South Tyrol, the northernmost province of Italy, contains some of the hardest, most spectacular cycle routes for those up for the challenge
Promotional feature with Alta Badia
Gardena, Campolongo, Falzarego, Valparola: some of the world’s most beautiful and demanding climbs, whose names are etched into the psyche of many cyclists. All of them can be found in South Tyrol, Italy’s northernmost region that is nestled up against the Austrian border in the heart of the Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage area.
It’s no surprise that this part of Italy is a must for road cyclists. The region hosts some of the hardest and most spectacular stages of the Giro d’Italia, with the battle for the maglia rosa often won and lost in the breathtaking natural theatre of snow-capped peaks, tranquil forests and lush alpine meadows.
What’s more, after a hard day in the saddle following the wheel-tracks of the stars, the legendary Italian cuisine offers the perfect way to replenish your energy and restore morale for the next challenge. South Tyrol boasts the most Michelin-starred establishments of any region in Italy — quite an accolade in a country where what’s on the menu is often the most important issue of the day.
It’s the Alta Badia region in particular that is an epicentre for cycling in this part of Italy. In fact, the local ‘bucket list’ of star climbs is positively overflowing: Campolongo, Falzarego, Valparola and Gardena to name just a handful. It’s on these roads that you’ll find the renowned Italian cyclo-sportive, La Maratona dles Dolomites, a marathon ride that needs no translation for cyclists who have taken part.
For those who fancy something a little lighter, the Dolomites Bike Day celebrates its second edition on June 17 with three traffic-free passes over a 52km route. Then, six days later, the roads around the Sella group of mountain passes will be reserved exclusively for riders on the Sellaronda Bike Day. Plus, between May 21 and the end of July, the local biking school will offer bespoke tours; look out too for the region’s accredited ‘Bike Expert’ businesses and ‘Bike Friendly’ accommodation.
When a leisurely café spin is called for, head for the gentle valley roads. If you want to act local, Italians drink a cappuccino in the morning followed by an espresso in the afternoon. No obligation.
For more information visit: www.altabadia.org
And while we’re talking of rest and recovery, it would be remiss not to remind you that Italy knows a thing or two about food and wine. In Alta Badia, the DNA of Italian Mediterranean cuisine blends with the hearty fare of the mountains. Do you need another excuse to sit back, soak up la dolce vita and look forward to another day of cycling on what might just be the best roads in the world?
Four must-do activities in South Tyrol
1 Ride the Maratona dles Dolomites sportive
A colossus of a ride with jaw-dropping scenery. You’re not really a ‘true cyclist’
until you’ve completed the Maratona. This year’s event, the 32nd running, takes place on July 1. If you don’t fancy the full-fat, 138km ride with 4,230m of climbing, there are routes of 106km (3,130m) and 55km (1,780m) on offer too.
2 Try some dumplings
The locals call them canederli in Italian or Knödel in German; they are made of bread, milk, eggs and cheese, spinach or smoked ham. Follow this classic starter with a traditional Alta Badia dish of turtres, fried spinach and ricotta parcels, and a local meat dish. Then round it off with an apple strudel for a typically South Tyrolean meal.
3 Hike to a mountain hut
A rest day is the perfect opportunity to hike to one of South Tyrol’s 90 mountain huts, tucked away deep in the forests or perched next to majestic peaks. They offer exquisite views, accommodation and food. A top tip is to tuck into what locals call marende, a snack of smoked ham, sausage and cheese that deserves to be washed down with a glass of wine.
4 Eat in one of the Michelin-starred restaurants in Alta Badia
With six Michelin stars located in just 15 square kilometres, Alta Badia is a hotspot of Italian gastronomy. Chef Norbert Niederkofler was awarded his third star last November, making the St Hubertus restaurant in the Rosa Alpina hotel, one of just nine establishments in the country to earn this most prestigious