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The valleys of Bergamo by bicycle: from Lake Iseo through the Prealps

Via Mala by bicycle
Iseo Lake is an excellent starting point for a travel to go discovering the Prealps and valleys of Bergamo by bicycle.
From Riva di Solto, on the Bergamo shore of the lake, you travel for about 190 km an itinerary, mixed secondary roads with low-traffic and old communication channels, natural balconies on deep, enchanting gorges. The length of the journey requires two days at least, if you want to fully enjoy what surrounds you, I suggest that you give three full days to this itinerary in the valleys of Bergamo. 
 
 

Map

 
Sebino is a Lake of Lombardy from where starts this route among the Prealps and the valleys of Bergamo: a basin, two passes, 6 different valleys, two old railways turned into cycle paths and such a beautiful city like Bergamo

From Riva di Solto to Camonica Valley

The evocative road that flanks the Bogn di Zorzino and that of Castro and then reaches Lovere, passes through the lakefront of Riva di Solto. partenza lago d iseoWe follow the same track of the itinerary around Lake Iseo till we meet the dirt banks of Oglio river. Instead of continuing towards Pisogne you stay on the track that runs along the water edge among funny, rocky passages. In a few hundred meters you crop up on the real cycleway of Camonica Valley. Following the signals (present and accurate) of the cycle itinerary you reach the bridge for cyclists and pedestrians of the river Oglio which is necessary to cross before resuming our trip in the province of Brescia. ponte pedonale valle camonicaThe cycle way of Camonica Valley is almost entirely in the territory of Brescia and connects Ponte di Legno and Pisogne notwithstanding a link road till Costa Volpino has been set up too. Following the cycle way reach soon Darfo Boario Terme, the last town of the valley before entering  Via Mala.
ciclovia valle camonica
 

Via Mala

The name Via Mala is absolutely evocative: this ancient way of communication excavated by the river Dezzo connects Camonica Valley to  Scalve Valley. Over the centuries the water stream has dug a deep gorge in a pristine environment. The road, in its most tortuous stretch, was built overlooking the water flowing tens of meters below. For some points of this incredible road it was extremely demanding to keep it safe, so they decided to replace them with gallery passages and nature is slowly consuming the asphalt making the old Via Mala increasingly inaccessible. To visit it by bicycle avoiding most traffic congested stretches it is necessary to have tires also suitable for dirt roads or travelling directly with a mountain bike.forra via mala
From Darfo the road, shared with other road users, immediately starts to go up and after one kilometer you get to the junction for the Parco comunale delle incisioni rupestri di Luine. The rock carvings found in Camonica Valley were the first Italian site to be declared Unesco Heritage site and we seized the moment to visit those of Luine notwithstanding they are a secondary site.
By bicycle it is possible to reach the entry to the attraction and park your bike just after the gate (ask to the reception desk). Access is free and the whole visit lasts about 30 minutes. The park is well-finished and some rock carving are clearly visible: you’ll notice the Camunian rose, later become also the symbol of the Lombardy region, the warriors on horseback and the dancers
We take again the road constantly climbing Via Mala, passing Gorzone, with its castle, Sciano, Terzano and facing the last climb to have access to Angolo Terme. In Angolo Via Mala formally starts. One meter after the beginning of the first gallery you can take the old secondary road, still asphalted, on the right that meanders in the vegetation. Soon the asphalt becomes an insidious dirt road that is a hard testing for driving the vehicle with loads, anyway fun is granted. At about twenty meters from the end of the gallery the old road stops and you have to go back to the main road. Don’t forget your head torch at home.ciclabile via mala
Via Mala follows the river Dezzo for a long trait: after a rainy day or during the melting season, streams fall down luxuriant from the arduous rocky walls getting together with the waters of Dezzo and the show is amazing..
Soon you meet again the old road now almost turned into a thin strip of asphalt among the greenery of shrubs and blackberry bush. Among narrow roads and the old road in its original dimensions you reach the old casa cantoniera used as food court. From the bar starts the finest stretch of Via Mala, an open-air museum overlooking the slow flow of the river Dezzo. You continue to go up, but gently, you go past two galleries dug into the stone and one-of-a-kind passage way in iron.tracciato via mala
The road widens again but a ban road sign suggests that it’s better not to continue because no maintenance has been carried out and each person must venture at its own risk and danger.
From the ban sign on the Via Mala becomes really a wild place: asphalt flanks the deep gorge of the river Dezzo, water slips on the rocky walls creating puddles and rivulets, a rocky half-arcade stays on top of the adventurers like a natural roof and the show is incredible.
The old road still goes on starting to flank the recently built gallery. We continued till the end of the asphalt but the old road is closed close to a gallery barred with stones. Unluckily, close to the mixed gallery, it is necessary to switch on the lights and cycle in the tunnel for about 200 meters before going back outdoors, at the entrance of Scalve valley.
 

