- Cycle Tourism
- Active & Green
Lombardy by bike: five family-friendly routes
Mincio cycle path to the Naviglio di Bereguardo Along embankments and canals amidst vineyards and paddy fields. Five easy cycle routes in Lombardy. For a family-friendly bike ride.
1. Mincio cycle path (MN)
This route starts in Desenzano and joins the Mincio cycle path, otherwise known as the Peschiera Mantova. You can tell the kids that they’re very privileged: they are riding one of Italy’s very first cycle paths. The venerable path is a dedicated cycle route for almost its entire length and slopes gently downhill for 43.5 km along the Mincio. The only hard thing about it is deciding whether to go back the same way or return by train from Mantua. Beyond the river, your travelling companion is the landscape: rural, woodland and wetland scenes flash by, complete with peat bogs and fountains. The finish point in Mantua is surrounded by three lakes, Lago Superiore, Lago di Mezzo, and Lago Inferiore.
2. Naviglio Grande (MI)
The most quintessentially Lombard bike ride starts at the Church of San Cristoforo on the Alzaia Naviglio Grande in Milan. This is shown on Google Maps. From here, it's an easy jaunt, even for children, to the Ticino Valley natural park. The Naviglio Grande canal, skirted by a path for cyclists and walkers, was built to carry grain, timber and marble from Lake Maggiore to the Duomo construction site. After Trezzano (approximately 12 km from the Darsena), the roads become quieter and more traffic-free as they wend their way towards Cusago and Cisliano. Pick up the Naviglio cycle path again in the ancient hamlet of Robecco, with its fine 18th century pier. By now you’ll already have clocked up 30 kilometres. You can turn back to Abbiategrasso through the zero-growth village of Cassinetta di Lugagnano and return by train with your bikes.
3. Franciacorta (BS)
Back in the 16th-century, a man named Dr Conforti came to the happy conclusion that this garden-like morainic basin would be a good place to make sparkling wines. And the Franciacorta fizz is bound to come as a pleasant surprise on this route along undulating roads, between sloping terraces, parish churches, vineyards and monasteries. If you’re with children, it’s a good idea to take the partly protected cycle path from Paratico towards Brescia. The fully paved trail wanders through Clusane sul Lago and then strikes off toward the Torbiere del Sebino Nature Reserve, a picturesque patchwork of woodland and water traversed by 2 km of unsurfaced track. Kids and adults alike will love crossing the middle section on wooden walkways. The Cluniac Monastery of San Pietro in Lamosa offers fine views over the wetlands.
4. Valtellina path (SO)
Unbelievable as it sounds, you can cycle in the mountains with children, even without electric bikes. With bike hire points and well-appointed rest areas, the Valtellina path makes life easy: you can cycle the whole thing downhill and on the flat in the most central sections. The path for cyclists and walkers runs along the Adda, from Bormio (1225 metres) to Villa di Chiavenna (633 metres) through Tirano, Sondrio, Morbegno, Colico and Chiavenna, traversing a landscape of terraced vineyards: 114 km in the Valtellina area and 42 km in Val Chiavenna. The two routes meet in the Pian di Spagna and Lago di Mezzola Nature Reserve, a stopping-off place for migratory birds north of Lake Como. Because the railway runs parallel to the path for most of the route, you can choose any section of the path and still return by train, but don't leave before you’ve tasted bitto, the local cheese.
5. Naviglio di Bereguardo (PV)
In the summer of 1895, a then unknown Albert Einstein cycled through the Pavia area when visiting his family as a student. You could tell the kids that the waters of the Ticino might have inspired Einstein’s restless genius, which may or may not be true. One thing we can be certain of is that his piano is kept in Castello Visconteo, which houses Pavia’s Musei Civici. This bike route starts from the Ponte Coperto or Covered Bridge in Pavia and finishes in Abbiategrasso (40 km on the flat). Cycle past meanders and flood plains to the creaking Ponte delle Barche in Bereguardo. After the only slight hill on the route, join the Naviglio di Bereguardo cycle path and continue for 20 km alongside basins, locks and stone bridges. It’s well worth stopping off on the way to admire the Morimondo Abbey dating from 1136.
Photo: Mincio cycle path (Mantua) / Adobe Stock