Linking the towns of Tovena in the south and Trichiana in the north this pass is modest in length but with five of its 18 hairpin bends inside tunnels is one not to be missed.
The project to construct a replacement for the steep path across this mountain was started in the late 19th century but was way behind schedule until the Austro-Hungarian army arrived during WW1. Deemed vital to supply their troops on the Piave front they finished the job between February and June 1918 using 7000 workers. Mostly Russian prisoners they worked day and night to complete this marvel of road building in just 100 days.
Was one of the categorized climbs of stage 19 of the 2019 Giro d'Italia.
- From Tovena -
Heading north from Tovena the lower slopes, framed by towering peaks either side are very gentle as you ride into the valley towards the first of the 18 numbered hairpins. Still on a shallow incline the road now begins to sway round its flowing bends up the lush hillsides towards its dramatic finale. The first of the hairpin tunnels arrives just after the five kilometre mark and now the slope is steeper, but never too steep because built as a military road the gradient was never allowed to exceed 12%.
Traffic, including cycles is only allowed in one direction from here with the tunnels controlled by lights so have some patience then revel in the unique experience of hairpin bends cut directly into a mountain.
Points of interest
All 18 of the ‘Tornate’ or hairpins are numbered with a small signs which help you mentally as you count down the corners all the way to the top.
On route refreshment
There are small restaurants on both hairpins 18 and 16 if you feel the need to take on extra fuel before heading further into the mountains.
Hairpin four is where the tunnels start and also the one way system of traffic lights, which may all be on red, but then again may all be on green!
The village of San Boldo and the pass were named after a Spanish hermit, called Boldo who lived in these mountains and would later become a saint.
East of Tovena are two lakes known ad the Revine's Lakes which are not fed by a surface river but their water comes from underground springs.
Despite the demanding topographical conditions, the slope could not exceed 12% for the passage of heavy vehicles and artillery.
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