The Stelvio, often titled as the "Queen of Alpine roads, is still some challenge for the rider and his motorbike. First of all the pass road has still enough very narrow sections with several hand crafted single-track rock tunnels, and second it is a significant difference in altitude down from the valley up to the Stilfser Joch at 2.700m. Up here the air is a bit thin, especially when you ride a carburetor engine that does not correct the gas like an injection one.
Fourteen mountains that exceed 3.000m level exist in the Ortler region and the Stelvio National Park spreads over 1.346sqkm all the way over to the Swiss National Park. Since 1815 the province Lombardia as well as the province South Tyrol did belong to Austria. In 1820 the Emperor Franz I gave the order for the construction of the Stelvio road as a very important military Alp transit road. Due to the military importance, the pass was kept open even during winter time. 1859 the province Lombardia became part of the Kingdom of Italy and on the Stelvio pass summit between both countries a border was installed. Hard to imagine, but in 1904 cycling was forbidden on the road, and in 1911 a speed limit of 15km/h was set up. After World War I., South Tyrol was given back to Italy which brought back the importance of the pass road. The road was repaired and again the frontier disappeared from the pass summit.
If you make the Stelvio pass from Bormio the road snakes up the Valle del Braulio. The road runs through several extreme small rock tunnels, mostly wet, slippery with only one lane. So you should take caution especially in the tunnel that are sometimes curved. In addition you need to be aware of that the Stelvio still represents a challenge for all bicycle enthusiasts and campers.
These guys you will meet for sure right in the dark and the middle of a tunnel. They don’t have a light on their high tech bikes so you will see them in the last second. If you have made these hurdles you and you motorbike will have endless curve fun until you have reached the plateau at 2.300m. However, you have still not reached the top of the pass. This was only the Overture. At the end of the little plateau you will find a few houses and a junction. This is the way down the Umbrail Pass which exits here. The Umbrail pass consits about two thirds only of gravel and leads down to the Munster valley where it offers the opportunity to continue your motorbike tour either across the Ofen pass, the Reschen pass or down the Vinschgau valley in South Tyrol.
From here the road runs additional half a mile uphill through several serpentines until you reach the summit. A short rain fall down in the valley in summer means most of the time snow up here. Once reached the top you will meet Tourism in its pure concentration. On weekends you might have difficulties to find a parking lot for your bike because of hundreds of motorbikes, bicycles and cars which don’t leave an inch of space. But it's worth to dive into that tourism and enjoy the red sausage in pita bread. The guy who is running that open air grill station up here in his typical Tyrolean suit and the Tyrolean hat on is every year up here with his sausages and sauerkraut, speaks four different languages and is a true salesman.
If you leave the pass summit you will ride on the well known and most described road down to the village Prato with the 45, or 43 serpentines. No matter. Serpentine by serpentine the road winds itself along the left slope down to Prato. Curve swinging pure, except on weekends. On the way down you can spot the Ortler glacier on the right hand side. When we drove across the Stelvio in July 2006 down to the Vinschgau valley, the glacier was almost gone.
Another important information. Visit this place in late summer time and not on weekends. Then you won’t see too many stupid camper drivers that torture their diesel engine up here and you will find less tourists hanging around.