VéloSki Classic Climbs Bicycle Tour of Italy’s Lombardy Region // June 19 – July 4, 2017
The “lakes region” of northern Italy and the Dolomites are well known to seasoned travelers around the world, and for good reason; they are scenically spectacular—and yet often overlooked. Lombardy is tucked between Switzerland, Alto-Adige, Veneto and Piemonte. Among the wealth of more well-known Italian regions, the lakes and passes of Lombardy remain the insider’s special treasure…and VéloSki can take you there! Between the famous Lago Maggiore, Lago di Como, Lago Varese and Lago Lugano, and beneath the towering Brenta Dolomites this special region of unheralded lakes and alpine passes is where in-the-know locals go to escape the hurried pace of their home cities. Lombardy encompasses a diverse culture of industry, wineries and tourism situated within the valleys formed by the Southern Limestone Alps: the Dolomites, Garda Mountains, Adamello Alps, the Brenta Group and the Gavia Group. On this brand-new VéloSki bicycle tour you will traverse the Provinces of Bergamo, Brescia and Sondrio and explore the wine valleys of Valtellina and Valcamonica.
Brescia, the largest province in Lombardy, include 3 famous lakes: Iseo, d’Idro and Garda, and the beautiful alpine valleys of Val Camonica, Val Trompia and Val Sabbia. Valcamonica, situated in the mountainous area of the Lombardy region, has one of the world’s greatest collections of prehistoric petroglyphs – more than 140,000 symbols and figures carved in the rock over a period of more than 8,000 years. Found on both sides of an entire valley, the petroglyphs depict themes connected to agriculture, deer hunting, duels, as well as geometric-symbolic figures.
The Garda Mountains are bounded in the south by the Po Valley and in the north by the Brenta Dolomites, in the east by the Etschtal valley and in the west by the Valli Giudicarie. The climate of the Garda Mountains is very mild as a result of its southerly location and the influence of the Mediterranean Sea. Snow rarely falls in the Sarca valley and on the shores of Lake Garda, and, in spring and autumn, temperatures of between 15-20 °C are often experienced.
Day 1 — Arrival Verona : Lago del Garda
The Lago del Garda hillside location overlooking the lake and vineyards is just 30 minutes from Verona airport. Surrounded by vineyards and quiet roads we have a few flight recovery rides planned thru the Valpolicella wine producing region before our welcome dinner overlooking the verdant pastures and vineyards.
Day 2 – Lago d’Idro
We leave Lago del Garda climbing steadily into the hills to the west. Striking scenery greets us as we press ever upward to cross the ridge separating Lago del Garda and Lago d’Idro.
Day 3 – Lago d’Iseo
Our destination is situated at the lower end of Val Camonica, which is flanked by the Adamello group (3539m) and Punta San Matteo (3678m). Our ride today takes us over the ridge separating the lakes. The road becomes tinier and tinier as we climb above unheralded ski stations and finally reach Passo di Croce Domini, where we begin a rim searing descent to Val Camonica. We arrive at the base of a medieval fortress before a relaxing ride downstream to Lago d’Iseo. The valley has over 300,000 petroglyphs depicting the 8,000 year history of the early Camunni inhabitants dating to Paleolithic and Neolithic origins. We will enjoy a two night stay on the lake shore.
Day 4 – Lago d’Iseo
The offering for the day is ride around the Lake d’iseo.
Day 5 – San Pellegrino Terme
This is an old spa town located not far from Bergamo deep in Val Brembana. The “miraculous” healing waters of San Pellegrino attracted visitors from all over Europe. The imposing Grand Hotel is now shuttered, but there are signs of a rebirth in the making. Many paths lead from Lago d’Iseo over the mountains and thru ski stations to our final descent into San Pellegrino, including the fantastic serpentine descent to Nebro featured in the Tour of Lombardy (we will climb the same road).
Day 6 – Valtellina
In the Rhaetian Alps, this is the quintessential mountain wine region. The valley runs almost perfectly east-west, following the course of the Adda river which has scored its path through the hard granite here over many millennia. This is one of Italy’s most dramatic wine landscapes, matching the mountainous scenery of Alto Adige and the sheer cliff faces of Cinque Terre. For over 2000 years Valtellina has been producing bright, cherry-scented wines from the Nebbiolo grape variety. The wines come in two forms: the standard Rosso di Valtellina and a powerful dried-grape Sfursat form. The classic Rosso di Valtellina wine is a bright crimson in color, with an aromatic bouquet. Valtellina wines are invariably lighter in body and power than their more famous and prestigious equivalents from Barolo and Bararesco. Our route takes us over the stunningly panoramic Passo San Marco before a thrilling descent into the Valtellina vineyards. We will ride upstream along the Adda river for a few kilometers and then we climb the vineyard covered slopes of Rhaetian Alps to follow the Via dei Terrazzamenti to our wine hotel nestled in a vineyard high above the river. We will enjoy a private wine tasting with Armando, who will share the flavors of Valtellina.
