Enjoy today, tomorrow it's gone forever...

History of the Stelvio Pass

Posted by on

The Stelvio Pass is an old path located in the mountainous region of the north of Italy. At 2,757 m above the sea level, it is the second highest paved road in the Eastern Alps and the second on the entire chain of mountains. Thanks to its high altitude and the hard turns, this pass represents a marvel of engineering. It is a beautiful road that offers magnificent views and landscapes. This is a big tourist attraction, especially for those who love cycling. Actually, there is a unique day in which the road is exclusive only for cyclists.

This pass is located at the border between the municipality of Bormio with the province of Bolzano, in the Ortler Alps area. The Stelvio Pass is at 200 meters of the Swiss border, and it is connected with the Umbrail Pass, an important Swiss road. It is also very close to a big European landmark, the “Three Languages Peak”, which is named like that because it is the meeting place for the Italian, German and Romansh languages. Other important mountains that are located close to the Stelvio Pass are Thurwieserspitze, Trafoier Eswand, Monte Scourluzzo and Piz Cotschen.


The history of this pass begins in 1820 when its construction started by the Austrian Empire with the idea of connecting its province of Lombardy with the rest of the empire. The engineer in charge of this enormous project was the Italian Carlos Donegani, who graduated in 1794 from the Academy of Bolonia. This road hasn’t gone through many modifications since it was built back in 1820, it almost offers the same path and features.

Prior to the World War I, the Stelvio Pass worked as the border between the Italian Kingdom and the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. During the armed conflict, several battles were fought in this region, battles that affected these two nations and also Swiss. Because of the destruction of a Swiss hotel that was located on the Three Languages Peak, a peace agreement was necessary to leave this place out of the hostilities. After the war ended, the pass lost all its strateg relevance.

Current times

Nowadays, the Stelvio Pass is not an important place at the time of planning a battle or a war, but, it surely is for tourism and sport. All bike rider who look for a truly challenging path must visit the Stelvio Pass during May to November. The bike riders are so important for the Stelvio National Park, that on the last Saturday of August or the first one of September, the pass is closed to all motor vehicle and only bikes can go through it. This day is known as the Stelvio Bike Day and is coordinated by the managers of Stelvio National Park. The roads that are taken in the notice for this event are the paths that go from Bormio and Prad to the Stelvio Pass, as well as the path that begins in Santa Maria Val Mustair to the Umbrail Pass. An average of 12,000 cyclists do this tour on the Stelvio Pass during this great day.

The Giro d´Italia

The Stelvio Bike Day is not the only date when this pass is an attraction for all the cyclist from Italy and the rest of Europe. There is also the famous cyclist tour, the Giro d´Italia. This is a Grand Tourthat is divided into different stages and it lasts 3 weeks. The route is not the same in every edition, but one of the constants points of it is the Stelvio Pass. The only times that this pass is not part of the tour is when the weather represents a high risk to the competitors, so it must be ruled out by the organisers.

Armando Counet, an old organizer of the Giro d´Italia, created the award of the pink jersey in 1931, a distinction that is given to the leader of the tour as a way to identify him. The first winner of this distinction was Learco Guerra that same year. However, years after, in 1953, there was a big controversy because of the colorful award. Just 11km before the summit in the road ascending from Prato, one of the cyclists, Fausto Coppi assaulted Hugo Koblet, the leader of the competition at that moment, and took the pink jersey from him and then rushed until the end of the stage in Bormio, to later winning the race with a clear advantage, for the 5th in a role. This was a big news back in 1953 and worked to boost the fame of this tour and all the places that it includes. A curiosity is that after this harsh incident, a title for the highest mountain of the tour was invented, the Cima Coppi, which is always won by the Stelvio Pass, every time it is included in the competition.

Through the history of the Giro d´Italia, a lot of people have participated but there is one country that is the classic winner of this competition, Italia. Italians wouldn’t let this price go for any other country, and they have won in many editions. Their dominance was only challenged by cyclists of other countries during the decades of 1950 and 1960. However, in the rest of the editions of the Giro d´Italia, the cyclists from Italia fight very hard to win it, and they won the competition most of the time.

