Famously named the best driver’s road in the world by Top Gear, Stelvio is arguably the most iconic stretch of road in Europe. At Alps & Autobahns, we like to think of it as a great drive with spectacular views of the Ortler Alps and a unique, almost carnival-like atmosphere at its peak.
Approaching form the north east, the climb through the trees is fairly tight, but allows you to hold a fairly reasonable pace. As you rise above the vegetation, the drop-offs become more apparent, the road narrows and the steep retaining walls get closer as the hairpins traverse the mountainside, one after another. You’re now in the heart of this 200-year-old road: the most recognised – and photographed – section favoured by automotive and travel publications around the world.
After 49 turns, the most physical side of Stelvio culminates at the pass itself. Once you reach the peak, take some time to soak up the scenery and the carnival-like atmosphere. On a clear summer day, the views up here are remarkable and you’ll most likely be sharing them with a throng of other drivers, riders and tourists. There are a handful of hotels, bars and restaurants to recharge at, as well as plenty of souvenir and bratwurst stalls.
The south-western or ‘Swiss’ side of Stelvio has a noticeably wider and newer tarmac. After a few light hairpins through what is almost year-round snow, you’ll pass by the border to Switzerland and the entrance to Umbrail Pass before sinking your teeth into what is considered the most driver-oriented section of the pass road.
As the landscape opens, peer down the valley to see the blacktop extend into the distance as it clings to the side of the southern wall. Here, as the road crosses crystal blue creeks and skirts alpine waterfalls, take the opportunity to open things up a bit and enjoy the rhythmic kinks while slowly decreasing in altitude.
As the road makes its way through the forests of Alto Adige and towards the thermal spa town of Bormio, there’s a few more clusters of hairpins broken up by a series of more open, fluent bends along either side of the valley. At the edge of the town, you can either continue into the village proper and take a break in the old town, or do a right turn towards Livigno and Switzerland via the stunning Bernina Pass.