Day 7 – Bormio
Valtellina vineyards slowly give way to the more Alpine pursuits of skiing, mountain biking and hiking as we cycle to Bormio, where we will spend the next three nights with friends at one of our favorite mountain hotels. Whether you choose the less strenuous sentiero di Valtellina or the dramatic “climbers route” today we enter the land of big mountains and breathtakingly scenic passes on our ride to Bormio. Along the way we will once again stare into the depths of Valcamonica as we traverse a mountainous spine separating Valtellina and Valcamonica as we cross the summit of Passo Mortirolo. After many days of breathtaking climbs and scenery we relax in this mountain spa town with ancient and modern thermal baths as a central attraction to mountain enthusiasts.
Days 8 & 9 — Bormio
Stelvio National Park is the largest not only among the historical Italian parks, but also within the whole Alpine chain. It stretches in the heart of the Central Alps and includes characteristic valleys shaped by the action of ice and water flowing down from the imposing massif of the Ortles-Cevedale group. Majestic ridges, luxuriant forests, high mountain green grasslands crossed by foaming streams springing from perennial glaciers form the Park landscape. Many rare animal and plant species live in wide ecosystems present in this territory thanks to its remarkable differences in height and to its morphological variety. The landscape is scattered with villages and “masi” at the bottom of the valleys and on the mountain slopes: charming evidence generations of rural and religious architecture in harmony with the surrounding environment. This is our “playground” for the next two days and nights. Iconic images of serpentine roads become our reality as we climb the numerous mountain passes right outside our hotel doors. Passo dello Stelvio, Passo del Gavia, Passo dell’Umbrail, Passo del Foscagno, Passo d’Eira, Passo del Bernina and Passo del Mortirolo are among our choices.
Day 10-11 – Cles
We return to visit our friend Leonard at his family hotel in the Val di Non. But, first we must climb the “easy” side of Passo del Gavia followed by Passo del Tonale. The scenery is spectacular and the descent from Passo del Tonale is among the finest in all the Alps. The flower-covered hillsides will stimulate our senses with sight and smell as we reach the ski station at the summit of Passo Tonale. From here it is essentially all downhill on our run to our resting place for the night amid the apple orchards of Val di Non in the bustling town of Cles, home to former cycling world champion Maurizio Fondriest.
Day 12 – Torbole
Nearing the finish of our amazing Lakes and Glaciers tour of Lombardy we enter the Alto-Adige/Trentino region of Northern Italy. Cycling thru apple orchards toward Mezzocorona (location of our favorite winery-diVescovi/Ulzbach) we set our sights on the Brenta Dolomiti. We leave the val di Non and climb yet another unheralded pass, the Sella di Andalo, on the way to cycling along the shore of Lago di Molveno. We descend along the Fiume Sarca (river) on quiet roads and a very special cycleroute created from the old roads that once linked the Sarca and Chiese drainages as we pass beneath towering rock walls that define the northern reaches of Lago di Garda. We wind down following quiet roads to the shore of Lago di Garda where we will stay for three nights. This will allow us ample opportunity to explore a small portion of the nearly 1000km of fantastic riding available. Our hotel is strategically located in a quiet corner of the lakeside town of Torbole so we can relax at the end of each day.
Day 13 & 14 – Torbole
The north end of Lago di Garda is famous for steady winds that draw win-surfers from all around the world. And the abundance of bike rental shops is testament to the nearly 1000km of cycleroutes (MTB & road) in the surrounding mountains and valleys. Whatever your pleasure…ENJOY!!
Day 15 — Lago del Garda
This day’s ride follows along on roads where time seems to have stood still. We will climb up the backside of the mountains forming the eastern border of Lago di Garda. Tiny roads dissect verdant pastures and snake along the edge of cliffs as we leave behind the lakeshore to traverse the long ridge separating Lago di Garda from the Alta-Adige valley. We will emerge from the mountains with a descent to the Valpolicella wine region as we return to our tranquil hotel overlooking the southern shores of Lago di Garda. Disassembly and packing of bikes before a relaxing swim in the pool and aperol spritzes seems an appropriate conclusion to our two weeks bicycling the Lombardy Alps: Lakes & Alps Classic Climbs tour. Dinner will be memorable as we watch the sunset while dining on the terrace above the lake.