Dolomites: Vines & Climbs (4-18 September 2016)

Vines u0026amp; Climbs: Venice to Dolomites

         4 -18 September 2016

The Dolomiti (Dolomites) take their name from the scientist who first recognized the rock formations as different and distinct from all other formations in Western Europe. Indeed, the Dolomiti are primarily formations resulting from the uplift of ancient coral beds of the nearby Mediterranean Sea. The near vertical walls create stunning vistas and lens filling landscapes that are unparalleled. The high pastures provide a beautiful green tapestry of contrasting color where herds graze and flocks migrate to higher ground during the hot summer months. The herder and hiker huts provide refuge from sudden storms and a welcome respite for hungry travelers traversing historic trade routes linking remote valleys and villages.

The fertile Veneto region is today the epicenter of Italian cycling manufacturers of clothing, components, frames, shoes and tires. The prosecco grape grows in abundance on the hillsides of the Veneto and provides ample fruit for the sparkling prosecco wine that is prominently featured on dinner tables of Italian families. Famous cities of the Veneto include Verona and Venezia (Venice) are known throughout the world for music, verse and handcrafts. The ancient silk route passed through the Veneto and over the Alps to northern Europe leaving us with amazing roads to ride into the heart of the mountains. Monte Grappa dominates the skyline to the north of Castelfranco and is a favorite route for cyclists of the Veneto.

Leaving the Veneto plain we ride upstream along the beautiful Brenta river on roads designated for cycling enjoyment and where kayakers play amid riffles and rapids. Our route passes between two massifs that separate the Veneto from the mighty Dolomite mountains.

We continue our warm-up approach to the Dolomiti as we follow the “Wine Route” of the Alto Adige between Trento and Bolzano. Along the way we traverse apple orchards and vineyards where we glimpse the stunning beauty of the Dolomiti.  We will sleep in the shadows of the Dolomiti and Brenta ranges and enjoy local wines produced from nearby vines of Mezzocorona, Val di Non, Caldaro and Bolzano. Marketday is Saturday in Bolzano and we will have the day to explore this historical town at the confluence of Adige and Isarco rivers; a natural hub of trading and commerce.

Rising high above the Adige River we finally arrive on the western shoulder of the Dolomiti beneath the Scilliar cliffs. We are entering the heart of the Dolomiti as we climb passes made famous by il Giro della Italia. The famous Sella Ronde becomes our domain for the next few nights before cycling further into the dramatic peaks and valleys of the Dolomiti. The serpentine routes of Passo Pordoi, Passo Pellegrino, Passo Giau and the mighty Marmelade beckon us to press ever upward to view stunning scenery. Cortina d’Ampezzo is the Aspen of Italian skiing circles, so we are treated to great meals and gracious hospitality from our Italian hosts.

Completing our tour, we pedal along the picturesque strada della vino as we leave the Dolomiti behind us. We will arrive back at our hotel in Castelfranco in time to pack our bikes before a fond farewell dinner and a final gelato in the piazza.

Arrival Day 1 – Venice (Marco Polo) arrival: Castelfranco in Veneto

We meet you at Venezia (Venice) Marco Polo airport for transfer to Castelfranco or to collect your luggage. Water taxis are available directly from the airport to transport you into the heart of Venice for an afternoon exploring the canals and passageways of this romantic Italian town.Trains leave from the banks of central Venice to transport you to the center of Castelfranco on a regular basis.

Our hotel in Castelfranco is ideally located in the heart of the old town, where you will find an abundance of cafes, gelateria and shops. We will assemble bikes in the basement of our hotel and organize a shake-down ride prior to our evening meal.The ride is thru the farmland and vineyards of the fertile Veneto region with a delightful stop in Asolo, one of the most enchanting regions in Italy, for our first taste of gelato. An Italian dinner tonight within the walls of the old town is planned as a welcome to the Veneto and Dolomiti. And we will enjoy the fine Italian tradition of a post-dinner walk with gelato and perhaps cafe.

Day 2 – Castelfranco to Marostica

57km, 315m

Following in the footsteps of the inhabitants of Vicenza, we’ll head north toward the cool green mountain plateau of Asiago (1000m elevation). The fertile Veneto region has nurtured the creative soul of Italian culture from Medieval to modern times. Bassano del Grappa, famous for its ceramics and distilled liquor, is a fascinating town, inviting exploration and a mid-day lunch at one of many small restaurants. We ride thru Bassano del Grappa and across the recently restored Ponte Alpini footbridge across the Brenta river in the old section of town From here we ride along the base of the Asiago plateau to the medieval town of Marostica with it’s lifesize chess board forming the central piazza in town just a few steps from our delightfully modernized Historic Albergo.

Day 3 – Levico-Terme

75km, 500m –or—84km, 1650m

The Asiago plateau separates the Brenta and Adige rivers from each other and forms the dominate cheese producing region by the same name. We have two ride options on offer today; a ride along the banks of the Brenta river upstream to Levico-Terme or ride onto the Asiago plateau and over the top to a final descent into Levico-Terme. The Brenta river grades are gentle and the scenery always changing and the climbing to the Asiago plateau is a bit more challenging; either way, we have a great ride in store for you today.

