The München-Venezia cycle route: Part 7 The Via Alemagna (Sottocastello-di-Cadore to the Lago di Santa Croce)

Published on:  | Last updated: 21 August 2019

The Via Alemagna near Ospitale di Cadore

The Via Alemagna near Ospitale di Cadore

At a glance

Distance

45 kilometres

Difficulty/​terrain

Easy — downhill or flat.

Traffic

Cycleways and quiet roads (with the exception of a short section on the busy SS51). The northern part of the cycle route follows the old Via Alemagna which has now been replaced by the SS51 and most traffic takes the newer road.

Surfaces

Mainly tarmac-surfaced roads or cycleways.

Signposting

Well signposted.

Connections

At Soverzene you can follow a cycle route that takes you to Belluno, and from here continue via Sospirolo to Cesiomaggiore where you can connect with the Via Claudia.

Overview

The München-Venezia cycle route continues from Sottocastello following the historic via Alemagna. The road is part of a historic route linking the Tirol with the Venetian Republic, and was used by travellers heading not just for Venezia, but to the Mediterranean. It is also known as the Via Regia- — the imperial road, reflecting the fact that it was used by Maximilian I and other emperors invading, or travelling to, Venezia.

After the destruction of the Repubblica Veneziana by Napoleon, the Veneto became Austrian territory. The Austrian governor decided to upgrade the road, and the contract to build it was awarded to Antonio Talachini (who was also one of the contractors who built the roads over the Passo dello Stelvio). The 130-kilometre long road was opened in 1830.

This section of the original imperial road has now been replaced by the modern SS51 which runs through a series of long tunnels, leaving the old road for (sparse) local traffic and cyclists.

The road follows the Piave river as it carves its way between the Friuli and Veneto Dolomites. The scenery is every bit as grand as the previous section.

Map and altitude profile

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Distances
Sottocastello di Cadore - Longarone 24 kms
Longarone - Soverzene 8 kms
Soverzene - Farra d'Alpage (Lago di Santa Croce)' 13 kms

Update (June 2019): some bad news

Northern Italy was badly hit by storms at the end of October 2018. This has resulted in the closure of a key section of cycleway as the route approaches Castellavazzo, south of Cortina d'Ampezzo and cyclists have to take to the busy SS51 for 1.6 kilometres.

There are difficult left turns at both ends of this section, although there is a pedes­trian crossing at the junction at the end (where you turn onto the the Via Uberti). The local cyclists organ­isation FIAB Belluno are campaigning for traffic lights to be installed. They have posted a video here: bellunoinbici.it: Per una Monaco-Venezia più sicura (For a Safer München-Venezia) which will give you a pretty good idea of how tricky the turn at the end of the Via Termine would be. There's another, that illus­trates what the SS51 is like, and why they are so concerned: bellunoinbici.it: Ciclisti in pericolo sulla SS51 (Cyclists in danger on the SS51).

Another reason the FIAB Belluno are so concerned is that the cycleway is set to close due to work on this section of the SS51in prepar­ation for the 2021 Ski World Championships. The closure could last for up to two years.

If you want to avoid this section of road, there are a couple of altern­atives: the first is to carry on the Lunga Via delle Dolomiti cycleway to to Calalzo di Cadore take the train from there to Longarone; the second is to follow the München-Venezia cycle route to Perarolo di Cadore and catch the train from there. See the Transport and services tab for more advice on the train option.

You could reduce the distance you have to ride on the SS51by turning off to go through the centre of Castellavazzo.

If you have any news on devel­op­ments on this section that I can pass on, please send me an email.

The FIAB Belluno website: bellunoinbici.it is the best place to look for news on any safety measures.

I'm really grateful to Lee Z for getting in touch to tell me about this.

Sottocastello to Castellavazzo

The turning for Sottocastello is at a cross­roads in the outskirts of Pieve di Cadore. At the cross­roads to your left is the Via Arsenale leading uphill to the centre of Pieve, and the Lunga Via delle Dolomiti cycleway resumes on the other side of the road. Turn right and head downhill on the Via Villanova which leads into the Via San Valentino. The Via San Valentino brings you into the Piazza San Leonardo in Sottocastello, beside the church. There's also a little bar on the piazza. Continue on, as the Piazza San Leonardo leads into the Via Giovanni XXIII, and the Via Caduti del Lavoro. At the bottom, turn right and go past the signs indic­ating that you are leaving Sottocastello di Cadore. Don't take the road that leads to the lake (lago).

