This page contains what we believe are Italy's most epic road bike climbs. We have listed our Top 10 Italian Most Epic Bike Climbs in our summary at the bottom of this page. Note that this is our subjective ranking and is not based on objective data or formula, just our experience and personal opinion. Our Top 10 Most Epic French Bike Climbs are:
Italy’s Top 5 Most Epic Bike Climbs, Photo clockwise from top left:
What makes a bike climb “epic”? Well, since this is a subjective issue, we’ll just give you our thoughts, but by no means do we consider this an end-all list. And, while we can surely debate what truly are the most epic Italian bike climbs, we feel there is no reasonable debate that our Top 10 list clearly includes real-deal epic climbs. Whether they are THE Top 10 most epic is of course always open to debate. We also welcome your thoughts on this category via our Contact Page.
Factors that we have taken into account in selecting our Top 10 Most Epic French Bike Climbs:
Epic, used in our context, means: extraordinary, exceptional, once-in-a-lifetime, bucket list, and “must do.” All of the climbs below pass our cleats-on-the-ground working definition of “epic bike climb”: At the finish of the climb you say to your riding partner with great enthusiasm “WOW, that was an EPIC climb!!!!”
The second most difficult road bike climb in Italy
9.2 kilometers at an average grade of 15%
This climb is included in Italy’s Top 10 Most Epic Bike Climbs because:
The sign seemed to be a bit of an understatement in our estimation . . . .
Passo Giau -- Nuvolau Massif at the pass.
There are two primary reasons we have selected Passo Giau for Italy’s Top 10 Most Epic Bike Climbs:
Just a very small sample of the beauty of the climb to Passo Giau
The highest mountain of the Dolomites Nuvolau Group at 2649 meters.
This mountain lies between Passo Falzarego and Passo Giau.
Passo Giau is located at the foot of the Nuvolau Massif, one of the most renowned peaks in the Dolomites.
Scanuppia - Trentino-Alto Adige
This is the fourth hardest road bike climb in the world. We include Scanuppia in Italy’s Top 10 Most Epic Road Bike list solely because it is unbelievably steep and difficult. It averages 18% for a full 4½ miles (7.24 km). Some segments of the climb exceed 30% for 100 meters or more (note that the 45% sign at the start is misleading, as that is likely the steepest gradient measured on the inside of one of the sharp hairpins on the climb).
Note that the sign at beginning says no bikes.
It is hard to capture gradient on a photograph, but these do some justice to Scannupia’s extreme grade.
Mortirollo is our #7 Epic Italian Climb because:
The climb has ancient structures and scenic views along its 11.6 kilometers.
Three pass signs at the top.
Monte Grappa is one of the most epic road bike climbs in Italy, yet it is not nearly as acclaimed or well known as some of the other great Italian climbs such as Stelvios, Gavia, Mortirollo or Zoncolan.
Why is Monte Grappa on our Top 10 Most Epic list?
On our eight trips up Monte Grappa, there were, as often as not, more cyclists than motorists at the top.
In 2016 we rode the eleven routes to the top of Monte Grappa in six days. We designed special Monte Grappa jerseys for the occasion, and at the top of each climb we colored in the spot on the jersey correlating to the climb we’d just completed.
Unique stretch of road on the routes from Fietta, Posagno, Cavaso del Tomba and Pederobba.
Military Road along sheer cliff to the left and through three short but cool tunnels.
The Sacrario del Monte Grappa and la Madonna del Grappa (chapel on top of the Sacrario).
The top bike climb in Italy’s Piemonte region and #5 Italy/#20 world. The points in favor of including Colle delle Finestre in Italy Top 10 Most Epic are:
The collages below are some examples of things things we encounter on our 17 kilometer climb to Colle delle Finestre -- all at a whopping 9.9% average grade 😳
Cycling Col de Nivolet, Our #1 Most Scenic and Beautiful Climb in the World
If you are the #1 most beautiful bike climb in the world (World’s 10 Most Scenic Bike Climbs) you need no other qualification in order to be included on your country’s Top 10 Most Epic Climbs list. So it is with Colle del Nivolet, which we have ranked as the Numero Uno most beautiful road bike climb in the entire world -- enough said . . .
Zoncolan is selected as the fourth Most Epic Bike Climb in Italy for the following reasons:
Below are all of the kilometer signs on the Monte Zoncolan climb -- if a year for a Grand Tour is listed, that means the rider won the event that year, unless specified otherwise (e.g., if he was KOM).
Photos clockwise from top left: Louison Bobet (FR; TdF 1953-1955); Charly Gaul (LU; Giro 1956, 1959, KOM 1956, 1959;; TdF 1958, KOM 1955-1956); Federico Bahamontes (ES; TdF 1959); Jacques Anquetil (FR; TdF 1957, 1961-1964; Giro 1960, 1964); Felice Gimondi (IT; TdF 1965; Giro 1967, 1969, 1976; Vuelta 1968; world champion 1973); Eddy Merckx (BE; not enough room for all of his accomplishments 🏆🏆🏆🏆, etc. - but . . . some of them: TdF 1969-1972, 1974; Giro 1968, 1970, 1972-74; Vuelta 1973; hour record 1972); Francesco Moser IT; Giro 1984; World Champion 1977); The Badger (FR; TdF 1978-1979, 1981-1982, 1985; Giro 1980, 1982, 1985; Vuelta 1978, 1983; World Champion 1980);
Giuseppe Saronni (IT; Giro 1979, 1983); Gianni Bugno (IT; Giro 1990; World Champion 1991-1992); Miguel Indurain (ES; TdF 1991-1995; Giro 1992-1993; Olympic Gold 1996); Marco Pantani (IT; TdF 1998; Giro 1998); Fiorenzo Magni (IT; #1 Greatest cycling photo of all time 👍👍; Giro 1948, 1951, 1955); Gino Bartali (IT; TdF 1938, 1948; Giro 1936-1937, 1946); Fausto Coppi (IT; TdF 1949, 1952; Giro 1947, 1949, 1952-53); Gilberto Simoni (IT; Giro 2001, 2003).
With all due respect, we believe they have overlooked one very important cyclist . . .
. . . Andy Hampsten surely has earned a place on a Zoncolan km marker. ❄❄❄❄🚴🏔🥶
1988 Giro d’Italia Stage 14 June 5 - #1 Erik Breukink 3:53:12
Hampsten second, seven seconds back (secured 1988 Giro victory on this courageous ride).
We don’t believe there can be much credible opposition to including Passo di Gavia on Italy’s Top 10 Most Epic Climbs list:
The roadway is extremely narrow with sheer cliffs on one side for much of the second half of the climb.
The terrifying alternative to riding through the also dangerous 500 meter tunnel at kilometer 13.
One of the greatest cycling finishes in Italy, and the world.
The most famous hairpins in the world.
Looking down from just below the pass area.
Stelvio is nothing if not epic! This is the most famous of our Top 10 World Most Epic climbs, and rightly so. We love Stelvio and have travelled to Bormio and Prato Allo Stelvio three times to climb this extraordinary road.
Why Passo dello Stelvio is the most epic cycling climb in Italy:
Photos clockwise from top:
Looking down the mountain, Hairpins 8 (photo bottom) to 24 (photo top); Hairpins 42-35; Hairpins 30-24.
Ultimo tornante (“last turn”).
Stelvio is our favorite bike climb finish in the world.