Grand Tour 2024 - Großglockner

Grand Tour 2024 - Grossglockner

Mattia Bertani

Special Stages, as a concept, was born over 10 years ago. We have held many events in recent years, more or less demanding, more or less long, in terms of kilometers and time duration.
The goal, however, has always been to grow, the somewhat imaginative one of becoming something like the famous and historic American Cannonball of the 70s.

In 2023 we have therefore decided to create a new line of events, the Grand Tours, a project that will see the birth of events developed over no less than 3 days, events intended to gather driving enthusiasts but above all those who like to travel , who likes the idea of ​​engaging in a real roadtrip!


This first Special Stages Grand Tour sees an Austrian road as its main destination: the Großglockner-Hochalpenstraße, the Alpine road that takes its name from the mountain on whose slopes it develops, but we will talk about it in detail later in this story.
In fact, the GT begins on Friday morning in Italy, precisely in Lavis (TN) where the meeting place of the participants has been scheduled at the Gelateria Serafini, a destination already known to many Special Stages members as it has already seen us pass by here on the occasion of numerous past events that headed towards the Dolomites.

10.00 am, all participants arrive on time to register, collect gadgets and have breakfast before leaving.
26 cars are taking part in this first GT, a limited number especially due to the availability of rooms given to us by the hotel where we are headed.
After the classic briefing, at around 11.00 we are ready to leave and face this fantastic journey of 3 days and 600 kilometres, which will see us cross valleys, Alpine passes, the Dolomites, cross the border into Austria to reach the Großglockner-Highchalpenstraße, visit museums, do return to Italy, travel along fantastic roads, fight with the uncertainty of the weather, spend evenings laughing and joking, to then arrive in Asiago on Sunday.

We leave the large car park of the Gelateria Serafini to immediately take the Val di Cembra road, the SS612. What to say? We have traveled it several times over the years, and it is always something enchanting!
There are over 35 kilometers that separate Lavis from Molina, with only 2 villages to cross in between: Lisignago and Cembra. From Lavis to Cembra the road is fantastic, but usually a little busier and in some sections more "narrow" (we always talk about a two-lane road), but it is after Cembra that the road becomes a track. The asphalt has incredible grip, the road surface is wide, traffic is very low and you can't hold back from stepping on the gas, getting your adrenaline pumping and enjoying this stretch!

The valley then opens up and the road, which becomes the SS48, runs linearly alongside the river, in a transfer section up to Moena. Here we leave the main road to take the SS346 which goes up towards the San Pellegrino Pass. It's a rather fast climb, with wide curves and vegetation that thins out as you climb in altitude. We notice that the road surface has gotten a little worse over the years.

The opposite side offers a steep descent with various hairpin bends and wet asphalt due to the weather which is no longer favorable. Luckily it stopped raining as we passed but the asphalt remained very wet.
The road ends in Cencenighe Agordino, here we turn left to go up along the SR203 towards Alleghe. We are right in the Dolomites Street area and we will be back in early October for the Road To Dolomites.
We go up towards Selva di Cadore and then take what is one of the most beautiful Dolomite passes ever, the Giau Pass.
The road here is dry, perhaps just a few damp bends, but we climb quickly, in non-existent traffic almost to the top. In fact, before reaching the pass we stop at the Fedare refuge for a lunch break.

We arrive more or less all together, although there are those who have stopped for petrol, those who have a faster pace and those who are slower.
While we park all the cars we are pleased to see 2 other dynamic gatherings, one of Porsches and one of mixed cars, which also pass on this fantastic road.
The lunch break is a buffet but full of courses and dishes that continue to be refilled. The place is small, there are few people inside, but the temperature is acceptable and some eat outside on the terrace.
After having refreshed ourselves it's time to set off again. We must respect the timing to reach Austria as the hotel awaits us by 6.00 pm for check-in.

We travel the last kilometers to reach the pass. Some participants stop to take some photos in a pass that is still full of tourists, despite it being Friday and with decidedly less than sunny weather.
In fact, the descent towards Cortina is also humid here. You need to be careful because this asphalt becomes particularly slippery when wet.
Alas, from Cortina a boring transfer begins north along the SS51 to Dobbiaco and then continues to the border along the SS49. The long and slow transfer - dictated by the strict limits of the Austrian roads - continues to Lienz and then further north along road 107 to pass through Winklern. Here, fortunately, the traffic decreases, you start to make some bends and go up towards the Großglockner!
We stop to gather all the participants at the last petrol station before entering the Großglockner-Hochalpenstraße.

The Großglockner Alpine Road is a 30 kilometer long toll road that passes over the massif of the mountain of the same name on the east side. 4 kilometers from the toll booth on the southern side, another 8 kilometer long dead-end road starts which leads to the viewpoint on the Pasterze glacier.

Let's all enter together into this paradise for driving enthusiasts. The road immediately looks like a perfect strip of asphalt. Taking advantage of this wide roadway in perfect condition, we begin the climb towards the pass with the sun starting to set.
The first thing to do is check in at the hotel, because tonight you will sleep right inside this stretch of road in the only hotel available, the Berggasthaus Wallackhaus at 2300 meters above sea level. Many of the participants, however, are impatient, and after a quick check-in, before dinner, they set off to discover this fantastic road with the last light of the day.

The weather is also excellent. The forecasts of the previous days did not give anything good, with even the probability of snow (with a lot already piled up on the sides of the road) but in truth we find a very pleasant temperature, even if it drops below zero at sunset, passing clouds that at times they cover the mountains but they also open up showing the sun illuminating the panorama.

