Background photo - U.S. #5 Pikes Peak CO.
There is no doubt and there will be no rematch! This is the most difficult climb in Italy and likely all of Europe. We do not believe that it can be done on a standard road bike, even by the fittest of cyclist. The website dangerousroads.org declares that Scanuppia is “the steepest hardest long climb on a sealed-surface road in Europe (or the world).” We disagree with “world” but will not bicker with Italy or Europe!
There are some good distant views, but the glory of this climb is it's extreme difficulty and challenge - there is more head-down-just-survive to this climb than any 99.9% of any other climb - it fits into only a handful of climbs that, when ranked by difficulty, can be fairly characterized as A Climb Like No Other.
We rented a mountain bike in Lake Garda (big mistake in that it was lower end, heavy and with a worn read tire - trifecta that brought us to our knees, literally, at one point . . . ) and drove to the start point some 37 km/21 miles northeast. We do recommend Lake Garda as a staging area as it is a beautiful area to visit and close to 5 Italian Top 25 Climbs.
We hesitate to call this a Must-Do because we must issue a caveat in advance of such enthusiasm. This road is marked at the beginning as "Prohibited for Bikes" - while there are no words to that effect, there is the Italian road sign that stands guard over the first of the several 30% segments to come. However, in spite of the sign, it does not appear that this roadway is heavily police for cyclists.
We ventured past the sign (at the time thinking it was actually a sign warning motorists of cyclists . . . silly us!) and were never criticized, confronted nor dissuaded in any way from continuing our climb up this beast - truth be told, we likely would not have protested too forcefully had we been directed off the mountain!
There is an unbelievable 45% grade sign that we encounter a short distance up the mountain which is forebodingbut not altogether accurate by our estimation. While we encountered several exceptional stretches of 30% (or slightly above) grade, we never approached 40%. The reference is likely to the inside portion of the steepest hairpin on the climb. The maximum grade of this nearly impossible monster is in the 35-37% range.
It is strongly recommended that you bring either a Garmin with the Scanuppia map downloaded onto it, or detailed instructions because there are a couple points where a wrong turn can be made. And, while you will not go far on the wrong route, a mere 50 wasted yards at 30% can break the spirit. In particular, there are a couple forks in the 2.3 to 2.5 mile range - stay right at the forks.
Metric / U.S.
Note: Click on “View full route" (top left) which opens the Scanuppia RideWithGPS page. Hover over the distance line at the spot you would like to begin a sub-segment for this climb. Click your mouse on the start point and drag the vertical graphing line the distance you wish to obtain sub-detail from, then release the mouse at the end point. This will give you the following sub-detail for the selected segment in the “Metrics” window top right of the page: (a) distance, (b) Elevation gained and lost, (c) max grade, (d) average grade (e) that segment's climb category – e.g. Cat 1, HC, etc., and (f) FIETS score for the segment.
Hover cursor over segment slices, below, for exact grade of a particular segment.