Italy's Lakes District has always been a transition zone between peninsular Italy and Alpine Europe. This series of lakes created by the melt-water of Alpine glaciers enjoys a unique micro-climate that harbors olive and citrus groves, exotic botanic gardens, villas, and extraordinary vistas. Long an attraction for writers and artists, the Lake District provides an incomparable bicycle experience. We pedal from Lago Maggiore to Lake Lugano from Lake Como to Lake Garda on this tour.
***If this tour sounds great, but you prefer a shorter tour. Check out our Bicycling Italy's Lakes District! which features the first 7 days of this itinerary.***
Day 1: Tour Begins on Lake Maggiore North of Milan
Highlights: Italy's most famous Alpine lake, Stresa, the Borromean IslandsMeet this afternoon in Verbania, on Lake Maggiore, the most famous lake in Italy's lake district. Surrounded by 7,000 foot Alpine peaks Lake Maggiore enjoys a warm micro-climate that has attracted vacationers since the Milanese aristocracy began building villas here in the 17th century. Come early and hike in the Alps or visit the Borromean Islands, including Isola Bella and Isola dei Pescatori (of the "fishermen"), the villas of Stresa, and the botanic gardens of Pallanza. We fit bicycles this afternoon and will suggest a warm up ride for you on a bike path along the lake. Welcome dinner together. Distance: 5-10km (3-6 miles).
Lodging: Hotel Intra
Day 2: Ferry to Laveno, Bicycle to Lugano
Highlights: Ferry across Lago Maggiore, Lugano Switzerland, Rail to Trail Bike Path to Ponte Tresa, Swiss chocolate factory and tastingEnjoy the views across Lake Maggiore and into the high Alps as we ferry across Lake Maggiore to Laveno, the only natural harbor on the east side of the lake. From here we pedal into the Cuvia Valley and over a small pass into Val Ganna where we join a rails to trails bike path to Ponte Tresa, where we will cross the border into Switzerland. Our first stop in Switzerland is appropriately at a chocolate factory which also features a small museum. We'll tour the facility and learn more about the history and intricacies of chocolate and immediately use our new knowledge to confirm the quality of production with free samples. Once we are sated we'll continue our ride along Lake Lugano for more great views on the Suisse Alps before arriving in the bustling city of Lugano, our destination for today. Distance: 57 km (35 miles); extra ride to Porto Valtravaglia for those who wish.
Lodging: Hotel International Au Lac
Day 3: Bicycle Lugano, Switzerland to Bellagio, Italy on Lake Como
Highlights: Lake Lugano morning ride, ferry on Lugano Lake back to Italy, Menaggio, BellagioThis morning you have plenty of options: go for a short ride along the shores of Lake Lugano; take a little more time to explore this vibrant city's shopping and museum opportunities; or take the funicular to the top of Monte Bre' for a spectacular view over the lake. We'll take a ferry early this afternoon and cross Lake Lugano back into Italy and then ride to Menaggio on the shores of Lake Como. Unlike Lake Maggiore and Lake Lugano, which are shared between Italy and Switzerland, Lake Como is strictly Italian. Lake Como (also called Lario) is one of the most beautiful of the Italian lakes. It is famous for its villas, including Villa d'Este in Cernobbio and Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo. From Menaggio we take a second ferry to Bellagio where we'll spend the next two nights. Dinner is together tonight. Distance: 23 to 50 km (15-31 miles).
Lodging: Hotel Excelsior Splendide
Day 4: Rest day on Lake Como
Highlights: Bellagio, Villa Melzi, Villa Serbelloni, Madonna del Ghisallo Bicycle MuseumThis is a "rest day" in the delightful village of Bellagio perched on the shore cliffs of Lake Como. There are plenty of opportunities to explore today: the lakeside gardens of Villas Melzi and Serbelloni; or ferry to Varenna and visit the gardens of Villa Cipressi and Villa Monastero. Serious cyclists can pedal to the Madonna del Ghisallo chapel and bicycle museum at the top of the pass near Magréglio, not far from Bellagio. Dinner is on your own tonight. Distance: 20-40 km, or more (13-25 miles).
Lodging: Hotel Excelsior Splendide
Day 5: Ride to Lecco
Highlights: Views of Lago di Lecco, the Brianza region, LeccoOur ride today takes us along the Lecco arm of Lake Como where we'll do a climb popular with local cyclist to the town of Asso. From here we head downhill and around Lago del Segrino on a beautiful bike path popular with locals, it's the perfect spot to people watch and enjoy a mid-morning snack. We enter the Brianza region of Lombardy which was once an important center for the production of silk from mulberry trees. Our destination is Lecco at the southern-most end of Lake Como. Dinner is together tonight. Distance: 50 km (31 miles).
Lodging: Hotel Pontevecchio Lecco
Day 6: Bicycle from Lecco to Bergamo
Highlights: Bike Trail along the Adda River, Leonardo da Vinci Ferry, Bergamo Alta (medieval Bergamo)Our route today follows the multi-use path along the Adda River through a deep gorge carved by the melting glaciers that formed Lake Como. Beginning in the 12th century the Adda became part of a dense network of canals that the residents of Milan created from the various rivers flowing out of the Alps. We'll cross the river on the "ferry of Leonardo da Vinci," which uses the current of the river for locomotion to propel it from one bank to the other. Our ride into Bergamo takes us straight into the magnificent medieval City of Bergamo Alta. We have a special dinner planned for tonight. Dinner is together tonight. Distance: 60 km (37 miles).
