cycling is a beloved and highly practiced sport, representing the spirit of the area’s population. What at first seemed unrealistic, is now becoming a reality: the Don Guanella farmstead, and soon-to-be Agribike (agritourism), is under construction, thanks to the volunteer work and help from many of the community’s supporters.
It is from this spirit—to ride and work hard for yourself but also for others—that the idea for the Granfondo Don Guanella was born. All registration proceeds go toward the continued construction and improvements on the Cascina Don Guanella and AgriBike, a structure that will be a touristic reference point for cyclists and cycling fans. Its location in Valmadrera is easily accessible to the Triangolo Lariano as well as the eastern branch of Lake Como—both areas offer incredible cycling routes and destinations. Even more so, the Cascina and Agribike is an agricultural and social project for the welcoming, care, education, and insertion of alienated teenagers in the workforce in the sectors of agriculture and tourism.
The Granfondo Don Guanella is a novelty within the granfondo circuits for two main reasons: (1) its value in the cycling community of Lake Como and (2) it is the first-ever granfondo event where all proceeds go to charity. Plan to join us this May pedaling along some of the most historic roads that play a huge role in Italian cycling today.
The first race edition—October 8th, 2017—was a huge success: there were nearly 1,200 participants in the race, 800 of them attending the after party at the Cascina Don Guanella (current farmstead and future AgriBike). There were nearly 150 volunteers along the route, and several champions participated as well, supporting and promoting the event many months prior. The second edition will take place on May 27th, 2018, with the goal to continue the development of this social agricultural project-Cascina Don Guanella-dedicated to the youth in need.
Many promotional events led up to the race, featuring many champions and famous figures from the cycling world—like Cadel Evans, Alex Zanardi, Felice Gimondi, Gianni Bugno, Claudio Chiappucci, Gianbattista Baronchelli, Alessandro Ballan, Maurizio Fondriest, and many more—as well as important locals and other famous athletes.
The second annual Granfondo Don Guanella is here! Mark your calendars for May 27, 2018! This year’s event will take us to the mythical Ghisallo, as the cyclists will ride through fascinating and picturesque towns of Lake Como, like the famous Bellagio, known as the “pearl of the lake,” and Lecco. Ride with us and several champions to enjoy the solidarity among cyclists, the beauty of Lake Como, and the history of cycling, all while supporting the Cascina Don Guanella and AgriBike projects.
Support with your sport! Register today! www.granfondodonguanella.it
2018 Granfondo Route
* I want to thank Vittorio Mevio, president and race organizer of the main gran fondo circuit in Italy, GS Alpi. He has given so much to the Don Guanella community—his experience and his work—to make the Granfondo Don Guanella a reality all for charity. I thank him for the opportunity to be on the race committee.
by Luca Negri © 2018 Bike It! Bellagio
There are several beautiful cycling destinations around the world. Every place has its own unique scenery, its specialties, its challenges, and its must-see’s. If someone were to ask me what Lake Como is like—declared the most beautiful lake in the world in 2014 by the Huffington Post—the first words that come to my mind are elegance, legend, and sacred.
Elegance, because for centuries Lake Como has been a destination for “elegant tourism,” in the past referred to as elite tourism. Famous poets, musicians, authors, politicians … so many have come and continue to come to relax and admire the extraordinary, natural scenery on Lake Como, ever since the time of the ancient Romans, to more recent times by Leonardo da Vinci, Franz Liszt, Stendhal, John F. Kennedy, and, of course, George Clooney. The elegance of Lake Como is reflected by its historic villas, whose presence can be felt as you ride your bike along the lake. One villa after another, amongst small towns perched upon the lake’s limestone and granite mountains, with their simple, yet antique style, seemingly untouched by the passing of time. They are still perfectly harmonious with their surrounding nature.
