Biking in Northern Italy

Swiss/Italian Alps and the Northern Lakes
  |  Gorp.com

The Piedmont and Lombardy regions of Italy's Alpine northwest are centered around Torino and Milano. They rise out of the upper basin formed by the Po River — Italy's greatest watercourse — and climb to barren and frigid heights of a border shared with Switzerland that just to the west includes Monte Rosa, the Matterhorn, and Mont Blanc, Europe's highest peak.

Settled into the deep nooks of the mid-range of soaring mountains a little to the south of this brittle spine of rock are Italy's famous northern lakes. Lago Maggiore, Lago di Lugano, Lago di Como, and, farther to the east, Lago di Garda, are the biggest of the freshwater puddles that have attracted treaters and retreaters for centuries. If that weren't all, between lake level and mountaintop, there are not-too-high heights and elevated valleys to explore. The Val d'Ossola and Val Vigezzo reach down to the lakes from the Simplon Pass, as does Switzerland's Vallee Levetina from the St. Gotthard Pass.

Fortunately for two-wheelers, the dramatic differences in elevation are not as nasty as they might sound. Sure, for climb gluttons, there is plenty of incline to sweat through; but for people who define vacation in more relaxing terms, the network of valleys makes for easy and pleasing pedaling. Yes, the land along the lakes has its ups and downs; but moderately ambitious mileage goals can be covered during daylight hours, even with the countless coastal distractions. And yes, there are ridges every now and again, but none of them qualifies as a true Alp.

You've got a week to play with? Well, try your new clipless pedals out on a run from Alpine serene to aquamarine.


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