When we left the torrential downpour in Val di Sole we noticed that the higher peaks overlooking the valley had a dusting of snow from the storm the night before. Good ol mountain weather. No big deal, we were using this day to travel over to Livigno, Italy. But when you end up driving over those high mountain passes you start wondering if snow will be an issue. Especially when your car is only fit for dry, smooth, flat city streets. We luckily didn't have any issues with snow but our little car was wondering what the hell we were doing going over Passo Gavia. A two, sometimes one, lane road with certain death if you were to fade from those faded lanes. I was gripped the whole time up and down this road that would make Red Mountain pass in Colorado look like I-70. As we made our way down to the next valley we passed all the competitors in the Super Enduro mountain bike race in Saint Caterina Valfurva. These folks were all riding uphill as we're driving downhill with our bikes on the top of the car in the pouring rain. Our hats were off for these mountain bike brothers and sisters who were in for a 40km, 5 stage, race all in one day. We later found out that the rain had unfortunately caused some race changes and the race was shortened. More on that later.
We made a quick stop in Bormio for lunch and some supplies for the bikes. After lunch we headed over another mountain pass into the town of Livigno. Since our camping gear was soaked we decided to stay in a nice eco hotel in town. It had just been built so the room was clean and modern with plenty of extra space to dry our gear out and relax after sleeping on the ground for the last few days. Having made a reservation for a tour/ride with a guide the next day, a good nights sleep was much welcomed.
The town of Livigno, Italy sits in a beautiful valley near the Switzerland/Italy border and is surrounded by both national and regional parks. When you arrive in town you immediately recognize the amount of people of all ages riding bikes of all varieties. Bikers paradise. Plenty of road riding over multiple passes for the spandex crews, plenty of recreation paths and streets for the families, and of course the surrounding mountains call to us mountain bikers.
Day one ended up being one our favorite rides on the trip. The guide company was fantastic and surprisingly affordable. Our group was made up of six folks and a guide. Two other couples, one from Sweden and the other from Germany. The couple from Sweden quickly realized that this was not the scenic ride they thought they had signed up for. The end did not come soon enough for them. The German couple were ready to rock.
Our route from the top of Passo Foscagno was to descend to Valdidentro then climb up the Val Viola to the bottom of the Pizzo di Dosde where the views of the glacier were incredible. From there we would continue climbing to the Rifigio Val Viola for polenta, goulash, sausages, and of course vino. After lunch we rode into Switzerland from Passo Confine and rode killer single track downhill for a couple hours until we reached the village of Poschiavo.
Day 1 was a long day of riding so we opted to sleep in a bit and do some bike maintenance before heading to the Mottolino Bike Park for some hot laps. The bike park was a great mix of single track trails and trails with manmade features for big travel bikes. Of course after the morning of maintenance I cut a side wall on my rear tire and had to download to change the rubber. Murphy's law I guess. Overall it was a pretty short day of riding but the park takes its toll on your body too and we were happy to return to camp and relax before another tour the next day.
With some time on your hands that evening we took advantage of the area being duty free. Since Livigno isn't really that close to anything the Italian government has decided to keep this area a little more affordable to it's locals and guests. I think 70 cents is affordable for a liter of diesel, as is 11 euro for a bottle of gin or tequila. Gin and tonics in camp it was!
Another tour with our trusty guide service was on tap for day three. Our hardest day on bikes. This time we'd head back over to Bormio for a couple warm up laps in their bike park before heading out for a long tour back to St. Caterina. The bike park in Bormio 3000 was not our favorite riding by a landslide. The trails started at 3000m and descended through loose slabs of rock down steep faces. When you're trying to keep control of your speed for more traction and the rock below your tires moves with the bike it's difficult to feel confident in your riding. Add the factor of not having much braking power due to days of riding downhill and no padding left on your brake pads, it gets a little terrifying.
The route down the St. Caterina was a mix of single track in the alpine and forest. We'd also have some climbing to do on this leg. Which was welcomed after the scary descents in the park. The portion of trail through the alpine was spectacular. Filled with crystal clear lakes and meadows full of wildflowers. We'd also find ourselves on very technical terrain that consisted of super steep, rooted areas of forest that challenged our riding and fatigued bodies. The route would ultimately end up taking us through one of the stages of the Super Enduro. That portion was spent taking chances on off cambered trail covered in wet roots. I really felt for the riders competing the prior Sunday during the enduro. I would imagine just staying on the trail was hard enough, not to mention staying on your bike. Big props!
Even though after this ride we felt as worked as we had on the entire trip we knew we were blessed to have ridden in such a beautiful area with such perfect weather. Sometimes it takes those ass kickings to put life or bike riding in perspective. This ride kicked our asses but the cocktails in camp never tasted better.
The last day in Livigno we wanted to take a ride that would allow us to enjoy our surroundings and also enjoy being on our bikes again. We found a ride that would only take us a couple of hours and wouldn't require a guide or any stressful route finding. Uli and Christiane gave us a great suggestion that would start from the top of Passo d' Eira. We climbed a few hundred meters to the top of the Mottolino gondola and rode a fantastic, flowy trail along the edge of the mountain. This trail would take us past a Rifugio where we'd have some delicious Spatzle and maybe a little too much vino. It's vacation. From here we had a groovy descent back along the creek to our campground. Just what the doctor ordered.
Our last evening in Livigno we had a great pasta dinner with our friends Uli and Christiane. We really enjoyed riding with these two folks and invited them to Roma if they ever wanted to visit. They also extended an invite for us to visit Munich and we all planned to someday meet in Itlay to ride again.
Sometimes we fantasize about each place we visit and ask if we could live in these towns. We both commented that we could live in Livigno. The mountain biking is endless and challenging, the views are incredible, and the skiing looks like it would be fantastic. A great combo. I'm sure we'll see ourselves visiting here again. Thanks Livigno! Next stop Zermatt.