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The Gavia Pass Road, which connects the Alta (upper) Valtellina, especially Bormio and Santa Caterina Valfurva, with the upper Valcamonica and Ponte di Legno, is particularly famous among cyclists as being one of legendary climbs of the Giro d’Italia. In fact, the road is also a paradise for motorcycle riders: tight curves, switchbacks, steep slopes, and at some points, it’s a very narrow road down to one lane wide. The Gavia Pass Road is pure fun for those who love to ride in the mountains.
Between history and legend
The origin of the Gavia Pass Road is very ancient, as since the Middle Ages numerous caravans of merchants from the Republic of Venice have crossed the Gavia pass to connect to the Via Imperiale d’Alemagna and, from there, reach Germany, the Tirol and the countries of northern Europe. There were many casualties during attempts to make the crossing during the winter months due to the landslides and avalances, and therefore the Gavia Pass was also known as the Pass of the Testa di Morto (“head of the dead).
Starting from Bormio, proceed toward Santa Caterina Valfurva and from there begin the climb to the Gavia Pass at 8559 feet (2621 meters) above sea level. Here, after admiring the White Lake, you begin the descent toward the Valcamonica.
After descending three hairpin turns and having passed a tunnel with only marginal lighting, you encounter a monument dedicated to the alpine soldiers who died in 1954 when the truck on which they were traveling slid off the cliff-side road.
The next 6 miles (10 km) are characterized by roadway of limited width; one that rarely permits two cars to pass each other. The steeper part of the descent ends in the town of Santa Apollonia, and from there the road widens and continues a more gradual descent to Ponte di Legno.
Total distance from Bormio – Passo Gavia – Ponte di Legno: 27 miles (44 km)
IMPORTANT: The Gavia Pass road and Gavia Pass are only open during the summer season, from late May to October.