Col de Tende (or Colle di Tenda) is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 1.870m (6,135ft) above the sea level, located in the Alps, on the border between France and Italy. In 7km this terrific road includes more than 48 hairpin turns. There are forts along the ridge line in both directions. It's one of the highest mountain passes of the Alps.
The first part of the road is asphalted, but then turns into gravel and sand in a bumpy section full of hairpins half-way up. The pass separates the Maritime Alps from the Ligurian Alps. It connects Nice and Tende in Alpes-Maritimes with Cuneo in Piedmont. At the wheel of your hire car, this route will see you negotiate a quite thrilling route through a series of tunnels and cuttings across the Maritime Alps and into France.
The road over the pass is closed in winters. At the summit there are extensive fortifications from the 19th century, which were built by the Italians. The pass was bypassed by a tunnel, called Col de Tende Road Tunnel, which was inaugurated in 1882. It’s a 3.182m long tunnel and was the first long tunnel under a major alpine pass.
The gravel sections are often very loose. The pass is considered the southernmost of the great Alpine passes. The highest section of the pass is wholly within France. It’s reputed to be one of the most ancient roads in Europe, laid down by the Phoenicians and later used by the Greeks who had colonised Marseille and, after them, the Romans. The historical importance of this crossing, resulting in a immensely fortified ridgeline. The ruins of these fortifications remain. In a way this is like a visit in a museum, but without the crowds or fees that are often connected with such a visit.
Starting from Breil sur Roya, the ascent of this pass is 29 km long, with an elevation gain of 989 heightmeters. The average percentage is 3.4 %. The climb starts very gradually to climb and it is never very steep even on the last part.