The Via Claudia Augusta

Published on:  | Last updated: 29 April 2017

Cyclists on the Via Claudia near the Forggensee

Cyclists on the Via Claudia near the Forggensee

At a glance

Distance

326 kilometres (in Austria and Germany)
355 or 387 kilometres in Italy (distance depends on which variant you choose)

Difficulty/​terrain

Fairly easy. If you are heading north-south there are some short climbs to the main passes but there are shuttles if you'd rather avoid these.

Traffic

Mainly on traffic-free cycleways (although these may be roads that are restricted to agricul­tural vehicles so in summer expect to see tractors trundling round with trailers of freshly-mown hay).

Surfaces

Mainly on surfaced roads or cycleways. But note that there are some important stretches on unsur­faced cycleways and forest roads. In particular the route over the Fernpass in Austria is likely to be problematic for people with trailers or full-loaded touring bikes.

Finding your way

The route is generally very well signposted in both direc­tions. However, note that in Italy there are some variants of the route that aren't signposted, and in the Veneto region the signposting is very patchy.

Signposting is generally very good, but each country has different approaches. Click the photo below for a small slideshow of examples of signs from the German, Austrian and Italian sections of the route.

When to go

May to September or October is probably the best time. The highest point on the route is 1504 metres so snow shouldn't be a problem. Bear in mind that even in summer, the weather in the mountains can be unsettled.

The Via Claudia near the Isesee

The Via Claudia near the Isesee near Augsburg

Introduction

The Via Claudia Augusta is an inter­na­tional cycle route that runs through southern Germany, Austria and Italy (with a brief section in Switzerland). The route takes its name from the road build by the Roman emperor Claudius Augustus. The road became, and remained, one of the major routes for trade and travel across the Alps.

The Roman road linked the Donau (Danube) with the river Po and with the Adriatic coast near Venezia. The cities along the way included Augusta Vindelicorum (modern-day Augsburg), Feltria (modern-day Feltre), Tridentum (Trento), Verona, and the river port of Hostiliae (Ostiglia) on the Po.

There are surpris­ingly few visible remains of the old Roman road - there are a couple of short stretches of the old road that you can see in southern Germany. A couple of milestones have been discovered along the Italian section of the road. You can see the remains of the old roman bridge at Algund (Lagundo) in Italy.

The precise route of the old Roman road is uncertain but this was, and is, a major trading route and avenue of commu­nic­ation and cultural exchange connecting northern Europe with the Mediterranean and beyond. One of the great things about the route is the mixing of the influ­ences from the German-speaking and Italian-speaking areas.

The Altfinstermünz on the river Inn between Pfunds and Martina

The Altfinstermünz on the river Inn between Pfunds and Martina

The Via Claudia is about much more than the Roman remains - the route remains an important artery of commerce and cultural exchange for almost two millennia after it was built. The route is dotted with castles and forti­fic­a­tions built to defend, control, and tax, trade along the route.

The route is a story of three rivers. In Germany it follows the Lech south to the border with Austria. In Austria it follows the course of the Inn for part of the way and in Italy it follows the Adige (Etsch in German).

The majority of the route is on traffic-free cycleways. If the cycleways have a disad­vantage it's that they often bypass the towns and villages along the way so it's very easy to just keep cycling and miss out on the places along the way. To get the most out of this route you need to take the time for little detours off the route - even if it's only to go for a swim.

Overview map

  Map:  VCA-overview-map-show map in overlay    |    VCA-overview-map-show map in new window   

Options and connections

In Germany and Austria there is one single official route, while in Italy there are a number of variants (these are discussed in more detail in the Via Claudia Augusta in Italy. It also connects with other cycleways and routes which means that you have lots of options if you want to make the Via Claudia part of a longer journey.

In Germany the Via Claudia connects at Donauwörth with the Donau Radweg (Danube cycleway) which runs from Donaueschingen in Germany to Budapest (and beyond). The other major connection in Germany is with the D9 Romantische Straße (Romantic Road) cycle route which runs from Würtzburg to Füssen.

In Austria the major connection is with the Inn Radweg. The Inn Radweg connects in turn with the München-Venezia cycle route, and so offers an altern­ative route into Italy, or an altern­ative route to München (Munich).

