Today I was not going uphill directly from Bergamo, but eastward until a first minor climb came up to Colle dei Pasta (424m). It was a very nice start for the day in perfect cycling weather. I went up a steep road to a place called Piazze here in order to try and find the more obvious pass here: Bocche di Gavarno (462m), which is suggested by the Kompass map to be located on a small road near the main road at the top, but the local I talked to in Piazze suggested it is located by the main road and it would actually make most sense after all as it is the lowest crossing between the valleys (but it could be located on a private and totally fenced off little road also, but it still does not 100% match the Kompass map anyway). (Will try and consult the technical local maps one day.) It was nice already up here escaping the traffic down the valleys, but I was soon heading down the very busy road from Bergamo to Lóvere at Trescore Balneario.
I did not have to go far on the main road before reaching the place where I turned off to Grone where I stopped for a coca-cola and a small pastry piece and had a little talk with a customer from Sweden on the phone (so it goes when you bring the phone with you … I hade told some of our customers I would be away so I did not get many phone calls otherwise during the week).
At Grone the next climb start steeply with up to 17% for quite some time and continues pretty steep even after this. At Colle di San Fermo (1067m), I continued straight up on a road that takes you to Colle Ballerino (1208m) (which is a parking place) and here I continued up on the Monte Ballerino on a recently made concrete road (not especially nice to cycle on!). The first photo here is taken where the concrete ends just a little below the actual mountain top at ca. 1300m height. Lovely far-reaching views up here!
There is a road going up more straight ahead from San Fermo if one turns right early on the Ballerino road and I followed this (which is nearly gravel for some stretch until it meet another better road coming up from the main San Fermo road (strike uphill after San Fermo for this). The road to Colle di Caf (1242m) was newly asphalted and probably the best road I ever saw during this visit to Italy. At this pass, I went up to an unsigned small pass – il Colletto (1281m) on an extremely bad road which turned to gravel at the pass and quickly returned. I stopped to talk with some Italians on the way to the Colle di Caf and they thought the road was surfaced all the way down to Bratta and Vigolo (as the man had been going there with a normal car many years ago). I had planned to go back to the San Fermo road, but was also aware that I may not have to do so and I was curious to find out if I could go down to Lago d’Iseo this way as it would be far more scenic and also include a couple of more passes on the way.
The good asphalt road continued for a few kilometres and really got my hopes up for this being all newly resurfaced, but the luck came to an end at the next mountain top along the road where the road goes around on the shady side and here it was a somewhat wet gravel forestry road (in dry conditions this road is no problem with a road bike however and now it was okay). After this the road changed surface many times between asphalt, concrete and gravel. I passed by the following passes before the road descended (follow the road marked as the green walking road – nothing much to choose between with a road bike): Cucche (il Coletto) (1189m); Colli Galena (1162m); Sella (Cima Campidelli) (1153m); Sella (1168m); Colle Martinazzo (1030m) and Colle Dedine (1016m). (Of all these only three passes had proper signs: Colle di Caf; Sella (one of them); Colle Martinazzo.)
The road down from Colle Dedine to Bratta was short, but was sometimes rather rough and steep – not a quick descent with a road bike (many drainage gullies, gravel on concrete etc.). From Bratta and down via Vigolo the road and views handsomely pays back for the earlier awkwardness of the road! This is really a recommended road (in dry weather) for even race bicyclists! (You have been warned though about some stretches!) If they ever will asphalt all of it then I am sure it will become a very popular road with cyclists! (This is a very good mountainbike area with many other optional road choices for them.)
On the descent to the lake, I first met a girl on a mountainbike who looked somewhat professional and then a guy and a road bike who also looked somewhat professional with fun cap on his head (most cyclists in Italy try their best to look like pros however – wearing a cap and no helmet is often popular with pros though, stupidly, and is not often picked up by other cyclists who rather go without a cap or helmet while climbing and with a helmet on the way down). (I nearly always keep the helmet on – I do not think you win a lot by taking it off and I do not have to fumble with putting it on when descending.) In Italy, having the right outfit/clothes is more important than what bicycle you ride and I admit that they generally look more like true cyclists than at home in Sweden.
The views from around Vigolo was splendid and the hairpins down to Lago d’Iseo were super! After stopping to take some photos I got down on the main road along the lake and then cycled south to Sárnico at the end of the lake. I got company and thought it was nice going at some speed in the tailwind, so I got him down to Sárnico in good speed. After Sárnico I went over to Iseo, but now the wind was coming against me and here it was me who was happy to be able to hang onto another cyclist going in that direction.
