So you’re thinking of cycling the Stelvio Pass in Italy?
Good choice! The Stelvio climb is probably Italy’s most famous cycling road and it’s truly incredible. You stand at the top of the 2,758m pass, looking down at the ladder of hairpins stretching out far beneath you and it’s difficult to find the right superlatives. It’s phenomenal.
So you know you want a Stelvio Pass cycling holiday, but where should you stay? What rides are there to do other than the Stelvio? What about bike hire? What is there to do when you’re not cycling?
This guide will answer all those questions and more. Read on!
Bormio: cycling holiday destination extraordinaire!
Most cyclists riding the Stelvio base themselves in the wonderful town of Bormio in the South Tyrol; it’s in a great position. The Stelvio from Bormio is the town’s must-do ride but you can also easily access some of cycling’s most legendary (and highest) cycling climbs: the Umbrail Pass, the infamous Mortirolo and Gavia Pass and the super high Bernia Pass for example (see the route guides below).
Bormio is a regular stage town of the Giro d’Italia, and the town is also home to a number of amateur cycling events such as the Stelvio bike day and the Granfondo Stelvio Santini: more on those below (or click here).
One of the joys of Bormio is that it’s a great town to stay in once you’ve finished riding: this is no soulless ski resort. It’s got a beautiful medieval old town with a winding pedestrianised high street that leads to an immaculate piazza dominated by a beautiful tower (Torre della Bajona). There are plenty of bars/restaurants to relax in.
If you’re with family, there are lots of activities, from the busy Bike Park Bormio where kids can get one-off lessons or multi-day classes, to ball pits, tube rides, trampolines and ski lifts that will take you to hikes and horse rides. There’s also a great flat bike path around town and awesome thermal baths (complete with two children’s pools, 60m waterslide and rooftop pool).
Want to plan a Stelvio cycling holiday?
Have we convinced you that it’s a good idea yet?!
In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to plan an unforgettable cycling trip to Bormio and the Stelvio. You’ll find detailed information on the best Bormio cycling routes plus where to stay, when to visit, events such as the Granfondo Stelvio Santini and tips on the best Bormio bike rental.
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Bormio cycle routes
Take any road out of Bormio and you’re more likely than not to end up on an iconic pass.
The most famous of these is the legendary Stelvio which rises to 2,758m above the town, but there are lots of options: head southeast for a 113km loop of the Moritrolo and Gavia or take on the massive 132 km Bernina pass loop that takes you over the border to Switzerland and through Livignio, a favourite training camp destination of the pros.
We’ve written detailed guides to the main climbs and routes of the area. The routes link up a number of the climbs.
It’s often the Cima Coppi (the highest climb on the Giro d’Italia) and it’s the must-do ride from Bormio. There are three ways up – you can read about the most popular two here: Stelvio from Bormio and Stelvio from Prato allo Stelvio. Of the two main routes up, the eastern ascent from Prato is the most dramatic and challenging route, up the famous switchbacks you see in all the photos.
The Granfondo Selvio Santini takes the road up from Bormio (you can find our guide to the event, here).
The “classic” Prato route up the Stelvio is the wrong side of the mountain from Bormio – but why not tackle both sides of the Stelvio via the Umbrail Pass in one mega loop?!
Whichever side of the Stelvio you ride, check our 26 Stelvio Pass Q&As before you do it. If you’re looking for Stelvio pass cycling profiles, records, gradients, we’ve got it covered!
This climb is often crucial during the the Giro d’Italia. It’s got wild, dramatic scenery and its 2,621m summit makes it a really tough ride.
Its average gradient of over 10% has given it the reputation for being the most difficult climb in Europe.
Why not take on the Gavia and Mortirolo in one big loop from Bormio?!
It’s a long, long climb from Tirano to the Bernina Pass: 33 km of climbing, innumerable hairpin bends and almost 2,000 m of ascent. We rode it in a loop that also takes in the Forcola, Eira and Foscagno Passes.
