Travel Guides

Valtellina, Italy | Adventure Travel Guide

Valtellina is an Italian cycling paradise filled with beautiful views and culinary delights

About 100km north of Milan, and just 20km away from the Austrian border lies Valtellina – a stunning, high-sided valley carved out by the blue, glacier-fed waters of the Adda river.

Over the years, Valtellina’s combination of fertile farmland and a strategic frontier location have meant that control of the valley has been much sought after and even fought over. The area changed hands multiple times during the Thirty Years War, and Mussolini famously dreamed about making a “last stand” against the advancing allied forces here.

These days Valtellina is obviously far more peaceful, and the same mountains which made it attractive to generations of generals now provide the perfect playground for adventure sports enthusiasts.

Why Go?

Valtellina isn’t just great for road cycling, it’s steeped in road cycling history. The climbs around here include the Stelvio Pass, the second-highest paved road in Europe, and the legendary Gavia Mortirolo.

It was here in 1988 that American Andy Hampsten took the leader’s jersey in Giro d’Italia in weather so bad that the Italian newspapers dubbed it “The Day The Big Men Cried”. He famously went on to win the race, becoming the first non-European to do so.

These are routes that every serious road cyclist should have on their bucket list, but it’s not just about paved roads round here. Valtellina also boasts a vast array of mountain bike trails, with itineraries to suit all ability levels.

Experts will love the Bike Park – one of the best anywhere in the Alps – and the Carosello 3000 in Livigno. There’s more great downhill riding in the Bike Park Palu and at Madesimo, and almost anywhere you look in Valtellina you’ll see trails snaking their way down the mountain side.

For beginners, there’s a skill centre at Aprica where they can hone their technique and take lessons – it’s also suitable for children. If you’re into cross country, try the Via dei Terrazzamenti, a 70km long route that takes you past many of Valtellina’s most stunning views. Or if it’s something more sedate you’re after, you can potter along the valley floor on the eminently family friendly Sentiero Valtellina, or the Valchiavenna cycle path.

If you’re a fan of almost any kind of cycling, Valtellina is basically paradise.

Where to Stay

There are an abundance of accommodation options to suit all budgets in Valtellina – from BnB’s to self-catered apartments, chalets and hotels. La Fiorida is one of our favourites. It’s an agriturismo, a particularly Italian combination of farm and guesthouse where the majority of the food served is produced on site. Even if you’re not staying there, it’s well worth a visit – the menu is simply stunning.

Another excellent spot is the Grand Hotel Della Posta in the picturesque town of Sondrio. The stately-looking building dates from the 19th century, but it boasts everything you could want from a modern hotel, including a spa.

Where to Eat

Aside from La Fiorida, there are a plethora of excellent places to eat in Valtellina. This is after all, a region famed for local delicacies like Bresaola, a kind of cured beef, and cheeses like Bitto, Casera and Scimudin.

Trippi in Sondrio is well worth a visit, with its young management serving an imaginative menu that puts a contemporary twist on Italian classics. If you’re after something more traditional, try Altavilla in Bianzone, where local dishes are served in a rustic setting. The terrace offers particularly good views.

Where to Drink

No-one would come to Valtellina for the clubbing but Livigno, as a world-class ski resort, boasts its fair share of good bars – try Marco’s Bar or Daphne’s pub if you’re after a bit of a party atmosphere. Wherever you’re staying you’ll be able to find a friendly local café willing to serve you up an aperitivo.

For us however, the highlight of Valtellina is the wine. The valley is famous for Valtellina Superiore and Sforzato. The latter is a fortified wine, akin to a sherry or the amerone produced in the region around Verona. It’s made from partially dried grapes and it’s absolutely delicious.

Whatever kind of bike you ride, we’d recommend taking an afternoon off ‘serious’ cycling to cruise around the various local wineries, sampling their produce as you go. Nino Negri, where they make an excellent Valtellina Superiore, is a great place to start.

More Information

For further information on visiting Valtellina, check out the official website.

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