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

Published on:  | Last updated: 27 February 2018

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. The northern part of the cycle route follows the old Via Alemagna which has now been replaced by the SS51 and most traffic takes the newer road.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.

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This section of the original imperial road has now been replaced by the modern SS51 which runs through a series of long tunnels, leaving the old road for (sparse) local traffic and cyclists.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

After Sottocastello there’s a shortish stretch of ciclabile that means you can avoid the busy main road.

There’s then a dramatic descent on the old Via Alemagna down into the valley of the Piave river and the village of Perarlo di Cadore. The road was built in the early nineteenth century to link the Veneto with Austria. It was superseded with the construction of the newer, faster version of the SS51 and most through traffic takes the new road, meaning that the old road is now mainly used by local residents.

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). Then, at the point where you’d have to rejoin the strada statale, there’s a fabulous cycleway along the river.

This cycleway takes you into the area of the comune di Longarone, but not into Longarone itself.

The Lunga Via delle Dolomiti: cyclists riding the new cycleway on the banks of the Piave near Castello Lavazzo

The Lunga Via delle Dolomiti: cyclists riding the new cycleway on the banks of the Piave near Castello Lavazzo

The Diga di Vajont (Vajont dam)

As you ride through the area you may notice some roadside memorials. They are memorials to 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 Castello Lavazzo 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 and turn right as if to go over the bridge over the Piave, but just before the bridge you need to turn sharp right, go under the bridge and then follow a very, very, quiet road that follows the course of the river.

The route takes you the ENEL electricity generation plant at Soverzene. 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 cycleways 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.

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 — or you could 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

  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’s a hostel — the Ostello Lunga Via delle Dolomiti — at Calalzo di Cadore.

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, 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 some trains are replaced by buses, so be sure to check the timetable.

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.

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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