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near Orta San Giulio, Piemonte (Italia)
This cycling trip takes you along 5 lakes and includes a 4.6 km ferry trip. Highlights are the Orta San Giulio and Lago d’Orta, the view from the Ticino bridge, the cycling path around Lago di Varese, the cycling path between Cittiglio and Laveno, and the ferry across Lago Maggiore. The trip is suited for a road bike, except for 700 m of course gravel on the cycling path between Gavirate and Cocquio (see waypoint, also on how to avoid this stretch). In the cycling path between Cittiglio and Laveno a few small stretches are semi-paved, but these are no problem on a road bike. This trip includes some moderate climbs, but is relatively flat. Some of the roads along the lakes were quite busy, but they do offer great views.
I started the trip in Orta San Giulio where I was staying. The track starts on a paid parking lot for the touristic village. You then directly go down to the central square in the village on cobblestone roads with stone slabs for cars and bicycles. You continue along the shore of the peninsula on a similar road, which later turns into asphalt. Past Villa Crespi you turn onto the main road along the lake (SP229), which can be busy. You follow the lake and at the end you climb to a graveyard close by Bolzano Novarese. You continue through Invorio and Paruzzaro to Oleggio Castello. Here you cycle on a quieter road past the nature park Lagondi di Mercurago. Shortly after, you get your first glimpse of Lago Maggiore. You continue to the bridge across the Ticino river. Although this bridge is very busy, the views of the river, the lake and the snowcapped Monta Rosa mountains in the background are great. You follow the main road along the lake for a short while, and then turn away in the direction of Lago di Monate. Via San Giorgio and Lentate Verbano you ride through nice countryside to the lake. You cycle around the west side of the lake with only occasional glimpses of the lake. You then descend towards Lago Varese. You take the cycling path along the west side of the lake to Gavirate, with great views of the lake. In Gavirate you turn away from the lake and continue to Cocquio. The cycling path between the villages is nicely asphalted apart from 700 m of course gravel which are not really suited for a racing bike. If you want to avoid this, you have to take an alternative route in Gavirate (see waypoint). You continue to Gemonio and on to Cittiglio, avoiding the main road as much as possible. In Cittiglio you enter another cycling path taking you through the valley to Laveno. Here, you take the ferry across the lake to Intra. In Intra, you follow the coast to Verbania. After Verbania, you have to follow the main road long the lake for a while, which can be very busy. In Fondotoce, you leave this road and continue along the fifth lake, the Lago di Mergozzo. Past Mergozzo you follow the Toce valley to the bridge and then into Gravellona Toce. Here, you take a small but steep road away from the main road to Granerolo. In Granerolo you descend to Omegna, and then ride on the center of the town on the shore of Lago d’Orta. Here, you follow the lake out of town and then choose the climb to Agrano. This is a scenic and relatively quiet stretch with the Mottarone mountain to the north. In Pratolungo, you descend back to the lake and then follow the main road along the lake back to Orta San Giulio.
You can find something to eat and drink in multiple locations, e.g. Orta San Giulio, Cadrezzate, Laveno, Intra, Verbania, Mergozzo and Omegna.
If you want to avoid the 700 m of coarse gravel on the otherwise attractive cycling path between Gavirate and Cocquio, you have to turn right here and follow the main road SS394 towards Laveno.
Here you enter the cycling path around Lago di Varese (see e.g. https://www.piste-ciclabili.com/itinerari/97-ciclopedonale-lago-di-varese). This is a great paved cycling path along the lake away from the roads, with great views. Some turns are quite sharp, watch your speed.
See e.g. http://vareseguida.com/pista-ciclabile-cittiglio-laveno/ for more information. This cycling path takes you through the valley away from the main roads.
Here starts a cycling path, which initially seems greatly paved, but which turns into 700 m of coarse gravel before turning into smooth asphalt again. Hopefully, they will pave this path completely shortly. If you want to avoid the gravel, you have to take another route in Gavirate (see separate waypoint).
From here you descend back to the lake with great views.
Here you have to take the ferry to Intra. See http://www.navigazionelaghi.it/eng/m_orari.asp. Single ticket for a bike including passenger costs 5 €.
The Lago d'Orta is the first of the five lakes you see.
The Lago di Mergozzo is the last of the five lakes you see.
The Lago di Monate is the third of the five lakes you see.
The Lago di Varese is the fourth of the five lakes you see.
The Lago d'Orta is the second of the five lakes you see. The first time is on the south side, and then when you cross the lake and ride along it past Verbania.
Town on the north side of the Lago d'Orta
Picturesque town on a peninsula on the Lago d'Orta, with a sacred mount, and views of the little island Isola San Giulio.
Here you ride on a path away from the road below the bridge, for better views of the Ticino river.
Here you turn away from Lago Maggiore and ride to Lago di Monate via San Giorgio and Lentate Verbano
Bridge across the Ticino river. The bridge is very busy with traffic. It is worth stopping to enjoy the view, but watch out for the traffic when you do so.
Town on the shores of Lago Maggiore. The route you take is less busy with traffic and offers good views of the lake.
This small road can be steep in places and takes you to Granerolo.