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Menaggio - Porlezza old railway by bicycle

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.veccia ferrovia in bici

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 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).galleria vecchia ferrovia

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.bar la stazione menaggio porlezzaA short tunnel lightens us before the stop in Cardano. In the old rail train 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.passaggio suggestivo verso porlezzaIn 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.indicazioni menaggio porlezza

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 freshwater shrimp.caccia alle papere nalaYou 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.riserva lago di piano

Porlezza and Antonio Fogazzaro

Porlezza 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. riserva lago di piano in biciIt 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. porlezza lagoThe 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 ferry towards Menaggio that cruises also in winter.

On our website, you can find other old railways to be cycled while, if you're traveling in Lombardy, discover the other cycle paths of the region.

  • Menaggio with Garibaldi sq., its Grand Hotel and villas
  • Lago di Piano Natural Reserve
  • Porlezza and Lugano lake
  • How can I reach the starting point in Menaggio? From Milan you can reach Como by train. From there you can catch a ferry until Bellagio and then Menaggio. Come back from Porlezza cycling back on the old railway.
  • When is the best period to cycle on the old railway Menaggio - Porlezza? The best months to visit these places are for sure April and May in spring or September and October in autumn. The area is stunning during the blossoming and the foliage.
  • The itinerary is not signposted, but the tracks of the old railway are well evident. Please consider downloading the GPS track.
  • On the itinerary you can find many water sources to fill your water bottles.
  • Connected itineraries: by following this side of the lake towards the North, mainly on cycle ways and gravel roads, you can continue on the Val Chiavenna way or on the Sentiero Valtellina.
  • The old railway itinerary is short, but alla round you have many possibilities to continue the journey and connect to other itineraries. For the night you might consider staying in Menaggio or in Porlezza to enjoy the atmosphere of the two lake villages. If you want to be totally free take a look at AirBnB
  • One of the typical dishes from Lake Como, also sang by Davide Van De Sfroos is polenta with missoltini, little fishes cooked following the traditional recipe. Another popular dish is risotto with perch.
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Francesco - Life in Travel

ITA - Ho 33 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 33 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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