This is a lesser known, yet stunning 9km climb from just outside Bormio. It takes you up some impressive switchbacks to the gatekeepers of the Valle di Cancano: the Fraele towers.
We’d like to think you’ll find the answer in our tips for cycling in Italy article. Take a look at this before you ride in Italy.
A final note: we’ve found the passes in this area seem to be more often affected by adverse weather, landslides and road closures than in other mountain destinations. It’s probably due to the extreme altitude of many of the passes in this area. The tourist office has a useful page that lists which roads are open, and it’s worth checking: here.
Stelvio Experience for Stelvio Pass cycling tours
If you’re looking for some support on your cycling trip, we’d suggest speaking to the Stelvio Experience. We didn’t use their services while we were in Bormio, but we had a good chat with them. They’ve got a slick website that’s in tune with the needs of cyclists in Bormio for a few days. They also have a nice café/bar in the basement of the Hotel Funivia and a tie up with a number of the hotels in town. Those hotel guests can book Stelvio Experience services at a discount.
Easy cycle routes around Bormio
Bormio sits in a basin surrounded by big peaks. Probably the easiest of the mountain roads are the Cancano climb and the road up to Bormio 2000.
Alternatively, there are two bike path options which might be of interest:
Bormio town bike paths
If you’re with young kids, they might like the bike paths that run along the Torrente Frodolfo and Fiume Adda rivers. You can complete the third side of the triangle by cycling through the town. There’s a park on the banks of the Torrente Frodolfo and a child-friendly café on the bike path along the Fiume Adda, so it makes the perfect way to while away a few hours. Just watch out for traffic as you head back through town to complete the loop (no bike paths here).
120km Sentiero Valtellina bike path: Bormio to Lake Como
We cycled this 120km path which provides a useful link, on bike paths and some small roads, between the mountains of Bormio and Lake Como.
The good news is that it’s downhill almost all of the way, it’s very pretty and it’s generally extremely well signposted. The bad news is that we did get lost a handful of times – once the path just stopped due to construction works, another time through Sondrio the signposts just didn’t work. However, because we were following the river Adda pretty much the whole way, it meant we could usually just re-join the main road along the river for a bit and then hop back on the path.
The surface is predominantly asphalt, though there were a few sections on gravel. These non-asphalt sections weren’t until we were were well away from Bormio, so if you want to use the path for an easy day out and back ride, it would be a good option.
Bormio is one of our favourite bases for a cycling holiday. It’s an attractive town with a rich heritage that dates back to prehistoric times. Its heyday stretched between the late 14th and 16th Centuries and many of the town’s medieval towers, churches and houses still stand today.
More interesting for cyclists is the fact that it’s surrounded by the huge passes of the Italian Alps. During the summer months it’s a full-on bike town that attracts cyclists from all over the world to ride the famous roads that lead from Bormio. Cycling hotels abound. While you can choose to book one of the hotels at the Stelvio Pass, we think it’s better to opt for a bike hotel in Bormio itself as then you’ve got loads of route options.
The hotels listed below all have bike rooms and many are monitored by CCTV. Some of the hotels also allow guests to store their bike in their room.
Remember to double-check accommodation bike storage arrangements (and any other services you need) before booking as policies often change.
Best cycling hotel in Bormio? Hotel La Genzianella
We stayed at the family-run Hotel La Genzianella, a 10 minute walk from the centre of Bormio. It calls itself the Alpine chic hotel and we felt it lived up to this claim. We loved our stay and would definitely return.
What we loved
Warm welcome with friendly, helpful staff. You can tell this is a family run operation – the two sisters Frederica and Marta have excellent English and their smiles are genuine, the atmosphere is smart but not starchy. Alpine chic is exactly right – lots of bare wood and soft tartans but no cliche. The sort of place where one of the owners will pour you a drink at the bar and dispense insider knowledge on the best places to visit while their (immaculately dressed and behaved) 6 month old baby smiles and gurgles on the play mat.
