Location: Piedmont Province, Italy, Europe
Length: 40.5 km
Built: between 1953 – 1963
Wide: very narrow, for most of the road only 1 lane available
Surface quality (out of 5): 4 for most of the road, 3 on some areas
Highest point: 2.651 m
Operating times: June – September/October. Closed on Sundays and public holidays, for the last 6 km between 10th July – 28th August for all private motor vehicles
SP460 Strada Provinciale 460 della Valle Orco, SP50 Strada Provinciale 50
Route: Locana – Colle del Nivolet
Colle del Nivolet, also known as the Nivolet Pass, is one of the most beautiful mountain passes in the Alps and the eighth highest paved road in Europe, with a high point of 2.651 m. Located in the Italian province of Piedmont, right in the middle of the stunning Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso, it was built between 1953 – 1963 to provide easy access to two hydroelectric dams that were being built here.
The road to Colle del Nivolet is thrilling, dangerous and one of a kind. It’s very narrow and can become busy during the day and, as a result, is recommended to get going early in the morning. Furthermore, driving fast is not an option on some areas due to the multitude of blind corners.
The mountain pass is usually open from June to September/October, depending on the weather conditions. However, heavy snow falls and unpredictable blizzards can happen here even during the summer months. It’s closed on Sundays and public holidays, for the last 6 km, between 10th July – 28th August for all private motor vehicles. There are no restrictions during the weekdays.
Colle del Nivolet is easily accessible starting from the city of Turin on the Strada Provinciale SP460 Valle Orco, until you reach the small town of Locana. From here, the ascent to the pass is 40.5 km long, following the Strada Provinciale SP50 towards Ceresole Reale, a small village of only 200 inhabitants. The climb is 1907 m high with an average gradient of 4.7%.
From the village of Ceresole Reale, for a distance of 18 km, the road becomes increasingly spectacular, with breathtaking views and no less than 33 hairpin bends for this stretch alone. It is a very narrow road and the danger factor is increased by the absence of any safety poles.
The route to the pass is truly remarkable from start to finish, with landscapes that are hard to find elsewhere in Europe. On the way, you’ll encounter two amazing artificial lakes: Serrù and Agnel, the last one just before arriving to the top. After the highest point is reached, the road continues straight for a couple of kilometers. Just over the Piemonte – Aosta border, you’ll find a small restaurant and another two smaller lakes in the valley.
Most noteworthy, the region surrounding the Nivolet Pass is one of the favorite places for astronomy enthusiasts because it’s one of the darkest areas in the Italy, completely free of light pollution. Many visiting tourist are in fact members of associations of amateur astronomers who come all the way up here to admire and gaze at the stars, without being bothered by any sort of artificial light.
On the road to Colle del Nivolet there are two mountain cabins, both of them open during summer, providing simple accommodation to travelers: Rifugio Città di Chivasso, located at the top of the pass and Rifugio Savoia, found down in the valley.
Finally, it’s well worth mentioning the fact that the road to Colle del Nivolet was featured in the movie “The Italian Job”. Several scenes were filmed on these steep slopes, including the amazing final bush crash scene.
Photos: panoramio.com, bikemap.net, picturepush.com, wikimedia.org, cycling-challenge.com, ytimg.com, bikethunder.wordpress.com, colcorsa.com, thecusp.com.aur/