the surrounding area
WHEN MAGNI PASSED BY THE GHISALLO HILL
Getting on the hill of Ghisallo is really challenging. When you see the profile of the church and, today, the museum, it feels a great relief. Especially for those who, like me, have never been a climber the relief is great.
Fiorenzo Magni interviwed by Giovanni Zavatta (Osservatore Romano)*
*L’Osservatore Romano (“The Roman Observer”) is the daily newspaper of Vatican City State.
THE PROVINCE OF COMO
The territory of the province of Como is “a world unique in the world”, a land of history and innovation, traditions and avant-garde, sports and relaxation, breathtaking views and artistic wonders. On foot, by mountain bike, on horseback or by boat: these are just some of the alternatives to discover the territory of the province of Como, characterized by many different and unusual landscape itineraries: high mountain roads or hill paths, wild nature or manicured gardens on the lake,relaxing boat trips or thrills and emotions on seaplanes. In recent years the provincial tourist vocation has been strengthened thanks to policies to safeguard and promote these precious territorial resources, so that anyone can enjoy it with the means of locomotion that prefers. The territory of Como offers much in a little space and visit it means discovering unusual things, deepening particular interests, living the landscape without settling for common places and obviousness.
Magreglio (Magrej in venacular speaking), 640 inhabitants, it is one of the small municipalities that punctuate the hills overlooking the lake. It rises at 754 meters above sea level and is the classic destination for cyclists of the weekend, as well as professionals, who choose this destination to reach the sanctuary of Our Lady of Ghisallo, protector of cyclists. From the magnificent terrace Belvedere Romeo, on which stands the sanctuary, you can admire the Grigne (2409 mA.S.L.), the surrounding mountains and the eastern branch of the lake to Lecco. From the opposite side the view sweeps up to the promontory of Bellagio: famous tourist resort, known internationally, the town is known for its artistic and naturalistic beauties.
THE SANCTUARY OF GHISALLO
The small shrine rises at the height of the hill of Ghisallo. The current building dates back to 1623, as a transformation of a pre-existing chapel. His name (according to the ancient legend) derives from the Count Ghisallo: attacked and chased by the bandits, the count invoked the protection of the Virgin Mary, to whom he promised to build a church in his honor at the top of the hill where he sought refuge, if he had been saved. Similarly, starting from the beginning of the twentieth century, cyclists who arrived at the shrine began to thank and invoke the protection of the Virgin Mother for their efforts. It is thanks to this tradition, born spontaneously, that Our Lady of Ghisallo was dedicated to cyclists, and became the patron saint in 1949 with papal seal of Pius XII, following the passionate interest of the Pastor Don Ermelindo Viganò. For the occasion took place the historic procession that brought the torch, still placed in the center of the church, from Rome to Ghisallo, led by a relay of cyclists. The two on the last stage of the relay, which arrived at the chapel with the torch, were Bartali and Coppi. Inside the church are exhibited several memorabilia, jerseys and bicycles, of famous champions of all time. Thanks to this cycling tradition, the Triangle Lariano has developed a series of services for those who want to spend a holiday on a bicycle. In fact, the area offers several exercises specialized in renting and delivery bicycles (road, MTB and Electric), sale of clothing and equipment, cleaning of bicycles, advice on routes, guided tours and all the assistance necessary for a Holiday on the two wheels. Visits to the sanctuary are organized every day of the week during the season (March-November). The Cycling Museum Our Lady of Ghisallo could only arise in this place, to tell how nowhere else in the world the history of cycling and its champions of all times and all nationalities. It is located right on the Belvedere Romeo, constituting a single complex together with the sanctuary and the monument of cyclists.
The Larian villas with their parks and gardens are unique both for their architectural and landscape value and for the treasures they contain. Their construction dates back mainly to the period between 1500 and 1800: The shores of the lake are enriched with splendid villas, equipped with parks sometimes huge and always refined, and are always places of delight and relationship, showcases of family riches and Political importance.