Day 4 – Levico-Terme loop

115km, 2600m

The Passo Mánghen is the highlight of this option; we fell in love with this route option several years ago. As it happened, a couple of riders on our Dolomiti-Classic Climbs tour looked at the map and asked about the Passo Mánghen. I said, “sure, let’s see what it looks like.” Well, 9 hours and 3600m of climbing later we arrived in Kaltern totally worn-out, but very happy to know another great climb in the Dolomiti. The loop route from Levico-Terme is not nearly as daunting; and we are treated to some of the most picturesque pastoral climbs in the Dolomiti region over Passo Manghen and Passo Redebus. Or a more leisurely day featuring a ride along the shores of Lago di Levico and Lago di Caldonazzo, stopping for a visit to the old castle of Pergine for a visit and café.

Day 5 – Mezzocorona

56km, 550m

Today we leave the foothills of the Dolomites and ride into the Trentino and Alto-Adige wine growing regions. The ride today is relatively short and the climbing is fairly mellow as we ride over a ridge to descend into Trento.

Trento is a busy city with centuries of history as one of the “gate-keepers” of the most important trade-routes between Italy and Northern Europe (Germany, Austria, Czech, Belgium, France). It is a little busy leaving the northern edge of Trento, but then we join the beginning of one of the longest “cycle-paths” in Europe; the path stretches from Trento to Graz in Eastern Austria and on to Hungary.

Mezzocorona is located at the base of the Brenta mountain massif and at the junction of the Noce and Adige rivers. Ideally situated for vineyards and commerce the town has become a hub of wine making and distribution. Abundant vineyard roads afford riding options to enjoy a leisurely day. This afternoon we will visit one of the premiere winemakers in the region, De Vescovi Ulzbach winery for tours and tasting.

Day 6 – Mezzocorona-Bolzano

73km, 350m or 88km, 1700m

OK…vineyards, orchards, river paths, castles, wineries and mountains…does it get any better? We’ll ride quiet farming roads linked to the riverside bikepath to intersect the SüdTirol Weinstrasse or Strada della Vino along the way to Bolzano (Bozen). We are entering the historically Austrian region where the majority of the populace is of Austrian (Tirol) descent. Politically the region was brought into Italy’s borders after the war, but the people retain their rich traditions and customs. The riding is pleasant and the visual treats are many along the route. Make sure your cameras are charged and you have plenty of memory available for capturing the moments of the day.

The medieval city of Bolzano is truly the “gateway” to the Dolomiti with castles, spires and cathedrals pointing the way to the mountains. We have scheduled two days in town to fully appreciate the richness of the culture and history dating back over a thousand years. Our hotel is strategically located near the historical center of town.

Day 7 – Bolzano Market Day

Piazza Vittori

It’s market day in the historical center of town and there are many sights to see, so we propose a short loop along a portion of the SüdTirol-Weinstrasse or along the Adige river bikepath after breakfast. A must see is the Museum of the Oetzi man found at the edge of a nearby receding glacier.

Day 8 – Bolzano to Brixen

57km, 1700m

Bolzano is the gateway to the Dolomiti and our route today affords us amazing views into the wonderful and magical Dolomiti from our high pastoral farmroad traverse high above the Isarco (Eisach) river. The 900m (3000ft) climb from Bolzano up to Collabo (Klobenstein) begins by winding thru hillside vineyards as we leave the city below us in the distance.

Collabo (Klobenstein) to Barbiano is only 17km, but sometimes it takes me over 2 hours to cover the distance. The reason: too many photo-ops to really get any serious riding done. The sunnier and clearer the skies, the longer it will take you to follow this amazing traverse. Enjoy!!

Eventually all things that go up must come down, so we stay on the high traverse as long as possible. Finally we will descend to Chiusa (Klausen) and join the bike-route into Brixen.

Brixen celebrated it’s 1000 year birthday a few years ago, so you know that this is a special town to visit. The twin towers of the church are stunning and the main square facing the church is a great place to enjoy an afternoon beverage or gelato. Again enjoy!!

Day 9 – Brixen to Corvara in Alta-Badia

65km, 1900m

The beauty of the Dolomiti surrounds us as we ride upstream along the Isarco (Eisach) river and transition to ride along the Rio di Pusteria (Mühlbach) toward Brunico (Bruneck). The historical trade-route over the Brennerpass is a collector of commercial traffic from SüdTirol and Kärnten to the east, so the main roads are very busy. With that in mind an initiative was begun many years ago to create a cycling link from Verona, Italy to Graz, Austria using local farmroads and old railbeds. Today we are blessed to ride on mostly very quiet roads and bikepaths all the way to Bruneck, but we are planning to leave the Mühlbach to follow the Gardena river upstream to Corvara in Badia. Of course there are other options for anyone desiring a more challenging option, but the designated route is pretty tough as designed.

