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.