10 September 2011 | Maso Corto, Italy
The grins per kilometer ratio has soared once we got into the Southern Tyrollean / Dolomite mountain region of northeast Italy. The density of twisty, scenic roads is very high, um, just like the population. Those come together, it takes the tax base and demand of a high population to build quality roads in difficult and beautiful places, but then that population uses them. On the more popular routes, it is nearly a constant flow of traffic in both directions by 10 o'clock.
Two days ago we drove passo di Mt Giovo and Passo di Pennes, both above tree line and with a restaurant for our coffee break, followed by 3 more before finding a hotel in Ortesei. Ortesei is in a ski resort valley, meaning well developed, somewhat crowded, and many services to offer. Yesterday we looped 4 passes in 1-1/2 hours before the traffic got too busy, returned to the same hotel then rode the ski car up to above the tree line for a 4 hour hike in stunning mountainous scenery. Today we checked out early and enjoyed 7 more passes before leaving the Dolomites region to drive west and find a hotel at the small ski resort of Maso Corto just a few km south of the Austrian border, where we again plan to hike in the alpine in the morning. Tow worth mentioning, Passo Giau is low in traffic and very popular with cyclists both pedal and power, and Passo Durant, which the Michelin map identifies as "difficult and dangerous" where we found some 16% grade hills and much of the road less than two car widths wide, where an encounter with an oncoming car usually meant one car had to put tires off of the pavement to pass, or even back up to a wide spot. We just drove that one slowly and enjoyed the scenery.
Most of the passes were a blast, the car performing superbly, I can't say enough about how beautifully balanced and responsive this car is. Driving it at about 75% of its capacity is a super thrill for me, yet leaves lots of margin for safety. Most of these pass roads were very tight, and helped to remove thin layers from the tires, brakes, and front spoiler (it still scrapes a little when pushing hard through the downhill hairpin turns, especially if the pavement is a little uneven). I like to switch the exhaust to "sport" meaning a little louder, roll down the window and listen to the sweet exhaust note echo off of the roadside rock walls and tunnels. And for convenience, I should mention the twin trunks, modest front and rear (it's a mid engine remember), or "his and hers."