The Ten Highest Paved Cycling Climbs in Italy

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This is the third in a series.

  1. The “Twenty Highest Paved Cycling Climbs in France” – here.
  2. The “Twenty Highest Paved Cycling Climbs in Switzerland” – here.
  3. Fifteen of the Highest Unpaved Cycling “Roads” in the Alps – here.

See the bottom of this post for a pan Alps map with all the climbs from all three countries.

Each climb below includes a link to a blog post with a map, photos, route description, etc.
The list is based on this Wikipedia article …. so feel free to point out any errors – I’ve added a few Swiss climbs missing there recently.

#1 Passo dello Stelvio – 2,757 metres
Stelvio in July

Stelvio in July

Perhaps the most famous series of hairpins in cycling. Remember there are three ways up. Details of the famous side here. Details of both the Bormio side and the Swiss side via Passi Umbrail here.

A couple of years back I wrote a “Brief History of Passo dello Stelvio” over at Podiumcafe.com. See here.

#2 Colle dell’Agnello – 2,744 metres

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Colle dell’Agnello (or Col Agnel) is on the French / Italian border. It’s the third highest paved mountain pass in Europe (Iseran, Stelvio). I’ve yet to cycle the Italian side – it’s the more difficult of the two – but have heard raves about it. EDIT: I’ve now cycled the Italian side. Amazing and snow-filled. Details of the French side here. Both profiles below.

Colle dell'Agnello the day before 2016 Giro.

Colle dell’Agnello the day before 2016 Giro.

#3 Colle del Nivolet – 2,641 metres
Colle delle Nivolet

Colle delle Nivolet

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Perhaps the most beautiful final 15 kilometres that I have ever ridden. Seriously.

This very high Italian pass near the French border in Piemonte has two big dams and several lakes. An amazing place. And every Sunday during the summer, the top several kilometres are closed to motorised traffic. Paradise. Details here.

#4 Passo Gavia – 2,621 metres

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Both sides of this climb are superb. Plenty of both Giro and military history here. Top tip: There is a modern, long tunnel on the south side. Skip it, and take the old, cliff road around it (photo above). A little bumpy but ….. wow. Details of both sides here.

#5 Colle Fauniera – 2,481 metres

(Colle dei Morti) Self Portrait.

Also known as Colle dei Morti, this stunning, remote Piemonte climb features a huge Marco Pantani monument at the summit:

Pantini Monument in the distance

Pantini Monument in the distance

Looking for a tougher 3-side climbing challenge than the Club des Cingles du Ventoux? Then try cycling all three sides of Colle Fauniera in a single day. Because unlike Ventoux, Fauniera doesn’t have an “easy” way up. I managed 2 sides in a tough but great ride – see here.

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#6 Passo del Rombo – 2,509 metres

Better known as Timmelsjoch, Passo del Rombo is in the Ötzal Alps on the Italian / Austrian border. I have never cycled it – hopefully in 2015. Maybe I’ll need to un-retire from cyclosportives and sign up for the Öztaler Radmarathon.

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#7 Colle del Gran San Bernando – 2,473 metres
Italian Side

Italian Side

Colle del Gran San Bernardo or Col du Grand St. Bernard is on the Swiss / Italian border. The Italian side is by far the most interesting for cyclists. The Swiss side is over 40 kms long from Martigny, but shares a relatively busy road with trucks until the huge car-only tunnel into Italy. From here cyclists can take the fantastic old road for the final 6 kilometres to the summit. The Italian side is bypassed by the tunnel.

There has been a hospice here welcoming travellers since the 9th century. The doors are still left unlocked all year even in winter for any lost adventurers.

For details of the south side see here, and north side here.

Swiss Side - Start = Martigny Elevation Profile - Italian Side
#8 Colle Della Lombarda – 2,350 metres
French side of Col de la Lombarde

French side of Col de la Lombarde

Col de la Lombarde (Colle della Lombarda) is another high pass on the French/Italian border. Again, the Italian side is the far more interesting climb. Truly beautiful. Admittedly, I’ve cycled the Italian side but only the top stretch of the French side, but base the opinion on reports from friends.

At the fifteen kilometre point, don’t forget the small detour to the Santuario di Sant’Anna – the highest Santuario in Europe. Ride details here.

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#9 Tre Cima di Lavaredo – 2,360 metres
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Tre Cima means three peaks. And the Tre Cima dominate this super steep road that ends near the Rifugio Auronzo.

My strongest recommendation: bring a change of shoes and enjoy some amazing hiking above the rifugio. Doreen and I walked all the way around the Tre Cima. Breathtaking.

Ride details here.

Hiking down from Forcella di Lavaredo

Hiking down from Forcella di Lavaredo

#10 Forcola di Livigno – 2,315 metres

Another high alpine pass on the Swiss / Italian border. I have yet to cycle it – another 2015 goal. As best I understand from friends, this is easily the least interesting pass on this top 10 list. Some traffic, a narrow tunnel, etc. But …. still worth a visit.

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A Final Word

I hope these top 10 lists will inspire some trip planning for some of you (and me). I’ll turn these into top 20 lists soon.

More urgently, hopefully I’ll visit Austria on a bike in 2015, so I can write a fourth top 10 list. 🙂

Happy pedalling.

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4 Comments

  1. I can only tick off 4 of these 10; I obviously need to try harder 😉
    Just to clarify my comment in the Switzerland article about the narrow tunnel near Forcola di Livigno – you only go through that if you approach it from Zernez; the more typical approaches would be from the Bernina or from Bormio, both of which have no major tunnels IIRC. Doing it from Bormio is the nicest way IMO, especially because you get to go over two more passes along the way.

  2. Thanks Chris.

    Note, I have added a pan-Alps map at the bottom of these posts showing climbs in all three countries. The Italian Piemonte border up against France has a bunch of the high Italian climbs. Worth a visit – plus add Colle di Sampeyre. Not toooooooo far for you. Also lots of high unpaved old military roads there …. I have much more exploring to do.

  3. Pingback: The Ten Highest Paved Cycling Climbs in the Jura Mountains

  4. Pingback: The Highest Unpaved Cycling Roads in the Alps

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