The Passo del Ghisallo is probably the most important cycling route in Lake Como. If you’re an avid cyclist, you must not miss it. It’s famous for appearing in the Giro d’Italia, for the Church of Madonna del Ghisallo (a church dedicated to cycling), and for the Museo del Ciclismo (the Cycling Museum), a modern, bright, large museum filled with cycling memories. The route is not extremely difficult, but don’t be fooled by its published average grades. Most of the climbing is in the 9% to almost 10% zone. But for a strong cyclist it’s not difficult.
The classic way to climb this pass is from Bellagio. Starting from there you have a few options
- Straight Up Straight Down. From the waterfront in Bellagio take Via Valassina (SP583). At the round about take SP41 and that’s it, follow it right to to the top. The climb is interrupted by a brief flat section and then continues to the top of the pass. You can then turn around and come back.
- The San Primo Route. An excellent option in either direction. Do the same as above (in the Straight Up Straight Down description), but when you get to Guello the road will make a sharp left turn. You stay straight and head toward Monte San Primo. You go through Cernobbio (not the Cernobbio down by the lake!), Pra’ Filippo, and Piano Rancio, and then you will ride down to Ghisallo. You can also do this route in reverse, which means riding the traditional Straight Up route described above, and then from Ghisallo ride up towards San Primo and pass the areas names previously but in reverse order back down to Belaggio. Either way this is a nice loop that provides some additional climbing and some riding through a very quiet and green mountain area where there is very little traffic. (Recommended!)
- Bellagio - Ghisallo - Valbrona - Bellagio. From Bellagio take the Straight Up Route (or the San Primo Route) to Ghisallo, then continue on passing Barni and Sant’Alessandro. When the road splits go left towards Asso, but eventually turn onto to SP46 which will take you through Valbrona. You will then ride flat for a while but eventually descend towards the lake until you get to a road which is literally perched along the edge of the mountain and leads straight down towards the lake. Here you will get some of the most spectacular views of Lake Como. Stop and take out the camera - it will be worth it. Eventually you will be at the lake side (the town of Onno) and from there you can follow the road back to Bellagio. Much longer than the routes above, but very satisfying.
- Bellagio - Ghisallo - Sormano - Pian del Tivano - Nesso - Bellagio. Follow the same instructions immediately above, but when the road splits go right towards Sormano (it will be a climb). Continue on passing the observatory where there is a balcony view over the mountains. Before reaching the observatory you have the suicidal option of taking the famous Muro di Sormano (the wall of Sormano) a short but extremely steep (average 17% maximum 25%) and legendary climb on a well paved narrow path. From the observatory continue on SP44 which will take you down to across the Piano del Tivano and evenutally down to Nesso. From there take the lake road back to Bellagio.