Lombardy is a region rich in valleys, peaks and large lakes where many outdoor activities and sports are played. Between its two lakes, one of which is shared with Switzerland, you can pedal along the old railway dismissed for years now. The itinerary of the Menaggio - Porlezza old railway connects the lakes of Como and Lugano, crossing many villages and one natural reserve...
The story of a forgotten railway
The short but panoramic railway Menaggio to Porlezza was inaugurated in 1884 and has been active until 1939, 55 years of service. The idea of its realization was part of a bigger plan in the development of a connection net between the lakes of Lombardy (Lario, Lugano and Verbano) and central Europe through San Gottardo tunnel. Thanks to trains and boats you could easily travel through places. In 1966, after many happenings and two World Wars, this line was dismissed and afterward disarmed.
Menaggio - Porlezza old railway
Just above the lake city Menaggio, the former railway towards Porlezza on Lake Lugano starts. A sign panel tells the story of this disarmed railway running in the glacial valley of Val Menaggio (or Val Porlezza) and introduces to the visitors the cycle path through the nature between these two lakes. Behind the starting place, there is a parking, but if you're traveling by bicycle and you want to reach the starting point from Menaggio, you can follow the secondary roads climbing from the hostel on the lake until the beginning of the cycle path (you can download our GPS file).
Ready, set, go! The cycleway runs through Nature, parallel to the Sanagra river, and right away it gives us some beautiful sights on the hills and mountains surrounding the path and hugging Lake Como. Gradually the woods become thicker and the old railway path can be identified by its characteristics.A short tunnel lightens us before the stop in Cardano. In the old rail trail station, there is now a coffee shop where you can have a quick stop and eat a sandwich or take a look at old photos of the past. A mixed leg of this trail allows stopping by a fountain where you can fill the water bottles before continuing on the old railway path, interrupted in this village. You cross the State road 134, the Regina street, and you end up on the cycle path.In Bene Lario, a 330 inhabitants village, where there was the Bene - Grona railway, another leg of this journey totally into Nature begins, until the Natural Reserve Lago di Piano.
The Natural Reserve Lago di Piano
This natural pond is the natural continuation of Lake Lugano and has a surface of only 0,85 square km (even if the entire site covers a much bigger surface). During the winter it usually freezes, particularly in the shadow created by Monte Galbiga. The Natural Reserve, established in 1984, is populated by different ornithological species and by the freshwater shrimp.You can reach the visitor center of the Reserve by bicycle through the gravel bank. From the natural area, you keep pedaling through the river Cuccio, passing by the hamlet of Tavordo (village suppressed by the fascism in 1928) and reaching the Lugano lake banks and the village of Porlezza.
Porlezza and Antonio FogazzaroPorlezza is the final point of this cycle path along the former railway from Menaggio. From this point, you can decide either to come back by the same road, or by an alternative road, maybe gravel, or keep going towards Lugano and Switzerland as we did. Porlezza counts almost 5000 inhabitants, being a well-known touristic place in the province of Como. It is curious to know that in the city you can find the Pieve (church) of San Vittore, one of the 57 medieval churches of the old diocese of Milano. The writer and poet Antonio Fogazzaro quote many times Porlezza in his novel Piccolo mondo antico. The cycleway along the former railway Menaggio - Porlezza is an easy trail, for everyone even without any training. We suggest riding on it to families with children, considering the presence of some legs to be shared with traffic on secondary roads.
How to reach Menaggio
From Milan, Lecco, Bergamo or other cities of northern Italy you can reach the city of Varenna, on Como Lake, on the Lecco bank, with one of the regional trains going towards Valtellina. In Varenna you can then take a boat: check the scheduled departures and verify the possibility to carry the bike on the boat towards Menaggio that cruises also in winter.
Menaggio - Porlezza old railway by bicycle - 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 vote
I'm from Piedmont and I'm 30 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. 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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