And if that isn't already more than enough choices, the Via Claudia connects with two of Italy's main inter­na­tional cycle routes: the Ciclopista del Sole (eurovelo 7) which continues south to Bologna and the n Firenze and Rome, and with the Ciclovia del Po (eurovelo 8)which runs east-west across the country.

For more detail on these options see: the The Via Claudia Augusta in Germany and Austria and the The Via Claudia Augusta in Italy.

The shuttles

The Via Claudia Augusta is unusual in that there are 6 shuttle bus services provided to support the route. Two of these are in the Austrian section and the remaining four in Italy.

If you don't mind a bit of climbing then in most cases there's nothing to stop you going ahead under your own steam, however I think it is worth thinking seriously about the shuttles over the Fernpass and from Trento to the Lago di Caldonazzo. The descent from the Fernpass is a mountainbike track which is tricky at points and would be difficult if you are pulling a trailer or riding on a full-loaded touring bike. The first part of the climb out of Trento is on a very narrow and relat­ively busy road.

Sign for the bike-shuttle over the Reschenpass

Sign for the bike-shuttle over the Reschenpass (click on picture to enlarge)

End points

In Italy the official route offers the choice of riding to Altino which is close to Venezia or of riding south via Verona to Ostiglia on the Po. You could also opt to turn off the route near Rovereto and head west to the Lago di Garda.

Please note that bikes aren't allowed into Venezia itself. You can ride a busy and very unglam­orous road over the causeway to the station but that's it. Base yourself on the mainland, or on the lagoon and catch a vaporetto.

Continuing on …

You can of course continue on from the end of the tour. If you end at Quarto d’Altino you can follow the coastline north into Friuli-Venezia-Giulia and on from there to Trieste.

Alternatively you can head south, skirting round the laguna di Venezia to connect with the river Po cycleway.

If you take the Verona-Ostiglia option you can connect with the Po cycleway - or altern­at­ively take the Bicitalia Ciclovia Tirrenica from Verona to Mantova, and on from there to Parma and then the Toscana coast.

Much of the cycleway south from Bozen coincides with the Ciclopista del Sole (eurovelo 7) cycle route. The two routes divide north of Verona, and the Ciclopista del Sole heads for Bardolino on the Lago di Garda - and from there it heads south to Mantova and on towards Rome and southern Italy.

Milestone on the Via Claudia near Roßhaupten

Reproduction milestone on the Via Claudia near Roßhaupten

When to go

In the hottest days of summer the Italian television news usually reports the hottest cities; Bozen and Meran often feature in the list with temper­atures in the upper 30s. If you have the choice then September is a better choice then July or August. Spring, when the apple tress are in blossom, would also be a good time.

Cyclists on the Vinschgau Radweg/Via Claudia near Kastelbell-Tschars (Castelbello-Ciardes)

Cyclists on the Vinschgau Radweg/​Via Claudia near Kastelbell-Tschars (Castelbello-Ciardes)

Getting there and getting back

There are regular trains between München (Munich) and the Donauwörth. The S-Bahn line from Munich airport connects with the mainline train services at the München Hauptbahnhof and München Ostbahnhof stations (for more inform­ation see the airport's website: munich-airport.de: Getting to and from the airport by train.

In Italy one branch of the Via Claudia ends close to Venezia Marco Polo airport, and it is also fairly easy to cycle from here to Treviso and the Treviso Antonio Canova airport. Verona airport is the most convenient for the other branch.

If you are planning on travelling back by train, all of the lines head via Verona to the Brenner pass and from there to Innsbruck. You can catch Italian regional trains to the border but if you are planning on going to Innsbruck or München then the best bet are the eurocity services run by DeutscheBahn and ÖBB (and a part of trenitalia). Some services run from Venezia but others start in Verona. The Verona services have a dedicated bike carriage.

bikeshuttle.at (de/​it/​en) offer daily bus services back from Verona and Venezia to München main station, and a three times a week service from Verona to Füssen or Garmisch stations (services run between May and October).

Cyclists on the Vinschgau Radweg/Via Claudia near Kastelbell-Tschars (Castelbello-Ciardes)

Cyclists on the Vinschgau Radweg/​Via Claudia near Kastelbell-Tschars (Castelbello-Ciardes)

Downloads

Maps to print out or view offline

The zip files contain pdf files packaged together for convenience. If you are using a tablet you may find it easier to download the individual sections.

A5 maps

The zip files contain pdf files packaged together for convenience. If you are using a tablet you may find it easier to download the individual sections.

