PASSO STELVIO | ITALIAN ALPS

Passo dello Stelvio

Passo dello Stelvio is one of the highest paved mountain roads in Italy and has been part of bicycle history since the Giro d'Italia passed over it for the first time in the 1950's. Passo Stelvio is located in the Adamello Mountain Group and marks the regional boundary between Trentino Alto Adige Region and Lombardy Region.

There is evidence that the pass was used as far back as the bronze age as a route to get from what is now Tyrol to Italy. At the end of Napoleonic wars the winners (Russia, Prussia, Britain, etc.) held a convention, the Congress of Vienna, in which these triumphant imperialistic powers worked to impose the old order on Europe. They set about redrawing the map of Europe. The northern region of Italy of which Milan is the capital, called Lombardy (Lombardia in Italian), was given to the Hapsburgs who ruled the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This transfer of territory was to make up for their loss of the Netherlands. Italy as a country did not then exist. It was several separate countries, mostly ruled by other European powers.

The Austrians wanted a road to give them a clear communication between Austria, the Val Venosta and Italy through the region of Valtellina. The Italians were rebellious and control was impossible without a pass through the Dolomites. Plans to build the pass were made in 1813, but they were abandoned. In 1820, the Hapsburgs made another attempt and with 2,000 workers completed the incredible engineering feet in 1825.

After Italian independence and unification in the 1860's the top of the Stelvio was the border between Austria and Italy. After World War One, South Tyrol (more territory north of the Stelvio) was given to Italy. Today, the entire pass is in Italian territory.

In the 19th century, recognizing its importance, the pass was kept open all year long. Today the Stelvio Pass is not considered essential. Other passes and modes of transport have rendered·the Stelvio far less important. The size of the road makes it difficult for larger modern cars to make it around some of the sharp hairpin turns. It's just not practical for modern trucks to use. Now the pass is usually closed between October and May.

Passo dello Stelvio

HOW TO GET TO PASSO STELVIO IN THE ALPS OF ITALY

Passo Stelvio sits on the border between the Trentino Alto Adige Region (on the northern side) and Lombardy Region (on the southern side). Arriving from the north you can get a train to Bolzano, transfer, and train to Merano (or there are buses from Bolzano), then from Merano you an train to Spondgona, from here there is a small bus that runs over the pass to Bormio.  From the southern approach you can train to Bergamo, then transfer to go to Sondrio (via Lecco), and then there is a regional bus to Bormio.  From Bormio there a small bus that runs over the pass.

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT WHEN VISITING PASSO STELVIO

 

OUTDOOR RECREATION AND TRAVEL TIPS FOR PASSO STELVIO

Passo Stelvio Bike Tour Italy

 

Alps,

 PASSO STELVIO FROM BORMIO BIKE CLIMB | ITALIAN ALPS

Passo Stelvio

Cycling Passo Stelvio from Bormio is not as famous of a climb as riding the northern side, but it still offers an epic challenge for a bike rider and a must do if you are bike touring the Alps of Italy.  The climb from Bormio to Passo Stelvio is just over 3 km shorter than the 27 km northern side, and has an average grade is just over 7%, however this ride is completely different and is just as challenging as bike touring from Prato da Stelvio.

WHAT IS THE PASSO STELVIO FROM BORMIO BIKE CLIMB LIKE

For me riding this side of the Passo Stelvio is more of a mental challenge, rather than physical, due to the enclosed nature of the climb.  I always felt I was riding in a box, there are some great views from time to time, but none of the open vistas you get on many of the climbs in Italy. Right after the town of Bormio you turn right and start climbings, the first section is a steady climb that quickly brings you up to 1700 meters, I feel the second section starts at the old tunnels.  Be sure to have a light on your bike, not so much to see through the tunnel, but to alert descending cyclist and cars.  During this tunnel section, you are also in the steepest average grades of the climb, but they last only 2 km.  The third section starts after Malga Stelvio and the water fall of Braulio, here you have the last overlayed switchbacks to ride.  This is the most enjoyable part of the climb, and you finally have some great scenery to take your mind off the effort. 

