Panchià-Ora – Passo Palade Merano – Val d’Ultimo – Valle di Non S.Michele Giovo – Panchià
Starting in Panchià, we drive down into the valley and – always along the riverAvisio in the direction of Ora. This means that we leave Val di Fiemme behind us and cross Passo di San Lugano driving down to Val d’Adige. We cross the village of Ora, pass under the highway of Brennero and keep heading towards Oltradige. At the cycle station, we take the roundabout and from there the road towards the Lake of Caldaro. Lake Caldaro is the largest natural lake in South Tyrol, situated 216 meters above sea level and only 20 km away from Bolzano. From here, we enjoy the vineyards and apple orchards, which bloom in the spring spectacularly and in summer give a rich harvest of apples and grapes.
However, be careful not to miss the turn-off (a slightly ascending crossroads) to the Passo della Mendola while admiring the landscape, otherwise you will miss one of the most impressive pass roads in South Tyrol. In countless hairpin bends we climb higher up to the pass, from which we can enjoy a unique view of the entire Val d’Adige, the Latemar in the background and on the left the capital city of the region South Tyrol, Bolzano. From Passo della Mendola we drive down into the area of Val di Non up to the place Fondo, where – always keeping to the right – we turn onto the road to Passo delle Palade. Those who have time (it is worth it to find some) should take a half-kilometer-long sidetrip from Fondo to the Lago Smeraldo, a beautiful mountain lake with emerald green, crystal-clear waters justifying its name.
After the short sidetrip to the lake, we continue to Passo delle Palade, through wide meadows and forests on a smooth-flowing road. Once we have reached the pass, the road leads downhill to Lana, from where we can make a short sidetrip to the spa town of Merano. Otherwise (and possibly also after the sidetrip) we drive from Lana to Ultimo, first on a winding road quickly gaining height, then through the long-drawn valley past a reservoir and past the village of San Pancrazio until we reach the junction leading uphill to Val di Non, connected to Val d’Ultimo by a tunnel.
Once we have left this tunnel behind, we head towards Cles, driving up to a crossroads where we turn right to reach Val di Sole and PassoTonale. Here we keep to the left (the direction is still the one to Cles) and pass the Santa Giustina lake. This is worth of note with its 152 meters high dam wall, which is an impressive example of architecture. When it was completed back in 1951, it was the tallest dam wall in Europe, with five years of construction and more than 110,000 cubic meters of concrete.
Crossing Val di Non home to the “Melinda” apple – we drive past endless apple orchards. Once we have left Val di Non behind us, we follow the signs in the direction of Mezzocorona, where we can see the famous Rotari wine factory on the left. Our next important landmark is a bridge with high cement archs, at which we first turn right and after another 150 meters turn left towards Val di Cembra. Leaving Val d’Adige behind us we drive up to the small village of Palù di Giovo, the birthplace of two Italian cycling champions: Francesco Moser and Gilberto Simoni.
Moser,a cycling professional from 1973 to 1988, won in the 1984 the Giro d’Italia and a whole range of classic cycling races(including three times Paris-Roubaix, twice the Tour of Lombardy, once the Fleche Wallonne, once the Gent-Wevelgem, and once Milan-Sanremo). This road bicycle racer and track world champion has set 1972 the hour world record. His younger colleague Simoni, a professional from 1994 to 2010, was able to finish the Giro d’Italia in the pink jersey twice (2001 and 2003) and has proved himself to be a brilliant climber, not only at the Giro, but also at the other Great round trips.
Only after Palù di Giovo we reach the actual entrance to Val di Cembra and turning to the left we follow the road through the whole valley, before returning to Val di Fiemme. From Molina di Fiemme we keep on the valley road, until we reach the exit to Ziano. From there we return to Panchià.