Bergamo valleys and prealps
Riva di Solto
|Elevation gain||2500 m|
WHEN TO GO
The 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 the Camonica Valley
The evocative road that flanks the Bögn of Zorzino and that of Castro and then reaches Lovere passes through the lakefront of Riva di Solto.
We follow the same track of the itinerary around Lake Iseo till we meet the dirt banks of the river Oglio. 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 cycle path of the Camonica Valley that, here, is a cycle track. Following the indications (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.
The cycle way of the Camonica Valley is almost entirely in the territory of Brescia and connects Capo di Ponte and Pisogne but a link road till Costa Volpino has been set up too. Following the cycle way you reach soon Darfo Boario Terme, the last town of the valley before entering the Via Mala.
The name Via Mala is absolutely evocative: this ancient way of communication excavated by the river Dezzo connects the Camonica Valley to the 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.
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 the 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 the Via Mala, passing Gorzone, with its castle, Sciano, Terzano and facing the last climb to have access to Angolo Terme.
In Angolo the 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. The 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 the 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 the 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 passageway in iron.
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 the Scalve Valley.
The Presolana Pass and the Seriana Valley
In Dezzo di Scalve a junction indicates to continue to the right to the 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 the Via Mala and, in the distance, the mountains of the 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.
You 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 the Scalve Valley. 1297 m and we are on top: the Presolana Pass is the access gate to the Seriana Valley and is shared by three different municipalities, one of which is Angolo Terme, in the province of Brescia.
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 danse macabre by Giacomo Borlone di Buschis (two dances of death are visible also along the cycle path of the Rendena Valley and in Val di Genova, in Trentino, but 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 cycle path of the 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 the Val del Riso.
The Val del Riso and Colle di Zambla
The cycle path of the Val del Riso valley is a link road suitable for cycling that detaches from the 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.
To continue to the 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 the Valle del Riso are worth a few photographic stops.
The Colle di Zambla almost touches 1240 meters and is the pass connecting the Val del Riso and the Serina valley, preview of the Brembana Valley.
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.
From the Serina Valley to the Brembana Valley
Close to Oltre il Colle the road is again flat passing past Valpiana and getting soon to the junction to Serina. From above you catch sight of the town that gives the name to this secondary valley but, following the advice of a friend expert in the local area, we decide to turn right to Dossena and a new rise. The road indeed for several hundred meters starts again to ascend and then relax and continue flat to Dossena. One last hill gives us a breathtaking view on the Brembana Valley of San Giovanni Bianco before starting a descent.
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 the Pizzo del Diavolo di Tenda and flows into the river Adda.
Torquato Tasso said: "Terra che 'l Serio bagna e 'l Brembo inonda" (Land that the Serio flows and the Brembo floods), to define the strong character of the river that over the centuries flooded many times.
Once crossed the bridge across the waterway, close to the old railway station, you meet the cycle path of the Brembana Valley that connects Piazza Brembana to Zogno. Traveled by families, enthusiasts of racing bikes, cycling tourists and weekend cyclists, the track of the cycle path of the Brembana Valley crosses many old galleries dug in the rock following the ancient route of the train.
Unluckily in Zogno the cycle path 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 the 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.
The Cavallina Valley and Lake Iseo
From Bergamo there are two main ways to go back to Lake Iseo: the first one follows the piedmont cycle path almost touching the Po Valley, the second one crosses the Valcavallina valley touching Lake Endine and getting to Iseo. We decided to go along the 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 cycle path of the 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.
The 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.