The Triangolo Lariano is the triangle of land between the two ‘legs’ of Lake Como. If you are staying a few days and have a car, it is really worth taking a tour of this area, because it gives you a quite different perspective on the lake, its history and way of life. Here you will find villages untouched by tourism, and even areas of agriculture virtually unchanged for a century. The triangle is dominated by Monte San Primo (1600m), towering above Bellagio. A two-day trek leads from Brunate above Como to Bellagio, passing San Primo with stupendous views of the Lecco leg of the lake. If you want to do this, you can stay overnight in the Rifugio di Colma.
As well as trekking, the triangle is noted for cycling, and a popular challenge is to cycle route taken by the Tour of Italy bike race, cliimbing from Bellagio to the pretty village of Magreglio, home of the Madonna del Ghisallo. To follow this route by car, follow signs for Erba. The road climbs steeply giving some spectacular views back over Bellagio, before levelling out to pass Civenna and enter Magreglio.
If you have ever wondered whether serious cyclists have a spiritual relationship with their bikes, here at Magreglio is proof that they do, in the form of a church dedicated to the bike. The little church is lined with bikes and cycling memorabilia, most poignantly rumpled bicycle that Fabio Casartelli, a native of the region, rode on the day that he died in a crash in the Tour de France. The Madonna del Ghisallo (via the ascent from Bellagio in the north) has become a regular part of the Tour of Lombardy and Tour of Italy cycle events, and Pope Pius XII declared the Madonna del Ghisallo to be the patron saint of cyclists.
Recently a brand new museum of cycling and cycle engineering has been opened close to the church. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from April through to October, and every day from 1 June to 31 August.
To continue the tour, continue southwards towards and then turn right towards Sormano. Follow the road up, with several hairpin bends, to the village of Sormano and then continue up to the pass of Colma. Now you are on the slopes of the mountain. At the pass you can stop for a coffee at the rifugio and admire the stunning view across the plain of Lombardy. On a very clear day, after rain, you can even see as far as the Ligurian Alps. The road then descends to the Pian del Tivano. This is a popular area for picnics and barbecues on a summer Sunday afternoon. Go there and you will find hundreds of escaped Milanesi, sunbathing and cooking sausages, and shopping in the market that seems to appear from nowhere. This road, the only one to cross the triangle, then drops down through Zelbio to Nesso. Nesso is an interesting settlement of three small parishes. It has a gorge, the orrido di Nesso, with a torrent that crashes down into the lake. Where it enters the lake there is a 4th century Roman footbridge and portico, well worth going down to see. From Nesso you can turn north to go back to Bellagio.