About 100km north of Milan, and just 20km away from the Austrian border lies Valtellina – a stunning, high-sided valley carved out by the blue, glacier-fed waters of the Adda river.
Over the years, Valtellina’s combination of fertile farmland and a strategic frontier location have meant that control of the valley has been much sought after and even fought over. The area changed hands multiple times during the Thirty Years war, and Mussolini famously dreamed about making a “last stand” against the advancing allied forces here.
These days Valtellina is obviously far more peaceful, and the same mountains which made it attractive to generations of generals now provide the perfect playground for cyclists.
Valtellina is steeped in road cycling history. The climbs around here include the Stelvio Pass, the second-highest paved road in Europe, and the legendary Gavia Mortirolo.
It was here in 1988 that American Andy Hampsten took the leader’s jersey in Giro d’Italia in weather so bad that the Italian newspapers dubbed it ‘The Day The Big Men Cried’. He famously went on to win the race, becoming the first non-European to do so.
These are routes that every serious road cyclist should have on their bucket list, but it’s not just about paved roads round here. Valtellina also boasts a vast array of mountain bike trails, with itineraries to suit all ability levels.
Experts will love the Bike Park – one of the best anywhere in the Alps – and the Carosello 3000 in Livigno. There’s more great downhill riding in the Bike Park Palu and at Madesimo, and almost anywhere you look in Valtellina you’ll see trails snaking their way down the mountain side.