Il Ghisallo

The sacred mountain climb close to the picturesque Lake Como has now become synonymous with Italian cycling both through its use in the Giro di Lombardia and occasionally over the years at the Giro d’Italia.

Il Ghisallo is maybe not the feared climb it was when introduced in 1919 to the Giro di Lombardia cycling monument, but it is still a classic climb that evokes memories of great Italian cycling moments.  

Italian legends have been made whilst riding this cherished climb, from 5-time Giro winner Alfredo Binda to the enigmatic Paulo Bettini who used Il Ghisallo to launch his winning moves for his two wins in the Giro di Lombardia in 2005 and 2006.

No other climb invokes the senses quite like Il Ghisallo as the leaves turn red and it is truly the perfect cycling climb to ride in the Autumn. The Santuario della Madonna del Ghisallo at the peak of the climb greets and offers refuge to its visitors on two wheels. Be sure to visit the monument to cyclists that lies between the Madonna del Ghisallo chapel and the cycling museum that opened in 2006.

The Climb in Detail

“A Century of cycle races has given us many 'sacred' mountains, but one just a little more holy than all the rest” - Mountain High


The Ascents

Il Ghisallo at 754m high can be climbed from Erba to the south and Onno to the east but both don’t incapsulate the legend of the climb to the Santuario della Madonna del Ghisallo. The ascent that has become infamous due to the use in Il Lombadia starts in the stunning town of Bellagio and rises quickly away from the Lakes shores, maxing out at a gradient of 14% before a plateau to the middle of the climb is curtailed by 2 km of around 9%.



The Church of “Madonna del Ghisallo”

An old folk tale had it that the Santuario had been built by the Madonna herself in the Middle Ages, as the last request of a gentleman named Ghisallo as he was attacked by brigands. By, the 1930s and ’40s, the climb’s decisive role in the Giro di Lombardia and the Giro d’Italia, turned the chapel into a place of pilgrimage for cyclists. In 1949, Pope Pius XII proclaimed the Madonna del Ghisallo their patron saint. Pius blessed a torch that was then carried by the nation’s best riders all the way to the Ghisallo. 

It’s place at the Giro di Lombardia

The climb from Bellagio to the Santuario della Madonna del Ghisallo on a southern spur of Lake Como made its debut in the 1919 Tour of Lombardy. It introduced the classics races, as they were to be known, to the agony and joy of riding up mountain climbs. It still to this day is featured in the ‘race of the falling leaves’ as one of the main deciding factors in who will take the victory in the final monument each year.

"It's not the awful climb it once was, before the road was paved, but it's still a tough one" - Magni 

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Como Province (LUG,MXP)
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