Lake Como: A Haven for Cyclists

Like a child in a candy shop, Isaiah beams as we drive through the hills surrounding Lake Como. Cyclists everywhere! Mountain bikes and road bikes galore! In particular, a little hilltop known as Ghisallo plays an important role in the history of cycling in Italy. Not only the site of the Museo del Ciclismo, Ghisallo is home to the patroness of cyclists: Madonna del Ghisallo. A small sanctuary houses a shrine to the patroness, officially declared so by the Vatican in the late 1940s, and attracts cyclists from all over the world.

Moreover, Ghisallo has been an important climb in many of the most famous Italian races. In fact, the whole region of Lombardy is known for its long competitive cycling tradition and numerous clubs and organizations dedicated to the sport.

Just a few hundred meters away from the sanctuary is another gem that makes Ghisallo a special place for cycling enthusiasts: Cerchi Ghisallo. While surfing the internet recently, Isaiah had stumbled upon this family-owned and -operated wooden rim company. Eager to tour their facilities, Isaiah contacted the owner to arrange a meeting. When we arrive, we are surprised to find their workshop at the back of an auto shop. (Since we haven't an exact address, it takes some asking around that involves me using the phrase, "Conosce lei un negozio dove si vende [pointing to a bike wheel] in legno?" - "Do you know of a business that sells [gesture] made of wood?")

Giovanni (imagine a white-haired, short, grandpa-like man), the second generation to run the company with his father being the first generation and his son, Antonio, being the third, offers to give us a tour of the laboratory, as he calls it. The well-worn look of their workshop makes it very clear that making wooden bike parts (rims, mudguards, handlebars, chain guards, and even frames) is in this man's blood. Our tour is casual and familiar. However, it's in Italian. I joke that Isaiah understands with his eyes, and I understand (about 25% of) Giovanni's words. Together, we get the gist of his explanations.

Since their most popular products are the wooden rims, or cerchi in legno, Giovanni takes us step by step through the production process (which is all done in-house, from design to manufacture) starting with selecting the wood, then cutting the strips, molding and shaping the strips, and on to the final result. Along the way, he also shows us some new products they have been working on. Antonio joins us later, and both couldn't be happier to share with us their passion for artisan work. You see, they are also mechanics, and fixing cars pays the bills, but making wooden rims they do out of love. Of course, it's a business that makes some money, but artisan work like theirs is under-appreciated, unfortunately.

Piazzale del Santuario at Ghisallo

View of Lake Como from Ghisallo

Statue dedicated to cyclists

Sanctuary of Madonna del Ghisallo

Inside the sanctuary

After checking out the "laboratory," we head to the museum. It's important to note that it's not a bike museum, but rather a cycling museum that highlights the history of cycling as a competitive sport with special emphasis on the most famous cyclists from all over the world. (I am particularly a fan of the old-fashioned cycling jerseys made of lightweight wool, which today would make adorable retro mini dresses...)

Here is a bike with wooden rims similar to those that Cerchi Ghisallo manufactures.

Love this photo of a tandem bike and the "eccentric" bike on display below it.

Look closely. Can you tell what's so eccentric about this bike?

Isaiah reading up on famous cyclists.
From the museum we hop back in the car and head to Bellagio for a late lunch. I had heard from others that Bellagio can be very touristy, but I think it's just lovely. Plus, Giovanni had recommended it, and he's a local. So there.


  1. Great info! (Not that I'd EVER make it to Lake Como alive on my bike, but, great to know still.)

    About that eccentric bike, my guess is, the spokes are not of equal length? I wonder if it even works!

  2. Hi Amanda,
    What an interesting post - and great pics too. Have never been to Como, but would certainly like too. I've not left you any comments recently, but I've been reading all about your Italian adventures. I'll be blogging myself again soon....

  3. -Hi Juanita! Isn't that eccentric bike crazy? I think it works. I suppose the wheel makes a strange elliptical motion, but it's probably a tricky bike to maneuver. Well, at the very least they made quite the effort to set the mudguards high up and leave plenty of space at the fork so the wheels could actually turn...

    -Hi Vicky! Thanks for reading about our Italy trip! Our visit to Lake Como wasn't part of the 3-week road trip around the holidays but rather a getaway for our wedding anniversary a couple of weeks ago. I hope all is well with your coursework/exams for teacher certification! Looking forward to new posts on your blog...

  4. Your blog is really something... it is a wealth of information. I love checking in on you and seeing all the great adventures you've had and continue to have! We were in Lake Como last year for Easter... oh the memories. Enjoy every minute of it!


  5. Hi Jessica! Thanks for reading! I think the Lake Como area is my favorite part of Italy, so far. Though, what we need to do is see more of CH! Been following your blog in Perth. Glad to see you're still very much into gardening. I really want to do that when we have a piece of land somewhere... Do you and Jace plan to travel much within Australia?

  6. What great info I had no idea about Lake Como. I loved the last photo. It's a total postcard!

    By the way that easter chocolate lamb pic you posted on your previous post was so cute!

  7. Hi Elisa - thanks! Except that the last picture would be much nicer if those little tree branch stumps had some green on them! ;)


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