Bucket List Climbs: Passo del Ghisallo

We are counting down the most legendary climbs, the ones that all riders need to tackle once in their lives. Check out the others in the list; number 5 – Col du Tourmalet & number 4 – Alpe d’Huez

What Makes the Ghisallo so Special?

This is the most accessible and built up of our must ride climbs. At the base is the well known upmarket town of Bellagio and not too far away is the busy cities of Lecco & Como. The airports of Milan are just over an hour away and you are more likely to see George Clooney on a motorbike than the normal climbing partners of cows and sheep.

What makes the Ghisallo such a special climb is the amazing views of beautiful Lake Como & the famous church at the summit. The church of the Madonna del Ghisallo is dedicated to cyclists and in it burns an eternal flame for cyclists that have died. The walls of the church are littered with classic old bikes including the bike ridden by local hero Fabio Casartelli when he died during the Tour de France. Next to the church is a modern cycling museum with a large section on the history of the Giro and displays showing the evolution of bike technology. This is THE climb in this part of cycling mad Italy and you will likely pass and be passed by plenty of local and international riders making their way to this special summit.


The climb starts in the glamorous town of Bellagio. If you are not staying nearby, you can ride here on one of two pretty lakeside roads or get the boat to Bellagio and start climbing immediately. Bellagio is at the end of a rugged peninsula sticking out into Lake Como. There are boats to all the main towns on the lake from here which means you can do a ride to Switzerland and back or head the other way and get deep into the Italian Alps.

Stay in – Bellagio

Recommended Bike Friendly Hotel – Il Perlo Panorama. Trust us on that one, this hotel is unmissable.

Nearest Airports to Passo del Ghisallo – Milan Linate (LIN) is 1hr15 away, Milan Malpensa (MXP) is 1hr25 away.

The Climb

Technically, there are two ways up the Ghisallo but there is only one classic way up. The ride starts just out of Bellagio and after you take a turn at the roundabout, the climb proper starts. The first section is the toughest by far. The road weaves its way past houses and hotels in the Bellagio suburbs and starts to hit some tough gradients. When you see the 14% sign, you are nearly through the worst of it and the road then flattens out somewhat as you enter the lower hairpins.

After the initial wall, it is a fairy comfortable climb. The gradients change all the time so it is tricky to find rhythm for too long. As you get out of the built up area around Bellagio, the road hits some tight hairpins with distant views of the lake behind you. Each straight is short and before you know it the road flattens out and you are treated to 3km of flat and even downhill riding through a couple of small, quaint towns. This leads to the culmination of the climb and the most pictured section of the last couple of km.

If you have seen any images of the Ghisallo, it will either be the church at the top of the sweeping hairpins of the last km. The road here looks so inviting and is great to climb and descend. The tarmac, not so common in this area, is smooth and the gradients flat enough that you can push hard here and dig in on the final steep straight to the church. The views of the other side of the lake and Italian Alps are a fitting spectacle to this great climb.

Passo del Ghisallo Distance – 10.6km

Average Gradient – 5.2%


Other Climbs in the Area

Close the the Ghisallo is the short, sharp and very difficult Muro di Sormano – 1.6km at 16%.

Taking the boat to Varenna, there is a climb straight away (its been ridden in Il Lombardia but the locals say it still doesnt have a name!), this is 14.8km at 6% and gives amazing lake views from the top.

Sportives Featuring the Ghisallo

In 2017 for the first time, there will be a sportive partner to the season ending,  Race of the Falling Leaves or Granfondo Lombardia. The pro race alternated between Saturday & Sunday so in odd years the sportive will be on Sundays and even years on Saturday. This will be a perfect way to finish your road cycling season with amazing food, coffee and wine.