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Isarco Valley Cycle Path: from Brennero to Bolzano by bicycle

The cycleways of South Tyrol (Südtirol in German) are very famous in all Europe: they are developed on old railways, in the woods or on secondary roads, allowing bicycle tourists to travel completely safe. One of the main cycle paths connects the Brennero Pass to Bolzano, following the Isarco river.
The Isarco Valley Cycle Path, almost 100 km long, connects the Pass to the near main city, but for whom wants to continue the bicycle trip, you can enter Austria always going east on the Pusteria Valley cycle path from Fortezza or west towards Merano and the Venosta Valley...

Map

 

From Brennero through Fleres Valley

From Brennero, which you can reach by regional trains from Italy or Austria, you can start the adventure along the Isarco Valley Cycle Path. This trip is mainly downhill, alternating the descent to flat parts and short panoramic ascents. This cycleway, partially mixed, leads us towards South into Isarco Valley along an old railway path which appears very suggestive and fascinating. 
vecchia stazione brennero
The old train stations are the perfect setting while reaching the beginning of the Fleres Valley, one of the least known places of South Tyrol. This valley is only 16 km long and some years ago it was known as Silver Valley, thanks to the presence of sites until 1818.
Fleres Valley runs parallel to the Isarco Valley and until some years ago (1999) it hosted a long railway path then replaced by a long tunnel: the old rails were recently transformed in cycle path.val fleres in bici
Our itinerary, after a suggestive turn parallel to the Rio Fleres, comes back to the valley in Colle Isarco.
With less than 2000 inhabitants, Colle Isarco is a pleasant village to be visited before continuing the road uphill towards the flowered houses in a panoramic position Oberried. This mixed part is not so demanding and with some effort, you can reach the top, where you can admire the engineering work of the speedway. Going downhill again towards the Brennero statal road once crossed the railway, you will be pedaling along the Isarco river.cicloviaggiatori e val fleres
Vipiteno is quite close and before you even realize it, you are in its beautiful city center.

Vipiteno by bicycle

The city of Vipiteno, Sterzing in German, deserves without any doubt a stop to admire its famous Torre delle Dodici, the church Madonna della Palude, one of the tallest in the area, and to take a picture of one of its castles.vipitenoTasso castle and Pietra castle have been erected in front of each other, South of Vipiteno. The first dates back to the Middle Ages and can be visited, the second is a couple of centuries more recent and it is closed to the public... but let's come back to Vipiteno. From the northern entrance, following the signs of the cycle path, you can cross the city center.
vipiteno in biciOnce crossed the center, you will find the cycleway again along the Isarco river, now strong and vigorous, thanks to the union with the Rio Ridanna, which comes from the namesake valley.

Towards Bressanone

For almost 3 km the cycle path follows the river without any change of directions. In Stilfes the itinerary of Isarco valley turns towards the locality of Campo Trens before entering the fresh of the woods. Pedaling is pleasant while getting closer to Fortezza, city where we leave the Munich - Venice cycle path to continue towards Bressanone and Bolzano. In the city it is possible to get some water before continuing the trip.
A short deviation due to some construction works brings us on the statal roads for a couple of kilometers before entering again on the cycling itinerary just before Fortezza.

fortezza e il lago
Fortezza, named after the presence of an Austro-Hungaric fortress built by Francis the I in the XIX century, is the access to Pusteria Valley (Pustertal). Just before the military outpost, where you see an artificial lake, you can find the crossing with the Fortezza - San Candido cycle path towards the Austrian border, while the Isarco valley Cycle Path continues straight along the valley... 
The Habsburg fortress is breathtaking: even the gold which was stolen by the Nazis during the Second World War passed through here, but of the 127 tonnes nobody could find any.
The cycle path keeps following the Isarco Valley hiding from the cars thanks to the woods, which helps during summer. For a short leg, the track coincides with the "chestnut tree path" and fortunately you can still admire some at the side of the cycle path.in bici tra i vigneti
Before reaching Bressanone, just after the lake of Varna hidden by the green vegetation, the path becomes gravel, partially demanding but very fun. Among mushrooms, pine needles and resin smell, you will face a short ascent before jumping downhill towards Bressanone, Brixen in German, one of the most fascinating places of Alto Adige.

