I am convinced – e-bikes are the ideal means of transport around Lake Como. It’s taken just the one experience on an e-biking tour buzzing up and down the hills surrounding Bellagio to prove it to me beyond question.
E-bikes (electric motor-assisted pedalling) are, as far as I know, ecologically virtuous. Their negative emissions (and lack of noise) make them preferable to scooters, mopeds or motorbikes. In any case, they are much more flexible than any of those other motorised two-wheelers. On an e-bike you can nip up or down footpaths, over shallow steps, on old cobbled mule tracks, or on an electric mountain bike (E-MTB), on mountain paths and off-piste. All this was proven to me on a three-hour food and e-bike tour around Bellagio, the so-called Pearl of Lake Como. It was organised by Lake Como Food Tours who partner with Como Lago Bike to offer this unique opportunity for discovering those areas of Bellagio you would never get to discover on foot and which you would be hard pressed to access by car.
As a keen advocate of slow tourism, slow food and ecological sensitivity, I was very happy to be the guest of Lake Como Food Tours since they aspire to similar values. It is a Lecco-based organisation run by two women who combine their love of local culinary delights by providing them within stunning lakeside settings for the pleasure of their guests from around the world. Como Lago Bike is based, appropriately enough for cycle specialists, half way up the gruelling hill climb out of Bellagio that eventually ends up at the cycling museum and sanctuary at Madonna del Ghisallo.
This ascent which, alongside the nearby and equally difficult Muro di Sormano, often features in the Giro d’Italia and the Giro di Lombardia. It attracts die-hard cyclists from around the world. Many equip themselves with professional road bikes from Como Lago Bike and also stay at the cycling hotel, Hotel Perla Panorama, within which the bike shop is based. However those on the e-bike tour have no need to feel the strain on heart and limbs as Alberto, our guide, or Carlo, the hotel manager, will transport you up the hill from the Bellagio lakefront or from anywhere else nearby for that matter.
Having taken in the glorious view from the hotel, we were kitted out at the bike store with helmets, water and instructions on how to operate the bikes. There is definitely a technique to operating an e-bike based on co-ordinating the two variables (engine power, and gears) to best suit your pedalling speed. We started off downhill just requiring a steady hand on the disk brakes but, as we made our way to our first stop in Limonta, we were all soon using the power assistance to iron out the uphill climbs. It wasn’t just the exhilaration of being freed from uphill effort that hit me but also the reminder of why cycling is such a positive way of travelling with exposure to the varied scents of thyme and acacia on the road with the sun on the face and the breeze on bare arms.
The e-bike tour takes in those locations most people either don’t know exist or don’t have the time or means to discover. Alberto seemed to know every hidden corner of Bellagio and he first led us over the headland and through the narrow streets of Visgnola (1) to descend down onto the start of the Lecco leg of the lake to the small port of Limonta (2).
Here wealthy villas share a view over the broad convergence of the lake’s two legs to the north and across to Varenna. Straight ahead of us was the forbidding mountain range called the Grigne standing in sharp contrast to the lush semi-tropical vegetation on our side. This leg of the lake contrasts clearly in character from the Como side. Here the waters aren’t churned up by the ferries, water taxis and the whole variety of boats plying between Bellagio, Tremezzo and Menaggio. Here the lake stays calm. We stopped off to appreciate the view further along happy to just stare down mesmerised for a few moments by the tranquility of the still clear water.
Alberto had a delightful surprise for us next as we made our way carefully down a steep path to an isolated sanctuary on the waterfront known as the Madonna del Moletto (3).
This is a true little gem and the perfect spot for a private picnic and a swim in the clear waters. Before returning up the path, we were advised to set gears to their lowest and power assistance to the maximum. Then, on a simple turn of the pedals, we were off shooting up the steep slope seemingly effortlessly.
After this delightful moment of solitude we rejoined the numerous visitors milling along Bellagio’s main street (4) above the lakefront passing by the stark but impressive 11th Century Romanesque church of San Giacomo which contains some fine stone carving by the Maestri Comacini (see Como’s Artistic Tradition – A Pan-European Legacy: Maestri Comacini for further information on the rich artistic tradition of Como stonemasons). We continued onward to the most northerly point of Bellagio and the so-called Lario Triangle – La Punta (5).
By this time I had truly mastered the e-bike technique. I no longer viewed oncoming hills with foreboding – I just upped the power assist guiltlessly as I maintained a constant level of effort on the pedals.
Pescallo (6), another of Bellagio’s small quarters or ‘frazioni’, was our next destination. We saw some early diners sitting out on the terrace of the ‘La Pergola’ restaurant which juts out over the lake. Here again back on the Lecco-side of the lake, the waters were calm and the views serene. I also earmarked this spot as somewhere to return to, and having been told that the restaurant serves one of the best ‘risotto al pesce persico’, I vowed that one day I would also sit out on that unique terrace soaking in the scene and trying out their version of that delightfully delicate and creamy Lake Como speciality.
We now put our e-bike riding skills to a true test as we went up amongst the old streets of Aureggio (7) to then descend a mule path with shallow steps to cross over to the west-side of the town above the gardens of the Villa Melzi. This was just another aspect of Bellagio that one would never normally get to experience and it was all going to convince me that Bellagio had so much more to it than I had previously assumed. However it was not over yet since we threaded our way around the villa’s gardens to arrive at the small port of Loppia (8) with another delightfully located restaurant – the Ristorante Darsene di Loppia. Again my appetite was being sharpened by further confirmation from colleagues that the food here was excellent and matched the beauty of the location – a winning combination. Also Loppia is just at the southern end of the Villa Melzi and so would make an ideal starting or finishing point for a visit to the villa’s stupendous gardens. If coming by boat from Menaggio or Tremezzo, you could also descend at San Giovanni (9) – our next and final destination.
This small port in front of a piazza which houses the church of San Giovanni is so much quieter than Bellagio itself but visitors could descend here and take a delightful walk to Loppia, through the gardens of the Villa Melzi to arrive at the promenade leading into the centre of Bellagio. However for us San Giovanni housed another attraction – Nenè Food. This is where we stopped for an aperitif and to taste some of the cheeses from Lario and the nearby culinary hotspot – the Valtellina. Nenè Food is another of those Bellagio hidden corners waiting to be discovered – small, intimate, and welcoming.
The aperitif and ‘spuntino’ were most welcome since it would be wrong to convey the impression that e-biking does not require any effort. You have to keep pedalling. The power assistance stops the moment when you stop pedalling. You can of course select the level of assistance but you are still cycling and exercising. Therefore you should feel no guilt in enjoying a glass or two at the end of the tour.
The e-biking tour is organised by Lake Como Food Tours.
Lake Como Food Tours partner with Como Lago Bike who provide the e-bikes and the guide for this tour.
Como Lago Bike are located at the bike hotel called Hotel Perlo Panorama, offering active, cultural or romantic breaks.
Our aperitif was hosted by Nenè Bellagio Food in Via Jacopo Rezia, 20. Bellagio.
The two restaurants which attracted my attention during the tour were:
- Hotel Ristorante La Pergola – www.lapergolabellagio.it They are contactable by email at email@example.com or by phone at +39 031 950263
- Ristorante Darsene di Loppia – www.ristorantedarsenediloppia.com They are contactable by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at +39 031 952 069
E-Bikes are now available for hire from shops around Lake Como from Malgrate near to Lecco to Como and Cernobbio. Check out our Bike pages for more information.