A tour of Lake Como's western branch
Legend, because the legends and stories that you can breathe around the lake are still strong. The stories of Lake Como include those of defense, conquerors, hard life, mythical anecdotes about the contrabands of the past, and stories of unforgettable cycling. For example, when taking on the Ghisallo climb in the Giro di Lombardia in 1919, it was considered pure insanity, and 50 years later, taking on the Muro di Sormano was also then considered pure insanity. Today, these challenging climbs are taken on by cyclists from around the world.
However, the people from this area weren’t afraid of or discouraged from challenging themselves; they prayed to the Virgin Mary and went on. Italian cyclists’ faith continues to be an inspiration and means of support to them, and the Lake Como area is considered sacred. It’s not surprising that the only Virgin Mary for the protection of cyclists can be found here, on top of the renowned climb of Ghisallo: the sanctuary of La Madonna del Ghisallo. In 1949, the Pope acknowledged this sanctuary with a torchlight procession of inauguration from Rome, which both Italian cyclists Coppi and Bartali took part in. The sanctuary is quite small, yet full of historic memorabilia that tell the story of cycling. After 50 years, the chapel was unable to hold all of the legendary stories of the sport, so in 1999 Fiorenzo Magni founded the Ghisallo Cycling Museum, and it was built in 2000, next to the chapel, to hold antique bicycles and memorabilia with undeterminable value. Come and experience the elegance and legend of the sacred Lake Como by bike!
The Lake Como area is one of those destinations best explored on two wheels, so you can discover the local stops and enjoy the incredible, panoramic views. Each side of the Lake is different. The West is very pristine, the streets lined with villas and beautiful architecture, giving you a taste of Switzerland … the border is very close! The North is where the PreAlps begin to fade away as the Alps tower above you … the roads are quiet and more open. The valleys on the East side have a wild feel to them. The South, the Larian Triangle, home to the Madonna del Ghisallo and Muro di Sormano, contains the famous roads of the Giro di Lombardia. Going beyond the Larian Triangle into the Brianza region, the roads of il Lombardia continue with Tuscan-like landscapes and several rolling hills. The variety of cycling routes to choose from, all with their own unique beauty, is why so many cyclists return to this area—several times—as there is always something new to try! And the road conditions along and above the lake are great! A presto!
For those who have cycled in the Lake Como area, please share what you have liked best about the region.
A ride on Lake Como's "wild" side!
Riding through the hills of Brianza, south of Lake Como
by Casey Thompson © 2017 Bike It! Bellagio
Benvenuto a Bike It! Bellagio! Luca and I are excited to open our new bike shop in Bellagio this March. One photo that has always inspired both of us is the famous image of Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali, two Italian cycling rivals, where one is passing a water bottle to the other along the Col du Galibier during the 1952 Tour de France. The legend is that still today no one knows who is passing the water bottle to whom. This represents the values of the sport of cycling: integrity beyond the competition, friendship, sharing, and brotherhood through the efforts. As the motto of the Giro di Lombardia 2012 reminds us: Il cielo e' in cima a una salita or “Heaven is on top of a climb.” Reaching the top of the climb takes teamwork, even if you’re not necessarily on the same team. Coppi and Bartali were always rivals in the postwar years; they were only on the same team in 1940, Cicli Legnano. After the war, Coppi raced for Bianchi for more than 10 years! The tifosi (fans) of the two champions were quite divided, each party completely dedicated to their champion; however, together the fans found positivity and glory in the sport of cycling during these years. Cycling was an opportunity for success and well-being, taking advantage of one’s potential and training hard through the heat, the cold, and risk of falling along the dusty and muddy postwar streets. Cycling also served as a symbol of the Italian effort to readapt the country to normal lifestyles and to open doors for a patriotic future through sport. This unification of Italians through their love of cycling brought together the divided Bartali-Coppi fans because, in the end, everyone was just rooting for Italy. We also believe in the unification that the many cyclists and cycling communities share around the world. We all ride for the love of our sport, and we love to share the sport with others. Thus, the Bartali-Coppi photo was the perfect image to use as the basis for our logo.