HOW TO GET TO THE PASSO STELVIO FROM BORMIO CLIMB

If you are not planning to ride in the Bormio valley, a great way to do the Passo Stelvio ride is an over and back from the Prato da Stelvio side.  You will find Bormio in the Lombardy Region, there are plenty of bike hotels in the town to use as a base for your riding.  If you come from Passo Tonale you can ride the Passo Giave to reach Bormio and then ride Passo Stelvio.  Riding up the valley to Bormio is possible, and there is a marked bike route that is used to reach Passo Mortirolo, but be warned it is not an easy ride and you have quite a bit of climbing to do to reach Bormio.

Passo Stelvio Bike Climb

 

PASSO STELVIO FROM BORMIO BIKE TOUR DETAILS

REGION Lombardy Region
PROVINCE Sondrio Province
MOUNTAIN GROUP Ortles Alps
CITY Bormio
ELEVATION AT START 1215 meters a.s.l.
ELEVATION AT ARRIVAL 1758 meters a.s.l.
ELEVATION GAIN 1543 meters
AVERAGE GRADE 7.1%
MAXIMUN GRADE 13%
TIME TO RIDE
Excurionist 2 hr 30 minutes
Cycle Tourist 2 hours
Semi Pro Rider 1 hr 25 minutes
Pro rider 1 hour 6 minutes
SPECIAL NOTES Do not do this ride without proper warm gear, even though the valley can be warm at elevation you can find severe weather, arm warms, full finger gloves, and leg warmer should be in your pockets or utilize vehicle support.

Bike Climbs,, Alps,

BIKE TOURING PASSO STELVIO | ITALIAN ALPS

Photo of route leading up to Passo Stelvio in the Alps of Italy

Passo Stelvio is one of the highest paved mountain roads in Italy and has been part of bicycle history since the Giro d'Italia passed over it for the first time in the 1950's. Passo Stelvio is located in the Adamello mountain group and marks the regional boundary between Trentino Alto Adige Region and Lombardy Region.

There are two sides to ride when Bike Touring the Passo Stelvio. 

Bike Touring Passo Stelvio Riding the Climb from Prato dello Stelvio

Bike Tour Passo Stelvio Riding the Climb from Bormio

 

Bike Touring,, Alps,

PASSO STELVIO FROM PRATO DELLO STELVIO BIKE CLIMB | ITALIAN ALPS

bike tour italy's passo stelvio

For anyone wishing to Bike Tour the Alps of Italy the Stelvio Pass should be on your 'must ride list'.  The Stevlio Pass is one of the highest paved mountain roads in Italy and has been part of bicycle history since the Giro d'Italia first passed over it in the 1950's. Passo Stelvio is located in the Adamello mountain group and marks the regional boundary between Trentino Alto Adige Region and Lombardy Region.

WHAT IS THE PASSO STELVIO RIDE LIKE

To be honest Passo Stelvio is not for everyone, and if you attempt to ride without the proper gears or fitness level this is one of those bike climbs that can make you hurt, put your foot down, and overall humble you as a cyclist.  The climb itself is not overwhelming due to the steepness, but it is a very long climb with a continuous effort, instead most riders have problems due to not understanding how to pace themselves or not eating and drinking properly during the attempt. 

The ride can be broken into three sections: the first section is difficult to find a pace due to the changing grades, the second section is a grind because you are isolated in the forest, and the last section is a thrilling panoramic view that can challenge your mental toughness due to fatigue and altitude. 

