Via Claudia Augusta: Part 9 The Valsugana cycleway to Bassano del Grappa

Published on:  | Last updated: 29 April 2017

The third option at the Lago di Caldonazzo is to stay on the Valsugana, and continue on to Bassano del Grappa. A beautiful and historic Veneto town on the banks of the Brenta river. After Bassano del Grappa you can head for Feltre and rejoin the main route there, or you could rejoin it at Treviso. Or even continue following the Brenta to the Brenta riviera to the south of Venezia.

Cyclists on the Ciclabile della Valsugana cycleway near Grigno

Cyclists on the Ciclabile della Valsugana cycleway near Grigno

At a glance

Distance

79 kilometres (but note that the traffic-free section section of the route is 55 kilometres long).

Difficulty/​terrain

Easy (at least if you are going north to south).

Traffic

The final 24 kilometres of the route are on public roads. On the whole these are very quiet, but they get busier as you approach Bassano-del-Grappa.

Surfaces

Entirely on tarmac cycleways or roads.

Finding your way

Well signed. the local tourist promotion author­ities produce a handy little map that you can put in your pocket (although it really would be hard to get lost).

Overview

The Ciclabile della Valsugana (Valsugana cycleway) is one of Italy's top cycleways and is rightly very popular. It starts at the Lago di Caldonazzo, high in the hills above Trento, and follows the Brenta river as it heads from its source to the Adriatic coast. It heads into the Canale del Brenta a deep river gorge that carves its way between the Altopiano di Asiago and the Massiccio del Grappa. At the deepest point of the Canale the walls of the gorge are over 800 metres high.

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Distances
San Cristoforo al Lago - Borgo Valsugana 25 kms
Borgo Valsugana - Valstagna 40 kms
Valstagna - Bassano-del-Grappa 16 kms
The Ciclabile della Valsugana cycleway beside the Brenta river near Levico Terme

The Ciclabile della Valsugana cycleway beside the Brenta river near Levico Terme

The Ciclabile della Valsugana (Valsugana cycleway) starts just outside the train station at San Cristoforo al Lago where a brand new section of bike path takes you to the Lago di Caldonazzo. The cycleway continues along the shore of the lake.

Once you get to Calceranica al Lago the lakeside cycleway gives way to a section cycleway that runs runs beside the road. At points the cycleway is little more than the permission to ride on the pavement. It's not great, but it works and gets you into Caldonazzo without problems.

The route through Caldonazzo is a little tricky because of the one-way system, you need to head out of the village on the Via Roma before turning off onto a country lane that runs parallel with the strada provin­ciale to the point where the cycleway resumes by a round­about on the main SS47. From here you continue on into Borgo Valsugana on a combin­ation of traffic-free cycleway and quiet road.

Before you get to Borgo Valsugana you might want to visit the Mulino Angeli (opening hours). This also houses a museum of scare­crows and a toy museum. The scare­crows were collected by photo­grapher Flavio Faganello. You can see a gallery of his pictures on this page: lacasadeglispaventapasseri.net: mostra The museum is about 60 metres from the cycleway - you need to turn left just before your get to a picnic area and take the road that leads under the railway line and under the main road.

Borgo Valsugana: the Castel Telvana

Borgo Valsugana: the Castel Telvana. Photo by Matteo Cescato (source: Wikimedia Commons)

Borgo Valsugana

As you come into Borgo Valsugana look out for the Castel Telvana on the hillside above. If you have the energy you could go up to the castle - although it's not open to visitors.

The Valsugana links the Veneto with the Trentino. Between 1866 and 1918 this was the border between the Austro-Hungarian empire and Italy. The valley and the nearby Altopiano di Asiago were the scene of important battles in the First World War. In Borgo Valsugana there's a mostra permanente (permanent exhib­ition). For more inform­ation see: trentinograndeguerra.it or mostradiborgo.it.

Borgo Valsugana is a good place to stop for a coffee or a drink. From Borgo Valsugana there's a long section of cycleway that takes you toward Grigno - although not into the village itself. Just outside Grigno the route crosses the river and then, shortly after, crosses back again, passing the Trincerone di Grigno on the other side of the river. Trincerone means 'big trench' and while it's barely noticeable from ground-level, below is forti­fic­ation built by the Italians during the first World War to defend the border, as it then was, with the Austro-Hungarian empire ( picture of the Trincerone). For inform­ation on visiting the trincerone see: valsuganacultura.it or ask in the Biblioteca Comunale (library) in Grigno.

The Ciclabile della Valsugana cycleway near Grigno near Grigno

The Ciclabile della Valsugana cycleway near Grigno

Into the Veneto

After Grigno there's the bicigrill at Tezze Valsugana. A bicigrill is the cycling version of the autogrill on the Italian autostrade. For me this is an oblig­atory stop although there is another bicigrill a 8 kilometres further on at Piovega di Sotto. Or you could stop at both.

The section from Tezze takes you into the Veneto. This is perhaps the most scenic section of the route as the canale narrows and the walls of the gorge tower over you.

Further on, at Piovega del Sotto, there's another bicigrill and the end of the traffic-free part of the cycleway. From here the route continues on a strada comunale into Valstagna. The road is very quiet and initially you won't see more than the occasional car.

Valstagna

Valstagna

Valstagna

Valstagna is linked by a stone roadway - the Calà del Sasso (en.wikipedia.org: Calà del Sasso) to the village of Sasso — 810 metres (altitude), and 4444 steps, above on the Altopiano di Asiago. The Calà was used to transport logs down to Valstagna, and from there they were trans­ported by river to Venezia. According to the Italian wikipedia page (it.wikipedia.org: Calà del Sasso), in 1999, Alberto Limatore rode a bike up the Calà without putting a foot down even once.