Presolana Pass and Seriana Valley

In Dezzo di Scalve a junction indicates to continue to the right to Scalve Valley and to the left to the Presolana Pass and the Seriana Valley. We follow the asphalt on the left and slowly start to climb the road of the pass. The first kilometers are mild and make us breath admiring the peaks on top of  Via Mala and, in the distance, the mountains of  Adamello. Anyway after the first 4 km, the hairpin bends become more accentuated and straight roads almost reaches a gradient of 14% putting our resistance to the test.salita passo della presolanaYou feel the fatigue and each pedal is more and more difficult. The last hairpin bends of the Presolana Pass make breath again with beautiful landscapes of Scalve Valley. 1297 m and we are on top: the Presolana Pass is the access gate to Seriana Valley and is shared by three different municipalities, one of which is Angolo Terme, in the province of Brescia.passo presolana
From the pass you go down on the main road passing different locations till you get to Clusone, at an altitude of 647 metri. Clusone is surrounded by pleasant peaks and its historical center is worth a visit with the Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta, the Disciplini oratory with the macabre dance by Giacomo Borlone di Buschis (two dances of death are visible also along the cycleway of Rendena Valley and in Val di Genova, in Trentino, but they are attributed to Simone II Baschenis), the Town Hall and the Fogaccia Palace.
We spent the night in Clusone staying at the Bonaventura guesthouse for 40€ a couple (it’s close to a pizzeria, at about 1 km from the town center). From Clusone the cycleway of Seriana Valley starts, a cycle path that retraces the track of the old railway. Nature surrounds the itinerary and the plain in front of Clusone relaxes your spirit. You go down pedaling till Ponte Nossa where a subway for bicycles leads to the beginning of Riso valley.ciclovia val seriana
 

Riso valley and Colle di Zambla

The cycle path of Val del Riso valley is a link road suitable for cycling that detaches from  Seriana Valley and ventures into the valley with the same name, going up constantly with slopes suitable also for families. Following the stream Riso you cycle till the village with the same name where the cycle path ends and where it’s possible to visit the old mine.val del riso ciclovia To continue to Colle di Zambla it is necessary to leave the cycle path one kilometer earlier to go back to the SP46 road. The main road climbs with difficulty among small mountain villages, long hairpin turns and landscapes increasingly beautiful. The bags are heavy and the tops enclosing  Valle del Riso are worth a few photographic stops. Colle di Zambla almost touches 1240 meters and it is the pass connecting Val del Riso and Serina valley, preview of Brembana Valley.panorama val del riso
From the hill, where you can stop to taste polenta and melted cheese or the traditional casoncelli alla bergamasca, you go down passing through Zambla Alta, Mincucco, Oltre il Colle... Mount Alben and Pizzo Arera dominate the scene with their unmistakable silhouettes
 
In San Giovanni Bianco, San Gioàn Biànch in the local dialect, the river Brembo flows, which over the millennia outlined the profile of the valley. The river Brembo is born from  Pizzo del Diavolo di Tenda and flows into Adda river.
Torquato Tasso, the poet, said: "Terra che 'l Serio bagna e 'l Brembo inonda" (Land that Serio river flows and Brembo river floods), to define the strong character of the river that over the centuries flooded many times. ponte san giovanni bianco
Unfortunately in Zogno the cycleway ends and to skip the traffic towards Bergamo it is necessary to follow secondary roads. Therefore from Zogno you cross the river Brembo tightening your teeth on the hike to Stabello.
The climb is really steep and about one kilometer long. Once the climb is over, after ups and downs and flat stretches, you reach Cassettone, Cacosio and the entrance to Sedrina. In Sedrina you cross again the river Brembo continuing to cycle on a secondary road to Ubiale and Almenno San Salvatore. You reach soon the labyrinth of cycle paths that distinguish Parco dei colli di Bergamo, at the access gates to the city. If you have never visited Bergamo, after having fun on the gangways, paths and climbs of the Park, stop in Bergamo for your second night. Visiting Bergamo is something you have to do at least once in your life.salita colli bergamaschi