Bressanone by bicycle

Bressanone is 560 m high and counts dozens of castles, ruins of old manors or villas.
The cycle path runs parallel to the city, allowing with a deviation the visit of the Abbey of Novacella, founded 850 years ago and known for the production and market of herbs, fruits and prestigious wines allowing the economic independence of the entire complex.bressanoneWhen getting closer to the center of Bressanone it won't be hard to see the complex of the Hofburg, the colorful and crenelated houses, the Church of San Michele, the bells towers of the Dome and the tower of Sabiona Door. Taking a look around you'll be able to see some fairy tale castle, like Castello Ratzötz.

Chiusa and Ponte Gardena

The Isarco River gets bigger and bigger, hosting waters from Rienza River from Pusteria Valley. Following its course by bicycle is a real anti-stress: the sound of its water, the fresh air or the vegetation running along the river... everything makes pedaling special.
Chiusa is a few kilometers far from Bressanone, but you'll have to pedal through an easy gravel road.chiusa in bici
The locality, which gained the name city with the other seven localities of this province, has a rich past being the customs. Witha majority of German-speaking inhabitants, Chiusa saw the priest Joachim Haspinger fighting with the patriot Andreas Hofer, then hosted many artists and merchants, travelers and poets, got drunk by the beauty of Albrecht Dürer's masterpieces.
The monastery of Sabiona overlooks the city boasting its beauty, and nobody can stay still without noticing its charm.
The cycle path crosses Chiusa, one of the most beautiful cities in Italy, to then run along the river in one of the most suggestive legs, Ponte Gardena, surmounted by the Trostburg Castle, dating back to 1173, welcoming the bicycle tourists with its former railway bridge. The small village, counting some hundreds of souls, is the access door to Gardena valley.castello di trostburg

Colma and the old railway

The last part of this track runs on the old railway Brennero - Bolzano towards Bolzano overcoming the borders of Colma, with its Friedburg Palace and the Trockner Butcher shop selling bacon and speck. The illuminated tunnels alternate to some unadorned areas, just under the mountain: at this point the valley narrows and the old railway runs close to the river. You will pass through Prato all'Isarco and Cardano and finally you will reach the main city of Alto Adige, Bolzano.
Bolzano has been investing in bicycle mobility for some years now, becoming one of the most bicycle-friendly city centers in Italy. It is an important crossing between the Adige River Cycle Path, the Isarco River Cycle Path and the Oltradige Cycling Connection towards the Caldaro Lake and towards Merano with the Venosta Valley Cycle Path. Bolzano is the well-deserved conclusion of this journey and will amuse you with its center, human and bike-friendly.ponte gardena

Train + bicycle along the Isarco river

Reaching the Brennero, our starting point (or ending point) of the Isarco Valley Cycle Path is pretty simple. Italian railways can carry passengers and bikes until the border on regional trains with a special ticket for bicycles (valid 24h). From Bolzano we had quite a surprise: the leg Bolzano - Brennero, despite it is on Italian soil and on Italian railways (Trenitalia), is under Alto-Adige legislation and in order to carry the bike on the train you have to pay 7€ (for a single train ride) instead of 3,5€ like in all Italian territory... so for two passengers and two bikes from Bolzano to Brennero we spent almost 42€!
To have more information about the Isarco Valley Cycle Path, about what to see and the many attractions that go along a bicycle trip you can take a look at the Official Website of the Isarco Valley Tourism Board.
Francesco

I'm from Piedmont and I'm 30 years old, I have been living and working in Lombardy for a few years. After a start without any competence in this field, I then approached the bicycle world more and more. Today I can call myself a bicycle traveller and videomaker who would never ever stop. I ride my bike trying to understand why it is so beautiful, rich, therapeutic. And every time I try, I do not understand it. So I must leave again...

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