Day 10 – Corvara loops

52km, 2100m

The Sella Ronde is THE classic loop in the Dolomiti, both in wintertime and summertime. So, it is fitting that we include this spectacular loop in our itinerary. Of course, there are numerous other options for anyone looking for more elevation or distance than the 4 passo day we have on the itinerary.

Clockwise or counterclockwise —that is the big question. Since we will leave Corvara toward Cortina over the Passo Pordoi the next day you will get a different perspective by riding the Sella Ronde in an anti-clockwise direction. The only downside is the rather rough pavement and narrow section from the Val Gardena-Sella intersection; a distance of about 5km. I actually enjoy the descents from the Sella and Pordoi going in this direction best.

Day 11 – Corvara to Cortina d’Ampezzo

49km, 910m –or—96km, 2680m

The roads crisscrossing the Dolomiti are many, so the choice of where to ride is difficult. In Italy it is often said that all roads lead to Rome, but today our choices all lead to Cortina d’Ampezzo. The question is which views you want to see along the way. Whether you choose to ride in the shadow of the mighty Marmolada or cycle the valleys leading to the Passo Falzarego you will not experience visual or sensory disappointment; it’s all a good thing. Either way we all share the gentle climb over the Passo Campolongo and descend to Arraba before making our choice for today. Perhaps in the Dolomiti we should say, “all roads lead to beautiful times”.

The climbers route traverses the lower flanks of the mighty Marmolada as we climb over Passo Fedaia before plummeting to the lower approaches of Passo Falzarego or perhaps the more strenuous climb of Passo Giau. Either route will be richly rewarded with breathtaking vistas and beautiful road surfaces.

Day 12 – Cortina loops

42km, 850m –or– 118km, 2220m

The “must do” ride is the classic Passo Tre Croci (1805m), but for energetic riders we offer a bigger loop taking us into Austria near the Lienzer Dolomiti. You won’t miss a thing as we include all of the high points in the region on either loop. And of course, a visit to Cicli Cortina to purchase local “team kits” from Marco and his father after your ride will cap off a great day in Cortina.

Day 13 – Cortina d’Ampezzo to Feltre

76km, 200m; 92km, 2200m

Cortina d’Ampezzo to Belluno is a net elevation loss, but we do need to pedal. The route is a blending of bikeroutes and shared roadways all the way to Belluno. Oddly, the maps of Italian roadways do not show all of the roads that exist on the ground, so we must use the maps today as mere guidelines as we descend from the high valleys of the Dolomiti. We generally follow the Cadore river downstream on an abandoned railway (rails-to-trails) project that is part of the via Lunga della Dolomiti for bicycles and walkers; each year more of the route is resurfaced with asphalt, so we’ll use the route when appropriate. And as a very special treat we’ll stop at a small ristorante featuring “pumpkin gnocchi” that seems to melt in the mouth. The final treat of the day is a visit to a collection of historical bicycles and memorabilia that is so extensive the local town built a modern museum to display items that were tucked away in the basement of the local bike shop.

Day 14 – Feltre to Castelfranco-Veneto

100km, 1000m

The last day of riding has many interesting roads for us to enjoy as we follow a portion of the Strada delle Vini Prosecco. The roads pass thru vineyards below castles and by villas designed by the famous Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio. We begin the day riding along the quieter side of the Piave river where we are afforded last looks into the heights of the Dolomiti peaks. Leaving the Dolomiti in the distance we climb over the Passo di San Boldo; the descent is an engineering marvel that you’ll have to ride to appreciate. We follow the Strada delle Vino into Valdobbiadene for a well deserved lunch near the center of town. Crossing the Piave river for the last time we ride along the foot of Monte Grappa to Asolo for a mid-day gelato.  Retracing some of the roads we cycled two weeks earlier we return to Castelfranco for bike packing before our farewell dinner.

Day 15 – Castelfranco-Veneto (Venice) departures

Van transfers to Marco Polo airport (Venice).  

Comfortable family operated Bu0026amp;Bs, inns and hotels well situated to enjoy local culture and flavors.


Group breakfasts and dinners featuring typical local flavors and dishes prepared individually for our enjoyment. Breakfasts provided by our lodging partners. Dinners generally include a variety of choices for each course (starter, first course, main course, dessert); paired with wines, beer and after dinner coffee. Most dinners served from the kitchens of our hotels, others taken in nearby restaurants.

14 nights, 14 breakfasts, 12 dinners, daily road snacks/picnics, maps and route descriptions, luggage transfers, on-the-road ride guides, van support (sag wagon).


Lunches, 2 dinners, tips u0026amp; gratuities, airfare, museum entries, trams or lifts, trip insurance

Gateway Airport:

Venice, Italy – Marco Polo Airport (VCE)

Arrive: Venice 4 September 2016 or earlier

Depart: Venice 18 September 2016 or later

$4500 double occupancy per person

$5250 single occupancy per person (3 spaces possible)