Memorably good food
We went half board and were really impressed with the quality of both breakfast and dinner. Breakfast was a well-presented buffet of typical breakfast items including meats and cheeses, different breads, pastries and cakes, nuts, fruits and yoghurt. Coffee was from a machine but acceptable. Signs requested guests not to take food away! Dinner was a five course extravaganza with highlights including stuffed courgette flowers, baked crepes and pistachio creme brûlée.
Road cycling friendly
The hotel offers a 60 bike CCTV controlled bike room within the hotel plus workbench and tools and bike wash down area. There’s a laundry service for cycling clothes and two different packages which provide an afternoon, post-cycling snack and guided cycling with the Stelvio Experience. We stayed without paying for one of the bike packages – this meant we just paid for our cycling kit to be washed. They were also very happy to make us huge, delicious sandwiches for packed breakfast on a couple of our 6am departure rides. This kind of flexibility is really useful.
The hotel occupies a smallish plot just a few hundred metres from the bike park and ski lift. It’s a 10 minute walk into town though just a minute or two by bike. We felt it gave us the best of all worlds. The area surrounding the hotel is quiet and residential, yet there’s a small but perfectly formed garden to relax in (complete with sauna and large outside table), a little shop and bar next door plus you can easily walk into town.
Great car parking
The generous car park is a real plus given the central location.
Shopper bicycles to borrow
The hotel has a very relaxed attitude to loaning their shopper bikes. There’s no need to tell anyone, you just take a bike (which comes with a bike lock and basket on the front) from behind the hotel and off you go. A couple of the bikes have child seats. Yes you may have your own bike in the bike garage, but this saves the faff.
Things to know
Most of the rooms are on the small side
We were in room 304 which we’re told is the exception to the rule – a generously sized main room, with adjacent small double and bathroom, under the eaves. We loved it.
If you’re particular about service at dinner, you might not find it up to scratch: a recurring theme we encountered was staff clearing some people’s plates while others were still eating and never coming back for the rest. Not the end of the world, just a bit annoying.
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Hotel La Genzianella. The decor was gorgeous, the owners and staff were kind and thoughtful and really made us feel at home. The big difference to home was the food – it was about a million times better than we have at home!
Other top cycling hotels, BormioBefore visiting Bormio, we did extensive research to try and pick the best bike-friendly hotel in Bormio that would also suit our family’s needs. There was, of course, a shortlist. When we visited Bormio, we visited the hotels we had shortlisted to see what we had missed. Find out what we thought of them below. Bear in mind:
The Hotel Funivia is probably Bormio’s most cycling-focused hotel. Its 36 bedrooms are located just over the road from the Hotel la Genzianella, but on the side of the road where the views open up on the side of the mountain, giving the plot a more airy feeling and room for a swimming pool and tennis court. There’s also a wellness centre and underground parking.
Like many of the town’s hotels, it’s family-run. The decor is classic Alpine chalet, but lack of style-points may not be an issue for those using the hotel as a base for cycling the mountains.
The hotel offers cyclists two packages:
The hotel mentioned to us that while breakfast is usually from 7:30, most cyclists request it from 6am onwards and they’re happy to cater to that.
Conveniently, the Stelvio Experience is also located in the hotel’s basement (the owner of the Stelvio Experience is the brother of the owner of the Hotel Funivia).
Interestingly, the Hotel Funivia were the only hotel of the five we visited that followed up with a personal email to ask if there was any further information they could provide. Care like that like that is often what makes the difference.
Like the others, Hotel Nevada is family-run – in this case, the family includes a very large (but well-behaved) white-haired mountain dog (as you may notice, he even features in their logo). The hotel is solidly three star, with good cycling credentials: a CCTV monitored bike room within the hotel, pumps, tools, a wellness area and bar. There’s also a nice garden that overlooks the ski slopes.
They don’t have a tie up with the Stelvio Experience, but previous guests comment on how knowledgeable hotel staff are about the cycling routes in the area.
