The charm and style of Italy, plus the precision and pristine beauty of Italian Switzerland. Spend time lounging on lake shores bordered by flowers & mountains. Sip iced tea with peaches, try fresh porcini, and gaze at glorious vistas. Six of the trip's seven nights are spent on the shores of the world's most beautiful lakes.
Day 1: Our trip meets in Brig, Switzerland, on the afternoon of the start date. See our Access Package for hints on getting there. Those joining this itinerary from Zermatt do not actually “meet” here at all, but rather cycle through at your own pace on your way to this evening’s stop in Domodossola. Newcomers pedal around the station parking lot to get used to the bikes. Like many Swiss train stations, Brig’s has trains running around the parking lot as well as inside, so this is more of an adventure than you imagine. They come in handy, though, if they don’t squash you first: we use one to get through the Simplon tunnel (under a large Alp) and into Italy. A warm-up bike ride is on offer on the far side. (0-25km)
Day 2: Breakfast surrounded by the mountains. Before you leave town, be sure to check out Domodossola's beautiful, eliptical piazza, an idyllic spot for a 2nd breakfast cappucino. We mount our bikes and enjoy the gentle downhill roll in the sun, following the wide, sleepy valley to Lago Maggiore. The villages we pass are built of the stone carved from the surrounding mountains, lending a soothing harmony to what would otherwise be an austere scene. Just a harbinger of greater glory to come. We reach the lakes at Mergozzo, and cycle along the shore through Pallanza and to Intra. Spend the evening hours admiring the flower-covered villas overlooking this wonderful lake. (50km)
Day 3: Two nights on Lago Maggiore, and a day in between for lake fun. Visit Stresa, the Montreux of the Italian Alps. Ferry out to the Borromean islands, especially Isola Bella, for the Borromeo family palace, terraced gardens complete with white peacocks (peahens, actually), and an antique fishing village. Swimming and boating are other options. The lake’s shores have been inhabited since the iron age, and the towns have steadily evolved since, producing some architectural gems. Cyclists can head up-lake for a stunning mountain ride to Santa Maria Maggiore, and the only chimney sweep museum we have ever found. But then, we aren't generally on the lookout for them. (0-100km)
Day 4: A ferry takes us across the lake to Laveno to start the morning. Iced tea with peach juice is the bar specialty on the Intra harbour, before you board. Turning north, we follow the lake shore along a winding road of little villages and splendid vistas. Take time to swim, to delve into more of the unforgettable local cuisine, or relax in the sun on a quiet piazza off the road. Idyllic! The amazing Luino market will capture your attention for a time: everyone on the lake, packed into one town! 200 market stalls selling fresh fish and Chinese trinkets (not usually the same stall). By mid-afternoon, we cross into Italian-speaking Switzerland and turn away from the lake, following the base of the mountain. A train ride pulls us over an impressive ridge and down to the Cerisio, a.k.a. Lago di Lugano. Stop in Lugano for a visit, if you're in the mood: Italian Switzerland's biggest city is oh-so-Swiss... or is it? (50-70km)
Day 5: A dream day of cycling on quiet roads along Lake Lugano’s shores. Beautiful Morcote, built up a mountain side to a crowning vineyard, starts us off. Check out the church’s fabulous mosaics, or the stone shopping arcades along the lake. Then on along the water. Cross from Switzerland to Italy, back to Switzerland, back to Italy... you loose track, and anyway, who cares? It's all gorgeous. Stop for a break at the Alprose chocolate factory in Ponte Tresa. Free samples, and a chocolate fountain. Yum! Wander through merlot vineyards in Mendrisio. The evening brings us to the jewel of the Italian lakes, Lago di Como, and to the city of the same name. (60km)
Day 6: For Stendhal, the Lago di Como was the most beautiful place in the world. It is certainly in the running. Rossini’s music was inspired by it, and 16th century villas with their toes in the water line its banks. Residences of cardinals and princes have been transformed into palatial hotels (come back when you make CEO). Today, one of our favorite loops (senza paniers) takes us along the shores of the lake to Bellagio, perched on a tip of land between its two branches. Then down the other arm to come home. It makes for a full and unmatchable day of culture, vistas, cuisine, and biking. (75km for our recommended loop, another 20 or so if you tackle a long route)
Travel Day: A morning free to relax or to explore Como. Then a short bike ride along the lake shore to Villa d’Este, and up to the railway Chiasso railway station, where our trip disbands at midday. If you are continuing to Venice, you will train there this afternoon. If your trip ends here, the “Access Package” includes tonight in Como, to position you for ongoing travel tomorrow morning. (20km)
- Trip price includes the bike!
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Europe Italy Switzerland Outdoor: Land Rambler Bicycle Touring
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