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