Reaching the Passo dello Stelvio on a motorcycle, and riding the challenging road that crosses it, is a dream that every biker would like to live at least once in a lifetime. An unforgettable riding experience, in beautiful Northern Italy, discovering the Alps. The Passo dello Stelvio is in fact the highest Italian mountain pass for vehicles, and the second in Europe. It is impossible not to fall in love with it, especially on a motorcycle.
There is a saying that quotes that the world is too big to ride the same road twice. But as far as the Passo dello Stelvio is concerned, this is simply not true. I have crossed it several times on my motorcycle: on a sunny day, under the rain, through fog, and even while it was snowing! I have driven up to the summit early in the morning, not a soul in sight except a couple of riders like myself, oblivious of the cold mountain air in the first hours of the day; or just after breakfast, the sun high in the sky, with a belly full good breakfast; and again in the late afternoon, following a day of riding through the passes of the Stelvio National Park.
How to get to the Passo dello Stelvio on a motorcycle
To reach the Passo dello Stelvio you can either start from Bormio, on the Lombardy side, or from the “Altoatesino” side, from Prato dello Stelvio. Which is the best road? One is just as great as the other: they are both unmissable experiences!
Reaching the Stelvio from Bormio
From Bormio, the motorcycle route to the Passo dello Stelvio is 21.5 kilometers long, with 40 hairpin turns to get to the summit.
Start by following directions to Livigno, and very soon a signpost on the right directs you to the majestic Stelvio. You’ll ride through a forest with wide, approachable curves; but beware! The higher you go, the more the turns are demanding, inviting you to give your best, adrenalin running through your veins in a mixture of excitement and worry at every bend you take. On the way up you’ll also pass through a couple of tunnels dug straight into the mountain side, seeping with water.
After about 12 km, you’ll reach the incredible Braulino Waterfalls. This is where I always have the same dilemma: “Should I stop now to take a picture, or do it on the way back? I think I’ll do it on my way back” (and I always come back!).
On you go, your hand on the gas, winding up another nine turns to the Swiss frontier. Here you’ll find a stretch of straight road that cuts the mountain in half: to your right a fantastic valley, and on your left the bare mountain slopes. At the Swiss border you turn right, ride another three kilometers, and you have conquered the Lombardy side of the Passo dello Stelvio!
Time for a coffee and a short break for a photo next to the Passo dello Stelvio sign: look at those smiles! The sign is covered in stickers from all over the world, greetings from fellow-riders that you might not know personally ,but who are friends nonetheless. After eating a typical Italian-mountain hot-dog and looking down at the 48 turns that await your descent to the Prato dello Stelvio, it’s time to button-up your jackets, put you gloves and helmets back on, and head down to the valley.
Going up toward the Stelvio from Prato
At the bottom of the valley, the Valtellina giant throws you another challenge: “I dare you to come back up on the Prato dello Stelvio route”. And of course you’re ready to rise to the challenge!
A quick U-turn and you’re ready to go. You start at 907 meters above sea-level, and you need to go up to 2758 meters to reach the summit. There are 48 steep and narrow hairpin turns in front of you, one straight after another: hardly time to breath, and extremely exciting! A total of 24.3 kms of sheer adrenalin.
The first 4.5 kms are quite straightforward: the road flanks the Soda torrent, but then quite suddenly there it is: the first of the 48 hairpin turns, straight in front of you. Get into second gear, perhaps even into first, because the slopes are going to get steeper. You’ll now ride through a thick pine-forest, but the vegetation will soon disappear, opening up to amazing views as you approach the summit.
Here you need to be careful: the road gets narrower and can be slippery, especially in May/June as the last of the snows melts, dribbling across the road. The very first time I conquered the Stelvio on a motorcycle it was June, precisely the 21st of June: the first day of Summer. It had snowed abundantly the day before and, although the road was cleared, at 2000 meters of altitude the snow still clung to the mountainside.
Once at the summit you’ll look round and think: “Hey, I’ve already been here, I’ve conquered a myth! Time to get down to Bormio.. Then again, if I take this other route I can enter Switzerland, ride the Umbrial Pass, and then go on to Lavigno and from there ride back to the hotel… Mmmm, yes I think that’s what I’ll do!”.
Short guide to the Passo dello Stelvio through five questions and answers
To truly enjoy your motorcycle tour of Passo dello Stelvio there’s not much to know. All you have to do is be awed by the incredible beauty and the adrenalin rushing through your veins as you ride the turns immersed in nature. Here are just a few essential tips for those of you who like to be better-informed.
Where is the Passo dello Stelvio?
The Passo dello Stelvio is a mountain pass in the Retiche Alps, in Northern Italy, between the regions of Trentino Alto-Adige and Lombardy. It is the highest Italian pass, and the second one in Europe (the first being the Colle d’Iseran). It’s in the National Park of the Stelvio.
Where does the Stelvio Pass start and finish?
The Stelvio Pass connects Bormio (Valtellina) to Prato allo Stelvio, in Val Venosta.
How long is the Stelvio Pass?
Coming from Bormio the road to Passo dello Stelvio is 21.5 kms long. From Prato the length is 24.3 kms.
How high is the Stelvio Pass?
The Pass is 2758 meters above sea-level.
When is the Stelvio Pass open?
The Stelvio Pass is only open for a certain period of time, depending on the weather. The road, in fact, is closed during the coldest months of the year (aggiungere date apertura e chiusura 2022).