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The Adda River Cycleway: 320 km from the Rhaetian Alps to the Po Valley by bicycle

The Adda River Cycle Way or Greenway dell'Adda is a cycleway following the river (almost!) from its source, which is northern Valtellina, until its mouth into Po river, in the heart of Po Valley. This cycling itinerary, running on fun gravel roads, secondary roads, tracks, and river banks, is more than 300km long and can be faced in 4 - 5 travel days. Traveling by bicycle along the Adda river allows to discover new, fun and curious points of view, and deeply focus on history and events that happened along this big northern Italian river.

Map

Adda is one of the most important rivers in Italy. From Val Alpisella, just above the lakes of Cancano, Adda starts its journey towards Po river, along all the Valtellina, to then jump in the fresh waters of Lake Como, then from Lecco towards the south in the Po Valley, where it finally meets its bigger brother Po river. The Adda River Cycle Way is more than 300 km long connecting Bormio to Castelnuovo Bocca d'Adda, in the province of Lodi. This bicycle journey along this waterway allows us to ride in different settings: from the mountains of Valtellina to the lake and then the riverbanks south of Lecco.grosio castello in bici

From the source of Adda to Sondrio

The Adda Cycle Way starts in Bormio, a well known touristic destination in Alta Valtellina where you can relax at the SPA or have one of the many sports activities. You will right away lose altitude on secondary and dedicated roads with beautiful views where the only protagonists are high mountains and alpine passes, like Stelvio. Soon you will be in Sondalo and, just below, after a fun gravel track, Grosio. This city is famous for its two castles, San Faustino and Castello Nuovo, which can be reached after a steep ascent. Near the fortresses, you'll find the Rupe Magna, a site of old cave art (like the ones you can visit on the Valle Camonica Cycle Way, which became the first UNESCO heritage in Italy).cartellonistica sentiero valtellinaThe cycleway, that in this valley is called Sentiero Valtellina, keeps following the Adda crossing the village of Grosotto and down to Mazzo. Mazzo di Valtellina, known by mountain climbers for its terrible ascent to the top of Passo della Foppa, the Mortirolo, is a  lovely little village with a Romanesque Baptistery, the Quadrio - Venosta Palace and other meaningful places to be discovered.sentiero valtellina in biciThis area of Valtellina is known for its bresaola but also of pizzoccheri (born in Teglio!), sciatt and many other specialties. The Sentiero Valtellina, mixed and cycleway, goes down in the valley to Tovo di Sant'Agata and Lovero, just before the naturalistic area of Le Piane. The beautiful Tirano, known as the starting point for the red train of Bernina, lays along the river and together with Santuario della Madonna of Tirano and the numerous historical buildings, raises the charm of this locality. The silent landscapes wrap bicycle tourists while sweet up and downhill they follow the river towards Sondrio and the lower part of Valtellina. The Adda Cycle Way never moves away from the river and the numerous areas with tables and benches are very appreciated.
 
Did you know that in the Valtellina area you could count hundreds of churches?
Maybe on a future journey, you could decide to visit all of them! By losing altitude, the landscape changes and you can enjoy new colors and shapes like, as an example,  the vineyards which during autumn will be full of precious grapes. Sondrio appears in the lights of the evening. The city counts 21000 inhabitants, an XI century castle and the Ligariana tower looking the city from above.

From Sondrio to Colico, on Lake Como

The second part of this itinerary on the Adda Cycle Way starts in Sondro and finishes in Colico, on Lake Como. The 60 km connecting these two cities can be traveled along the river almost entirely on a protected path. From the center of Sondrio, 307 m high, you will cross the Sentiero Valtellina that goes up and down in the colorful valley.  
indicazioni sentiero valtellina
Before reaching Lake Como you will cross some villages that host cantine aperte (open cellars), a yearly festival with hundreds of visitors and wine lovers. This leg of the Sentiero Valtellina is pretty easy: just pay attention to the 3 km suspension near Talamona, but we hope it will be fixed as soon as possible. You will then ride along the Local Park of the Bosca, a 30ha green area, before arriving in Morbegno. You will find other small villages on the Sentiero Valtellina with a lot of services. Before reaching Colico you will ride on a fun gravel road: the official welcome to the Natural Reserve Pian di Spagna and Lago di Mezzola, which can be crossed by bicycle discovering its most interesting corners, stopping by for some birdwatching or local products tasting.lago di como in bici
Lake Como, where Adda meets it, appears quite suddenly, giving a sense of astonishment and inner peace. Take some time and stop by its shore before continuing the trip.

