Photos clockwise from top left:
Stelvio #9, Zoncolan #11, Finestre #6, Scanuppia, #2, and Mortirolo #10 (center).
Italy is a bicycle climbing mecca, particularly the Italian Alps and Dolomites. Italy is the only country in the world with three climbs in the World Top 10.
#1 OF 10
POZZA SAN GLISENTE (DOS DELL’ASINO)
Ride 9.1 kilometers gaining 1,411 meters at 15.7% average grade.
Photo from Jiri Fikejz, Choceň, Pardubický kraj, Česká republika.
The mighty Pozza San Glisente is Italy’s #2 and the 7th hardest bike climb in the world.
#2 OF 10
SCANUPPIA, TRENTO-ALTO ADIGE REGION
Warning: The sign at beginning says no bikes.
This is a KILLER bike climb - extremely steep (although we believe the above sign may be overstated). Scanuppia averages 18 percent grade for its entire 7.3 kilometers. We have ridden this nearly impossible bike climb twice and even with a 28t chainring and 42t cassette on a high-end stiff cross bike, we barely managed it. On the steeper segments (steepest 500m is 24%; our Garmin read 30-32% in a couple of spots) it is very difficult to keep the front wheel from lifting off the pavement.
#3 OF 10
ALPE FUORI, PIEDMONT REGION
Alpe Fuori is in the Pennine Alps (also the home of the Matterhorn). This is one of three Top 10 World Bike Climbs situated in Italy. With a 13.7% average grade (23% for 1 kilometer), this climb deserves its high world ranking. We climbed this one in the summer of 2018 and there will be no rematch!
#4 OF 10
MOUNT ETNA, SICILY REGION
The climb will take us to the top of that volcano.
This photo was taken along our route to Mt. Etna -- it is a LONG climb!
Several views of Mount Etna as we climb towards it.
The Mighty Mount Etna: The third hardest bike climb in Italy (just behind the incomparable Scanuppia and Alpe Fuori), is located in the east coast of Sicily, between the cities Messina and Catania. This is our second volcano in the World Top 10 after the great Mauna Kea. The last 8.5 kilometers at 11.4% from Rifugio Giovanni Sapienza are dirt and volcanic dust, better navigated by mountain bike. We used a cross bike with 40mm and that was a chore and barely manageable.
#5 OF 10
PASSO DELLA FORCELLA, FRIULI-VENEZIA GIULIA
Whoa -- go west out of Ovara (instead of east to the mighty Zoncolan) and you quickly encounter what is rightly the 12th hardest bike climb in the world. Passo della Forcella is an extremely steep climb from start to finish. There are many tight and incredibly steep tornante, making it very difficult and somewhat dangerous (particularly in the wet conditions we encountered on our day up the mountain) to get our midsize rental support car up. We do not recommend you have anyone accompany you via automobile when you climb this beast unless their vehicle is short, narrow and four wheel drive.
View looking back near the top.
#6 OF 10
COLLE DELLE FINESTRE, PIEDMONT REGION
There are exceptional views from the Colle.
This is one of the most difficult climbs in Italy and, while a bit of an outlier, is well worth the day or overnight trip to Susa to experience it. At 10.5 miles/16.9 kilometers, the distance is not exceptional, yet we gain 5,500’/1,680m at a 10.2% average grade over that moderate distance.
One of the most unique features of Finestre is that it is the only lengthy climb on the Giro that includes an extended dirt/gravel section. We enter and stay on gravel at mile 5.8 / kilometer 9.3 at an average grade of 9.5%, gaining 2,000’/600m over that distance.
#7 OF 10
ALPE ROSSOMBOLMO, PIEDMONT REGION
One kilometer up the climb looking northeast from above Ornavasso.
The Alpe Rossombolmo cycling climb is a very challenging yet gorgeous top bike climb in Italy’s Lake District located in the northern Italian Alps. The pavement is smooth until 3.5 miles to go, then it gets very very rough, ultimately turning to rock, grass and dirt. The entire climb is 13.1 kilometers, from 215m to 1600m gaining 1385m at 10.7% average grade (km 9 averages 20%).
Goats are alpine ibex.
#8 OF 10
MONTE CROSTIS, FRIULI-VENEZIA GUIULIA REGION
Intended to be included in the 2011 Giro d’Italia, Monte Crostis was scratched at the last minute.
What a climb. While surrounded by lush ground cover and forest as we climb, we also see many exceptional views of the Dolomites formations over the last third of the climb.
The Giro planned on featuring Monte Crostis in the 2011 race, but cancelled the day before.
#9 OF 10
PASSO DELLO STELVIO, TRENTINO ALTO ADIGE AND LOMBARDY REGIONS
This fantastic bike climb is the centerpiece of the World Cycling Area of Bormio. This is one of the greatest bicycle climbs in the world -- an unparalleled jewel. No more than what has already been written about it can be said; adjectives do not do justice to this extraordinary road and cyclIng climb. Passo Dello Stelvio is truly in a class by itself.
Our first hairpin of . . . .
. . . 48.
Stelvio has the most famous hairpins in the world.
Passo Dello Stelvio - 2760 meters - highest pass of any Grand Tour
#10 OF 10
PASSO MORTIROLO, LOMBARDY REGION
Mortirolo. Yes THE Mortirolo! We love Mortirolo, and, contrary to many of its “sans scenery” critics, we beg to differ! At #9 on the Top Italian Climb List, it is a stout climb and serious challenge. There is a reason this climb has been one of the most frequently visited (see chart, below) by the Giro d’Italia over the years. Yes, the distant views are often blocked by the thickly wooded forests bordering the road as we ascend, but to the interested and trained eye, there is much to behold.
First of 33 tornante on Mortirolo from Mazzo di Valtellina.
Pantani monument on tornante at km 7.5.
#11 - BONUS
MONTE ZONCOLAN (PRIOLA), FRIULI-VENEZIA GUIULIA REGION
Cycling Monte Zoncolan from Priola is the least cycled and hardest route to the top. This is considered the “Old Road” and it definitely lives up to that moniker. Very narrow and secluded, this is an exceptional cycling experience. If you are riding from Ovaro (the traditional and by far most popular approach) up and over the top and then down to Priola, be very careful not to miss the right turn precisely 3.3 km from the top (just after Rifugio Al Cocul). If you make it to the main ski area and SP 123 you missed the turn! (as we did in 2016).
Zoncolan from Ovaro (only slightly less difficult) has the greatest set of kilometer signs of any bike climb in the world. Below are all of the kilometer signs on the Monte Zoncolan (Ovaro) 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).
Ottavio Bottecchia (IT; Winner TdF 1924-1925); Alfredo Binda (IT; Giro d’Italia 1925, 1926, 1928-1929, 1933; World Road Race Champion 1927, 1930, 1932).
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).