The highest climbs of Europe #14 - Colle della Fauniera

Sunday 10 May 2020 by Frank Jansen

Similar to the Mont Ventoux, three roads lead to the summit of the Colle della Fauniera. There's however one difference: there's no easy side. The east side is one of Italy's toughest climbs - a true adventure. It's still possible: cycling from civilization in the pristine nature in an Alpine country.

Colle della Fauniera

Picture 1: Just below the sumit

Colle delle Fauniera/Colle dei Morti

Country: Italy
Height: 2481 meters


The Colle della Fauniera is also known as Colle dei Morti (Col of the dead). This name refers to the bloody battles in this area between the French-Spanish and Piemonte troops in the 17th century. The col is situated in the Italian region Piemonte. The summit can be reached from three sides: north, east and south. Piemonte lies in the northwest of Italy. Turin the capital. The Lago Magiore and the Langhe area are the most popular tourist destinations. The hills east of the city of Cuneo are famous for their wine and truffels. The westerly and northerly parts of the region are formed by mountains. An area with pristine nature and few cars. Famous mountain passes include  the Colle dell'Agnello, Colle della Lombarda, Passo del Sempione (Simplonpass) and the Colle di Tenda (Col de Tende).

The north side 

Starting from Ponte Marmora, this climb is the easiest of the three. Up to Marmora, it's just a small road where cars can barely pass each other. From here, the road transforms into a well-paved 'goats trail', just wide enough for one vehicle. That's all we need. The 21 km long climb is qua gradual and averages at 7,2%. For quite some time, the road hairpins through a forest. The further you get, the wider the view. About 1 km before the summit you'll pass Colle d'Esischie, which is the connection with the east side. From here, you take a right towards the Fauniera. Don't be mistaken, this part is tough. On the top, there's a beautiful monument of Marco Pantani. 

The east side

A true beast. If we take Vangana as our starting postion, it's 30 km of climbing to the top. The first half is hardly worth mentioning, it's no more than false flat. The last 15 km however, average at 9,2% with gradients up to 15%. There only few climbs with such impressive segments. According to the index atn CyclingCols this one of the 8th heaviest in Italy, just after the Mortirolo. 

Like the north side, the road is small. Motorised traffic is rare. It's a real adventure cycling through this stunning surrounding. If you pay attention that is, since this climb is so hard it's going to be a challenge for everyone. If you want to experience this climb in a cyclo: it's in the route of the Gran Fondo Fausto Coppi.

The south side

Demonte marks the start of this climb. Initially the road runs throughs villages and forests. Apart from a few steep sections, this part is fine. Some 12 km from the top the landscape gets rougher and there are no houses anymore. From here, the roads has no mercy. Sections well above 10% more often than not. The surrounding is fabulous. Rough nature, no one else around, suffering. This is cycling in its purest form. 

No matter which side you pick, the Fauniera is one of the most climbs to ride. A real must do for lovers. 

Cycling history

The Fauniera's cycling history is limited, but impressing. The col has only been paved in '99 following the passing by of the Giro d'Italia (stage 14). It was in this place Pantani put himself on the map as a super climber (hence the monument). 

In 2001, stage 18 was scheduled to cross the Fauniera. It would have been the Cima Coppi. The stage never took place. The night before, the police literally searched every hotel room for doping. The peloton was furious, and called for the first strike in cycling history. 

The east side was included in 2003's stage 18. The route however didn't surpass the Colle d'Esischie, some 1200 meters from the Fauniera's top.

Gran fondo's

La Fausto Coppi


Colle delle FaunieraColle della Fauniera north

Colle delle FaunieraColle della Fauniera east

Colle delle FaunieraColle della Fauniera south



Click on the images to download the routes.

The highest climbs in Europe, the list

14 Colle delle Fauniera /
Colle dei Morti 
Italy 2481
15 Nufenenpass /
Passo della Novena
Switzerland 2477
16 Col du Grand-Saint-Bernard /
Colle del Gran San Bernardo
17 Furkapass Switzerland 2436
18 Roque de los Muchachos Spain 2426
19 Hochwurtenspeicher Austria 2421
20 Col du Granon France 2413


Colle della Fauniera

Photo 2: South side

Colle della Fauniera

Photo 3: South side

Colle della Fauniera

Photo 4: North side

Colle della Fauniera

Photo 5: North and east side, last kilometer from the Colle d'Esischie

Colle della Fauniera

Photo 6: The statue of the pirate at the summit

Colle della Fauniera

Photo 7: Summit

Photos: Wikimedia Commons: 1 - Michiel van Lonkhuizen (CyclingCols): 2, 3 - Herman Nekkers: 4, 5, 6, 7.

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