October arrives, and as every year, tradition leads us back to the Dolomites with the Road To Dolomites. In recent years, the RtD has proven to be one of the most significant events in the Special Stages roster, attracting participants from all over Italy. However, this year's success of this event has been the most astonishing so far, with a large number of cars and participants coming from abroad!
The Road To Dolomites was born when the Dolomites Street, the largest dynamic rally in Italy and Europe, was still taking place, with staggering numbers that led enthusiasts to travel the beautiful roads of the Dolomite passes. At that time, Special Stages was only responsible for organizing the route to the Dolomites, hence the "Road To," but with the arrival of the pandemic and the suspension of the original Dolomites Street, Special Stages took on the responsibility of continuing the tradition and planning the entire weekend.
Every year, we think of a different itinerary, as we like to vary and, above all, introduce participants to new and exciting roads. For this edition, we chose Nave (BS) as the meeting point to depart for the Dolomites. We have chosen this starting point on several occasions for other events, but this year, we've seen more cars than ever. There are over 50 participating vehicles, and nearly as many will be waiting for us along the route or arriving at the hotel in the evening.
One positive aspect of this Road To Dolomites is the weather. Three days of sunshine and unseasonably high temperatures are expected, to the point that many participants are in short sleeves despite it being October! A quick breakfast at Caffè Noir, where the staff is waiting for participants for registration, and we are ready to go!
The meeting in Nave was chosen to immediately head towards the famous Coste. The SP237, after passing through some small villages, begins to ascend with a fast and well-paved stretch. There are 2 speed cameras to be aware of, but they are well marked. We continue easily and with very little traffic towards Barghe.
Here begins a transfer along the SS237 to the north. It is a rather busy road, but it offers a beautiful view of Lake Idro, which frames the tranquility of this part of the route. We leave the road to take the SS240 towards the Valle di Ledro. Traffic is minimal, and we can fully enjoy one of the most beautiful roads in the area.
The asphalt is more than perfect, and the road climbs rapidly. There are some hairpin turns here and there, and many exciting curves as you climb up the valley to Ledro, where we slow down a bit, encountering some traffic but still with a beautiful view of the lake.
The descent turns out to be busy and monotonous, especially as we pass through the long tunnel descending towards Riva del Garda. However, right after the tunnel, we turn right to take the SP37, which avoids the traffic in the town center and takes us to the SS421 heading north. Again, almost alone on the road, with fantastic road conditions and a fast road with many curves, a rhythmic "eat and drink" that guides us to Ponte Arche.
We find ourselves on the SS237 for a quick transfer to Sarche, where we cross the valley to begin the final morning ascent to Monte Bondone! The SP85 is amazing, very fast and completely free of traffic. The hairpin turns break the fast pace of the wide curves that climb to the top of the mountain, reaching the beautiful plateau at the top of Monte Bondone.
Here, we stop for lunch at Capanna Viote, a moment of relaxation to have a great chat together, share our thoughts and emotions about the journey so far, and take in the fantastic view of this remote place.
The engines roar to life, and we descend towards Trento, the famous Trento-Bondone, which we now travel in the opposite direction. Now, there is a short transfer to cross Trento and Lavis, and then we take the smooth and enjoyable Val di Cembra route along the SS612.
The road immediately presents itself with good asphalt but is a bit crowded with fast, successive curves, making overtaking impossible. This condition continues until Cembra. From here on, however, traffic significantly decreases, the road widens, and it becomes a real racing track through the mountains.
The asphalt offers excellent grip with no potholes or bumps, allowing us to enjoy every moment of the more than 20 km that separate Cembra from Molina di Fiemme.
We rejoin the traffic, which is still not excessive, to travel the valley floor to Moena. Here, we leave the main road to take the SP346, the last guided stretch of this Friday, to reach Passo San Pellegrino, which we reach as the sun sets.
For the participants, there is nothing left to do at Passo San Pellegrino but to reach the hotels for check-in and enjoy the evening at their leisure. In fact, we always leave Friday's dinner free, so each participant can choose how to spend the evening.
Groups of participants can spend quality time enjoying local delicacies and a few drinks, thanks to the warm hospitality of the area's restaurants.
It's the first Saturday of October, the Saturday of the Dolomites Street! This means that today, in the Dolomites, Special Stages is not alone, but there are many, many other enthusiasts united by this passion, and thanks to the favorable weather conditions, they are here.
The meeting is at 9:30 AM, but an hour before that, there is already a stream of cars heading toward Malga Ciapela, the historic meeting point of the original Dolomites Street.
When we arrive at Malga Ciapela, there are already a plethora of cars! Together with Andrea, the president of Dolomites Street, we estimate over 400 cars. This is the largest participation since the official event has been organized, and 100 of these cars are from Special Stages participants!
In front of Special Stages' small stand, where our participants go through registration, the cars of Q-Setup and the da0a100 showroom find their place, our partners for this event, whose support has been crucial in making all this happen!
It's almost 11 AM, and we're ready to start! The staff shares the route, engines roar to life, and the enormous caravan begins to move. Fortunately, not everyone follows the itinerary that Special Stages has planned, and this begins to thin out the cars going in our direction.
We head down the valley, passing Alleghe and following the signs to Falcade, and then we start the climb to the first of the nine Dolomite passes we will cross today, Passo Valles!
Traffic is minimal, and the few cars we encounter on the road can be easily overtaken as we ascend to the first pass. The roads here are not very wide, but apart from a few points where caution is required, the road allows the passage of two cars with reasonable ease.
Descending from Passo Valles along SP81, we reach SS50, which immediately takes us back up to our first stop at Passo Rolle. The scenery is stunning, accentuated by clear skies, unlike any October we've seen – not a cloud in sight. After a brief break, we are ready to continue.
