Published on: 24 March 2013 | Last updated: 25 December 2019
The road climbs pretty gently from the Lago di Como (200m) along the Sentiero Valtellina to Tirano. It starts to climb more deeply after Tirano as the route passes through the Val Bernina in one of the Italian-speaking areas of Switzerland, before turning back into Italy via the Forcola Livigno (2315m) into the ‘Little Tibet’ of the valleys around Livigno. The tour continues to Bormio (1217m) via the Passo d’Eira (2208m) and the Passo di Foscagno (2291m). From Bormio it climbs again along the Valfurva following the Torrente Frodolfo to the Passo di Gavia (2621m) and a dramatic descent into Ponte di Legno with views over the Presanella massiccio. The final pass is the Passo di Tonale (1883m) on the border with Trentino.
Most of this area was once part of the predecessor to Switzerland, before Napoleon redrew the borders. It retains strong affinities and connections with Switzerland, and the local authorities in the region cooperate in promoting the area under the banner of the Alta Rezia.
Map and altitude profile
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At Bormio you have the option of climbing the Passo di Stelvio (2758m) either as a day-ride, or crossing into Switzerland, or the Südtirol.
This route is designed to connect with my Tour of the Western Lakes route and Dolomites (West-East) route - offering the possibility of an odyssey of almost 1,000 kilometres from Piemonte in the west, to Friuli in the east.
When to go
I went over the Passo di Gavia in early July and there was snow beside the road and it was cold. July, August and September are probably your best bets.
Maps to print out or view offline
About the maps
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. (A4 and A5 are international paper sizes).
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- Mountains of Lombardia gps files
(.zip file containing 3 gpx track files)
- Italy Points of Interest
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 April 2018. The file format is only compatible with Garmin GPSes .
Places to stay
Transport and services
Tirano has rail connections with both the Italian and Swiss rail systems and the first part of the route follows the rail line between Tirano and Sankt Moritz. There are train stations at Edolo near Ponte di Legno and Grumo San Michele which is within striking distance of the end of the route at Ossana.