Mortirolo Pass: A Five-Star Road Through the Italian Alps

Situated at the crossroads of Brescia and Sondrio provinces in the Lombardy region of Italy, Passo di Mortirolo soars to an elevation of 1,878m (6,161ft) above the sea level. This legendary ascent stands as one of the most grueling challenges in professional cycling, having been featured repeatedly in the Giro d'Italia stage race.

Passo di Mortirolo

Can you drive through Mortirolo Pass?

Set high in the Alps, the road to the summit is totally paved. It’s called Strada del Mortirolo and Strada Provinciale 81 (SP81). On older maps the pass is known as Passo di Foppa.

How long is Mortirolo Pass?

Tucked away on the northern part of the country, the pass is 23.7 km (14.72 miles) long running from Mazzo di Valtellina (Province of Sondrio) to Monno (Province of Brescia).

How hard is Mortirolo Pass?

The Mortirolo climb is a true test of grit and endurance, ascending sharply with gradients peaking at a staggering 26%. Its narrow pathway offers no room for turnarounds, and 3-axle vehicles are strictly off-limits. Renowned as one of the most arduous inclines in professional road bicycle racing, the Mortirolo stands unparalleled with its average gradients exceeding 10%.

Esteemed in the cycling community, this ascent has often been dubbed the toughest in Italy. Many professional riders even rank it as the most challenging mountain in the three major tours. In 1991, Lucho Herrera lauded Mortirolo as the "Queen Climb of Europe." Similarly, in 2004, Lance Armstrong described it as the most formidable climb he'd ever faced.

This daunting ascent has been spotlighted multiple times in the Giro d’Italia. Notably, in 1994, 24-year-old Marco Pantani was the first to cross its peak. This triumphant day is commemorated with a memorial on the climb, celebrating "il Pirata." The Passo di Mortirolo has earned its reputation: it's simultaneously the most revered, sought-after, and intimidating climb. Every year, thousands of amateur cyclists embrace this monumental challenge.

Time Commitment: How Long to Navigate Mortirolo Pass?

To drive the road without stopping will take most people between 50 and 65 minutes. The drive offers sweeping views. A monument to Marco Pantani was erected in 2006 in Piaz de l’Acqua, 8km from the summit. Pantani is portrayed attacking, his hands in a low grip on the handlebars, looking back at his defeated opponents.

For the Brave: An Additional Challenge Atop the Summit

At the summit there's a very narrow road to Aprica. It's 28,5km (17.70 miles) long climbing up through Passo di Guspessa, Passo di Picco and Monte Padrio, also called Valico di Trivigno. It's extremely dangerous. It’s very irregular, paved and very steep with some stretches around 20%. Speed limited to 20 km/h. Trucks and semi trucks are forbidden. It’s closed in winters and was an old military track. It has very nice views.