Stelvio Pass

Stelvio Pass

Stelvio Pass, alt. 9,048 ft (2,758 m), in the central Alps, N Italy, near the Swiss and Austrian borders. It is crossed by the highest road in the Alps, connecting the Valtellina with the upper Adige River valley. The road, extending c.30 mi (50 km) from Bormio to Trafoi, was begun in 1820 by the Austrians.

The Stelvio Pass (Italian: Passo dello Stelvio; German: Stilfser Joch), located in Italy, is at 2757 m the highest paved mountain pass in the Eastern Alps, and the second highest in the Alps, after the Col de l'Iseran (2770 m). In the list of highest paved roads in the Alps, it ranks 4th.

Location

It is located in the Italian Alps near Bormio in the South and Sulden (Solda), some 75 km from Bolzano, near the Swiss border, as the Umbrail Pass joins the Stelvio's southern ramp nearby. The "Three languages peak" (Dreisprachenspitze) above the pass is so named because this is the area where the Italian, German and Romansh languages meet.

The road connects the Valtellina with the upper Adige valley (Vinschgau) and Merano. The most important mountain range next to the Stelvio Pass is the Ortler Alps. Adjacent to the pass road there is a large summer skiing area. Important mountains nearby include Monte Livrio, Monte Scorluzzo and Ortler.

History

The original road was built in 1820-1825 by the Austrian Empire to connect the former Austrian province of Lombardia with the rest of Austria, covering a climb of 1871 m. The engineer and project manager was Carlo Donegani (1775 - 1845, Brescia). Since then, the route has changed very little. The 60 hairpin bends, 48 of them on the northern side numbered with stones, are a challenge to motorists. Even Stirling Moss went off the road here during a vintage car event in the 1990s, with an onboard video of his incident being shown on satellite TV.

Before the end of World War I, it formed the border between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Italian Kingdom. Even the Swiss had had an outpost and a hotel (which was destroyed) on the Dreisprachenspitze. During World War I, fierce battles were fought in the ice and snow of the area, with gun fire even crossing the Swiss area at times. The three nations made an agreement not to fire over Swiss territory, which jutted out in between Austria (to the south) and Italy (to the north). Instead they could fire down the pass, as Swiss territory was up and around the peak. After 1919, with the expansion of Italy, the pass lost its strategic importance.

The Stelvio Pass does retain an importance for sport when it is open from June to September. Countless cyclists and motorcyclists struggle to get to the highest stretch of road in the Eastern Alps. The Giro d'Italia cycling tournament often crosses the Stelvio Pass.

In a 2007 episode of the BBC television programme Top Gear, presenter Jeremy Clarkson named it the best driver's road in the world, after driving it in a Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera with colleagues James May, in an Aston Martin V8 Vantage N24 track car, and Richard Hammond, in a Porsche GT3 RS. EON Productions scouted the pass in 2007 as a possible car-chase location for shooting of the second Bond film to star Daniel Craig as 007.

In 2008 Moto Guzzi started selling a Stelvio model, named after the pass.

External links

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