The new road (the Via Arcole) comes out onto the main SS51; there's a shortish stretch of ciclabile that runs beside the main road. The cycleway goes under the SS51 and comes out onto the Strada Cavallera (SP42) and from here the road makes a dramatic descent down into the Piave river valley and the village of Perarlo di Cadore

The gorge gets narrower, and the mountains loom over you — my neck started to ache from constantly looking up. This road is as dramatic as any you find in other parts of the Dolomites (we are still in the Dolomites).

You come to the point where the cycleway has been closed and you have to take to the strada statale. If you're tempted to test whether there is some way of getting over or around the closure, the short answer is 'no, there isn't': people who have tried tell me that the cycleway is defin­itely not passable (thanks to Andy B for the inform­ation on that).

Cyclists riding the new cycleway on the banks of the Piave near Castellavazzo

Cyclists riding the cycleway on the banks of the Piave near Castellavazzo — currently tempor­arily closed)

Castellavazzo to the Lago di Santa Croce

If you've taken the SS51, you turn left when you come to a zebra crossing at the junction with the Via Giovanni Uberti. The Via Uberti takes you to a bridge, and the München-Venezia cycle route continues, as before, on the right bank of the Piave, through the village of Codissago. The town of Longarone is on the other side of the river. If you've taken the train, you can rejoin the route at the next bridge (the Ponte Campelli).

The Diga di Vajont (Vajont dam)

As you ride through the area you may notice some roadside memorials. They commem­orate one of Europe's worst indus­trial disasters: in the evening of the 9 October 1963, a huge landslide into the lake behind the dam sent a massive 250 metre-high wave over the top of the dam that came crashing down on Longarone on the other side of the river destroying the town. Nearly two thousand people died in the disaster in Longarone and the surrounding area: the wall of water was 30 metres high when it hit nearby Castellavazzo and Codissago and more than 12 metres high when it hit Belluno and Ponte nelle Alpi further down river. Read more on en.wikipedia.org: Vajont Dam

Contemporary picture showing the campanile of the church at Pirago and the ruins of the surrounding village

The campanile of the church at Pirago which somehow remained standing after the surrounding village was completely destroyed. Source Wikipedia Commons

The route takes you past the dam - although it's not partic­u­larly visible from the road.

From the memorial and the diga you carry on along the road as it passes Provagna. The road turns right and head for a bridge over the Piave, but just before your reach the bridge you need to turn sharp right, go under the bridge and then follow a cycleway and very, very, quiet road that follow the course of the river.

The route takes you the ENEL electricity gener­ation plant at Soverzene. The centrale is named after Achille Gaggia, the inventor of the modern espresso machine. Signor Gaggia came from Milano, and so far as I know, had no connec­tions with the area, but please don't let that detail stop you saluting him as you pass by.

When I rode this route in 2015, you then had to cross over the river and head for Ponte nelle Alpi where there was a section of 2.5 kilometres on the busy SS51. The local author­ities in the area have built new sections cycleway, meaning the that you can stay on this side of the Piave river and avoid the busy road.

At the ENEL plant you turn left (signposted with a München-Venezia sign), after 20 metres there is a small entrance, between two high sections of chain link fencing, onto the new section of the route (also signed with the München-Venezia sign). Many thanks to Bill C who provided the inform­ation on this. According to the map, there are a couple of sections of compacted-aggregate cycleway as you go past the hydro­electric dam at Soverzene. These continue for a bit over a kilometres, but after that there's an asphalt-surfaced cycleway.

From Soverzene you continue, mainly on a newly-constructed cycleway, the Pista Ciclabile Via Regia which takes you the 12 kilometres to the Lago di Santa Croce.

