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Italy - Day 12 : Brenner pass

Just like every other morning, we stayed in our tents until it got too warm, which was usually around 8 o'clock. We first rode through some fruit gardens until we reached the bicycle path along the river leading to Bolzano. It was flat, so we cycled fast. There were many other cyclists as well. Usually, we saw a few in the morning, but around one o'clock, we were often the only ones. We would climb the Brenner Pass today. Although it is a well-known mountain, it is only 1300 meters high, the same as one of yesterday's climbs. The map showed that the road uphill was pretty straight, so it would probably be gradual. We expected to cycle the 60 km to the top in about 4 hours. I said, 'we will certainly make it to the top before 8 when it starts to get dark'. Bram thought that was ridiculous, he thought we would reach the top around 3.

cycling along the Inn

Cycling along the Inn

We had been in this area during our cycling vacation in the Alps on the day we had lost each other. Back then, we had also cycled between Bolzano and the Brenner pass. We found a nice bicycle path next to the river and shaded by trees. I think it used to be a railroad track because it had some tunnels unnecessary large for cyclists.

cycling to Bolzano

We cycled past here

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Bram and his supply of donut peaches

The bicycle path wasn't a gradual climb but went up and down a lot. At least the road was easy to follow. There were lizards everywhere, and I nearly rode over one. Just while I was telling Bram about it, something black sliddered in front of Bram's bike. It was a fat snake that made it off the path just in time.


After 30 kilometers, we stopped to eat. There was a sign with a height profile of the climb. It turned out to be another 60 km to the summit. That was a lot more than we had expected. This was because the bicycle path was much longer than the main road. We didn't really mind, as we were nearly a day ahead of schedule.

In a narrow part of the valley, the route diverted from the main road, and we followed a path over loose rocks, going steep uphill. It was called 'piste cyclable', but it wasn't really cyclable. After the climb, the road led us into a forest and became a bunch of loose rocks. Fortunately, we were not in a hurry, and the landscape was beautiful.

cycling near bolzano
cycling near bol

The bicycle path

We climbed steeply through the forests. The road was so old that we sometimes had to climb over a pile of sand to continue.


The bicycle path leading up to the Brenner pass

We passed two other cyclists with way too much luggage, they were going uphill super slowly. On top of the hill, I noticed my rear tire wasn't very hard. When I took the valve cap off, it deflated immediately, so it seemed like it had gotten loose. After fixing it, we cycled for another hour and then sat down in a village to eat ice cream and cola.


A real Alp landscape

After we continued, my tire deflated. We took off all my luggage and took the inner tire out. We couldn't find any hole, but one of the previous patches had started to come off. We replaced the inner tire, covering my hands in grease. Inspired by Bram's story about how he had removed grease from his apartment floor using olive oil, I tried cleaning my hands using cola. It worked really well. We were again overtaken by the two slower cyclists with way too much luggage. Half an hour later we passed them for the last time. 

flat tire during cycling vacation
flat tire during cycling vacation

Fixing the tire

It was around 17:30, and we still needed to climb another 15 kilometers. An entire family was walking over the bicycle path and didn't move until we rang trice. I checked my GPS and saw we seemed to be cycling away from the Brenner pass. We turned around and passed the family again. There we found a sign indicating that we had been going in the right direction after all. The family seemed very happy we were there.

Brenner pass

The Brenner pass

The bicycle path to the Brenner pass first passed through another valley and then turned around before going uphill. A few kilometers before the top, a goat farmer walked out of the bushes with three goats. Meanwhile, it was already 7 o'clock. At the top, we thought we saw the border, but it turned out to be a EuroSpin supermarket, whose logo looks much like the European Union's. We bought vanilla croissants with a ten-year expiration date. Suddenly the light in the store went out, I thought there was a problem with the electricity, but apparently that's how they informed customers the store was about to close. A guy who noticed us started shouting that they were closing. We first needed to buy bananas, though. During dinner, I called my girlfriend Manon because she had just been offered a new job. We could already see the sign 'Brenner pass' next to the main road. Surprisingly there was none next to the bicycle path, even though they had laid a 100 km long dedicated bicycle path leading up to it. We checked the time, and it was 7:45, so Bram had been right about us reaching the top before 8.

Brenner pass

The top of the Brenner pass

We descended towards Innsbruck. The climb had been nice, but the way down was just a big road. Bram noticed two women on a cycling vacation and nearly wanted to stop and turn around. However, we needed to keep going. In the valley, we saw a group of cyclists wild camping. We continued and went in search of a place to sleep for ourselves.

cycling up the brenner pass

In the descent

The rest of the descent was just one straight road with steep slopes on either side. Five kilometers before Innsbruck, we found a large meadow with tall grass to camp. We rode towards a corner where we were nearly invisible from the road. Due to the descent we again reached a nice daily distance.

wild camping on a bicycle tour

The camping spot


Route of day 12


Height profile of day 12. It is clear we cycled uphill over 100 km to the top of the Brenner pass. It wasn't a gradual climb, we continued going up and downhill, which made it much more challenging.

Distance cycled : 162,9 km.

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