Top 5 Rides: Riding High from Italy to Slovenia

Difficulty: Hard – some very steep climbing

Attractions: Spectacular mountain scenery, wildflowers, delicious food, gelato, great people, some top notch bike trails, Ljubljana – Slovenia’s turquoise Soca River, waterfalls, fresh mountain air, Slovenia’s youthful and energetic capital city.

Best Time: Our experience cycling in May was great. Blue skies, snowy peaks, and no crazy summer traffic.

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We pedaled higher and deeper into the mountains until the sweat trickling down our faces gave off an icy chill. Beside our bikes our two furry companions were trotting at full attention. Noses were twitching, tails were raised proudly, and their eyes were darting from side to side looking for the first glimpse of movement. Something juicy was lurking within the steep banks of pine forest either side of us.

It was May in the majestic peaks of the Italian Dolomites and a fresh one metre dump of snow was made all the more beautiful by a string of sunny days that had turned the sky into a deep blue canvas. It was cycling heaven, or at least our version of it. A tranquil mountain back-road, abundant nature and…

With a blur and a crackling of branches a family of deer were nimbly navigating through trunk and snow. Our wannabe hunting dog Paco let out a yelp and a trot burst into a sprint. Fortunately he was attached to the side of my overloaded bike via a harness and lead, and his exuberance was helping to propel me up the mountain.

As we climbed higher the snow thickened and the trees thinned. The road grades turned from unrelenting, to punishing, to downright masochistic. “Breath-taking? I’ll give you breath-taking”, the mountains sniggered.

During our time cycling through Italy, Jack, our fluffy Husky/Retriever/Collie/Grizzly Bear cross, had attained something of minor celebrity status. Narrow cobblestoned streets would often become congested with bottlenecks of admirers with the cries of “Ciao bello! Ciao bello!”

So it was no surprise that as we neared the top of the pass we heard someone whistling by the side of the road. Only this time there were no Italians in sight, just a lone marmot standing up on its hind legs letting his friends know that the circus had come to town. Our dogs had become used to boring old cows and had learned to tolerate sheep, but marmots!? This was too much…

Paco’s desperate sprint resumed while Jack quickened to a hurried lumber. With the help of the marmots we made it to the top of the 29 hairpin turns exhausted, exhilarated and ready for a catnap. But it was time for the dogs to put up their paws and enjoy the wind in their fur. It was time for gravity to do its thing.

Whooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!! The north face of the mountain was simply awe inspiring. As I flashed by a group of cross country skiers packing up their car I honked my rubber ducky style horn and waved. Before I knew it I was already past them bending around the next hairpin turn.

We stopped half way down the mountain to let our brakes cool down, when a car pulled over to the side of the road. It was the skiers wondering if we’d like to join them for lunch. Hmmm… a home cooked Italian feast with wine and fresh pasta? Let me think for a minute…

Part 2 through Austria & Slovenia coming soon…

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6 thoughts on “Top 5 Rides: Riding High from Italy to Slovenia

  1. Hey Dirk & Joke,
    Always a pleasure to read your stories, really inspiring and amusing. Would love to cycle through the Dolomites and Slovenia one day. Hope you’re doing great!
    Many greetings from Amsterdam,
    Stefan

    • Thanks Stefan, it’s really nice to hear from you – it brings back happy memories from Amsterdam. Definitely cycle the Dolomites and Slovenia if you are up for some steep climbs and some mountain beauty.

  2. Hi: Found your site following your trails and stories. Amazing!!Keep in touch!! Hug Paco and Jack for me. Have you ever hear of The Canyons of Trenta?? Just another vision or dream of mine, which I vividly saw on a map , and something to pray about that was going to happen there, but couldn’t find on a real map. Or Trento?? I saw that on your map through Austria & Slovenia (Trento) and when in it I heard the name with a voice, soetimes Ihave dreams or visions when awake. One time I had a dream, I guess, of all jungle animals running scared, and a pastor from a South America island, forget the name, and he was telling about a happening there a year before, which was when I had it, a sunami, and all the animals in the jungle were running for their life, I remembered, and it blew me away.

    • Thanks Sharon. Glad you stumbled onto our site. Your story is putting our stories to shame! I wish I dreamt like you… Best wishes :)

  3. This ride looks amazing, im wondering if you could tell me more, like how did you decide which route to take and where did you stay, because im planning my route through europe now and should be hitting venice in march/april and im inspired to do what you did even though it might be even colder, i know of an eco village up in the mountains there but its off of your route. but theres lots of helpx work on the austrian side so that would work night 2 and 3 im just not sure about camping that far up in the cold if i took your route. well any advice would be greatly appreciated anyways, thank you.

    • Our route was based on guesswork and local advice. We knew we wanted to go through the Dolomites and link up with the Drau riverside bike route in Austria, that was about it. If we did it again I would consider forsaking the Drau and looping back through the mountains of Italy east into Slovenia. But I am a glutton for punishment. March/April will be colder and have a much more likely chance of snow. To a large extent it depends on your tent and sleeping bag. Are they rated for subzero temperatures? There were several campgrounds along our route. We stayed at one in Cortina for a night. I can’t guarantee all roads will be open at that time of year, you’d have to research that. I imagine the mountains would be very beautiful at that time of year, especially if you lucked out on some sunny weather.

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