The forecast for Saturday is not at all positive. Overcast skies already in the morning and rain around lunchtime. Unexpectedly, however, the situation is different. There are some clouds in the sky, but with a beautiful sun that shines and illuminates the mountains and this fantastic road. From 8:00 in the morning some participants are already outside the hotel warming up their engines to start traveling the length and breadth of the Großglockner-Hochalpenstraße.
This Saturday's program in fact leaves freedom to the participants, with a single appointment, at 11:00, at FAT Mankei.

FAT Mankei is a recently renovated historic restaurant known for being a meeting point for car enthusiasts, especially from the Porsche world. In fact, in 2021 the great-grandfather of the founder of Porsche purchased and renovated this place to make it a key place for meetings and gatherings of motor enthusiasts, right on this road where the first Porsche 911 was tested, and where it still is they carry out the acceptance tests of the German company's cars, and not only that.

Unfortunately the weather is starting to get worse. The sun is covered by clouds and temperatures drop even if, for now, no precipitation.
After a coffee and a slice of cake we leave this magical place, which due to the still abundant snow does not give us a view of the lake in front, and we head towards the Pasterze glacier.

We follow the Großglockner road southwards until we reach a roundabout from where we take the detour to the dead-end road which takes us up towards the glacier.
The road ends at over 2300 meters where there is a large structure with a multi-storey covered car park, restaurant, shops and museums, and there are many tourists despite the worsening weather.
Here too we leave full freedom to the participants to enjoy these last hours inside the Großglockner-Hochalpenstraße. There are those who visit the museums, those who have lunch in the panoramic restaurant, those who enjoy the view, until the early afternoon, when the time comes to leave this playground for adults with a passion for motors.

In fact, at 4.00 pm the meeting point for the participants is again at the petrol station, just outside the toll booth on the southern side, to return to Italy where we will spend the second night of this event.
A tedious return begins along the road we traveled yesterday, up to San Candido. Here we take the SS52, a little busy in the initial part, unfortunately encountering rain as we continue south. It is a well-paved road, quite wide and with nice curves but, even if reduced, it still has some traffic.
At Padola we leave the state road to take the SP532. Here the traffic decreases a lot and we enjoy this road full of curves that climbs towards Passo Sant'Antonio.
Unfortunately the weather is always getting worse and we need to pay attention to the slippery asphalt as we descend towards Auronzo di Cadore where we take the SS52 and then the SS51 for a final stretch of transfer southwards to Calalzo di Cadore.
We arrive at the Park Hotel Bellavista almost entirely occupied by the event participants, a large hotel with a beautiful garden, indoor swimming pool and sauna, to allow everyone to relax at the end of this wonderful day.

The rain continues, even heavy during the night but, with great pleasure, when we wake up we find sunshine!
At 10:00 we are ready to leave to face this last day of curves and wonderful views.
From Venas di Cadore we take the SP347, a truly beautiful road, with a surface in excellent condition and very little traffic. It is a winding road, a few straights and climbs up to the Cibiana pass and then descends towards Forno di Zoldo.
Here the original plan was to go towards Agordo along the Duran Pass, but unfortunately a bike ride limits transit over the pass in the opposite direction to the one we would have to face.
We have therefore planned an alternative itinerary with which we return towards the valley along the SP251. It's a little busy, but it's a wide, well-paved road. Fast curves and no town until Longarone.
Here unfortunately the transfer is felt again, as the long road we travel is anything but exciting. Thus we continue on the roads that run along the Piave to pass beyond Belluno and Feltre up to Valsugana.
The last stretch of road we face is a very famous special stage of rallies in the area: Valstagna.
It is a narrow road, full of hairpin bends in the first stretch and fortunately without traffic. It would be impossible to overtake and problematic to pass other cars. But it really is the essence of rallying and with a bit of luck we can tackle it without traffic.
As you climb the mountain, the road begins to open up a little, the hairpin bends end and it becomes faster with wider curves until you reach Foza, where you join the SP76. Here too there is little traffic and we enjoy the last kilometers facing a wider road, fairly well asphalted to get to Gallio where we reach the La Capr'Allegra restaurant, where lunch brings an end to the first Special Stages Grand Tour.
An immense pleasure to have completed this event in the best possible way, for having taken our members on one of the most famous and incredible roads in the world. Unique places that we were able to appreciate thanks to the fantastic company of those who participated, of those who shared this wonderful experience with us.
This was the first Special Stages Grand Tour, a new concept of Special Stages events which sees important itineraries developed over 3 or more days with destinations in the most beautiful places in Europe.
It will be a fixed event once a year, every year with a different destination, and do you want to find out what the 2025 destination will be? Continue to follow us!

PS: After lunch, in reality, for some the GT continues.
In fact, from the restaurant we recommended a final, wonderful stretch of road for those who want to take a few more bends. Continue towards Asiago and then turn north onto the SP349. It's a road we already took a couple of years ago at the Upland Ride. The road is fast and after an initial stretch in the woods it opens onto the beautiful plateau, between meadows and beautiful views.
You then continue on the SS349, still a fast road, with wide curves which, after various ups and downs, descends towards Rovereto.

Once again, thanks to all the participants, to the sponsors of Special Stages, such as da0a100 by Riccardo Trezzani, who support us in our projects and to the structures that hosted us and who contributed to making this event a success!


Click HERE to see all the photos from the event!

Click HERE to see photos from past events.

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