Valcavallina and Iseo lake

From Bergamo there are two main ways to go back to Lake Iseo: the first one follows the piedmont cycle path almost touching Po Valley, the second one crosses Valcavallina valley touching Lake Endine and getting to Iseo. We decided to go along Valcavallina and from Bergamo we ventured into the villages of Scanzorosciate, Negrone, Albano Sant'Alessandro, San Paolo d'Argon reaching the town of Lorenzo Lotto and thermal baths: Trescore Balneario. Trescore is worth a stop for a quick visit to the square and a breakfast with croissant and cappuccino in the well-known pastry shop by Giovanni Pina. From Trescore starts the cycleway of  Valcavallina that, following stretches of cycle path and mixed secondary roads goes beyond Lake Endine (going along its southern shore), reaching Piangaiano where you test yourself with funny dirt roads till the opening of the last climb. lago di endineThe final rise ends in Solto Collina from where you enjoy a beautiful view on the lake before going down to Riva di Solto, our starting point and arrival of the 3-day itinerary suitable for cycling among the valleys of Bergamo.
  • Lake Iseo with its alpine landscapes and the highest island of all European lakes. You can follow the whole lake by bicycle.
  • The Via Mala, this ancient medieval road between Val di Scalve and Valle Camonica
  • Clusone with its astronomical clock and the Oratory of the disciplines with the terrific Danza Macabra
  • San Pellegrino Terme with water known throughout the world and the controversial Art Nouveau Casino
  • The splendid Upper Bergamo with the Venetian walls became part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites
  • I do not recommend the journey in winter due to the ice along the Via Mala and the possibility of snow at high altitude
  • The best seasons to tackle the cycle route are late spring and early autumn, perhaps avoiding weekends (many motorbikes on the way!)
  • Part of the track takes place on cycle paths (two old railways converted into cycling routes!), while the rest follows secondary roads
  • The route of the Via Mala is mostly on dirt and single trail invaded by weeds. If you want to follow the main road instead of the dirt road I suggest you follow the route in the opposite direction so you will pedal downhill (there are galleries!)
  • The lakes of Iseo and Endine are both suitable for swimming. If it's hot, take advantage of it!

We spent the night in Clusone staying at the Bonaventura guest house for € 40 in two (it is near a pizzeria, about 1 km from the center), but there are also other alternatives such as apartments on airbnb  discounted if you are not registered yet or the camping. In Bergamo and in the Brembana Valley (San Giovanni Bianco and San Pellegrino in particular) there are other alternatives to stay at a good price (especially in low season!)

  • At Lake Iseo, try the baked tench, a fish from the lake, dressed with olive oil from the area
  • In the entire province of Bergamo do not miss the Casonsei;
  • In Val Seriana taste the Tosei from Rovetta
  • Try the Spongada, a typical dessert in ValCamonica
  • In the valleys, taste the numerous malga cheeses and not, accompanied by yellow polenta. The best known is the Branzi of the Brembana Valley
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Veronica

Correva l'anno 1983: anch'io vidi per la prima volta la luce del sole estivo e sorrisi. 
Da sempre col pallino per l'avventura (nessun albero poteva resistermi!) ho avuto la fortuna di girare l'Europa e l'Italia con i miei genitori e poi, per la maturità, mi sono regalata un viaggio in 2 cavalli da Milano verso la Russia.
Ho vissuto 6 anni in Trentino godendo della bellezza della Natura, delle montagne e, devo ammetterlo, della MTB! Al momento ritenuto giusto, ho mollato il lavoro senza alcun rimpianto per volare in Nuova Zelanda dove ho viaggiato per cinque mesi in solitaria. Nel 2007 ho provato per la prima volta l'esperienza di un'avventura a due ruote e, da quel momento, non ne ho potuto più fare a meno... così, dopo alcune brevi esperienze in Europa, nel 2010 sono partita con Leo per un lungo viaggio in bicicletta nel Sud Est asiatico, la nostra prima vera grande avventura insieme! All'Asia sono seguite le Ande, il Marocco, il Sudafrica e Lesotho... e il #noplansjourney...
Se non siamo in viaggio, viviamo sul lago d'Iseo!
Su lifeintravel.it trovi tutti i nostri grandi viaggi insieme (e non)!
Carpediem e buone pedalate!

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