My wife and I came to Italy for the first time in 2005 to visit a client of my industrial representation company. Lucky for me, the highly-specialized Italian factory is located in a small village within the scenic and mountainous Trentino region. During the trip, we were astounded by one breathtaking vista after another, coupled with an intrinsic focus on outdoor sports and the friendly nature of everyone we met.
As a cyclist, it’s not an overstatement to say…I was blown away with the first visit to Trentino. Cycling is a way of life here and avid riders have access to a range of routes including those made famous by Giro d’Italia stages (the region hosts the professional race every year, usually in the final week).
Since that introductory trip, we have returned many times, staying for increasingly longer periods, including an annual summer residency for three months in the tiny village of Vattaro, positioned between two of Northern Italy’s most important river valleys Adige and Valsugana. This strategic locale offers my cycling friends and me a range of options to find the perfect mountain micro-climate for every ride. Here on the Vigolana Alto Piano (High Plateau), at 700 meters/ 2100 feet, days are mild and evenings welcome fresh mountain air.
From this base, just above Lago di Caldonazzo where the Brenta River begins with views of the Panarotta/Viertrilo, I take every opportunity to ride – and take my friends on rides of – challenging passes like Passo Sommo, Passo Coe, Menador and Passo Vezzena and tackle hardcore climbs including Monte Bondone, Paganella and Monte Baldo. We also set out for world-famous climbs within easy reach including Passo Manghen, Passo Rolle, Sella Ronda, Monte Grappa, and Passo Stelvio.
We have fallen for Trentino and become passionate about sharing this unique region and culture with fellow cyclists and friends. We hope you will follow our rides – and, plan to come ride with us some day soon!
What’s It Like to Cycle in Trentino?
Cycling in Trentino during winter. Yep, I’m that crazy cyclist.
The word is often overused, I realize, but this word sums up cycling in Trentino…epic. Every single ride.
(For more, here are excerpts from an article written by my wife, a former professional travel writer, for Paste magazine in 2017):
In Italy’s northern reaches, the mountainous, lake-studded lands of Trentino offer mile after mile of single-track cycling paths and roadways. On any given stretch, it’s common to spy more Cannondales and Pinarello cycles than Fiats or Fords. Routes climb peaks made famous by the country’s most prestigious cycling event, Giro d’Italia, then descend river valleys through fields of grapes ripening on the vine.
While there are leisurely rides around the city hubs of Trento and Bolzano and lakes of Garda and Caldonazzo, the true bounty of offerings is geared toward avid riders. This is the place for serious cyclists to challenge their might amongst a tribe of like-minded enthusiasts.
Simply put, Trentino lives and breathes cycling. Drivers respect bicycles and are accustomed to sharing the road. Bike shops are as prevalent as pizzerias. Cycling-friendly hotels and restaurants cater to peddlers and world-class races populate spring and summer calendars. Plus, the classic Italian delights of pasta and wine are never far from reach—and in Trentino, both are produced with distinctive gusto.
This season promises to be more festive than ever with the 100th edition of Giro d’Italia. In honor of that milestone, Paste talked with two of Italy’s most legendary cyclists, Giro champions Francesco Moser (1984) and Gilberto Simoni (2001, 2003) along with other experts, about Trentino, the place they proudly call home.
When cycling in the Dolomites, pain is a close companion of joy. Push your limits with over a half dozen Giro-famous climbs. “My favorites include the ascent to the 5,500-foot Monte Bondone from Aldeno-Garniga Terme because there is a wide range of gradients, beautiful views, and little traffic on the road,” says Moser.
“I climbed Bondone in 1973 during my first Giro, that stage was won by Eddy Merckx. The road from Farmiga to the top was still a dirt road,” continues the champion cyclist-turned-winemaker. A close second is the monster climb of Passo Manghen. “From Borgo Valsugana, it crosses the Lagorai mountain range and is a very long climb of 24 km (15 miles) with about 1600 meters elevation gain,” he warns. In addition, he says cyclists can’t go wrong with the popular Sella Ronda circuit which includes the passes of Campolongo, Pordoi, Sella, and Gardena in Alta Badia in the heart of the Dolomites.
