by Casey Thompson © 2020 Bike It! Bellagio
Luca told me that many years ago he and his brother, Fabio, rode from their home to Livigno, and ever since this has been one of my dream rides, to go from Lake Como to the heart of the Alps over three major passes. It was a last-minute decision the other day, and it was a great last-minute decision! Luca's mother, aunt, and life-long family friend were going to Livigno to do some duty-free shopping, so we took advantage of their trip to Livigno for a ride back home, grazie mille to them! Bormio, which we talked about in a previous blog as another popular cycling destination, especially known for being a starting point for the Stelvio and Gavia passes. Livigno is just about an hour drive from Bormio, and we've taken our cyclists there on a few of our trips, either as part of a ride or as a rest day excursion to explore this interesting, picturesque, rather big town, nestled in the middle of the alps at nearly 2000m a.s.l. Many pro teams and pro athletes go to Livigno and its vicinity for altitude training and for the many long and arduous passes. We actually dropped off some material to the Bahrein McLaren team for Fabio on the way out, we didn't see the team though because they were still out on their long ride for the week. It was already 16:30, so I imagine it must have been a long ride!
Our ride was 140km. We started in Varenna and had nearly a 50km, rather flat warm-up, before starting the Maloja pass which is 30km long! The first half wasn't especially challenging in terms of elevation, easy gradients and such, with beautiful vistas and a border crossing into Switzerland. I've never seen so many water fountains along a climb so we stopped at a few for some ice could mountain water--very refreshing. The second half was pretty cool, consisting of some tight switchbacks, and with each turn we got a higher view of the valley and the many cows grazing on the steep slopes. Those cows have some impressive balance!
After the Maloja pass, we had another flat 20km or so in the valley to St. Moritz (a very famous and elite outdoor destination!), and then the climb to the Bernina Pass began. I had done this climb before on one of our trips, but this time it was much harder due to an intense headwind the whole way ... but we made it! Then we had just a nearly 3km climb left to the Forcola Pass and a long, rewarding descent to Livigno. After climbing nearly all day, it was well deserved to finally descend.
Time for immediate celebration! We quickly got to one of our favorite restaurants, La Piöda, before it closed for lunch. We enjoyed a big plate of pizzocheri and sciatt--2 local specialties. Then of course, knowing me, a trip to the Latteria di Livigno is a MUST for a huge bowl (or two) of gelato.
Next time, we will attempt the ride back home, but from Bormio to make a nice loop, although that would include two more passes from Livigno to Bormio, after Bormio it's nearly all downhill along the Valtellina cycle path to Lake Como!