Colle Madonna del Ghisallo - Tour: 4 h
The “Hill of Ghisallo” is a mountain road pass connecting Valsassina with the high part of the Larian Triangle.
The passage is at 754 m. above sea level and belongs to the Municipality of Magreglio: very close to it is situated a small church: the Sanctuary of Madonna del Ghisallo.
According to an old legend, the name comes from a certain Ghisallo who, in medieval times, was attacked by a group of brigands: he made a vow to Our Lady to erect a church in her honour if he had survived.
The climb of Ghisallo (Northern side) is traditionally included into the Giro di Lombardia and has been often included in the course of Giro d’Italia, too.
For this reason the small church is particularly venerated by all the cyclists/cyclers. In addition to this and thanks to don Ermelindo Viganò, (1906-1985), Parish priest at that time, Pope Pio XII proclaimed this Madonna, universal Patron Saint of the cyclists.
On this occasion a votive torch, blessed by the Pope himself, was brought from Rome to the Sanctuary by a relay team of cyclists. The last two torch-bearers were Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi.
Next to the Sanctuary there is the Museum of the Cycling while in the opposite square there are the statues of the two unforgettable champions Bartali and Coppi. In 2011 was added the bust of another great champion: Alfredo Binda.
You can climb to the Sanctuary from two different sides. When we talk of Ghisallo or Madonna del Ghisallo, nearly always the cyclists mean/intend the most difficult route, the one starting from Bellagio, that is the Northern side. The alternative route (South side) starts in Erba and reaches the village of Magreglio through Canzo and Asso. It is less difficult and has significant difficulties (slope a one in ten gradient) only in the last kilometer and a half.
The climbing presents a quite constant slope with an average slightly below 9% and peaks of about 14%. The average slope is about 5,5%. The road is completely surrounded by woods but there are a lot of hairpin bends especially in the final part.
Among the cycling champions (above all Italians, but also from other countries) there is the tradition to donate one’s relics to the Sanctuary of Ghisallo: inside we can see the bycicles used by Bartali, Coppi and Eddy Merckx for their victories at the Tour or the special bike used by Francesco Moser for his hour-world record and a lot of pink, yellow and rainbow-coloured jerseys.
In the 90s, these relics were so numerous that there wasn’t any place left in the small church, so it was decided to build a Museum of cycling next to the Sanctuary. Fiorenzo Magni was designed to preside over the Committee for the realization of the Museum.
The Museum was opened on 14 October 2006, on the occasion of the Giro di Lombardia. A lot of present and past champions took part in the ceremony. The Museum develops on three floors and it includes some multimedia material on cycling. The most precious relics, anyway, are still displayed into the small church.
Inside the Museum you can visit the biggest collection of pink jerseys in the world. Thanks to the project “Giro for Ghisallo” it was possible to recover and show more than fifty original pink jerseys dating back to the 30s to nowadays.