Colle della Lombarda is a high Maritime Alps pass on the French/Italian border. The Italian side is an unbelievably beautiful route, and can include a small detour to the Santuario di Sant’Anna – the highest Santuario in Europe. The French side is somewhat less interesting, climbing through the ski station of Isola 2000.
Surprisingly, as best I can tell, Colle della Lombarda has never been in the Giro Italia, but the Tour de France did climb the Italian side in 2008.
Like nearby Colle Fauniera, this is another big climb that is beautiful from the very first kilometre. As the map at the bottom shows, there are a bunch of hairpins immediately, as the road climbs up through a beautiful valley – with high mountains on both sides.
Fifteen kilometres into the climb is the turn off for the Santuario Sant’Anna. It’s worth the two kilometre detour. I visited when descending at the end of the day and had a gelato there. They even had a nice altitude sign for me in front of the main church:
Here is a view of Colle della Lombarda taken from the Santuario
The road surface is very good for the entire ride. I didn’t get any good photos, but the red tinged mountains on the final few kilometres below Colle della Lombarda are lovely. Nearing the summit I passed a huge herd of cows, a lake, and some old military ruins/roads.
I would have liked to have had my mountain bike once I reached the summit as there are some inviting ridge roads, as well as a crazy hairpin-filled alternate old gravel military road up the last several kilometres.
I descended the French side but only for a few kilometres to Isola 2000. My legs were a little tired from the big ride the previous day. But still, the top of the French side is worth glancing at:
Again, the road surface is excellent which made the long descent down a real pleasure.
The lower part of the map makes it incorrectly look like there are two roads. My GPS was just getting a bad signal on the way up due to the tight mountains on each side.
Colle della Lombarda was a very pleasant surprise. A big, beautiful well surfaced climb. And the highest Santuario in Europe as a nice side trip bonus.
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