 About the maps

sample map page.

Links open in new windows unless you ‘save as’ etc.

The maps are in two versions: A4 portrait format - for printing and maybe also for viewing on an iPad, and A5 for smaller tablets and smart­phones. As far as eReaders are concerned so far I’ve not managed to get them to work on a Nook - but you may have more success with other devices.

Show map download links for individual sections
Via Claudia in Germany and Austria: A4 maps
Via Claudia in Germany and Austria: A5 maps
Via Claudia in Italy: A4 maps
Via Claudia in Italy: A5 maps

GPS files

  •  Via Claudia In Germany and Austria: gps files
    (.zip file containing 4 track files and one file of waypoints)
  •  Via Claudia in Italy: gps files
    (.zip file containing 17 gpx track files plus waypoints)
  •  Italy Points of Interest

     About POIs

    POIs are like waypoints, but while you can usually only store a limited number of waypoints on a device, you can store thousands of POIs. These files include inform­ation about campsites and hostels, bike shops, train stations, drinking water sources as well as warnings for tunnels and roads where bikes are banned. Please check the ReadMe file for instruc­tions. Updated March 2017.

Cycleway between Bozen (Bolzano) and Trento part of the Ciclopista del Sole and Via Claudia Augusta

Cycleway between Bozen (Bolzano) and Trento part of the Ciclopista del Sole and Via Claudia Augusta

More information

Places to stay

Hotels and B&Bs etc

There are lots of accom­mod­ation options along the route. See the individual sections of this guide for more inform­ation.

Hostels

There aren't a huge number of hostels on the route, but there's a fair number. There's more inform­ation in the individual sections of this guide.

  Hostels map:  VCA-FT-hostels-mapshow map in overlay    |  VCA-FT-hostels-map  show map in new window   

Campsites

There are plenty of campsites along the central part of the route through Austria and Italy's Südtirol, but the further south you go the fewer there are - although there are lots around Venezia.

Resources

The route has its own dedicated website viaclaudia.org (de/it/en)with inform­ation about accom­mod­ation and points of interest along the route as well as shuttle services to take you to the top of the major passes. There’s also a very useful inter­active map 

Transport

  • bahn.com German Railways
  • oebb.at ÖBB (Austrian Railways)
  • [viaclaudia.org: shuttles](http://www.viaclaudia.org/de/via-claudia-bereisen/radroute/radshuttle.html "viaclaudia.org: radshuttle"]
  • VCA shuttles pdf brochure (de/​it/​en)
  • bikeshuttle.at (de/​it/​en). A taxi/​transport firm based in Nauders they offer daily luggage transport services on the route as well as shuttles over the main passes. Between May and October they offer They also offer also daily bus services back from Verona and Venezia to München main station, and a three times a week service from Verona to Füssen or Garmisch stations.

Tourist information sites

Regional tourist inform­ation sites for Germany and Austria:

Regional tourist inform­ation sites for Italy:

There are also many local sites — see the individual sections of the guide for more inform­ation.

Cycling websites

  • viaclaudia.org the official dedicated website for the route
  • Bayernnetz für Radler - Bavarian Network for Cyclists
  • ADFC Bett und Bike site listing bike-friendly accom­mod­ation in Germany —operated by the German cyclist’s associ­ation the ADFC (Allgemeiner Deutscher Fahrrad Club)
  • Radtouren in Österreich overview of cycle touring routes in Austria
  • veloland.ch (de/​en/​fr/​it) cycle routes through Switzerland
  • Innradweg the site for the Innradweg
  • donauregion.at site for the Danube cycleway through Oberösterreich (northern Austria)
  • donau.com site for the Danube cycleway through Niederösterreich (lower Austria)

Tour operators

It's perfectly possible to ride the Via Claudia independ­ently: the route is well signposted, and online services such as Booking.com make it really easy to book accom­mod­ation en route, but there are tour operators. These offer the option of a guided tour which means that you travel with a group, and 'self-guided' which mean that they organise your accom­mod­ation, transport your bags and provide backup in emergencies. The operators I know of are:

Articles in this series:

Via Claudia Augusta - Sankt Valentin auf der Haide

Via Claudia Augusta - Sankt Valentin auf der Haide

Get in touch

Please get in touch if you find any errors in the information, or if there’s anything, good or bad, that you’d want other cyclists to know.


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