Published on: 17 April 2018 | Last updated: 8 May 2018
At a glance
Easy. If you are heading north to south the route is predominantly downhill with the occasional small climb.
Almost entirely on traffic-free cycleways or quiet roads. However, there is a section, just before Franzensfeste Fortezza where the cycleway has been closed and you have to ride on the main road.
Almost all of the cycleway is asphalt surfaced, the exceptions are a short section through a nature reserve near the Vahrner See, and north of Brixen and on the approach to Brixen itself.
Well signposted and easy to follow
The cycleway connects with the Fahrradroute Pustertal at Fortezza Franzensfeste.
Also known as …
The cycleway is also known as the Eisacktal Radweg (because it follows the Eisack river).
Map and altitude profile
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|Brenner - Sterzing (Vipiteno)||22 kms|
|Sterzing (Vipiteno) - Fortezza Franzensfeste||23 kms|
|Fortezza Franzensfeste - Brixen (Bressanone)||10 kms|
The cycleway follows a section of what was once the rail line to Brenner, made redundant by the rerouting and upgrading of the line.
Just after the six-kilometre marker, you come to a short (illuminated) tunnel. From here, the cycleway starts to separate from the autobahn and the main road. The cycleway follows the opposite side of the valley from the autobahn, and down below, you can see the village of Gossensaß (Colle Isarco). In the distance, you can see the snow on the mountains of what must be the Stelvio. As I descended all I could hear was the sound the cicalas (crickets), and a church bell in the distance.
When I passed this way in 2017 they were building a bridge over the river, so they had built a new road where, according to the map, there had previously been a path. You have to take the road, and then pick up the cycleway again just before the 5-kilometre mark.
At a certain point, the section of decommissioned railway line comes to an end, and the cycleway turns toward Gossensaß, following the rail line. The even gradient gives way to more up and down. The route comes down to Gossensaß (Colle Isarco).
After Gossensaß the cycle route crosses over the autobahn and, makes a short climb up the valley side, following country lanes into the little hamlet of Oberried (Novale di Sopra). The short uphill enables you to avoid a series of three tunnels on the main road.
After Oberried the route descends again towards the river. You cross over the Eisack and continue beside the main road (SS 12) into Sterzing (Vipiteno).
The final stretch into Sterzing is pretty uninteresting, but Sterzing itself more than makes up for it. The radroute takes you down the town's medieval altstadt and the stadtplatz (town square) with the iconic Zwölferturm (tower of the twelve) — the fifteenth-century tower that separates the Altstadt from the neustadt (New Town).
Sterzing is one of the most attractive towns in the region, and the section of the route through the Altstadt and Neustadt is a definite highlight, so take your time. If they are open, take a few minutes to see the 15th-century frescoes in the Heilig Geist Spitalkirche on the corner of the stadtplatz opposite the Zwölferturm. The Pfarrkirche Unsere Liebe Frau im Moos (the parish church of Our Lady in the Moss) is also worth a short detour. It has some beautiful wooden pews — each one individually carved for the family, but the together they add up to a harmonious whole.
Sterzing to Franzensfeste Fortezza
Coming out of Sterzing you need to follow the signs for the Radroute Brixen-Bozen (Percorso Ciclabile Bressanone-Bolzano). There are blue signs for the MV route and also for the Südtirol Radweg.
As you pass the landing strip, you should be able to see the Burg Reifenstein on your left. The castle is claimed to be one of the best-preserved castles in the Südtirol. It is visitable, but check the opening times on sterzing.com: Burg Reifenstein.
After Sterzing there's a stretch of where the route runs beside the autobahn for nearly four kilometres. It's not unpleasant, but it is a little dull. This section comes to an end as you cross over the bridge and the route arrives at the charming village of Stilfs (Stilves). Look out for the water fountain in the little square.
From Stilfs you take a gorgeous, quiet road that skirts the edge of woodland. The section of quiet lanes takes you through a couple of small villages and is one of my favourite parts of the route.
The next section, of traffic-free cycleway, is less scenic, but still, a lovely cruisey ride that comes to an end when you turn left and go under the railway line and ride into the pretty village of Mittewald on the banks of the Eisack. There's a nice little gasthof just before you get to the bridge over the river.
After the bridge there is then a roadside cycleway which takes you for 700 metres and at that point, there should be another bridge to take you over the main road and on to Fortezza Franzensfeste. Unfortunately, the bridge and cycleway are closed due to work on the Brenner Base Tunnel. I was told that this is a permanent closure and the cycleway will be rerouted. In the meantime, you have to take the main road (the SS12) for a couple of kilometres. Fortunately, the SS 12 at this point is quite wide, and if you are heading north-south, it is downhill.
There's a short section of roadside cycleway then the route crosses over the river and comes to the station at Franzensfeste Fortezza.
After the village, the route heads for the fortress itself. This is one of the narrowest points in the Eisack valley and the railway line, autobahn and the Staatsstraße squeeze into a narrow strip of land between the valley side and a reservoir — with the cycleway threading its way through the gaps.