The Calà del Sasso between Valstagna and Sasso (Veneto).

The Calà del Sasso between Valstagna and Sasso (Veneto). Photo by fabyr

The local tradition is that if a couple walk the Calà hand in hand they will stay in love forever.

The logs were trans­ported down river from Valstagna by the zattieri (rafters) who sailed rafts of logs down river. The opening of the railway in the nineteenth century was the end of the zattieri but they are commem­orated by the Palio delle Zattere The palio takes place on the last Sunday of July. Teams from nine contrade (neigh­bour­hoods), each consisting of three men and a damigella (damsel), get dressed up in medieval costumes and take to the river on rafts that don't look much larger than a tabletop.

Flyer for the 2016 Palio delle Zattere

Flyer for the 2016 Palio delle Zattere

On its way into Bassano del Grappa the route passes the Grotte di Oliero . There are four caves - one that you visit by rowing boat - as well as three museums: one about caving, another about paper making, and an ethno­graphic museum.

View of the Ponte degli Alpini and Bassano del Grappa

View of the Ponte degli Alpini and Bassano del Grappa. Photo from: Wikimedia Commons

The Ponte degli Alpini and the Grapperia Nardini

The town is famous for its bridge and for, you guessed it, grappa. The bridge was designed by the architect Andrea Palladio and is built in wood. The wooden construction and the striking design were intended to help the bridge withstand the force of the Brenta in flood. The present bridge is actually the third bridge built to Palladio's design on the site. The bridge was rebuilt again in 1947 and is now commonly known as the Ponte degli Alpini. The Alpini are the military regiments recruited from the mountain areas. The bridge was blown up during the war and the Alpini raised the money to rebuild it: it had, and still has, a huge symbolic importance as the gateway to the Monte Grappa.

At the entrance to the bridge on the left bank is the Grapperia Nardini. Nardini are Italy's leading brand of grappa and this is where the firm started. Production has moved to a distillery outside town, but the original grapperia is an atmospheric place to stop for a drink. There's a photogallery on the firm's website, and a video from italia.it (Italian only):

Options from Bassano-del-Grappa

From Bassano del Grappa you can rejoin the route at Feltre by following the signposted Anello Cicloturistico del Grappa It's a circular route so you have two options:

  Map:  Anello-del-Grappa-map-show map in overlay    |    Anello-del-Grappa-map-show map in new window   

The more scenic option is to go via the Lago di Corlo, with a dramatic stretch of road carved out of the rock face. The altern­ative is to go via Possagno del Grappa and the Museo Canova. The Museum was the family home of the sculptor Antonio Canova. The centrepiece of the museum is the Gipsoteca (plaster-cast hall) which brings together the models (many full-size) that Canova made before making the final sculp­tures. Housed in bright, modern, wing designed by Carlo Scarpa, the Gipsoteca offers an excep­tional oppor­tunity to see a cross-section of Canova's work in one place (opening hours and prices). On the hill a short walk away is the imposing Tempio Canovano - a church that Canova rebuilt at his own expense, with a neo-classical design based on the Pantheon in Rome.

Even more options

There are three other altern­atives:

  • follow the Brenta south to the junction with the Treviso-Ostiglia cycleway and then head for Treviso
  • follow the Brenta to Padova and from there to the Brenta riviera south of Venezia
  • follow the Veneto regional route to Asolo and from there to Treviso

There is a good cycleway along the Brenta, the Via del Brenta, the only problem is that at the moment it starts at Camazzole 15 kilometres south of Bassano del Grappa. Probably the easiest option for reaching it is to ride on the SP52 on the western side of the Brenta. The Via del Brenta is mainly unsur­faced, although there are points where the surface is so smooth that I wondered if it was in fact tarmac.

More information

Places to stay

Hotels

Find and book places to stay with Booking.com

Hotels and B&Bs

Booking.com pages for places on this section of the route:

Hostels

So far as I know, there are no hostels on the route.

Campsites

There are lots of campsites around the Lago di Caldonazzo and the nearby Lago di Levico. At the southern end, there is a campsite (the Camping Santa Felicita at Borso del Grappa and there are a couple of campsites on the Lago di Corlo near Feltre (the Camping Gajole and the Camping al Lago ).

Transport and services

Trains

The train line between Bassano del Grappa and Trento goes through the Valsugana, so you are never far from a station if you need one. There's about one train an hour in each direction.

Services and places to eat

There are three bicigrill on the cycleway itself:

  • Big Fish near Levico
  • Bicigrill di Tezze
  • Cornale at Enego.

There are also cafes bars and restaurants in the villages that the route passes through: San Cristoforo al Lago, Caldonazzo, Borgo Valsugana, Valstagna and Bassano del Grappa.

Bike shops

Resources

Tourist information websites

  • visitvalsugana.it (it/​de/​en/​nl) is the tourist inform­ation website for the immediate area
  • visittrentino.it/ (it/​de/​en/​nl/​cz/​pl/​ru). Official tourist inform­ation site for the Trentino
  • tr3ntino.it/ (it/​en/​de) is a very good independent site which also has a useful cycling section
  • visitvicenza.org is the main tourist inform­ation website for the provincia di Vicenza.
  • veneto.eu is the website for the Veneto region (it/​en/​fr/​de/​es/​pt/​ru/​jp)

Possagno and Canova

Cycling information

Cyclist on the Ciclabile della Valsugana cycleway near Enego (Veneto)

Cyclist on the Ciclabile della Valsugana cycleway near Enego (Veneto)

Articles in this series

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