Alpe d’Huez, Mortirolo, Passo Giau, Col du Tourmalet, the Stelvio – cycling is obsessed with major passes, but are they really the ultimate to-dos on your bike? More often than not these mythical climbs are overrun in the high season, transformed into an outdoor adventure park for the masses. So why not take a break from cycling convention? We headed to South Tyrol’s Sarentino Valley to see what life on two wheels can be like away from the tourist traps.

You missed part 1? Head to Sarentino Valley, a forgotten road riding paradise? Part 1!

Michelin-starred dining, hellish downfalls, schnapps in mountain huts and devilishly tight lycra: we couldn’t have predicted the storyboard of our trip to the Sarentino Valley. In fact, so much happened in our short time there that we’ve split this story into bitesize chunks and spread it over several pages. Below you will find part 2 of our photostory.

Auener Hof – Italy’s highest altitude Michelin star

The Auener Hof is all about its Michelin-starred dining, which proprietors Gisela and Heinrich Schneider proudly define their venue as the world’s first ‘restaurant-house.’ While we were housed further down the valley, we willingly pedaled up 700 metres of elevation to indulge in their gourmet cuisine. It was only later in the evening that they revealed we could have arrived by helicopter – of course, there just happens to be a helipad on their grounds. Yet we didn’t hold this lack of communication against them and still feasted like world champs with a delectable amuse-bouche, five-course meal, espresso, pralines, fine wine and shots to end the night.

Cultural Clash: where tradition meets mass tourism

The following morning we slung a leg over the bikes and headed towards the Durnholzer See lake, with the requisite refreshment stop on route with spectacular views and an opportune dash into an idyllic church. As Markus did a quick confession, we were alerted to the fact that our British test rider didn’t have the most appropriate sleeves so we had to make a dash for it. The Corpus Christi procession in Sarnthein was terrifying and impressive in equal measure – and could easily have been staged a century ago.

Gravel schnapps

Don’t you find that the most extraordinary events happen in the most unsuspecting of locations? Dart off the main roads and you’ll find unknown places and embark on new friendships – who may or may not offer you a taste (or two) of some locally made schnapps.

We’d like to give a huge thanks to locals Jürgen Pixner, Armin Gross, the Höllriegl family, Claudio Camin, as well as Katharina Gluderer and Walter Perkmann for all their help while we were in the area! Thank you.

Route suggestions:

Cembra loop: 145 km, 1,500 m
Sarnthein or Bolzano, bike path to Trient, Lavis, Cembratal, Molina, San Lugano Pass, Auer, bike path to Bolzano.
Tschögglberg loop: 80 km, 1,600 m
Sarnthein or Bolzano, Jenesien, Flaas, Mölten, Vöran, Hafling, Merano and the bike path back to Bolzano.

You missed part 1? Head to Sarentino Valley, a forgotten road riding paradise? Part 1!

For more information on the valley head to: sarntal.com and for more info on riding in South Tyrol: suedtirol.info

Words: Robin Schmitt Photos: Klaus Kneist, Noah Haxel, Robin Schmitt