Hotel Alù is located on the same side of the road as the Hotel la Genzianella, just a little further down towards the ski lift. The sophisticated decor and delicious fragrance on the air made it feel very like the Hotel La Genzianella. It too is family-run, but they are entirely separate hotels!
The hotel has 30 bedrooms and there’s also a house in the grounds that contains two two-bedroom apartments with kitchens; could be useful if you’re with family. The restaurant is well regarded and the hotel’s wellness facilities are probably some of the nicest we saw: there’s a jacuzzi, sauna, Turkish bath, Kneipp treatment and relaxation area.
The hotel is part of the Italy Bike Hotels consortium. Its secure bike room is housed within the underground car park. There’s a bike washing area and free laundry for cyclists, but here there’s no cycling packages or tie up with the Stelvio Experience. You can of course just book direct with them.
Bormio is something of a cycling mecca, so we were surprised to find just two Bormio bike hire outlets. We visited both bike hire shops but, as we had our own bikes with us, we didn’t hire bikes from them.
Prices, services and bike brands often change. Please let us know if anything is incorrect.
Bike rental in Bormio
Bormio Ski and Bike: Via Btg. Morbengo, 7 Bormio
This is the largest and most established Bormio bike hire shop. It’s located just out of the town centre, opposite the thermal baths (i.e. on the way up the Stelvio!).
We spoke with a very helpful assistant, Mattheo, who talked us through their fleet of (largely) Trek road bikes that are fitted with compact cranksets and Shimano Ultegra/Duraace.
They also stock MTB (regular and electric), electric city bikes and fat bikes.
Their shop is well-stocked with products and accessories. There is also a workshop should you need any repairs.
They have an online booking system with prices from €220 for 7 days. Pedals and helmets are charged extra.
Spot-on Bormio bike shop, Via Monte Cristallo 9, Bormio
2018 was the first year Spot-On opened its doors for bike hire in Bormio. They stock beautiful Pinarello bikes. 3T bikes are also available.
The shop is located a few hundred metres east of Bormio town centre: with the town behind you, it’s on your left. Just look out for the Pinarello flags and then turn into the courtyard. It’s the closest bike rental to the Bormio cycling hotels mentioned above.
There is also a workshop.
- Book your bike in advance, particularly in peak season.
- Remember to bring your own pedals, shoes and helmet. This packing list may help!
- Check which way around your brakes are set before you ride away (i.e. whether the front brakes are on the right hand (as is usual in the UK) or on the left (as is usual elsewhere in Europe)). Also take a look at our list of things to check before hiring a bike.
Undecided on whether to hire a bike or bring your own? Read this now.
Best time to visit Bormio
If you come to Bormio, you’ll undoubtedly want a crack at the Stelvio and the other beasts of the area. They’re some of the highest mountains in the Alps and snow tends to linger here – in 2018 the Stelvio even got a sprinkling in August, and that’s not uncommon.
From a weather perspective, we would suggest waiting until early June and not leaving a trip any later than the end of September.
However there are also a number of granfondos/events in the area that you might want to plan around (whether to take part or avoid them as it will be busy!). They’re mostly in June, with just a few taking place later in the summer. See “Stelvio Bike Events” below for more info.
It’s also a great idea to plan a visit around the days the main passes are shut to traffic. The dates vary a little from year to year – check with the tourist office.
Stelvio bike events
In addition to the traffic-free days mentioned above, a number of organised races and granfondos take place in the region each year (though since Covid things are a little less certain – check if you want to take part!):
Giro d’Italia – in May/early June, the Giro regularly uses Bormio as a stage town.
Granfondo Stelvio Santini – Bormio’s biggest amateur cycling event is the gran fondo Stelvio Santini at the beginning of June. It attracts international riders and offers three different routes, varying from 60km with 2,000m of climbing to 150km with 4,000m of climbing. All of them take in the Stelvio from Bormio. Numbers are capped at 3,500. Here’s our guide to this popular event.
Haute Route Stelvio – new in June 2018, this is a three-day cycling event on and around the Stelvio. The three stages are based out of Bormio and include climbs over the Umbrail Pass, Mortirolo, Gavia and Stelvio.
