Many scary stories are known of the Passo di Gavia. The literature often writes about the so-called challenge to drive the pass and report of drivers that ran off the road down into the steep valley. Well, is there any truth to these stories? To find that out you need necessarily deal with the history of the Gavia pass.
Originally there was only a well-developed dead end road that led up from Bormio to the village Santa Caterina Valfurva. This village is located in a magnificent ski area in one corner of the famous Parco Nationale di Stelvio National Park. From that village only a very small gravel military path led up through the river Gavia valley up and over to the Valle delle Messi.
Then in 1986 everything changed. The Tour de France had chosen this route for their race and the dirt track was paved. Up in the hostel Rif Berni al Gavia you will still find impressive photos that whiteness this tour. On that day it had snowed, and in front of the cyclists a snow blower cleared the road for the Tour de France. So we recommend not just to rush across the summit but to take a look into that hostel and have a look to that pictures. It's more than worth to sepnd this time with an excellent cup of Expresso.
But now let’s describe the way. Up from the town Bormio we follow the valley Valfurva on a well-developed broad road passing through several small mountain villages. After 12mls we reach the village Santa Caterina Valfurva.
At the entrance of the village take a left into the village and you will find a motorbiker friendly restaurant directly on the right hand side at the riverside. So don’t plan for lunch in Bormio but here at 1.736m. It is also not so crowded as in the city and you will have a great view acrosa the valley and you can follow the approaching riders.
From here the road gets very narrow and winds up sometimes as single lane a steep slope through a forest and after the timber line through meadows. The pavement is good, but that will change further up the road.
Above 2.000m altitude, the area looks more rocky, the road gets narrower and the pavement shows multiple frost cracks. From here on caution is required. Sometimes the road is only wide enough to allow a car and a motorcycle just passing by.
Crash bars? What’s that. Rotten timber piles fake a non-existent security, which should help to avoid falling down the hill. We reach the pass summit and have a breathtaking view. Just plan a short visit to the hostel and be impressed by the picture collection. Then you continue a little bit further on a kind of plateau to the next hostel that’s just at the end of the plateau before the road descends down into the valley. It is worthwhile to take a short brake here at Lago Bianco and have a view to the Valle delle Messi. Because what is coming now, is absolutely crazy.
From now on we recommend walking speed because what looks like a road is just a path along the valley side. As wide as a car, sometimes without any crash bar with an unobstructed view into the abyss the road runs along the slope downhill. Stops are mandatory if a car comes uphill or a Goldwing meets a car on that road. Then one of both needs to maneuver back to the next pass-by lot. We usually need over 45min. for the 3mls down to the village Ponte Legno. The view to the surrounding Alps is magnificent but you still can spot crashed trucks down in the valley that ran downhill in former days. The most dangerous part is since 1982 diverted through a tunnel which made the road a little bit saver.