Nevertheless, this is not the only reason the Giro d´Italia is mentioned in the news. This is a hard competition for cyclists because of the weather conditions and the topography of the tour.

Low temperatures, snow, and close turns are some of the calamities cyclists must endure when they decide to compete in the Giro d´Italia. Even out of the date of the competition, many tourists do part of the tour, just to feel what it's like to cover the same path as big names of this sport.

The long side of the road, there are some resorts that offer a good and warm place to the cyclist to drink a hot coffee, get the necessary rest and regain the strength to continue with the adventure. The Stelvio Pass offers some hotels that are perfect for this task.

Hotels in the Stelvio Pass

Counting on the perfect place to rest in a road is as much important as having fun covering it. For that reason, there are several hotels in the Stelvio Pass, so the tourist can spend a while in a warm and comfortable environment.

Different hotels offer many things to the visitors like restaurants, spas, nice rooms and great activities like skiing. One of these hotels is the Hotel Stilfserhof, where the variety in the kitchen is their specialty. Here the guests find many kinds of sausages and also good cheese, croissants, and homemade bread, and this is only for the breakfast. Then in the evening, a five-course menu is available with salad and vegetable typical of the South Tyrolean, as well as regional and international dish. All the rooms have a balcony so the guest can enjoy the view, and also flat screen digital, telephone, safe and sitting area.

The main activity during winter is skiing, which is divided into 3 categories, beginner, intermedium, and expert, so everyone can enjoy this great sport. In summer walking and climbing are the important exercise to enjoy the nature.

The Hotel Genziana is another excellent place to spend some days in the Stelvio Pass. It is located at 2758 m above the sea level and it has a great view thanks to all the villages located in the valley of the Ortles Glacier. This hotel is special for bikers because for everyone who wants to arrive in their own two wheels they offer a garage safe to keep them, as well as special laundry to wash all the biker gear. It also counts on its own ski school, which offer courses every week. To make everything easier, the Hotel Genziana have special offers in packages at good prices.

The third hotel in this list is the Pirovano Hotel which can be identified by its unique architecture and the fact that is located less than 50 meters from the cable car for the ski slopes of the Stelvio Glacier. It offers great after dinner activities for the recreation of its guests, such as the wine-bar in which the visitors can enjoy of specials and unique wines and other liquors. There is a disco that opens every week for everyone who wants to dance a while. This hotel has the access to the Stelvio Pass as one of its main attraction, which can be covered on a bike during summer or on a pair of skies during winter. There is also hiking, which is a different and great way to know the beautiful landscapes of this region.

The Stelvio Pass is a great tourist attraction in the north of Italy, a must-visit place for everyone who wants to get to know the country. With its beautiful landscapes and view is the perfect site to get in touch with nature, or even better to practice skiing and to have a good bike tour. It has a good story behind it, not only about sports but even about an episode of the World War I. Don’t miss the chance of visiting it and enjoying all it has to offer.


Some popular Stelvio videos on YouTube

  1. https://youtu.be/1hDj23a9y1c
  2. https://youtu.be/x2RT5iW7IcQ
  3. https://youtu.be/2laZ5MnDhvo
  4. https://youtu.be/xgS3oEOrAMU
  5. https://youtu.be/aXfz-7NWxXU
  6. https://youtu.be/TMCl5aTMRi0
  7. https://youtu.be/1M3q2yITzXY
  8. https://youtu.be/n7ZJyoznJS0
  9. https://youtu.be/AcHnllp1bZs
  10. https://youtu.be/j4tVtRygmyo

Top ten riders who have featured on Stelvio stages and links to their Twitter accounts




Dani Di Luca



Alberto Contador



Deni Menchoff



Ivan Basso



Michele Scarponi



Ryder Hesjedal



Vincenzo Nibali



Nairo Quintana



Alberto Contador



Vincenzo Nibali



Tom Dumoulin



← Older Post