But the Passo di Giau is more than just a link between A and B: aficionados rave about the 27-kilometre stretch of ultra-smooth asphalt and the 55 voluptuous bends, which, as the icing on the cake, are significantly less busy than most other Dolomite passes.
The Giau Pass, too, was built as a transport route during World War I. Unlike many of the former military roads through the Dolomites, however, the Giau quickly fell into disrepair after the war and became difficult to navigate. Even up to the 1960s, travel guides warned against attempting the mountain route in bad weather, which made the road impassable. Only when a storm completely destroyed the pass road in 1968 did reconstruction and rerouting of the passage begin.
Although the road is well developed now, significantly fewer tourists find their way to the Passo di Giau than to, for example, the nearby Sella Ronda. It is precisely the secluded isolation of the region, with its strikingly pristine landscape, that makes this pass a very special experience. Coming from the south, 24 serpentines bring us to the summit. Some of the bends are nicely banked, offering a perfect opportunity for bikers to open the throttle a touch more. At first we encounter mixed forest, followed by some avalanche galleries around the midway mark, until finally the road snakes gracefully up to the summit. Even though it might seem tempting to tear hell for leather through the corners, it’s worth taking a moment to glance down into the steep Codalonga valley and again admire the master stroke of Italian road construction.
From the saddle just below the distinctive Nuvolau peak, a magnificent panorama opens up, with Marmolada and the Sella Group pinnacles in the west, the Drei Zinnen in the east, Averau and Nuvolau to the north and the Col Piombin in the south. Those who manage to tear themselves away from the grandeur of the mountains can explore a type of motorbike monument including a historic bike that is very likely a dedication to the two-wheeled pilgrims on this Alpine route.
With 31 switchbacks, the northeast ramp is tantalisingly tempting, with a good two-thirds of the descent passing through dense forest. Having enjoyed sweeping views across the lush green pastures of the Corda da Lago mountain range, our outlook is now reduced to the next corner ahead. For our part, we have seen enough today and look forward to a hearty supper in Cortina d’Ampezzo before we set out at sunrise tomorrow to tackle the final leg of our Alpine tour.
From the Book »Porsche Drive«
(C) Stefan Bogner & Jan Baedeker