Travel: Join Silvio Martinello at Lake Como’s Il Perlo
I first reported on this gem a few years back when the Mrs. Pez & I discovered it on a trip to Lago di Como. It’s ideally located on the climb of the Madonna del Ghisallo, and makes a perfect base for any holiday, but even better for the Giro di Lombardia – which passes right by. This year guests can enjoy a weekend of riding, racing, and Italian life on the lake with ’96 Olympic Gold medallist Silvio Marinello.
Since we first visited in 2004, Il Perlo has grown from more than just a great place to stay above the lake to offering several services and packages geared specifically for cyclists. We’ve talked many times about the region and why you should visit, and each year the hotel’s proprietor – Carlo Sancasso – offers another memorable way to take in the regions signature cycling event – the Giro di Lombardia.
In addition to various holiday packages geared to more traditional stays, near the top of my list of ‘trips I’ve never done but really want to’ is their Weekend Riding with Silvio Martinello in October 19-21, 2012 – on the traditional dates of the Giro di Lombardia. While the actual 2012 race has been moved to Sept. 28 by the UCI, the traditional October dates are when the leaves have really changed color, and paint a spectacular setting for riding and enjoying the area.
Silvio Martinello – the former road pro in the 1980’s – 90’s and gold medalist on the track points race at the 1996 Atlanta summer Olympics – will host guests at a casual reception at the Madonna del Ghisallo Cycling Museum, then guide them around the key climbs of this year’s Race of the Falling Leaves.
For a little more convincing, read below for my refresher on hotel Il Perlo, and why I love this region so much.
I’ve been lucky to enjoy several trips to Europe and many to Italy in the 8 years since I launched PezCycling, and as our readership has evolved into a community of fans who love to ride, eat and drink in the exotic locations of our sport, I feel some responsibility to pass along bits I’ve learned that could be useful for any PEZ-fan travelling abroad.
The town of Bellagio is the shining jewel on Lake Como’s glistening shores.
In Spring 2010 I added a day trip to the area as part of my journey to Milan-Sanremo, and enjoyed one of my best rides ever – see it here: TopRide: Lombardia Corsa.
It’s no secret I love riding, eating & drinking in Italy, and while the country itself is filled with unique and worthwhile places to visit and ride, I never tire of Lago di Como just north of Milan. Driving in Como itself is a bit of a cluster… but it serves as a decent anchor if you need anything a bigger city has to offer. The local environs offer a huge variety of riding, lodging and dining options that could easily fill a week’s worth of Top Rides and leave you with a memorable trip indeed.
Nestled in the southern Alps, next to Switzerland, the region is home to some great rides, climbs, scenic vistas, and a certain hubbub that has made this lake a destination for the rich & famous for a couple of centuries. It also hosts the Giro di Lombardia, my favorite Monument that I’ve never been to (yet).
One town you’ll not want to miss is Bellagio – pretty much the jewel in the crown that is Lago di Como. Like so much of Italy, Spring and Fall are the best times to go, but personally I like Fall because the weather is usually consistently dry and temps perfect for riding, the leaves are showing some color, and of course it coincides with some great racing like the Giro di Lombardia – coming this year on October 16th.
The region’s proximity to Milan affords an easy trip to soak of the atmosphere and negronis in one of the stylish cafes near the Duomo.
In 2004 I visited the area with Mrs. Pez, and we discovered in a small hotel on Lake Como called : Il Perlo Panorama , above Bellagio on the climb to the Madonna del Ghisallo church. The quiet surroundings and breath taking views were enough to warrant a return visit – but its location on the route for the Giro di Lombardia, make it a worthy stop for any PEZ Fan …
Now is the time to plan that visit to the Race of the Falling Leaves, and Il Perlo’s owner Carlo has a number of great options available for PEZ-Fans wanting to take in the full majesty of the area – see those at the bottom of this page.
But first read this article I wrote in 2009 about what makes Il Perlo such a cool place to stay…
Meet Il Perlo Panorama
Our stay in 2004 was preceded by a few days in London and Milan – exciting cities but also crowded and tiring. Escaping the September heat of the cities, our first night in Il Perlo was a refreshing change where we both slept like babies.
Here’s the view from your room…
Opening the window shutters revealed a stunning and panoramic view of all three arms of the lake, plus miles of surrounding countryside. Beautiful indeed. Our stay precluded my now well documented love affair with the negroni, but I can tell you a glass of single malt tasted even better when sipped from the hotel’s terrace.
…And here’s the view from even higher.
But more importantly for PEZ-Fans is the hotel’s location – 4km above Bellagio right on the climb to the Madonna del Ghisallo – which is THE place to watch the key race action develop during the Giro di Lombardia.
The hotel Il Perlo Panorma has featured in many a story on PEZ since then, (see it here: Top Rides: The Climb to Madonna del Ghisallo) and I’ve confidently recommended it to enquiring PEZ fans any time someone wanted a good base with excellent riding in the area. It turns out that more than a few of you took my advice and booked a stay.
The legend Fausto Coppi solos past Il Perlo enroute to a win at Giro di Lombardia c.1950.
That word of mouth has come back as a blessing, and hotel owner Carlo Sancassano recently contacted me with info about some great deals they’re offering to guests who stay during the World Championships and Giro di Lombardia.
