The Italian lakes of Como and Maggiore are famed for both their spectacular scenery and their well-heeled residents. The rich and famous clearly have good taste as the scenery here is simply wonderful with forested hills and medieval properties overlooking the glistening blue waters. This is a fascinating place to discover on two wheels with excellent roads that closely follow the winding shores. Amongst others, we visit the Hermitage of Santa Caterina del Sasso, a striking overhanging abbey built by a rich merchant. The Villa del Balbianello with its ornate Italian gardens may look familiar to film buffs, having featured in international movies such as Bond’s Casino Royale and Star Wars: Attack of the clones. There will be opportunities to taste plenty of delicious local produce en route, including cheese, cold meats, honey, wines and ice cream, before riding across the border to Lugano in Switzerland for a chocolate tasting. The excellent rides will certainly build up an appetite!
Our trip starts in Armeno, a small villageon the eastern hills of Lake Orta. Optional stroll through the alleys of Orta San Giulio, a stunning town listed among the 'Most beautiful towns of Italy'. Our accommodation on the first night is in a green park near Lake Orta, at the foot of Mount Mottarone. It is part of a complex who also organise spiritual retreats, making it a relaxing place to start the trip.
On our way to Lake Maggiore we ride south along Lake Orta through the amazing Lagoni di Mercurago Natural Park; home to a huge variety of different environments, from swamps to pastures, horses stables to archaeological sites. We continue to the medieval town of Angera, where, as a perfect ending we taste Grappa; one of the most renowned Italian spirits from a local and historical distillery. In Angera, where we overnight, there will be an opportunity to swim and relax on the lake beaches.
Cycling along the shores of Lake Maggiore we make our way to the Hermitage of Santa Caterina del Sasso; directly overlooking the water it is one most charming sights of the lake. We take some time to visit this incredible abbey and then we stop in a traditional “locanda” (cosy typical restaurant) to enjoy a tasting of local cheese, cold meats and honey. After the tasting we continue through the picturesque village of Laveno to Porto Valtravaglia, where we spend the next two nights. When the weather allows there will be time to explore the local beaches.
On this leisurely day you have some time to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of Lake Maggiore or to take a ferry to the famous Borromeo Islands. The archipelago is formed by four Islands. The main one is the monumental Isola Bella, with its 17th-Century Palazzo Borromeo, surrounded by flam boiled gardens. Then we have the picturesque Isola dei Pescatori (Fishermen’s Island), Isola Madre, noted for its botanical garden, the little Island of San Giovanni, and the Rock of Marghera.
Today is quite exciting as we cycle into the second country of our trip: Switzerland. We will reach the enchanting city of Lugano, lied down on the shore of iconic Lake Lugano. We take some time to stroll and explore the city independently and after our lunch at leisure we will get the chance to enjoy a delicious chocolate tasting at the historical Caffé Vanini, situated in a picturesque square in the city centre. The day ends in the charming town of Menaggio, on the shores of Lake Como, where we will stay for the next three nights.
On today's ride we head to the beautiful Villa del Balbianello, riding south along Lake Como. Built for a prominent Italian family during the 19th century it has been recently chosen as setting of international movies such as 007: Casino Royale and Star Wars. After lunch, on our way to the city of Como we enjoy a relaxing break at a traditional gelateria, to try to learn the secrets of real Italian gelato. In Como you will have time to discover the city's main sights, such as the remarkable Renaissance Cathedral, at your own pace, before returning to Menaggio by ferry boat.
Today we take a final circular ride around the Northern side of Lake Como to Colico. En route we stop at a local wine cellar to taste some of the excellent wines of the area and to enjoy a light lunch with local products. Once at Colico, you can visit the Cistercian Santa Maria di Piona Abbey, masterpiece of the Lombard architecture. Built in the 12th century, it represents the first source attesting a monastic community present in the territory. After the visit we return to Menaggio by ferry, another great chance to admire the beautiful views that the lake is offering.
Our trip ends in Menaggio.
During your holiday you stay at the following hotels. If you'd like to extend your time at any of these or, if you'd like to enhance your stay with an upgraded room, just let us know at the time of booking.
Our aim is to provide holidays that are unbeatable for choice and flexibility. We've listed our most popular travel options below, however you aren't limited to these - we can tailor-make virtually any holiday to suit.