GETTING TO PASSO STELVIO FROM PRATO allo STELVIO

The classic route up to Passo Stelvio is to start in Bolzano and ride to the top, but this normally means you have some type of a support vehicle or you are ending your ride with a descent down into Bormino.  However, if you want to shorten the ride you can take a train from Bolzano to Merano then ride the Val Venosta Bike Path or take the Venosta train up the valley to a closer start point.  If you opt to ride from Bolzano it is good to do so with a group and have vehicle support.  If you are a solo rider I suggest you shuttle up to Castelbello on the train, from here you have a good 20 km to warm up your legs before the climb.  If you are planning to ride both sides (over and back) I suggest taking the train to Malles or Spondinig to start, over and back will be a 70 km ride with over 4000 meters of climbing.

Bike tour Passo Stelvio

 

RIDING THE STELVIO PASS FROM THE NORTH SIDE

Bike Tour Passo Stelvio

REGION Trentino Alto Adige Region
PROVINCE Bolzano Province
MOUNTAIN GROUP Adamello Mountain Group
POINT OF DEPARTURE Prato allo Stelvio
LENGTH OF CLIMB 25.4 km
ELEVATION AT DEPARTURE 916 meters a.s.l.
MAXIMUM ELEVATION 2,758 meters a.s.l.
ELEVATION GAIN 1,842 meters
AVERAGE GRADE 7.3%
MAXIMUM GRADE 14%
AVERAGE TIME TO RIDE 1:40 to 3:20 hours
SPECIAL NOTES Weather on the Stelvio can change quickly and vary from the valley so ensure you have a jacket, gloves and leg warmers with you.  This is a ride best done with support.

ROUTE NOTES:

The Bike Touring route up Passo Stelvio, on the northeastern side, starts in the small village of Prato allo Stelvio, and presents a climb 25.4 meters long and a medium grade of 7.4%.  There are 48 marked switchbacks to work your way through that will help you move from 916 meters above sea level to 2758 meters above sea level. The total elevation gain is 1842 meters and the fit cyclist should give themselves 2 hours and 30 minutes to make the climb.

 

Bike Touring Passo Stelvio

SECTION 1

Leaving Prato allo Stelvio you will see the Passo Stelvio Sign this is where the grade starts to increase and you have a 6 to 7 km section to get a good rhythm established.  It is very important to not over ride your limit.  During this section you will be following close to the stream 'Trafoi', there is one tunnel but it is open on the left side so there is no need for a light. This section ends once you cross the bridge over the stream. 

Bike Touring Italy's Passo Stelvio

SECTION 2

Passing over the bridge you will start one of the harder sections and the first continuous grind that makes Passo Stelvio so hard, but this is also where you start to have a wonderful view of the Livrio and Punta del Chiodo glaciers.  At 8.5 km you will start the 48 switchback countdown and your next check point is Trafoi (1534 meters), a small community that has a couple of bars, and there is a water point just before the town. After passing through Trafoi you will enter a section that will wind up through the woods on multiple switchbacks until the 14 km mark. 

Bike Touring Italy's Passo Stelvio

 

SECTION 3:

Right after the village of Trafoi you will find one of the hardest sections with small ramps up to 14% and an average of 9%. For the next 9 kms you will have a very little time to rest, you are in the woods most of the time but there are great views that will let you start to experience the grandeur of the climb.  This section will take you up past switchback 27 and Hotel Franznshohe, (a water point if you are in need). This is where you will have the final view of the stairway of switchbacks that take you to the pass.

Bike Touring Italy's Passo Stelvio

The last set of switchbacks up to the Stelvio Pass.  There are small ramps above 11% but for the most part it is very pedal-able. This is the section that makes the climb so famous, you will feel the fatigue and the effects of higher elevation, but is you can also lift your head and take in the atmosphere.  This is one of the most picturesque locations in the Alps and on a clear day this is a stunning ride.

Bike Tour Passo Stelvio

Do not forget to look back at times.

Bike Touring Italy's Passo Stelvio

At the pass you will find the Cima Coppi sign (named after the famous Italian cyclist), great views, and perhaps the best Italian Hot Dog Grill in the area.

Bike Climbs,, Alps,

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