So if you’ve wanted to visit northern Italy and see either of these two great races (and who doesn’t) – you can rest assured that a stay here will only add to memories of an awesome vacation. I asked Carlo to tell us a bit more about the fabulous property…
The hotel appears in photos from at least 1939, and shows up regularly in archival shots of the Giro di Lombardia. Tell us about the history of the hotel.
Carlo: Hotel was built in 1921 by my Grandfather: he bought the land, cut the edge of the hill building up the original home. Since that time il Perlo was a little Hotel, kind of postal retreat on the way to Milano: it was a “latteria” a little bar with a kitchen and with 4 rooms for rent. Rooms were for the servants of the Aristocratic families coming to Bellagio for the summer holiday.
The property has always been a family property: the entire family was running hotels around France, Lake Como and the Dolomites during the 20th century until 1973 when mom and dad came back to il Perlo and started the renovation: first with a restaurant and a few rooms, then developing year by year the Bed and Breakfast solution: in 1999 we did close the restaurant and built some new Veranda Junior suites overlooking the lake there…
Right out your front door: If you think this looks nice, wait till you see the views from the hotel for yourself. And that road to the left? That’s the climb to the Madonna del Ghisallo.
“Il Perlo Panorama”- what’s the story behind the name?
Carlo: “Il Perlo” is the name of a little creek near the hotel and the hamlet was called il Perlo. Panorama is easy to understand: from the top of our little hill you can see Lake Como almost entirely.
Tell us a bit about yourself – how long have you been in the hotel business?
Carlo: The Hotel business is something inside my family history: since 1921 we are all running hotels and believe me, Bellagio is a perfect location to run an Hotel, dealing with the international market we are used to. Hosting and serving customers is our DNA, and the location we have here makes it even easier, then the idea of joining it with everyone makes the job an easier job.
We are running il Perlo with the idea of a home hosting more than a traditional hotel and we are present at the hotel most of the time, just to follow and take care of all our guests, and sometimes some of them are even becoming friends.
The current building looks much the same as it did in this photo from 1939.
Are you a cyclist yourself?
Carlo: I am not a real cyclist, I admit, but I grew up watching 8 or 9 races a year riding the Ghisallo and always thought cyclist were kind of heroes, or perfect body machines: during the race they could ride up this 14% steep hill in front of the hotel at 18kph and it was something stunning. I did ride the climb of the Ghisallo a couple of times, but not being a cyclist it was like a never ending nightmare…
As an Italian living in such a beautiful area of Italy, and looking at the lake every day – what do you think is most special about the area?
Carlo: Gardens and Villas on the central part of the lakes are surely the most important attraction of Lake Como. Then all the little villages on the lake, respecting old fashion architectures are really something to experience on the Lake. The charm of Bellagio and all lake Como is surely the ambience and the sense of intimacy that it releases. Of course the area is big and offers different kind of activities, sports or cultural and enogastronomic. Lake Como is famous for the glamour and of course shopping is not bad here and around….
On your website there is a video of the area, filmed from an airplane. The pictures are stunning – how did you get them?
Carlo: Thanks to Promobellagio, the local hotel association providing promotional and touristical service. They produced these videos 2 years ago with the aim of promote the beauty of Bellagio.
With airlines gouging cyclists who travel with their bikes, leaving one’s trusty steed at home is becoming more a necessity. But it’s been difficult to find decent road bikes for rent in Italy….
Carlo: We have a special collaboration Como Lago Bike in Como, who offer racing bikes for rent at the hotel and help me with any request about cycling here.
The city of Como resides nearby at the bottom of the lake’s west arm, and hosts the finish of the Giro di Lombardia.
The 2009 World Championships ran in Mendrisio Switzerland, which is very close to you – for riders who want to ride the Worlds course – how long does the it take to get there?
Carlo: Every 30 minutes a Car Ferry from Bellagio to Cadenabbia (5 minutes to cross the lake), then about 40 minutes by car through Porlezza and Lugano lake, down to Mendrisio, which is actually behind a mountain we clearly see from the hotel.
The cycling is great in the area. What other activities are there for your guests, perhaps for spouses who do not cycle?
Carlo: Very easy: if I was a spouse and my husband was cycling I would visit all shops in Bellagio and the area… Then of course the area offers several choices, cultural, for leisure and for wellness: there is a wonderful Spa at the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, open to everybody that I’d rather suggest.
What would you tell someone who has never visited this part of Italy?
Carlo: To come and visit the area: without expecting adrenalin but expecting nice romantic spots to relax and think about the beauty of life. And the surrounding mountains provide plenty of hills to ride for cyclists… We are not a luxury hotel but a home hosting and trying to take care of our guests as they were friends…
And here’s an actual testimonial – sent in just after this story went live:
“Hey! We stayed at Il Perlo last year upon your recommendation and cannot thank you enough for sharing that with us. We rented a suite and most nights had fresh pasta + wine for dinner on the balcony, watching the sun set while our infant son slept inside. Also, we both agree that the gelato shop in Bellagio produces the best gelato we have found in Italy.”
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Get more info and book your stay:
• Send email to:[email protected]
• See the website: www.ILPERLO.com