Lodging: Hotel Gombit
Day 7: Bergamo
Highlights: Guided visit of Bergamo, rest dayBergamo is one of the most thriving industrial centers of Italy, though inside the 16th century Venetian walls of Bergamo Alta time seems to stand still as you walk through the medieval streets. Donizetti was born here and music is an integral part of the town's history, the first school of music opened in 1137. You'll find options for free concerts and students performing in the square. We also highly recommend the Interactive Museum which presents the history of trade routes, the walls and society, the apothecary in a unique and fun way. This is a fascinating town to get lost in so get out and explore. Dinner is on your own tonight.
Lodging: Hotel Gombit
Day 8: Bicycle from Bergamo to Lago d'Iseo and Franciacorta
Highlights: Lago d'Iseo, Wines of Franciacorta, the Tuscany of Northern ItalyOur ride from Bergamo takes us along the foothills of the alps to Lago d'Iseo, a smaller version of the larger alpine lakes we've seen so far. Bordering the lake to the south is the densely cultivated Franciacorta region, famous for its sparkling white wines. The dense network of vineyards, church-topped hills and scattering of cypress trees here remind some people of Tuscany. We'll visit a local winery and sample this delicious sparkling wine before our dinner together. Distance: 5o km (31 miles).
Lodging: Riva Lago
Day 9: Cycling Lago d'Iseo and Monte Isola
Highlights: Enjoy views on Monte Isola, cycle on one of the largest lake islands in Europe with no carsWe enjoy more lake views today as we cycle north along the shore of the lake before taking the ferry to Monte Isola, literally Mount Island, a massive mountain that emerges 1200 feet from the lake surface. On Monte Isola, enjoy car-free cycling around the island and stunning views of the surrounding mainland. Be sure to take time to stop at the old fisherman villages for a unique perspective into local life. Back on the mainland we'll take a short ferry ride, and bicycle back to our hotel. Distance: 30 km (18 miles).
Lodging: Riva Lago
Day 10: Cycling from Lago d'Iseo to Lake Garda
Highlights: Franciacorta wine region, Brescia, Lake Garda, Desenzano del Garda, SirmioneWe leave Lago d'Iseo and pedal through miles of vineyards, including some of those that produced the wine we had last night for dinner. Our route takes us through the center of historic Brescia with its two cathedrals, one dating to the 11th century, and the other to the 17th century. We exit Brescia via bike lanes, pass by the museum of the Mille Miglia (plan to stop if you are fan of vintage automobiles) and head on to Lake Garda. Enjoy small farm roads and the Lake Garda bike path. We are in Sirmione tonight surrounded on three sides by Lake Garda. Dinner is on your own. Distance: 69 km (42 miles).
Lodging: Hotel Aurora
Day 11: Bicycle the Mincio River Bike Path from Lake Garda to Mantua
Highlights: Peschiera del Garda, Mincio River bike path, MantuaTake time to enjoy your final views of Lake Garda and the Alps from Sirmione this morning as we head off to Peschiera del Garda and Mantua. Garda is the largest of Italy's alpine lakes and formed part of the border between Lombardy and the Venetian Republic from 1549 until 1797. Peschiera del Garda was a fishing village turned military outpost by Verona and the Venetians and still retains its 17th century military fortifications. We follow the Mincio River from Peschiera to Mantua along a wonderful bike path path from Peschiera to Mantua, another important fortified city in the history of Northern Italy. We'll have our final dinner celebration together this evening in this Renaissance town where Shakespeare's Romeo found exile when he was banned by Verona. Distance: 58 km (36 miles).
Lodging: Hotel Casa Poli
Day 12: Our Bike Tour ends today in Mantua
Highlights: Buon viaggio!We hope you've enjoyed bicycling Italy's Lake District to Mantua. Mantua is worth an extra day to explore if you have time. Otherwise, Venice, Verona, Bologna, Milan and Florence are short train rides away. Buon viaggio!
HighlightsItaly's Lake District, Switzerland's Lake Lugano, Chocolate tasting, Lake Garda, Mantua, Lake Como, Lake Maggiore, Bellaggio, Sirmione
Includes"The Usual" plus... Use of a quality 27-30 speed bicycle; 12 days, 11 nights' accommodation; ferry transfers indicated; 7 dinners with wine, all breakfasts; guided tour of Bergamo; van support; 2 to 3 bilingual tour leaders
Begin/EndVerbania-Intra on Lake Maggiore / Mantua
Arrive/DepartIn and out of Milan Malpensa Airport (MXP)
Total Distance492 to 566km (306 to 352 miles) plus extra for those who wish
Daily Distance0 - 65 km (0 to 37 miles)
What to ExpectFabulous lakes to swim in, spectacular scenery, and particularly wonderful food.
Relatively flat terrain with climbs on three days most quite short with the exception of a 5 mile climb above Lake Como. Shuttle are available.