Published on: 16 March 2013 | Last updated: 29 March 2017
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From Bellagio there’s a 500-metre (altitude) climb to the chapel dedicated to Madonna del Ghisallo - patron saint of cycling. This is a famous climb that forms part of the Giro di Lombardia (average gradient is 9 per cent). The chapel is a place of pilgrimage for Italian cyclists. There are also great views from here over the lake.
Next door to the chapel is the cycling museum - admission is 6 euros - but as a reward for those who make the climb by bike, it’s five for cyclists. The museum is housed in a modern spacious well-lit building. The collection includes the bikes ridden by Gino Bartali, Fausto Coppi e Eddie Merckx in their Tour de France victories, as well as a collection of pink, yellow and rainbow shirts and other memorabilia. - bone up on your history of Italian cycling to get the most out of it.
As well as the bikes used by the champions there’s a bike that was used by firemen and another by an arrotino (knife sharpener - an Italian institution that’s now dying out) as well as a Swiss army bike. There are some wooden bikes and wheels with wooden rims made by a firm in the village itself.
From the chapel and museum the route heads back to the lake via the Valbrona and a nice stretch of road along the lakeside.
The classic climb is from Bellagio. You could do it the other way round taking this route clockwise rather than anti-clockwise.
You could continue via Asso, the Lago di Segrino and the Lago di Pusiano to link with the Lakes of Lombardia and Piemonte route see this article for the link.
Places to stay
Hotels and B&Bs
Bellagio is expensive and over-hyped. Menaggio and Varenna are both a short boat ride away. Alternatively there are a couple of more reasonably-priced hotels in the hills above around Visgnola: Il Perlo Panorama and the Hotel Fioroni.
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I use Booking.com to find and book places to stay when there are no campsites in the area. The large majority of hotels and many hostels are now on ‘Booking’. I like it because it means that I can get almost-instant confirmation. The rating system is also a reliable guide to the quality of the accommodation.
I’ve never had a problem finding places to keep my bike —even if it’s a cupboard or store room. I always use the ‘special requests’ field on the booking form to tell the hotel that I’m travelling with a bike, which gives them the opportunity to let me know if there’s a problem.
Many properties offer free cancellation but it’s a good idea to check the conditions as these vary from property to property.
The Ostello La Primula in Menaggio would be a good starting point.
There are three campsites on or near this section of the route including the Camping Clarke near Bellagio. There are lots more sites on the north-eastern limb of the lake around Domaso.