From Colico to Lecco along the lakeshore

From Colico the bicycle trip on the Adda Cycle Way continues on the lakeshore on the SP72. This country road, mixed and pretty busy during the high season, is quite calm in spring, autumn and during the week. From the small bay of Olgiasca, you soon reach the old town of Corenno Plinio, now being part of Dervio. pedalando a dervioBefore continuing on the lakeshore it is highly recommended a visit to the castle, at least from outside. Near Dervio it is possible to cycle downhill to the lake and then the try the short but amazing cycle path. Cutting through the village you will reach the SP72 again and after a short tunnel, you'll be in Bellano. From this beautiful little village on Lake Como (also known as Lake Lario), you can follow an alternative road in order to cross the Valsassina, but we will touch this topic just below. From Bellano, where you can find a beautiful castle, you pedal in the lakeshore quietly towards Olivedo and Varenna. lago di comoFour tunnels require using lights in order to be visible to the drivers that you'll find on this leg. Varenna, the village in front of Bellagio, is energetic and colorful. Every year thousands of people decide to stop by this little hamlet to spend their holidays or just for a short visit. Dominated by its castle of Vezio, Varenna boasts the beautiful House Museum Villa Monastero with its neat botanical garden on the lakeshore. villa monastero varennaFurther, on the itinerary, you'll find the small Fiumelatte, where the 250m (and shortest in Italy) namesake river flows. The waters of Lake Como are never boring, so the multiple stops slow your ride. In Lierna you can pedal until the Castel, panoramic point on the lake, while in Mandello del Lario you should definitely stop at the local east port. From the village where, in 1921 Moto Guzzi was born, you have two alternatives to continue your journey: the first is a regional train to Lecco in total safety, the second is to pedal to Abbadia Lariana and then jump into the vehicle chaos of the highway, the only road that connects the last cities of the Lecco lakeshore with the capital (and we're hoping for a solution soon!). Lecco, the city of Promessi Sposi,  is full of shops and places to relax a bit before going south and towards the Po Valley.pedalando lungolago como

The Valsassina variation

In order to avoid the highway leg between Abbadia Lariana and Lecco and to discover new routes if you already saw the lakeshore road, near Bellano it's possible to divert towards Valsassina and enter the Regional Park of the Grigna Settentrionale. valsassina in biciThis change of plan will cost an ascent, never too demanding, towards the valley, and the pleasant surprise of a cycleway. Don't miss the stop in Parlasco, the painted village, a jump in the Pioverna river and the falls of Troggia with a small diversion from the cycleway. The descent towards Lecco is on a mixed road after an easy pass in Ballabio.ciclabile valsassina

Along the Adda river from Lecco to Lodi

Once passed the Bridge Azzone Visconti you enter a world of large dirt roads, silent water, and green vegetation... it's the Adda river banks, our guide that carries us towards the Po river.lecco e il resegoneThis leg connects Lecco to Concesa, known as Adda Cycle path. After Concesa, on easy gravel and a peaceful walking and cycling path on mixed roads with low traffic, you can decide to follow the Naviglio della Martesana until Milan, but this is another story! Along the Adda River Cycle Way, where you can find the Ecomuseum of Leonardo (Da Vinci), it's impossible to stay emotionless in front of the many attractions like the rope boat in Imbersago, the Sanctuary of Madonna della Rocchetta, the Iron Bridge in Paderno, the hydraulic wheel in Groppello d'Adda...
In Cassano you will leave the Naviglio della Martesana, that continues towards Milan, to keep following the Adda or, if you prefer, the Canale Muzza.
ciclabile dell adda
In our case, we preferred pedaling right along the river to be sure not to go the wrong way. After crossing the mixed traffic bridge on the Adda and the Roggia Rivoltana, at the roundabout, you keep going south paying attention to the cars. For 2.5km there is an alternation between cycle paths and the street, to then turn, finally, on gravel passing a bar.
 
Safely on gravel and single trails, you will keep following the water snake that crosses some cities. Just before crossing the Canale Vacchelli and its cycle path, we leave the Adda river to turn left. The Canale Vacchelli, realized at the end of the XIX century, is 34km long and is mainly straight. Once passed it, you keep following the Adda. With a little training and attention, you will be able to watch some typical birds of this river area like the little egret or the grey heron or the more rare kingfisher. Among the most common mammals, you could meet let's name the nutria (a small rodent), a foreign species that invaded the river areas, or the wild rabbit or the roe deer. Lodi is a few km far, the ride is never tiring and slowly you'll notice the Vegetable Cathedral, similar to the one in Val di Sella in Trentino, just before the city.
verso lodi al tramonto
Lodi, founded by Frederick Barbarossa, is a lively and happy city. Its main square, the Church of Saint Francis, the Cathedral, the Mozzanica Palace and the other historical buildings are interesting for a visit to the area. From Lodi, you can choose to continue the journey towards the Po river or to come back to Milan by bicycle on another cycleway that we tried some years ago.