The Festung Franzensfeste (Forte di Fortezza)
The Festung Franzensfeste was constructed by the Austro-Hungarian empire. It is one of many military follies built in the nineteenth and twentieth century across the arc of the Alps.
The fortress was built of blocks of granite brought here from Pfalzen five hours away by horse-drawn cart. A stonecutter needed four days to create a perfect block by hand. Not surprisingly the fortress cost a huge amount of money to build (the equivalent of 400 million euros), and the Kaiser Ferdinand I is alleged to have said at the opening ceremony that, given the cost, he had been expecting a fortress of pure silver.
Today the building has been converted into a series of atmospheric exhibition spaces and is well worth the short detour to get to it.
The permanent exhibition about the history of the fortress itself is in three languages. There is then an exhibition dedicated to the history of the railways in the area which is in Italian and German only. There's also an InfoPoint dedicated to the Brenner Base tunnel project. If you're interested, they offer visits to the tunnel itself on Fridays at 10:00 and 14:00 (reservation required). For information and reservations see bbtinfo.eu.
Franzensfeste Fortezza to Brixen
The Brennerradroute continues south beside the autobahn, although the route is well landscaped, and the soundproofing is effective.
This section comes to an end close to the Vahrner See, where it turns right under the rail line, and then continues on an aggregate surfaced track through a nature reserve. It's a beautiful stretch through woodland, but you may find it tricky if you have narrow tyres. Unfortunately, the only way to avoid this bit would be to take to the main Brennerstraße at Franzensfeste Fortezza.
The route leads to a bridge over the motorway (and the railway line and the main road), and you can then pick up a cycleway which runs beside the SS12. I took the most direct option which involved a short section of unsurfaced track, but you could avoid this by following Bahnhofstraße.
The cycleway then turns away from the road, and becomes a quiet country lane, and comes out on the riverside beside the Löwenhof hotel and campsite. It crosses over the river and continues through a park towards the centre of Brixen. At the bridge, there's a junction with a cycleway that leads you to the Kloster Neustift (Abbazia Novacella) a kilometre away.
Brixen is a definite don't-miss, even if it's only to explore the streets around the Cathedral (Dom/Duomo). There is a beautiful, peaceful section of riverside cycleway which is a definite highlight – although as get further from Brixen it skirts the city's industrial/commercial hinterland.
Places to stay
Hotels and other accommodation
Find and book places to stay with Booking.com
Sterzing (Vipiteno) is the main tourist destination in the area. There's lots of accommodation in and around the town, but not much after it until you get to Muhlbach (Rio di Pusteria).
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.
There is a hostel at Brixen: the Jugendherberge Brixen.
The only campsite on the northern part of this section is the Camping Gilfenklamm, a couple of kilometres on from Sterzing. It has a pleasant area for tents and is very reasonably priced for the area — it's been a long time since I paid less than €10 for a night at a campsite (although once the tourist tax was added on it came to €10.20).
There are a couple of campsites a little way north of Brixen:
- the Camping Vahrner See at Vahrn (Varna) and
- the Hotel/Camping Löwenhof on the outskirts of Brixen (Bressanone)
The Löwenhof is a nice site, and convenient for sightseeing, but it is close to a busy road, so during the day there is some traffic noise. The Camping Vahrner See looks the more rural of the two.
Transport and services
The line between Brenner and Fortezza Franzensfeste/Brixen is served by three train companies:
- Trenitalia regional services to Bologna (via Bozen, Trento, and Verona)
- the SAD regional train company operates services to Bozen, Meran and Lienz in Austria.
- the Deutsche Bahn-ÖBB Eurocity services to Innsbruck and München in the north and Bozen, Trento, Bologna, Verona and Venezia to the south.
Note that you must have a bike ticket to travel on the Trenitalia and SAD services, and sadly the tickets for one company aren't valid on the others' services. To travel on the Eurocity services you need to reserve a bike place (cost 10€) in advance.
- Sterzing (Vipiteno): Fahrrad Freund | M²Bike
- Brixen (Bressanone): Luigi Soracase (Via Bastioni Minori 5) | Mister Bike (Brixen) | Profi Bike | Sportler Brixen
If you know of other bike shops, or you spot a mistake, please let me know.
Map: | show Südtirol bike shops map in overlay Südtirol-bike-shops-map - show Südtirol bike shops map in new window
Tourist information websites
- suedtirol.info: Valle Isarco Eisacktal
- brixen.org (de/it/en)
- Brennerradroute map and guide . Map with a useful guide to places to visit along the way (the paper version should, hopefully, be available from tourist offices)
- valleisarco.info: cycling
- suedtirol-rad.com - bike rentals in the region
- suedtirol.info: biking tours
- BrixenCard (one free admission to the swimming pool)
Places and attractions
Articles in this series
- Brennerradroute: Introduction
- Brennerradroute: Brenner to Brixen (Bressanone)
- Brennerradroute: Part 2: Brixen to Bozen (Bolzano)