Passo dello Stelvio Golazo – in mid June, thousands of Belgian cyclists arrive in Bormio for this annual event over three days.
Triplo Stelvio – at the end of June, this 130km event takes in all three sides of the Stelvio: from Bormio, Prato and Santa Maria (though you can also do just one or two sides).
Stelvio Challenge – end of June, a charity bicycle race to support “CliniClowns”, hospital entertainers which bring a smile and happiness to seriously unwell and disabled children in hospitals.
Re Stelvio Mapei – a half marathon and bike race up the Stelvio from Bormio at the beginning of July.
Stelvio bike day/Scalata Cima Coppi – 2018 was the 18th edition of this event at the end of August/beginning of September, where the Stelvio is closed to vehicles on all three sides.
Contador day – in mid September, you get the opportunity to ride this non-competitive event on the Gavia and Mortirolo on closed roads.
Stelvio pass webcam
If you want to check whether the Stelvio pass is open and what the weather is like at the top, the Stelvio Pass webcam is a good resource.
Passo Stelvio weather
Here’s our overview of the best times to cycle the Stelvio. Please note that the temperatures and rainfall figures are for Bormio; they will be significantly colder higher up. The often-stated rule of thumb is that the temperature decreases by 1°C for every 100m of elevation gain.
As noted above, we’ve found many of the passes in the Bormio region are quite regularly affected by adverse weather, landslides and road closures. The tourist office has a useful page that lists road closures, and you can find it here.
|January||No good for cycling: the passes will be thick with snow. The Stelvio should be open by the end of May, but still a bit touch and go.|
|May||You may get lucky in May – or you may not. Winter goes on a long time in these high mountains. In 2019 the Giro had to bypass the Gavia because it was totally blocked with snow – but this is not a common occurence.|
The Stelvio Pass generally opens to cars at the end of May and by early June, cycling has begun again in earnest. A lot of cycling events are held on the Stelvio in June.
Temperatures get pretty warm in July and August, though at the top of the highest cols the weather remains unpredictable all year around. The sunshine attracts motorbikes and drivers keen to get a look at the view from the top of the Stelvio. Don’t expect to have it to yourself unless you’re up very early in the morning.
The warmer weather tends to continue into September, but the later in September you get the more mixed it tends to become.
|September||The weather can be wonderful, but it gets increasingly mixed. Many cycling-related businesses close at the end of September/early October.|
|November||Too cold for cycling.|
Bormio bike map
The Tourist Information Office in Bormio has a fantastic Stelvio pass map. It also marks a number of other main cycling routes from Bormio. It’s free.
Giro d’Italia: The Story of the World’s Most Beautiful Bike Race by Colin O’Brien gives a good introduction to the history of the Giro from the first race to the Giro in 2016. It gives you a strong sense of the passion, successes and scandals behind the race.
Maglia Rosa: Triumph and Tragedy at the Giro d’Italia by Herbie Sykes is another classic volume that includes much on the climbs of the Bormio area. It’s described as “the definitive history of the Giro d’Italia”, but we can’t vouch for that since it’s still unread on our bookshelf! Must get around to it!
We are fans of Simon Warren’s 100 Greatest climbs books (see our review, here) and are looking forward to his Cycling Climbs of Italy, due to be released in April 2019.
Finally, Mountain High, our go-to coffee table book for cycling’s greatest climbs, has superbly informative spreads on Passo del Mortirolo, Passo dello Stelvio and Passo di Gavia. You can check out our review of the book, here.
Enjoyed our guide?
We’d love to hear from you – comment below or drop us a line.
Don’t miss our guides to the best Bormio cycling routes and other articles on the Stelvio region, below.
Want a second destination in northern Italy? How about the amazing Dolomites? Read our guide to cycling the Dolomites here.
Wondering what other parts of Italy might be like for cycling? Head to our Italy hub page or check out our pick of the best places to cycle in Italy here.
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