Epic Alpine Passes: Stelvio, Gavia and Mortirolo

Legendary. Stelvio, Gavia and Mortirolo: the stuff of legends. Famous for their history, engineering, nature and sport. Discover their secrets.

The Stelvio pass is a must for cyclists

Stelvio. A single word which can evoke hundreds of emotions: cycling fans recall the heroic feats of riders in the Giro d’Italia; skiers think of the 20 km of pistes on the glacier, the largest summer skiing area in the Alps; history enthusiasts remember World War I, when the pass sat on the front line and where the remains of trenches and military camps can still be seen to this date. The numbers are mind-blowing: 88 hairpins, 40 on the Bormio side, 48 on the South Tyrol side, climbing a total of 1521 m from Bormio to the top of the pass.

Passo Gavia, riding in the snow

Gavia. A narrow road, sometimes impassable, but with a unique appeal. Marked out in mediaeval times, it was only fully tarmacked relatively recently. It has been the scene for some of cycling’s most incredible images, during stages of the Giro d’Italia in heavy snow and, when the road opens in May, the huge walls of snow on either side of the road are particularly impressive. There was fighting here as well during World War I and plenty of evidence is still to be seen. The scenery, punctuated by Lago Bianco and Lago Nero, is particularly spectacular.

Mortirolo, thank you Pantani!

All roads lead to the Mortirolo pass. Is that an exaggeration? Only a bit, given that there are five roads leading to the summit. The traditional route, from Mazzo in Valtellina, was made famous by the much-loved cyclist Marco Pantani and features gradients of up to 20% in places. On the Valtellina side of the pass, there are also routes up from Grosio, not quite as hard as the one from Mazzo, and an almost unknown one from Tovo, a long country lane where some of the most challenging sections are paved with cement. The pass can also be reached from Aprica, via Pian Gembro and the Trivigno Plateau. The southern slope, from Monno, is easier to start with but gets pretty tough towards the top.

So what do you say? Are you itching to challenge yourself one of these climbs? If you are a keen cyclist, we think we already know your answer! These days, you can also tackle the great passes even if you are not a pro, with the help of an e-bike, making the climb much more fun.

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