Riding the Stelvio Pass

There are many iconic motorcycling roads in Europe and The Stelvio Pass is one of them.  At over 9,000 ft high this Italian road is the highest paved mountain pass in the Eastern Alps and is only marginally lower than the Col D’Iseran which at 9,088 ft is the highest pass in the Alps.

We recently rode the Stelvio on our Austrian tour and chose a week day to run the ride-out from our base in Austria passed Resia Lake crossing into Italy before the ascent.  The weather conditions were near perfect with temperatures in the mid to high 20’s and blue skies and “fluffy” white clouds present in the sky to provide a very clear day for riding.  It would seem though that these great conditions also brought out practically every other type of vehicle who seemed, on the face of it, to be ascending the Pass all at the same time.  It was very busy both ways with hundreds of cyclists, many camper vans, cars galore and a vast array of motorcycles of all marques and from many different countries – it made for an interesting ride to the top that’s for sure. There are 48 hairpins on the ascent from the Prato side of the pass and the road varies in width with some of the narrower turns near the base with some steep inclines – these in particular can cause “mini traffic jams” particularly as we experienced, where camper vans are travelling in both directions and trying to overtake cyclists!!

Ascent from Prato side of the Stelvio

Once you have a clear road ahead of you though it is a spectacular pass to ride, technical and challenging but well worth it when you reach the summit.  The views are stunning (perhaps best not to take them in on the way up!) but there are a couple of places you can pull into to take in the scenery and near the top there is a section of parking where you can stop for a limited time to take photographs if you wish to.

The souvenir shops and cafes at the summit were very busy when we arrived but we turned left at the summit where there is an alternative car park and also the Tibet hutte cafe which provides a very good lunch, (try their apple strudel if you need to boost your energy levels!) and the view from the cafe is breathtaking.

On leaving the summit we crossed into Switzerland descending via the Umbrail Pass still technical but definitely not as challenging as the ride from the Prato side of the Stelvio.  The views will not disappoint on this section of the ride and the road surface is excellent not only on the Umbrail Pass but on the Stelvio itself as well – you have to consider that the pass is closed for many months over the winter due to the snow and yet the condition of the tarmac remains very good.

All in all would we ride the Stelvio again?  Yes we would, despite it being busy in parts, the road itself presents any keen motorcyclist with breathtaking vistas, clear air, hairpins galore and a challenging ride.  We are looking forward to our next visit there……. but when?  🙂