Here at Headwater we thrive on feedback from our customers. It's the only way we can continue to develop, and where necessary improve, our services and ensure our holidays continue to be the best they can be. As this is a relatively new holiday, we don't yet have any customer reviews available from our customers, but here are the comments that have been received from previous Exodus travellers.
One of the most beautiful bike trips with amazing scenery, food, and guides . Everyday we were riding by one of the lakes, always with spectacular views! The bikes were fabulous, perfect for the terrain. There were a few short, sweet hills. But there was always van support if needed. Loved the guides Sara and Francesco. They were knowledgeable about biking and the area (and delicious restaurants), kept us safe, well fed , were helpful with requests ,were very thoughtful and kept the group laughing! So many extras included, such as the wine tasting with an amazing lunch,another amazing lunch, the gelato tasting, the chocolate tasting in Lugano, the tour of the Villa Balbianello and gardens with our own private guide.
The scenery on this cycling tour was very picturesque with the riding often along cycle paths or roads beside a lake. There was the occasional hill but they were short. There was 1 day of rainy weather and the rest of the week was a mix of sunshine and clouds with thunderstorms at night on occasion. The food was excellent! The hotels were basic but clean and in good locations; the final hotel in Menaggio had a beautiful view of Lake Como and was staffed by friendly and helpful staff. The hybrid bikes were well-maintained. Sara and Francesco had refreshing snacks during rest stops on cycling days.
The lakes together with the historic villas and gardens are truly stunning so this is a very worthwhile trip. Fairly straightforward for a moderate grading although the optional first day hill climb took us all by surprise! The hotels are quite basic and we didn’t get a double bed at any point despite requesting it at the booking stage. Sara the leader and Alessandro our back up with the van, were both brilliant throughout - keeping a very mixed ability group safe and happy. Their enthusiasm was infectious even when we were all drenched on day 2. The tour of Lugano would have been far better with Sara or Alessandro than a paid guide who didn’t really tell us much and kept us waiting for lunch until 2.30 by which time we were all starving and completely missed out the chocolate tasting :-(. While the lady at Villa del Balbianello was probably the best local guide I’ve come across. Fab trip in all which could be improved with a few tweaks and some better accommodation. I felt we didn’t get the best Italian food until later in the week - a downside of eating out with a large group.
Excellent new trip, up to Exodus usual high standards. Fantastic guides, easily amongst the best in my four cycling holidays (just one other trip with Exodus).
This trip was in celebration of our 20th wedding anniversary and suffice it to say, it was a wonderful holiday. Gorgeous scenery, great food, lovely wines, great camaraderie, excellent guides.
Having now completed nine trips with Exodus this has been one of the best, and of the European trips it is the best. Beautiful scenery, enchanting towns and villages, wonderful food and lots of Gelato.
Absolutely great group - I knew some from an Exodus trip to Puglia 2 yrs ago, led by fun and engaging leaders, in a lovely part of the world. Some quibbles about the route, but overall a great time. Thank you Exodus!
Smaller towns of northern Italy with wonderful people.
A really enjoyable trip to a beautiful part of Italy. Our excellent leaders Franchesco and Sara made a huge contribution to our enjoyment.
You can be confident that our pricing includes all the standard requirements of your holiday and many additional extras. Always ensure that you are comparing like for like when booking your holiday.
This 7 night guided cycling holiday includes:
All breakfast, 2 lunches and 1 dinner included
All accommodation (see below)
All transport and listed activities
Tour leader throughout
Flights from London (if booking incl. flights)
Local bike hire
How to book:
For further details, or to check availability, speak to our sales team on 01606 720199 (we open again 9am Monday) or complete our holiday enquiry form (we'll contact you at a time that's most convenient for you).
This holiday is operated by our sister company, Exodus
7 nights hotels all en suite
5 days cycling with baggage transfers and full vehicle support
Group normally 6 to 16, plus leaders. Min age 16 years
95% tarmac roads with some climbs
Due to the tailor-made nature of our holidays, we need a little more information in order for us to check availability for Cycling the Italian and Swiss Lakes. Simply complete the form below (fields marked * are mandatory) and a member of our sales team will contact you (when it's most convenient for you) to provide availability information, travel options and an accurate price. Of course there's no obligation, but if you do wish to proceed with a booking they will be on-hand to assist you throughout the process.
Alternatively, you can call our sales team on 01606 720199 to discuss your requirements in more detail (we open again 9am Monday).