At Iseo I got a little confused, but eventually found the right road up the next pass – the well asphalted and wide and nice road over Passo dei Tre Termini/Pah dei Tre Termegn (701m) (odd local names are often found both west and east of Bergamo in the mountains). It looked as I had descended from Vigolo that it was raining across the Iseo lake and that is were I was heading now. My hope was that the weather would change until I got there and luckily it did! After only a little descent from the Termini pass a small asphalt road goes back over the ridge (almost parallel to the Termini road). This is a very narrow road and is quite steep. The pass here is according to some map called Valico di Capöss (879m). There is a concrete path/road going off to Santa Maria del Giogo (940m), but I was not sure I could cycle up that way and had planned to go up there from the other side (which should be steep), so I did not try it. I also later decided to not climb there from the other side as the views would be similar to the ones I had on the Capöss climb and I also wanted to make sure I had enough time for a more important climb later on.
The views on the descent from Valico di Capöss was magnificent over the Iseo lake! The road was slightly rough on this side. The second part of the descent to Sale Marasino (normal destination is Sulzano and I am sure that road is better) was on a road that was “asphalted” but in such a state that would not believe that it is used by normal cars all the time as it is! The road is less wide than most bicycle lanes and the pavement is patchy and the ramps are often above 20%, odd twists and often no place to meet with a car – it seems typical for many roads around here!
I noticed the specific start for the climb up to Forcella di Sale and it seemed like impossible from the start and mountainbikers says one must walk and push the bike for a while on this climb even with a mountainbike as it is around 30% for a while. But I had noticed that in searches on the Internet beforehand so I had other plans of getting up in that area. I finally found out after Googling for a long time in a single account from a mountainbiker that there is one asphalted road (of three possible ones) going to Croce di Marone, which starts in Marone by the Iseo lake further north.
I stopped in Marone to have a sandwich and coke. Thereafter I started the climb on the road up toward Zone on a narrow road at first, but wider further up. After a while you see Zone very nicely located up to the left. Just when the road is no longer climbing up the mountain right ahead, there is a small road taking off right that looks bad. It is somewhat rough and narrow, but there is not so much gravel on it as it was just at the turn-off. This road is ominously flat (and even descends a few metres) for some time.
When you come to a small church or chapel, the surface deteriorates a bit further and now it becomes steeper. There is a very bad curve with broken concrete pavement, but the road is sometimes good even above here. I had heard that this road would become steep towards the end and was worried as it did not get very steep for a long time. Then came some ramps at around 20% and then some even above 20%. Then came some concrete pavement and finally the last ramp consisted in concrete pavement only for the wheels and it was broken, with much debris and ca. 16-17% inclination! The last 10 metres to the pass is gravel, but this is essentially a “nice” surfaced road to Croce di Marone (1166m) and could be recommended for the adventurous. The views from the pass are splendid and you could get even better views if you were to continue on the concrete path/road going steeply up toward Monte Guglielmo/Gölem – the road later turns to gravel and ends at Rifugio Almici (1861 m) – it is doubtful it would be possible to climb this stretch with a road bike, but mountainbikers regularly go there.
It was getting late and I am sure I would soon have met snow on this road, but maybe (in retrospect) I should have gone up a bit further to get some more better photos. Instead I decided to visit a very close pass (Forcella di Gasso (1126m), which is the way most people come here I think (for some odd reason). It is only ca. 300-400m away from the Croce di Marone pass (noted as ‘Colmetto’ on the Kompass map). But it is a gravel road and it was filled with water and still I persisted in getting there. This road is coming up from closer to Zone on the other way of the mountain. Then there is another nearby pass (actually two): Passo Spino (1150m) and Forcella di Sale (1108m), mentioned before. I saw the nice gravel road going in that direction and it might had been free of water, but was longer and I thought I had to leave it for another time as it was now past 19 pm and I was not exactly near Bergamo.
I stopped and had a photo of the road I climbed (one of the better places) and it should be down this page. There is a war monument at Croce di Marone that I may include here too (only the view of it from a distance).
After getting back down in Marone I started back on the way to Pisogne and Lóvere. After a while I got on the big road on this side of the lake and followed it. At one point I should had turned off to Pisogne as I was now getting through a very long tunnel and I believe it was motorway status on the road here. I thought I would get quicker to Lóvere that way, but it was not very clear as I had to take a long detour before I could get off the big road.
At Lóvere it got dark and I had to put on the lights. Here I had thoughts of going back over Forcellino di Bianzano (664m), but that it would probably be better in the dark to follow the main road back to Bergamo, which was what I thought I did for quite some time, until not very far from reaching Clusone (665m) … that was not the quickest way back to Bergamo for sure, but anyway it was all downhill from Clusone (which is a pass in itself). Went this road two more times later on.
Late return in Bergamo and I think this was one of the evenings I went directly to a pub in Cittŕ Alta on the return up the cobblestoned roads. A pub at the end of the main tourist road (where I lived) is quite good and small and mostly frequented by locals it seemed like (it is to the left – to the right the best pizza place is located).