The end of the journey on the Adda cycleway

From Lodi, the Adda takes us inevitably south, on cycle paths on mixed roads cutting the endless valley.pedalando lungo l addaIn Turano Lodigiano you will meet the crossing with the Francigena Way and the temptation to change the plans and keep pedaling towards Rome (and beyond!) is very strong. The Adda CycleWay, near Castiglione, meets the Canale Muzza dal from which it separated in Cassano, many km higher. The track seems to carry on forever and the signs of the Agricultural Park Adda South indicates that we're very far from the Alps and from the guide's source.ciclovia del poIn Maleo a small church attracts us while, looking at some brown signs, we understand that the Po river is close and that we're currently along the Po Cycleway. Here I remember riding some years ago when, during a small trip, I was pedaling from Senna Lodigiana along the Francigena Way...
From Maleo the road to the Adda mouth, in Castelnuovo Bocca d'Adda, is really short and the Po river finally appears behind the vegetation.
Riding along this river, on the same journey that this river does, seeing it starting small, then reaching its mouth in a bigger river is like living a life that isn't yours, a life that at the end never ends, because every day its waters renovate, and so we hope it to be...
foce dell adda
The nearest train station to come back north o get closer to the starting point is Pizzighettone, that you can reach in a short ride from the mouth of the Adda river. I suggest you to take your time and enjoy every village or town on the Adda river Cycleway
  • Bormio and its thermal baths, the kreuc and the Bojana Tower, symbols of the city
  • Grosio with the stunning Rupe Magna full of cave paintings and the castles of San Faustino and Visconti-Venosta
  • Teglio, the motherland of the famous pizzoccheri, with its buckwheat fields, Italian Slow Food
  • Lake Como with Lecco lakeside and the villages of Corenno Plinio, Varenna and Lierna
  • Lecco and Lodi, two beautiful cities to be discovered slowly
  • The Ecomuseo dedicated to Leonardo Da Vinci on the river Adda
  • How can I reach Bormio? By train from Milano Centrale you can easily reach Tirano, where the railway ends. From Tirano you can carry your bike on the bus by asking for it previously. Verify timetable and prices on the bus company website (ITA only).
  • Is this itinerary signposted? In the first stage in Valtellina from Bormio to Colico you can follow the signs of the Sentiero Valtellina. From Lecco to Cassano d'Adda you can find some signs, but to be sore not to get lost please follow the GPS track provided.
  • Are there water sources or fountains? On this itinerary there are many water sources especially in the villages and in Valtellina
  • How are the roads on the Adda Cycle Path? This itinerary is in good shape. The first part until Colico is totally on cycle way or secondary roads, the second part along the lakeside, pretty busy during the weekends. From Lecco to the end you'll have gravel roads, cycle paths and secondary roads.
  • How much does it cost to sleep on the Adda cycle path? You have many possibilities, from hotels to campings and apartments.
  • Where can I sleep on the Adda cycle path? The most comfortable localities to spend the night are Sondrio, Lecco and Lodi. We stayed at the Hotel Schenatti (cheap and good!) in Sondrio, at the Hotel Garnì Le corti in Grosotto (cozy and warm!) and at the Agriturismo Cavrigo in Lodi, where we had a spectacular dinner. If you want a whole apartment, take a look at AirBnB.
  • What can I eat along the Adda cycle path? The typical cooking from Valtellina is a must-try, with pizzoccheri, sciatt, bresaola, cheese and game. On Lake Como you can try fish (the very well known missultin with polenta), while in the southern part try raspadura cheese, Riš e landri and frogs... if you like it!
  • Where can I eat on the Adda cycle path?In Valtellina stop at the Locanda di Giovanna in Mazzo di Valtellina, in Teglio for a good dish of pizzoccheri, in Lodi at the Agriturismo Cavrigo, where you can also spend the night!
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Francesco Gozzelino

ITA - Ho 31 anni e sono piemontese, anche se da qualche anno vivo e lavoro in Lombardia. Dopo un inizio da totale inesperto in questo campo, mi sono avvicinato al mondo dei cicloviaggi e della bicicletta sempre più. Oggi posso definirmi "cicloviaggiatore", e assieme all'altra mia passione - il videomaking - non mi fermerei mai! Cyclo ergo sum, pedalo quindi sono, per cercare di capire perché andare in bici sia così bello, terapeutico, ricco... E ogni volta che provo a capirlo, non ce la faccio, e sono costretto a ripartire sui pedali!

ENG - I'm from Piedmont and I'm 31 years old, I have been living and working in Lombardy for a few years. After a start without any competence in this field, I then approached the bicycle world more and more. Today I can call myself a bicycle traveller and videomaker who would never ever stop. Cyclo ergo sum, I cycle therefore I am. I ride my bike trying to understand why it is so beautiful, rich, therapeutic. And every time I try, I do not understand it. So I must leave again...

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