This is a nice outing if you’re in the Milan area (or near the lakes of Lombardy) and want to avoid the classic destinations, which will almost certainly be overcrowded this time of year.
Head out on the A8 motorway in the direction of Gallarate then take the A28 all the way through. Continue on State Highway 33 in the direction of Simplon Pass (Sempione
) and exit to N. 659 toward Crodo and points north.
The Toce valley road is narrow but very scenic. Massive rock formations flank it on the western side until you reach the end of the valley. Up above you can see the Toce river drop over the edge of a 500-foot rock face.
The road will now wind its way up to a plateau where you can literally walk next to the edge of the waterfall. No kidding. One false step and you are history.
Further up the road is a homely little village called Riale, where the road finally ends. A dirt road leads further north to Lake Morasco and – beyond the mountain ridge, about a mile away – lies the Swiss canton of Valais, but no road crossing is available.
Heading back towards Domodossola, turn left to Malesco and Cannobio, the latter located on the western shore of Lake Maggiore. The road between Malesco and Cannobio is very narrow but absolutely spectacular. Caution is required, since a lot of motorists (and bike riders, too) tend to stray into the opposite lane – yours.
Once in Cannobio, follow the lake shore in a southerly direction and mind the speed cameras. When after some 20 clicks you get to Verbania-Intra, head to the car-ferry pier and board a boat bound for Laveno, on the eastern side of the lake.
The crossing lasts about 15 minutes and the fare (one motorcycle + rider) is Eur 7,80. Nice, scenic ride and plenty of Kodak moments.
Once in Laveno, follow the signs to Varese, then make your way back to Milan (or wherever you’re staying).
Total distance: about 350 kms. Highly recommended.