Monte Pasubio on MTB!
digg TOP
  Posted February 6th, 2012 by Zdenko  in Cycling | 4 comments


By: Dr. Samuel Johnson

Monte Pasubio, the hero’s road across the Sacred Area of Italy
The Strada delle Gallerie [Road of Tunnels] is a mountain path cut into Monte Pasubio. It was built in 1916 by Italian mountain troops and teams of miners. The Strada was started in March 1917 and finished by the end of the year.

Monte Pasubio – Strada delle 52

There are many military paths in the Dolomites. What makes the Strada unusual is that it runs through 52 tunnels with a total length of 2,300m. A further 4,000m of path is cut into the side of Monte Pasubio. It is one of the best high level paths in the Dolomites.

The start to Strada delle Gallerie is in Bocchetta Campiglia. The path eventually arrives at the Rifugio Generale Papa. On the other side of the Rifguo is the loop known as Strada degli Eroi (Road of Heroes). The Strada della Gallerie is officially closed to mountain bikers, there are barriers but they are easily bypassed. Disclaimer: it’s dangerous, ride at your own risk.

Travel information
Difficulty: medium
Gradients: 1,330 m.
Travel time: 3.30 hours
Category: Mountain Biking
Features: Medium-difficulty Path, Nature hike/excursion
Accesses: Pian delle Fugazze (1,163m)

This trail runs along the military roads built in the proximity of the front line which, during World War One, crossed the area of Pasubio and was the theatre of a series of bloody battles, for which reason it was christened the “Sacred Area of Italy”, in remembrance of the many soldiers who died there. Along the trail are preserved many memories of these tragic wartime events: in particular, the Road of Heroes (Strada degli Eroi) was almost entirely excavated in the rock, to allow supplies to be brought to the Pasubio front from behind the lines, safely protected from the fire of the Austrian artillery.

Monte Pasubio – Strada delle 52

Monte Pasubio – Strada delle 52

Monte Pasubio – the ultimate MTB destination
The starting point is at the Ossuary Monument of Pian delle Fugazze, with the monument dedicated to the soldiers who died on the Pasubio Plateau. From here, descend 3 kilometres to the Ponte Verde junction and take the unsurfaced road to Colle Xomo. Riding on an uphill stretch you reach Bocchetta Campiglia (signposted), from where begins the suggestive Strada delle Gallerie – the underground road (of which there are a total of 52) – where you must dismount from the bike and walk, up to the Porte del Pasubio. Then continue downhill towards Malga Campiglia, where the demanding climb on the Strada degli Scarubbi begins, which climbs steeply up a narrow valley. Skirting the ridge of Caneve di Campiglia, a last uphill stretch leads to 1928 m a.s.l. to the so-called Porte del Pasubio – the Gateway of Pasubio – from where you eventually come to the amphitheatre of the “Sacred Area of Pasubio”. Here you can see a number of emplacements, observation points, military tunnels, or climb up to the Cima Palon peak, on foot, from where you can view, down below, the rugged and rocky plateau on which the two armies clashed.


The video cannot be shown at the moment. Please try again later.

More fun is to go Sunday morning from Palermo (Sea Level) to Piano Bataglia (1800m)

Strada delle 52 Gallerie
During the First World War the front line between the Italian and Austro-Hungarian forces ran through the Dolomites. Monte Pasubio was a crucial stronghold for the Italians. They had to hold the mountain, but their supply lines to the mountain were being shelled and were subject to avalanches [on one day, the 13th December 1916, known as 'White Friday', 10,000 soldiers were killed by avalanches in the Dolomites]. The answer to the Italian Army’s problems was the Strada delle 52 Gallerie.

The Strada delle Gallerie [Road of Tunnels] is a mountain path cut into Monte Pasubio in the Dolomites in Italy. It was built in 1916 by Italian mountain troops and teams of miners. The Strada was started in March 1917 and finished by the end of the year.

There are many military paths in the Dolomites. What makes the Strada unusual is that it runs through 52 tunnels with a total length of 2,300m. A further 4,000m of path is cut into the side of Monte Pasubio. It is one of the best high level paths in the Dolomites and walking it is a memorable experience.

Travelling to the Strada
We stayed in the pleasant town of Rovereto. Next morning we drove along the SP46 from Rovereto towards Valli del Pasubio. About three quarters of the way along we turned onto a road running north to the start of the walk at Bocchetta Campiglia.

The track from the SP46 to Bocchetta Campiglia is narrow with few passing places. We didn’t meet any traffic coming down the track and were very grateful for that. The local commune need to get out their box of gelignite and blast some more passing places [they could also straighten out some of the worse bends]. During the summer months it may be necessary to pause and buy a parking voucher on your way up the track. There are two car parks at Bocchetta Campiglia. The Strada delle 52 Gallerie starts from the first car park. After your walk you have to drive back the same way you came.

The route
The walk starts at a car park at Bocchetta Campiglia [1216m] and ends at an Italian Alpine Club refuge called A Papa [1928m]. There is an information board at the start of the walk, with a small section in English. Each tunnel is numbered and at intervals there are more boards giving information on the next few tunnels.

Looking back to the start of the path. The car park is just visible in the centre of the picture.

The tunnels vary considerably in length. The longest one is over 300m long. There are a few short ones but many in the 40-90m range. A good torch [plus a spare and batteries is essential]. There are long stretches of tunnel where it is pitch black. You will not need a helmet. I am almost 6ft and managed with a bit of stooping.

