4 Northern Italy
On top of Passo del Ghisallo – a climb close to Lake Como in Lombardy – is a white-walled church called the Madonna di Ghisallo. Outside are four busts. Three are of Italian cycling legends Alfred Binda, Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi, while the fourth is of Father Ermelindo Vigano who, in 1949, declared the Madonna the patron saint of cyclists. Fittingly, the inside of the church is a shrine to the sport with the walls adorned with pink and rainbow jerseys signed by the legends who wore them, yellowing photos and even bikes – including the one Fabio Casartelli was riding when he was fatally injured during the 1995 Tour de France. It’s powerful stuff set in a landscape of overwhelming beauty and to reach it you’ll need to do a bit of suffering yourself by overcoming Ghisallo’s ascent. The 10.6km looks a mild challenge on paper, spitting out an average gradient of just 5.5%. But you don’t cycle on paper and in reality, much of the tarmac rises at inclines closer to 9%. The good news is that the temperatures here in autumn are ideal for cycling. In September, they average 18°C/64°F while in October, they cool to 13°C/55°F. The Ghisallo is just one great ride to be had here, too, with the 160km flattish route circumnavigating Lake Como itself another you could tackle over the course of a weekend.
FLIGHT TIME: 2hrs PRICE: Flights only from approx £35 return to Milan MORE INFO: comolagobike.com