The Vinschgau cycleway

Published on:  | Last updated: 31 March 2017

The Reschensee (Lago di Resia) the old church of Graun in Vinschgau (Curon Venosta)

The Reschensee (Lago di Resia) the old church of Graun in Vinschgau (Curon Venosta)

Through the Vinschgau (Val Venosta) to Meran

The Vinschgau cycleway (Vinschgau Radweg or Ciclabile della Val Venosta) runs for 78 kilometres between the Lago di Resia (Reschensee) at 1504m and Meran (altitude: 325). You could do it from Meran to the Lago di Resia, but the train to Mals (Malles) provides an easier option (but make sure to read the inform­ation in the Getting there section further on.

You could simply cycle from Mals, but for my money the climb to the Reschensee (Lago di Reisen) is well worth the effort. Not just to see the lake with its iconic sunken church tower but also for the glorious ride down to the village of Sankt Valentin auf der (Sant Valentino all Muta) Heide, which is one of the prettiest villages in the area. The climb involves a 400 metre altitude gain over 17 kilometres.

Equally, you could do this cycleway in a single day, but equally there is so much to enjoy along the way, and lots of places to stay, that it would be a shame to rush it.

You can cycle on either the west or the east banks of the Reschensee (Lago di Resia), but you may well want to make a detour to see the submerged bell tower at Graun in Vinschgau which has become a symbol for the whole area.

Vinschgau Radweg - cyclists climbing towards the Reschensee

Vinschgau Radweg - the climb to the Reschensee is well worth the effort

Beyond Mals is the medieval town of Glurns (Glorenza) - officially Italy’s smallest city, and defin­itely worth a brief stop. Look out for its porticoed streets, the massive fortified gatehouses and the wooden bridge over the river.

From here the cycleway takes you to the lovely village of Sankt Valentin auf der Haide a little way further on. Look out for the Kloster Marienburg on your right-hand side as you cycle towards Mals (Malles). The Abbey also owns the nearby Castel Fürstenberg - now a college for agriculture and forestry.

Vinschau Radweg - Shop sign in Glurns

Vinschau Radweg - Shop sign in Glurns

Naturns and the Sankt Prokulus church

After Glurns, the cycleway descends quickly towards the spa town of Meran. I’d highly recommend a stop at the Sankt Prokulus church at Naturns. The church dates back to the 7th/​​8th century and contains some excep­tional frescoes - also dating back to the 7th/​​8th century. They are the oldest frescoes from the German-speaking world. They were white­washed over in the 14th and 15th centuries and painted over. The original frescoes were redis­covered in 1912. They include the wonderful picture, the ‘Schaukler’ (the swinger) - thought to be of Saint Proculus (bishop of Verona) on what looks like a swing. The church, and next-door museum, are open every day in summer except Mondays and closes for lunch between midday and 14:30.

Click the image below to see a gallery of five pictures of the frescoes. All the pictures, with the exception of the photo on this page, are by Wikimedia Commons contributor Dietrich Krieger.

Frescoes from the Sankt Prokulus church in Naturns

Frescoes from the Sankt Prokulus church in Naturns. Photo by 'Albris'. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Click on image for gallery.

Meran

After Naturns comes the spa town of Meran. I would defin­itely advise detouring off the cycle route to explore the city centre. If you have the time and the inclin­ation you might want to visit the spa itself (opening times and prices). (You may also want to check out the link for the Piscina Naturale/​Naturbad at Gargazzone (photogallery | opening hours and prices). Take the underpass that links the cycleway with Gargazzone and then follow the signs.

You could also visit the Schloss Tirol castle - home to the dukes of Tyrol until they moved their capital to Innsbruck, or the gardens of the Trauttmansdorff Castle.

Apple trees in the Südtirol

Apple trees in the Südtirol

Into apple country

You are now in the heart of Italy’s Apple country. This area accounts for half of Italy’s apple production and if you add in neigh­bouring Trentino they produce three-quarters of Italy’s apples (1.5 million tonnes). If you’re imagining orchards I’m going to have to disap­point you - ‘apple plant­a­tions’ might be a better term as the apple trees are trained along steel wires strung between concrete posts. Sadly, while many native varieties of apple face extinction, the apples produced in the apple plant­a­tions are the same varieties you’ll find on super­market shelves the world over (with the same names too).

You'll see people drinking local apple juice in the bars, but strangely, they don't make cider (or at least it seems strange to someone who comes from Britain’s West Country where cider has always rivalled beer).

Map and altitude profile

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Distances

Vinschgau Radweg
Reschensee - Mals 17kms
Mals - Naturns 48kms
Naturns - Meran 14kms

Options and connections

At Meran, you could turn north and follow the PasseierTal Radweg (Ciclabile della Val Passiria) (which runs for 20kms along the valley of the Passer (Passirio) river from Meran to San Leonhard in Passeier. Note that this cycleway is unsur­faced.

The Vinschgau cycleway also connects at Meran with the Etsch Radweg/​Ciclabile dell Vall'Adige (together they form part of the Via Claudia Augusta) that takes you to Bozen (Bolzano). Most people head south from Bozen on towards Trento but you could also north towards Brixen (Bressanone) and from there take the Pusterbike through the Pustertal (Val Pusteria). See Südtirol cycleways and the Pusterbike cycleway for more inform­ation.

Vinschgau Radweg, looking down towards the Vinschgau (Val Venosta)

Vinschgau Radweg, looking down towards the Vinschgau (Val Venosta) and your reward for making the climb

More information

Places to stay

Hotels, pensions and agriturismi

Find and book places to stay with Booking.com

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

 About these links

If you use these links to book accom­mod­ation Booking.com will pay me a small part of their commission. This helps support the costs of producing this site.

I use Booking.com to find and book places to stay when there are no campsites in the area. The large majority of hotels and many hostels are now on ‘Booking’. I like it because it means that I can get almost-instant confirm­ation. The rating system is also a reliable guide to the quality of the accom­mod­ation.

I’ve never had a problem finding places to keep my bike —even if it’s a cupboard or store room. I always use the ‘special requests’ field on the booking form to tell the hotel that I’m travelling with a bike, which gives them the oppor­tunity to let me know if there’s a problem.

Many properties offer free cancel­lation but it’s a good idea to check the condi­tions as these vary from property to property.

Campsites

There are plenty of campsites along the route.

  FT-maps-vinschgau-campsites Map of campsites:  show map in overlay    |    FT-maps-vinschgau-campsites show map in new window   

Hostels

Transport and services

Resources

General tourist information

The Südtirol has excellent regional tourist inform­ation website and this are the ideal starting points for planning your trip:

There are also useful independent websites (see the useful websites pages for the regions).

Useful local sites include:

More inform­ation about the PasseierTal Radweg (Ciclabile della Val Passiria)

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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