Stelvio pass – Stilfser Joch – Passo dello Stelvio

Stelvio pass for motorcycle riders

Yes is the answer- all three versions are associated with the same mountain pass. Stelvio pass is one of the highest paved mountain passes in European Alps, and the highest of eastern Alps. It is listed on every ‘Top ten’ list about riding in the Alps; and often in ‘Top Ten’ lists of best motorcycling roads in the world. So as we say, what’s all the fuzz about?

  • Country: Italy
  • Elevation:  2.758m/9.049ft
  • Length:  49km/31mi
  • Hairpins: 87

Stelvio pass for riders

When it comes to planning of your motorbike tour, numbers above will do- you just want to be there. And you’re right.

Top of Stelvio pass

While comparing Stelvio pass with other mountain passes in the Alps, we came to conclusion that Stelvio may not be the nicest as commonly described, but it is definitely worth a ride. Dramatic scenery, stunning views and 48 challenging switchbacks when approaching from north side (direction we recommend) will for sure make your day. So, what’s not to like? Well, due to all the ‘drama’ about it, it became the busiest high mountain Alpine pass, meaning you’ll either get up early and head for the pass, or there’s a good chance you’ll be stuck between campers, bicyclists and cars. We vote for an early rise, especially if you want the ride to look like this:

Stelvio pass road in Italy

History of the Stelvio pass road

The original road was built almost 200 years ago, between 1820 – 1825 as a strategic military move of the Austrian Emperor Francis l. The idea was to connect the Venosta Valley to the Valtellina and to Austrain territory. After initial ingineering, the work began in 1822 and the road was opened in 1825. Up until the beginning of WW One, it was mostly used for merchants and travelers. During the WW One, it was a combat zone where many troops lost their lives due to either combat, or nature factors (avalanche, cold etc.). After the war, both sides of the pass became Italian and the road lost its main ‘task’- to connect Austria with Milan (Italy).


Location of the Stilfser Joch

Just 200 metres from Switzerland, it is located in northern Italy between cities Bormio and Prato allo Stelvio (road name: Strada Statale 38). Aproximately 50km/31mi long strech, with elevation gain of over 1800 meters. Upon the arrival to the summit, you’ll have a magnificant view of famous Ortler, the main peak of the Ortler range (Eastern Alps).


Riding the Passo dello Stelvio

Hairpins of Stelvio pass

This is what interests us riders the most. Is it really like it looks like on pictures? Yes, indeed. But before the actual ride, there are some factors you need to take into account.

As mentioned above, the best way to ride it is from north (Prato allo Stelvio) to south (Bormio). That way, you’ll be ‘climbing’ up those famous serpentines you always see on pictures- instead of going down. Of course, for all of you having enough time, there’s always an option to do both directions. So, after sorting that out, second thing is the timing. In July and August, we suggest avoiding weekends as it gets really crowded- the best would be somewhere in the middle of the week. Morning hours, for sure.

Patience. Be aware of many cyclists (those crazy guys that decided to pedal instead of hitting the throttle) and the possibility of not seing them on time in tunnels; do not overtake if the view isn’t clear and really watch out if the road is wet- can get slippery. Last thing to mention would be a proper line and handling of the bike in the switchbacks- do try to stay on your side of the road; only if you see the curve is absolutely clear, you can try the MotoGP line to speed up a bit. If you have a friend riding in front or you’re on a guided motorcycle tour, that could be easier to do.

When on top (if you manage to find a parking spot), take your time to feel the nature and relax at 2.758m/9.049ft- most likely, there will be a lot of commercial and food stands- go and get a sticker for your bike/souvenier and definitely try traditional red sausages sold by a guy wearing a Tyrol suit- we’re pretty sure that no matter where you’re from, he’ll be able to say ‘hello’ on your language!

From the top continuing to Bormio side, you’ll soon reach the summit and a sign for ‘Umbrail pass’ in Switzerland. Depending on your route, that’s a nice way to go. Alternatively, you can reach Bormio and continue to Passo di Gavia- another superb ride in the Alps!

MotoTrip’s tour through the Alps

No matter if you’re riding the ‘AlpsTastic‘ or ‘Alpine Discovery’ with us, we’ll be happy to tell you more about the road, show you more options for riding in the area and most likely, continue to Passo di Gavia like mentioned above! Just pure fun!


Information and links:


Feel free to browse through many of the videos available on YouTube; here’s one example (not made by MotoTrip):


Hope you enjoyed the ride; do let us know how was it by commenting bellow. Till next post!

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