Probably every motorcyclist has already heard about the Stelvio Pass. It’s called the queen of alpine routes, the motorcycle Promised Land, the most winding road in Europe. It’s simply the classic of two-wheeled expeditions. After our ride to the Stilfser Joch in August one thing we can’t deny: due to exceptionally sharp corners the route absorbs driver’s attention fully, while being a real test for accurate, reliable ride and divided attention. When taking sharp bends one after another, among the accompanying delight over the Eastern Alps panorama, there is no room for mistakes. In the season this road is like a highway of ants. Sometimes a string of motorcycles, bicycles and cars tightens and then, even a small mistake of one vehicle impacts the rest with a domino effect. We witnessed it.
The Passo dello Stelvio takes us to an altitude of 2.757 meters above sea level. It’s the highest road pass to drive in Italy, near the border with Switzerland. The road was built in 1820-1825 on the initiative of the Austrian Empire, which ruled the northern part of Italy back then and wanted to have military transit road linking Austria with Lombardy and South Tyrol. The engineer had to outdo himself, because in this case it was difficult to take advantage of the natural terrain and put lazy-snake-alike road. We deal here with less than a 30-kilometer stretch between Spondigna and Bormio, where the difference in height between them is 1.837 m, and the maximum angle of inclination is 14%. In the result a gigantic ZigZag had to be created on both sides of the massif.
The Stelvio Pass road has been kind of a mecca for bikers and cyclists for years, but a real tourist craze apparently started in 2008, after the Top Gear’s presenter announced it to be the best driving road in the world. He withdrew these words after his visit to the Romanian Transfagarasan road, but the switchbacks of Passo dello Stelvio had already warmed up the desire of many of tires. And to this day, in the season, the road is crowded and very tight in the corners, so you not always flow through it freely and delightfully like through many other routes in the Alps. Still, for the satisfaction and, above all, the marvelous view from the top, it’s worth to experience it. A bit like the Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse, the Stelvio Pass will always remain an epic route that every biker should face at least once in lifetime.
Map of the Stelvio route
Info about Passo dello Stelvio
|Start / finish||Prato allo Stelvio / Bormio|
|Surface||Asphalt of good quality|
|Accessibility||The Stelvio Pass is usually open from June to the beginning of November|
|Hazards||Very sharp and tight corners, heavy traffic, narrow bends in the single-track tunnels without the visibility of vehicles from the opposite direction, slippery surface in tunnels, camper drivers squeezing through these tunnels|
|Attractions on the way||Alpine flora and fauna of the Stelvio National Park, viewpoints, glacier and ski lifts in the winter|
|Max altitude||2,757 m a.s.l.|
Stelvio: a few helpful tips
- The fame of Stelvio is obviously reflected in increased traffic in the season, so the best period for the drive is beyond July and August, not in the weekend or very early in the morning before all the tourists come and full up the road.
- It’s good to plan your overnight stay close enough to be able to enter the route in the morning. If you like camping, in the off-season get the ASIC card. It ensures a discount (fixed price EUR 12-18 per night in a tent for two people plus motorcycle). A dedicated application for smartphone shows all campsites in the area that accept the card. Our choice fell on a camping Badlerhof, which is 10 km from the Stelvio Pass. It’s pleasant and modern with a tent area among fruit trees, by the river, at 7 am the church bell wakes you up.
- If you have a choice, approach the route from the north-east, from the village of Stelvio. That way you will cross the heart of the Stelvio National Park and climb the famous wall of 48 switchbacks (more fun than heading down), while following their numbers written on plates that you pass: 48, 47, 46 … up to the summit.
- Not everyone knows that a great photographic spot (and not as busy as viewpoints along the way), can be found at the top, to the left behind the “Tibet” restaurant and a bit downhill. You can photograph from there your motorcycle with an impressive ZigZag road in the background (see photo at the top), ideally taking photo from the terrace adjacent to the restaurant.
- When heading down to the southwest and Bormio, you will ride across a few quite dangerous tunnels, narrow and usually wet, of slippery surfaces. Some camper may suddenly jump out from the opposite site, so it’s recommended to blow your horn before every turn to let know about your presence in the tunnel. This method is practiced everywhere in the Alps on sharp bends.
- From the Italian road SS38 to Borimo, we recommend to entry the Gavia Pass. After the busy Stelvio Pass road, Gavia enchants with its tranquility and natural beauty, untroubled with commerce and touristic siege. For us this route was the nicest surprise of the day and one of the most beautiful alpine routes that we were given a chance to ride through.
Do you know any other routes around the Stelvio Pass worth recommending? Maybe you had a chance to explore some nice tracks in Switzerland? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.