by Casey Thompson © 2020 Bike It! Bellagio
Luca told me that many years ago he and his brother, Fabio, rode from their home to Livigno, and ever since this has been one of my dream rides, to go from Lake Como to the heart of the Alps over three major passes. It was a last-minute decision the other day, and it was a great last-minute decision! Luca's mother, aunt, and life-long family friend were going to Livigno to do some duty-free shopping, so we took advantage of their trip to Livigno for a ride back home, grazie mille to them! Bormio, which we talked about in a previous blog as another popular cycling destination, especially known for being a starting point for the Stelvio and Gavia passes. Livigno is just about an hour drive from Bormio, and we've taken our cyclists there on a few of our trips, either as part of a ride or as a rest day excursion to explore this interesting, picturesque, rather big town, nestled in the middle of the alps at nearly 2000m a.s.l. Many pro teams and pro athletes go to Livigno and its vicinity for altitude training and for the many long and arduous passes. We actually dropped off some material to the Bahrein McLaren team for Fabio on the way out, we didn't see the team though because they were still out on their long ride for the week. It was already 16:30, so I imagine it must have been a long ride!
Our ride was 140km. We started in Varenna and had nearly a 50km, rather flat warm-up, before starting the Maloja pass which is 30km long! The first half wasn't especially challenging in terms of elevation, easy gradients and such, with beautiful vistas and a border crossing into Switzerland. I've never seen so many water fountains along a climb so we stopped at a few for some ice could mountain water--very refreshing. The second half was pretty cool, consisting of some tight switchbacks, and with each turn we got a higher view of the valley and the many cows grazing on the steep slopes. Those cows have some impressive balance!
After the Maloja pass, we had another flat 20km or so in the valley to St. Moritz (a very famous and elite outdoor destination!), and then the climb to the Bernina Pass began. I had done this climb before on one of our trips, but this time it was much harder due to an intense headwind the whole way ... but we made it! Then we had just a nearly 3km climb left to the Forcola Pass and a long, rewarding descent to Livigno. After climbing nearly all day, it was well deserved to finally descend.
Time for immediate celebration! We quickly got to one of our favorite restaurants, La Piöda, before it closed for lunch. We enjoyed a big plate of pizzocheri and sciatt--2 local specialties. Then of course, knowing me, a trip to the Latteria di Livigno is a MUST for a huge bowl (or two) of gelato.
Next time, we will attempt the ride back home, but from Bormio to make a nice loop, although that would include two more passes from Livigno to Bormio, after Bormio it's nearly all downhill along the Valtellina cycle path to Lake Como!
We were recently very lucky to have the time to go back to a special place for 3 days since tourism hasn't quite begun yet on Lake Como for this year.
Tavarone is a tiny town in the Ligurian mountains, nestled in the Val di Vara--an outdoor paradise just like our Lake Como! It is very close to the Cinque Terre (the second most beautiful place in the world, after Lake Como of course :) )
Now let us tell you something cool--at Albergo Ristorante La Veranda in Tavarone is where I met Luca's family for the first time, and thus the meeting that has made Bike It! Bellagio a reality today! That's right, I met Luca's family (Luca actually wasn't there!) at this wonderful family-run hotel the weekend of the Granfondo Cinque Terre in 2013. We had a great time chatting after the race the next day, so we exchanged contact info and nearly 2 months later I travelled to Lake Como from Milan where I was studying to ride with them...and then met Luca! So La Veranda and Tavarone hold a very special place in our hearts.
Now let us tell you about the cycling: AMAZING! There is so much to explore and no flat roads...get your climbing legs ready! Tavarone itself is surrounded entirely by secondary, traffic-free roads, we saw less than ten cars per ride during our 3 days there! There is beautiful scenery over the valley and of course on the ligurian seaside!
Check out our three rides below from Strava, and a short video we made!
We would recommend at least a 3-night stay at La Veranda, but there's so much to explore you could even stay a week or more! It is better to have a rental car to transport your bikes to different starting areas (we did this for 2 days to not make our rides extremely long since there is so much climbing, we drove about 15 min. each day to different starting points). La Veranda is family-run by the nicest couple and their daughters and their restaurant is fantastic. We definitely recommend the half-board option to enjoy their delicious dinners each evening. On weekends they do pizza! The breakfast is also perfect for cyclists: fruit, cereal/oats, local fresh yoghurt, homemade crostata or cake, delicious local focaccia (Liguria is famous for foccaccia) and more!
Tavarone Local Roads (had to be short since the weather was iffy--but we loved every bit! It was so quiet with nearly zero traffic and it was very challenging with lots of great valley views over other small towns like Tavarone!)
Add Liguria, and more specifically the Val di Vara/Tavarone to your cycling destination list! It's about a 3.5 hour drive from us.