Cycling specialist Andrea Tomazzoni with Visit Trentino says the organization’s “Legendary Climbs of Trentino” project shines a light on features that few mountain regions can match due to the mix of long, steady ascents and staggering, UNESCO-protected mountain scenery. The project spotlights 23 climbs, with helpful onsite signage including altitude gain and distance stats.
For cyclists who prefer distance over climbs, Valle del Adige Cycle Track, a relatively flat, yet never-dull path, (known as pista ciclabile) runs along Adige River for nearly 37 miles connecting the Roman capital of Trento with German-infused Bolzano.
Moser suggests a jaw-dropping circuit to Lake Garda, starting from Trento passing through charming towns and villages including Rovereto, Riva del Garda, and Valle dei Laghi. “When I was a professional cyclist, this was one of my favorite routes,” he says.
The region’s cycling infrastructure shines on these mostly traffic-free circuits. Bike-friendly trains make it possible to cycle out long distances, then secure your bike in the train car for return to home base. In summer, there is even a cyclists’ bus, known as Bici Bus, that returns to Trento from points along Lake Garda, loaded with sweaty, yet happy riders and precious gear.
Join the Peloton
Planning a vacation around an event is a great way to experience the region’s cycling culture on a deeper level. American cyclist Matt Simpson (this passionate cyclist also happens to be my husband), recommends Maratona dles Dolomites, an early July event he has participated in four times, as one of the world’s most competitive races for amateurs. “The Maratona offers three distances, making it ideal for riders of all skill levels,” he says. “Riders get to experience some of the world’s best climbs, moving with the energy of almost 10,000 other cycling fanatics, on roads closed to traffic. It’s spectacular.”
Later in the month, organizers smartly stack two distinctive events into one weekend for maximum pedaling pleasure: celebrating the Moser family’s contribution to cycling is La Moserissima, a non-competitive vintage bike rally, July 8. The UCI-qualifying Legendary Charly Gaul Grandfondo takes place the next day, attracting over 3,000 riders from around the world and tackling Mt. Bondone a breathtaking two times.
For visitors looking to catch pros in action, two events fit the bill. Tour of the Alps begins in Austria and culminates in Trentino in April. Next up in May is Giro d’Italia which Simpson says is the pinnacle for cycling fans. Simoni agrees, describing the event as a colorful tromp through the streets. “It is quite difficult to explain all the emotions you can feel participating in this event that has one hundred years of history,” he says, enthusiastically.
Stages 17 – 19 race the roads of Trentino beginning May 24. Along the route, villages proudly host outdoor celebrations and fans of all ages and backgrounds cheer and show support.
A bike isn’t the only vehicle for experiencing Trentino’s unique offerings. Simoni says the magic of Trentino is that attractions are as abundant as orchards and vineyards. “Every corner has its own peculiarity and appeal,” he says. From visionary outdoor installations of Arte Sella to Rovereto’s MART, modern art lovers will find inspiration and foodies should make reservations for Castle Pergine, where a multi-course feast is served with medieval history, as well as one of the region’s six Michelin star restaurants.
In Trentino, Epic Climbs, Mountain Scenery, and Hearty Meals Define Cycling
Trentino is known as the place where Italians go on vacation. Mountains, lakes, art, food, and wine are all in abundance in this friendly and accessible region. Together, my wife Jess and I have had the privilege of spending summers here for many years. In her former career as a professional travel writer, and now as an amateur blogger, she has written extensively about Trentino’s delights, including this interesting overview for American magazine Paste in 2015.
While culture-seeking globetrotters make tracks en masse to Milan’s duomo and Venice’s canals, another kind of traveler is busy reveling in Trentino’s great outdoors.
For adventure-seekers of all types—hikers and climbers, sailors and cyclists—Trentino is Italy’s most alluring region. Culturally Italian with an Austrian infusion felt most in architecture, cuisine and dialect, the area offers a fascinating mix of Mediterranean and Eastern European flavor combined with wall-to-wall mountains soaring skyward and views of deep blue lakes below.
Read the rest of this article here: Checklist: Trentino, Italy.