You will be ascending [sometimes steeply] pretty much all the time. Only the last two tunnels slope down. In some of the tunnels the path is smooth. In others it is very uneven. Water drips down from some tunnel roofs and makes the path slippery.

As you get higher there are splendid views of the valley. About two thirds of the way along there is a long open stretch where the path is cut into the side of the mountain.

Monte Pasubio – Strada delle 52

By the time we got past tunnel 40 we were in cloud. At the end of the Strada you arrive at Refuge A Papa where you can eat and drink. I think they also offer accommodation.

Monte Pasubio – Strada delle 52

There appeared to be a path continuing beyond Refuge Papa. It looked as if it was cut into the side of the mountain in the same way as parts of the Strada, but without any tunnels. My map seems to indicate that this path is part of what is called “The Road of Heroes”.

Alternative routes
There are three paths between the car park at Bocchetta Campiglia and Refuge A Papa.

The Strada delle Gallerie [blue on the map]
Sentiero Gaetano Falcipieri [a grade 2 via ferrata] [red on the map]
Path 370 [green on the map]. This is a long open path that runs on the other side of the ridge from the Strada.

The Strada runs on the south side of the ridge, the via ferrata along the ridge and 370 on the north side of the ridge.

This photograph [not mine] shows the three paths.

We went up by the Strada and came down by 370. More hearty types might go up by the via ferrata and back by the Strada. I don’t think descending through the tunnels is a good idea.

In some of the tunnels it is very steep and rough underfoot. The rock is also wet and descending offers numerous opportunities to acquire multiple contusions. If you plan to descend through the tunnels a walking pole would be handy to help you keep your balance [and a foam rubber suit].

The above photograph shows Path 370.

One of the car parks at Bocchetta Campiglia.

The relevant map is Kompass’s 1:50,000 101 [Roverto – Monte Pasubio]. The map was handy for finding the turn-off from the main road. It was not needed after that.

Via ferrata
See this page for an excellent illustrated guide to the via ferrata Sentiero Gaetano Falcipieri that runs alongside the Strada. Another guide can be found in Via Ferratas of the Italian Dolomites: Volume 2 by Fletcher and Smith. Published in 2003 by Cicerone [UK].

Mountain biking
The Strada is supposed to be a classic mountain bike ride. The authorities have erected barriers at either end to stop bikers but it would be possible to pass bikes over the barriers. However, I think someone would have to be very silly to do the Strada as a mountain bike ride. It would be too dangerous and too much hard work for little benefit.

The journey between Rovereto and the car park at Bocchetta Campiglia took about 1 hour each way. It took us 3.5 hours to ascend the Strada and almost 2 hours to descend path 370. A sign at Refuge Papa states that it is only 2km along 370 to the car park. Don’t believe it.

The Bocchetta Campiglia carpark is 19.09 kilometres [11.86 miles] south east of Rovereto at Latitude 45 degrees 46 minutes and 43.07 seconds. Longitude 11 degrees 13 minutes 40.81 seconds.

A World Heritage site?
I have written about other WW1 sites in the Dolomites in my posts on Via Ferrata Lagazuoi Tunnels and Monte Piana. The Strada is on a far grander scale than either of those. It has been described as ‘a marvel of military engineering’ and that ‘no other work equals it along the entire European front’. Because of its history [it played an important part in a key battle] and because it is so exceptional I think UNESCO might consider the path for World Heritage status. After all, so little remains of this terrible conflict. There are a few trench systems, the forts at Verdun and the cemeteries in France. We should have at least one relic of WWI on the World Heritage list.

Read more
You can read more about the war in the Dolomites in Mark Thompson’s The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front, 1915-1919. (Faber and Faber, 2008).

Add your experiences
Have you walked the Strada? Leave a comment below to describe your experiences.

Related Posts
For more posts on the Dolomites, other walks or my blogger’s selections click on the tags on the right.

More photographs




Gotta Comment?
If you've got a comment or opinion you'd like to share, send me an email or fill the comment fields bellow, with only requirements your name and email address. I might just publish you in glorious pixilated black & white! Comments may be edited for grammar, spelling and length, or just to make them better.

Submit your own stories for the Zdenko’s Corner about rides, Gran Fondo’s, having a good time traveling and/or cycling, Croatian cycling history, etc. All stories are very welcome. There are more than 400 stories already in this blog. The search feature at the top right, works best for finding subjects in the blog. There is also translating button at the top of every story so you can translate each page to language of your choice.

Send your comments to:

4 comments to “Monte Pasubio on MTB!”

  1. Comment by Bebe:

    Hola! I’ve been following your blog for a long time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Huffman Tx! Just wanted to mention keep up the great work!

  2. Comment by Whitney:

    Greetings from Colorado! I’m bored to death at work so I decided to check out your site on my iphone during lunch break. I really like the info you provide here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home. I’m shocked at how fast your blog loaded on my mobile .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyways, excellent blog!

  3. Comment by Heinz Gartner:

    Hey from many miles away! This is just what I was looking for, and you wrote it well. Thx.

  4. Comment by Bosko:

    Amazing! It’s in fact amazing article. I have got much clearer idea about this climb with your writing.
    Thanks a lot!!

Leave a Reply