Via Alemagna: sign on a maintenance depot

Via Alemagna: sign on a maintenance depot

More information

Places to stay

There isn't a huge range of accom­mod­ation on this section of the route, the best bet is probably in Longarone (I've had a very positive recom­mend­ation for the Albergo-Ristorante Da Bona on the road into Longarone). You could also continue on to Vittorio Veneto. However, if you don't mind making a short detour there's plenty of choice in Belluno and Ponte nelle Alpi, or in Pieve di Cadore.

Find and book places to stay with Booking.com

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

Longarone | Vittorio Veneto | Ponte nelle Alpi | Belluno | Pieve di Cadore

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.

  Hotels and B&Bs map:  MV-part-2-FT-mapshow map in overlay    |  MV-part-2-FT-map  show map in new window   

Hostels

There used to be a hostel in Calalzo di Cadore, but it looks like it may have closed.

Campsites

There are two campsites between Cortina and the coast: the International di Cologna campsite that's reasonably close to the route at Sottocastello, and, some way further on, the Sarathei on the Lago di Santa Croce. I've stayed there a couple of times and it's a nice site.

  Map of campsites along the route:  MV-campsites-map - show map in overlay    |  MV-campsites-map -   show map in new window   

Transport and services

Longarone Tourist Infotourist

The pro-loco for Longarone has recently opened a tourist inform­ation point on the route. It offers a set of tools for repairs, as well as drinks and snacks and, of course, inform­ation about the area. It is open every day from May to October.

Bike shops on this section of the route

If you know of other bike shops, or you spot a mistake, please let me know.

  Map:  MV-bike-shops-map - show bike shops map in overlay    |    MV-bike-shops-map - show bike shops map in new window   

Trains

There are train stations at Calalzo di Cadore, Perarlo di Cadore, Longarone, Ponte nelle Alpi and Belluno.

Until recently you couldn't take bikes on the trains to and from the train station at Calalzo di Cadore and you had to ride to the station at Ponte nelle Alpi. You can now take bikes on these services — but note that while in the late afternoon trains run once an hour, during the day most trains are replaced by buses, so be sure to check the timetable (timetable last checked August 2019).

If you are travelling south to Venezia you will normally need to change at Ponte nelle Alpi, but note that on Saturdays and holidays there are direct trains from Calalzo di Cadore, to and from Venezia, and to/​from Padova and Vicenza. For both services you must reserve the place for your bike, but you can buy tickets, and make reser­va­tions, up to five minutes before departure.

Taking the train to avoid the SS51

If you're thinking of taking the train to avoid the section of the SS51 near Castellavazzo you have the choice of either going to the station at Calalzo di Cadore, or the station at Perarolo di Cadore. Calalzo di Cadore is at the head of the line, so if you want the best chance of getting a bike place, then Calalzo is the best bet — especially at weekends. On the other hand, Longarone is the next stop after Perarolo, and the train conductor might turn a blind eye if it's just for one stop.

If you are travelling from Perarolo you can save yourself a few centesimi by buying two single tickets (one for you and one for your bike) instead of a ticket plus bike ticket. You may also find this the simpler option if you are travelling from Calalzo.

Resources

Cycling-related websites

  • If you read Italian you might want to check out bellunoinbici.it, the site of the local FIAB (Federazione Italian Amici della Bicicletta for news about new cycleways in the area or problems on the route
  • infodolomiti.it: Ciclovia dell'Amicizia (it only) has a very useful inter­active map of the route through the Provincia di Belluno (ie from Cortina south to the Lago di Santa Croce). The map shows hotels and other accom­mod­ation, as well as places of interest (tip: click the icon in the top right-hand corner to go fullscreen)
  • infodolomiti.it: Bike (it/​de/​en). 21 cycle routes in the Provincia di Belluno.
  • veneto.eu has an excellent Bike Tourism section with inform­ation about the regional routes (en/​fr/​de/​it/​es/​pt/​pl/​jp.

Tourist information websites

  • the major tourist inform­ation site for the Veneto is veneto.eu (en/​fr/​de/​it/​es/​pt/​pl/​jp)
  • infodolomiti.it (it/​de/​en). Tourist inform­ation for the Provincia di Belluno. Includes an accom­mod­ation listing.
Water fountain in Sottocastello di Cadore

Water fountain in Sottocastello di Cadore

Articles in this series


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