2016 Cycling Italy’s Lakes Districtby Nadine Dirksen - Thursday, September 3, 2015
“And, Como! Thou, a treasure whom the earth keeps to herself,… thy chestnut woods and garden plots” as William Wordsworth wrote, seemingly breathlessly as he attempted to render his impressions of the marvelous Italian Lakes District into verse. You can read the excerpt of his poem on Lake Como here.
We feel as excited as Wordsworth did to share this magnificent new itinerary with you, albeit lacking Wordsworth’s prowess with words, please don’t expect any rhymes.
This itinerary truly combines some of our favorite things! Traveling on two wheels, delicious chocolate, heavenly wine, interesting micro-climates, eclectic villas, abundant gardens, bustling cities, and quaint villages. On this bicycle tour through the Italian lakes, you will pedal under glorious snow-capped mountains and never tire of the gleaming lake views (and swims!) as the morning fog lifts with the sunrise. We even included a trip back in time for what seems like a quick stop in Tuscany…
Our cycling journey begins on the shores of Lago Maggiore and follows the clear, cool Alpine lakes that scatter across northern Italy like shiny blue gems. On this lake themed route we’ll dip into Italian-speaking Switzerland and Lake Lugano for two remarkable days including a visit to a Swiss chocolate factory (free samples abound)! But there is more to our journey in Switzerland than chocolate – have you heard of Campione d’Italia? It’s a tiny Italian enclave that is located on the southeastern shore of Lake Lugano surrounded by Switzerland. You can ride your bike there to enjoy this unique city once home to shepherds who inspired the Campione d’Italia’s coat of arms which features a snail, symbolizing that for both shepherds and snails it is best to bring their home along with them.
A ferry will take us and our bikes across Lake Lugano and back to Italy, from there we pedal to Lake Como to verify Wordsworth’s poetic impressions. Opulent villas with lush lakeside gardens surround the town of Bellagio where we’ll stay for two nights. This area is known throughout Europe for its cycling and vacationing opportunities. We recommend a loop ride on part of the Giro di Lombardia that is a regular route for Giro d’Italia riders, and a pedal up the nearby pass to visit the Madonna del Ghisallo chapel (Patron Saint of Bicyclists) and the bicycle museum.
We’ll visit the town of Como and ride a dedicated bike path to this classic Italian destination at the southern-most end of the lake. Enjoy Como’s lakeside promenade, its piazzas and passageways, the neoclassical Villa Olmo, the cathedral, Como’s historic center… Let’s just say Como has something for everyone!
Our first stop is famed Bergamo! Travel back to medieval times – the Second World War miraculously did little damage to Bergamo’s buildings so you can enjoy its preserved architecture and majestic atmosphere. Enjoy a guided tour of the city and sit in the main piazza and listen to the talented buskers from the local music school.
Next we visit the little known but still beautiful Lago d’Iseo. Even though the Lago d’Iseo is a miniature version of Lago Maggiore or Lago di Como, it has an impressive feature that gives us an opportunity for car-free cycling – Monte Isola. It’s a mountain/island in the middle of Lago d’Iseo and features stunning views of the surrounding mainland.
Here we are in the heart of the Franciacorta wine region so we won’t leave without tasting the sparkling white wines and en route you might feel as if you’ve taken a delightfully wrong turn and ended up in Tuscany with cypress trees and vineyards lining the streets.
Veneto! Valpolicella! Bardolino! Yes, we have reached the magnificent Lake Garda, the largest of Italy’s alpine lakes. Start out on the Lombard side, on the lake’s eastern shores before we hit the Veneto region, followed by the Bardolino region and the Valpolicella area. Even if you’re not a wine connoisseur and these celebrated names don’t make you dream of happy hour, the landscapes will wow you. AND you will find out what all the fuss is about at a special wine tasting on our last evening together.
We’ll end in style and transfer you to the romantic city of Verona for a guided walk around town before saying goodbye. If you haven’t already been there, we encourage you to spend a few more days in this treasure of a city before bidding farewell to beautiful Italy. Of course, if you have time – an experience that cannot be missed is certainly an opera at the outdoor Arena.