The sumptuousness of the buildings and parks make it clear how the Lario basin was between ‘ 700 and ‘800, a true Italian Versailles, where kings, emperors, men of art and science were first regulars and then enthusiastic supporters.
Among the many we mention Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo, famous for the flowering of the azaleas of which it boasts over 150 different varieties, which also houses some sculptures of Canova. In Lenno you can visit Villa Balbianello, considered the symbol of Lake Como and still the elegant Villa Olmo at the gates of the Larian capital city, prestigious venue of exhibitions and art exhibitions.
For its position, for its temperate climate and its conformation, Bellagio can be chosen and remembered with pleasure for holidays of a very different kind, from the quiet ones by the lake to the sporting ones in the territory.
Although it is close to the mountains, Bellagio has the good fortune of a Mediterranean climate that has favoured the growth of olive trees and gives life to the great spring blooms of azaleas that attract flower enthusiasts from all over the world.
Among the most famous gardens open to the public: the neoclassical Villa Serbelloni – Rockfeller Foundation, with tropical plants too. Then there is Villa Melzi, whose park was built by the same architects of the gardens of the villa Reale of Monza, always in Bellagio as Villa Serbelloni, with its gigantic park.
The Bellagio’s surrounding area is also ideal for sports holidays. On the lake there are sailing, water skiing, kayaking and rowing, while all over the promontory there are trekking and cycling routes, with breathtaking views of the lake and the surrounding mountains.
Our Lady of Ghisallo
Ghisallo by bike
OUR LADY OF GHISALLO
The most famous ascent – the one usually referred to by cyclists – is the one called “Madonna del Ghisallo”, the hardest side, which starts at Bellagio (north side) from the roundabout just outside the town, on Via Valassina (SP41). The total gradient of the ascent is 500 mt, with an average gradient of about 8%, which reaches the 14% in the steeper section. Including the flat section, in the middle of the climb, the average is around the 5.5%. The best professionals climb to Ghisallo in less than 20 minutes: Paolo Bettini climbed it in 19′.30″ in the Giro di Lombardia 2005!
The south side of Ghisallo is the one from Erba, or from Cesana Brianza: this is a long but easy route to reach the sanctuary of cycling and the museum. This ascent is called “Ghisallino”, or “little Ghisallo”, for its simplicity compared to the north side.
It is also possible to follow the so-called “Superghisallo”: the newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport invented this nickname for the first time presenting the 55th edition of the Tour of Lombardy in 1961. This is an alternative route to the two precedents that take you up from Bellagio and turning to right in the direction of the village of Guello, at the corner of a tiny yellow church, following for San Primo. The ascent ends at 975 meters above sea level in the locality of Pian Rancio. From here you can go down to the shrine and the museum by turning left at the intersection.
THE "WALL" OF SORMANO
There is also another infamous ascent in the area: its name is the “wall” of Sormano, known only as “the wall”. 1.8 km long with an average gradient of 18% and a maximum of 25%. It’s the most officially hard bike path in the world. The wall has been run for 3 consecutively years at the Tour of Lombardy from 1960 to 1962, after which it was abandoned for 50 years because it was too difficult…even for the pros! From 2012 The wall was re-inserted in the Tour of Lombardy route. You can reach it by following the signs for Sormano, after the village of Asso, where you will find the beginning of the ascent to your left. The wall can be avoided by following the roadway. Both roads converge to La Colma of Sormano where it is possible to refuel in the near bar and enjoy the Belvedere. Both of these legendary climbs can be traveled for a total of about 50 km.
“Ciclovia dei Laghi” Sport and Relax by bike www.cicloviadeilaghi.it
Internet web sites
www.lakecomo.com www.promobellagio.it www.bellagiolakeofcomo.com
Restaurants in Magreglio: – La Fontanella – Pizzeria Magrej
www.bikeitbellagio.com www.ghisallorentbike.it www.comolagobike.com