Tourist cycling itinerary

9-6 km
20/30 minutes

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Cycling among the high peaks

It is a Gothic concert of spires, spikes, a harsh, rough topography that looks like the electrocardiogram of a heart in fibrillation or a baroque fugue for harpsichord. And then there is the wonderful unfolding view of the Monfalconi mountains, which seem to bite the blue of the sky with their stone teeth.

The most amazing theatrical impact can be experienced climbing up from Forni di Sotto when, at a certain point, you are faced with this range of Dolomite wonders. Guides, by nature, are required to keep more to the didactic, enumerative and descriptive aspects. But, in these mountains, there is something that descriptions cannot express: you must trust your eyes, and the emotion that places you in that dimension in which words do, yes, matter, but where it is perhaps better to let yourself be carried away by that feeling that is difficult to express. It’s however a world more suitable for climbers, walkers and hikers. The other four cycling routes around the UNESCO sites wind through the plains, here you can go as fast as the wind, in the direction you want. On the other hand, in this mountainous situation, cyclists must adapt to the valley floor, or climb along the paths, often with demanding slopes, which from Forni di Sopra go up towards the pastures or towards the Giaf shelter leaving them pretty breathless. Poor cyclists! The obligatory direction of the first route, which is quite easy, is to the northwest, towards Passo della Mauria, historically important because it connects Carnia with Cadore. If you want to descend the Tagliamento Valley towards Ampezzo, unfortunately, you come across an obstacle that can be overcome, but it is dangerous. It is a two-kilometre tunnel built without adequate space for bikes. I don’t know if I would personally have the courage to ride through it and I have the sense of responsibility to advise you against it. The old road that the tunnel replaces is beautiful, in good condition, and travels over the Tagliamento Valley, but it is blocked by barriers and stone blocks at a certain point. It’s a shame, as it could be a mini cycle path that riders would enjoy.

And so, on to the historic Passo della Mauria. From Forni di Sopra (the route starts in Vico, from the centre near the Town Hall) to the pass, there are just over nine kilometres of climb. It is a ride among nature, surrounded by needle-leaf forests, on a paved road that is certainly not a woodland path, but which, on the other hand, has a slope that reaches a maximum of 4.4% in elevation. Also, the view of the Dolomites will make up for any slight effort to reach the top. The Tagliamento is one of the rivers in Europe with a free course to the sea, without dams or other artefacts to alter the water flow. The source is right there next to the road. Once you reach the square at the Mauria pass, you can decide whether to go back or launch yourself downhill towards Cadore: Lozzo, Lorenzago, Domegge, Calalzo and Pieve di Cadore, near the lake of the same name. The return, quite a climb, is recommended only for the fittest cyclist. If you are not an e-biker or hard trained cyclist, the climb to the Giaf refuge, open only in summer and praised for its hospitality and cuisine, is short but unforgiving as far as the slope is concerned. To complete the five kilometres to the arrival point, there are 600 metres in elevation difference. The ground is first tarmac, then paved, and lastly, a dirt road, all through the woods, with a spectacular view of the Dolomites. Be careful after a well-deserved refreshment at the Giaf refuge: slopes and straight roads will make you want to go faster, but remember that you can pick up speed in the blink of an eye. So, brakes at the ready!

Not only bikes: the town is also a world of information about noble and rural mountain architecture. The large sloping roofed houses are fascinating thanks to the wooden tones.

Above all, the balconies, marking the various floors, give the town’s alleys a particular charm. In summer, they are a symphony of flowers, and even the flowers are a sign: they mean that people still live here, unlike other Carnic towns that have slowly emptied. Life continues without interruptions; although there has been a demographic loss, it is less than elsewhere.

There is one thing not to be missed. I am referring to the church of San Floriano, which is located opposite the parish church in Cella. Inside you will find two gems. The first is the apse frescoed by Gianfrancesco da Tolmezzo, a peripheral painter who was able to harness the suggestions of the Renaissance, translating them into both a popular and cultured language. The frescoes are well preserved, and it seems fascinating that men and women who did not know the alphabet could read these stories in images. The second is no less important, on the contrary. It is a lively altarpiece by Andrea Bellunello, with eight panels including the cymatium, a stunning valuable work. Here the popular artistic language coexists with the influences of Renaissance culture and the grace of miniature work that the painter learned in Venice in the workshop of the great Vivarini.

To finish on a good note, we must remember that this is a town where you can eat and drink well and, since this is not a Michelin guide, we will avoid giving advice, and leave you the pleasure of discovering the food and wine specialities.

There are many restaurants, trattorias, breweries, and wine bars that, thanks to their liveliness and success, do well even without the patronage of UNESCO. They don’t need it, luckily for them and for us too!