We descend towards San Martino di Castrozza, where, once past the town center, we encounter some traffic, which can be challenging to navigate due to the winding roads and limited visibility. At Fiera di Primiero, we turn onto SS347 to begin the ascent towards Passo Cereda, where we find open roads.
The first part features a smooth, fairly wide, and fast road. The opposite side, however, is full of tight and continuous curves. We also pass through some inhabited areas, so we must pay attention and adjust our speed while continuing to Agordo, where we've planned our lunch break.
In contrast to previous editions where we usually stopped at mountain huts for lunch, this year, given the huge turnout, we had to find a restaurant that could accommodate more people. We headed to Zum Brillenbar, which, thanks to the beautiful weather, also set up numerous outdoor tables.
The large parking area nearby, in addition to being convenient for parking, has also become a stage for car enthusiasts who wanted to leave their tire marks on the asphalt. Unfortunately, serving appetizers, first courses, second courses, and desserts for 160 people takes some time, but it was well worth it. We set off with full stomachs for the second and more challenging part of the tour.
From Agordo, we head north along the SR203 valley to Caprile, where we turn towards Selva di Cadore and then onto SP638, starting the climb to the stunning Passo Giau.
The view while ascending is breathtaking, leaving us speechless. A brief stop, at least for a couple of photos, is mandatory before descending to the other side.
Once again, the traffic is light, despite the presence of many tourists. We continue to Pocol, where we again start ascending along SR48 towards Passo Falzarego.
From Falzarego, we take SP24 to climb further towards Passo Valparola. There's still little traffic, plenty of fun, and beautiful panoramas accompanying us on this journey.
After descending towards La Villa for a short transfer, we head to Corvara di Badia, where we immediately pick up the frenetic pace of curves and hairpin bends while climbing to Passo Gardena. Some clouds start to appear in the sky, but they pose no threat as we continue almost undisturbed.
As the sun begins to set, the new light enhances the surrounding peaks. We reach Canazei and prepare for the last pass of this incredible Saturday, Passo Fedaia. At the top of the pass, there's an artificial reservoir, and a stop at the dam for a memorable photo is a must before descending to Malga Ciapela, concluding a daily itinerary of over 250 kilometers.
However, we don't stop at Malga Ciapela but continue to La Murada in Rocca Pietore, a historic venue where pre and post-Dolomites Street events have taken place. This evening, as has been the tradition for the past three years, it's exclusively ours for an apericena with plenty of music for Special Stages participants!
After the apericena, each group returns to their respective hotels. For those who want to continue the fun, the evening continues at the bar of Hotel Venezia, where the party goes on, with dancing and drinks.
Thanks to the dedication of Francesco behind the bar and the lingering excitement from a fantastic day, the toughest participants keep the celebration going, partying into the early hours. The Saturday night event, as tradition dictates, is an event within the event, providing an opportunity to meet new and old friends and let loose without a care in the world.
We've scheduled the departure for the return to Lombardy at 9:30, following the tradition of avoiding boring highways and state roads. Today's goal is the Stelvio Pass! So, more roads and mountain passes await us for this day.
The first pass is Passo Fedaia, which we traverse in the opposite direction to the previous day, reaching Canazei. It's a refueling stop for all participants, and we continue for a short transfer to Vigo di Fassa. From there, we follow SS241 towards Passo di Costalunga.
Today is Sunday, and there's some traffic, but it's not excessive, and we can still have fun. We continue towards Passo Nigra, then descend along SP Tires, with very little traffic and numerous fast curves leading us down to the valley to reach Bolzano.
The group begins to splinter, with some participants having many more kilometers to cover to get home. Those who remain continue on the route towards the Stelvio Pass, which does not involve the tedious highway to Merano. Instead, we opt for SP99 towards San Genesio.
After an initial stretch with a wide road, many curves, and beautiful scenery, we enter a rather narrow section where we proceed with caution. Arriving on SP98, we find a wide road surface once again, with very little traffic.
The road is fast, the asphalt is superb, and we continue towards Merano 2000 before descending to Merano. Here, we take a short break, say goodbye to another part of the group that decides to head home via more comfortable roads.
Only a few brave souls remain, who first must endure a boring transfer to Prato allo Stelvio, but there are no alternatives. As we approach the Stelvio Pass, the sky becomes overcast, and a few raindrops fall on the windshield.
Fortunately, the weather holds, and we enjoy the ascent to the pass without any issues. We climb from the famous side with all the hairpin bends, which are beautiful to see but a bit of a chore to drive. Tight and steep hairpin bends, not particularly enjoyable, but we finally reach the top – the highest pass in Italy, on one of the most famous roads in the world.
A stop for a sandwich is mandatory before we continue. By now, only a few of us remain, and here we decide to conclude this fantastic and thrilling weekend. Although there's still the Lombard side of the Stelvio Pass to tackle.
We descend towards Bormio, enjoying the "beautiful side" once again, with very little traffic. In Bormio, the tour definitively concludes, marking the most successful event organized by Special Stages.
97 cars, 160 people, 4 hotels with a total of 78 rooms and 2 apartments.
It's been a unique experience, lasting for 3 days, covering around 1000 kilometers of routes, including about twenty mountain passes and countless curves. But most importantly, we are thrilled and delighted to see the satisfied faces of the participants, the compliments we've received, and the eagerness to do it all over again!
We would like to thank da0a100 and Q-Setup once again for supporting us in organizing this fantastic event. Special thanks for the emotional support go to Alain, Andrea, and Alberto of Dolomites Street, Francesco from Hotel Venezia, and Federico from La Murada, for welcoming us and celebrating with us!
Road To Dolomites, see you in 2024!