Published on: 23 September 2014 | Last updated: 15 March 2018
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.
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.
Naturns and the Sankt Prokulus church
The Sankt Prokulus frescoes
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.
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.
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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|Reschensee - Mals||17kms|
|Mals - Naturns||48kms|
|Naturns - Meran||14kms|
Options and connections
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.
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:
- Vinschgau | Sankt Valentin auf der Heide (San-Valentino alla Mutta) | Mals (Malles) | Schlanders (Silandro) | Latsch (Laces) | Naturns (Naturno) | Merano (Meran)
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 are plenty of campsites along the route.
- Camping Thöni
- Camping Mals
- Camping Kiefernhain
- Camping Cevedale
- Camping Adler
- Camping Via Claudia Augusta
- Camping Schlosshof
- Camping Arquin
- Camping Ganthaler
- Camping Meran is right in the heart of the town
show map in overlay | show map in new windowMap of campsites:
- Meran: Jugendherberge Meran
Transport and services
The cycleway through the Vinschgau (Val Venosta) has become so popular that, during the summer, there are restrictions on when you can get on a train with your bike. There’s also a bike transport service.
Here’s the text of a notice on display in 2017.
No boarding with bicycles in the train stations of Merano, Lagundo and Marlengo from 29th April 2017 to 31 October 2017 on the Val Venosta train (Vinschger Bahn) between 8:00 am — 1:00 pm and between 3:00 pm — 5:30 pm.
At Merano train station you can load your bike on a truck and use the transport service for bicycles until Malles. The bike can be collected in the dedicated area areas at the following train stations: Naturno, Laces, Silandro, Spondigna and Malles.
The bike transport service leaves Merano every day at 9:16 am, 10:16 am, 11:16 am, 3:16 am, 4:16 am, and 5:16 pm.
Groups can book their own back transport service also outside the above-mentioned time schedule by calling: +39 0473 201 500. Daily ticket for bikes: 7 euro.
ATTENTION: in order to carry your bike on trains in South Tyrol you need an additional ticket. A daily bike ticket costs 7 euro and must validated before each ride. In case of overcrowded trains the access with bike on board can be denied.
Transport of bikes is in wagon A and there is a maximum of 15 bikes. ”
Check the mobilitaaltoadige.info website for any changes in the policy.
The wording on the website is slightly ambiguous: it says that the cost of the transport service is the same as the cost of a day bike-ticket. I don’t know whether that means that, your 7 euros gets you a ticket that is also valid on the train for the return leg. The tickets for the bike shuttle are available at the ticket offices or at shuttle service departure point.
If there’s a group of you, bikeshuttle.at, based just over the border in Nauders, taxi services aimed at cyclists. They also offer a bike return service from Verona, the Lago di Garda and Venezia.
The BikeMobil Card and bike rental
The Südtirol government also seem to have worked hard to make renting a bike a convenient option with rental points at many stations. The BikeMobil a card that is valid for transport on the region’s rail and bus services, as well as some cable lifts and the Swiss Post Bus service to Müstair. The card (available for 1, 3 or 7 consecutive days) includes a day’s bike rental. Note though that you are not allowed to take your rental bike on public transport — the idea is that you rent your bike from one of the rental points in the scheme, go for a ride and then drop it off at another rental point
There’s a dedicated website (suedtirolbike.it it/de/en) with all the information you need about the 22 rental shops in the area and the range of bikes on offer. They offer one-way rental as well as sports road bikes and electric bikes.
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:
- venosta.net (de/it/en/nl)
- meranerland.com (de/it/en/nl)
- naturns.it (it/de/en)
- merano-suedtirol.it: Passeiertal (de/it/en/nl)
More information about the PasseierTal Radweg (Ciclabile della Val Passiria)