The "standard" ride can be split in three legs. From my flat in the center of Trento, I first ride on S.S. (National Road) 349 in the direction of Vicenza, then turn left to Villazzano, and start climbing on the hills east of Trento. Lots of new houses have been built here in recent years. In winter, if you live in town the sun goes down at 14:30; here you have an hour more. Also in summer, when it gets really hot down in the valley, the climate is better up here. Just before reaching Villazzano, I take a shortcut on the right, over a modest "wall". If you are quick to warm up, you might have chosen a more direct, rather steep road to come here. I continue climbing gently, passing through the small, nice hamlet of Gabbiolo. Just before Oltrecastello, one turns right to Villa Borino, and the real ascent begins. A couple of slightly harder walls, and then, still on a paved road, one makes the final ascent to Passo Cimirlo, 733m (2400f), whereas Trento lies at 190m (620ft). This is prime training ground for local bikers, and on late summer afternoons, the road from Oltrecastello to Passo Cimirlo is packed with mountain bikers.
Passo Cimirlo marks the end of the first leg. The second one brings you over a comfortable gravel road, open to car traffic, to "Rifugio Maranza" (1072m/3500ft). This family restaurant is a favourite goal for Sunday excursions. If you want more, you can now take the third leg, 200m further up, towards Fontana dei Gai, on a doubletrack with some tricky spots which takes through the forest. A fast descent over a well-kept gravel road takes you back on the road from Passo Cimirlo to Rifugio Maranza. As a variation, you can just cross it, and go back on a slightly technical singletrack to Villa Borino.
The gravel road from Passo Cimirlo to Rifugio Maranza climbs rather steeply at first, then levels, and becomes steep again toward the end. Just before this final climb, you may take a right branch, over a slightly bumpy, but extremely fun fire road, that would lead you to Forte Brusafer. This can be dangerous in late autumn, because the leaves may hide obstacles, and you have the sun directly into your eyes. See later for further options.
Now for the major variations. A nice itinerary, described in the first book by the Margoni brothers, starts from Passo Cimirlo. Start in the direction of Rifugio Maranza, but then turn left after a few meters, on a wall made difficult by perennial mud and grossly uneven surface.
This has been recently [Fall 1995] paved, so it's a piece of cake now.After a few meters, you move to a pleasant natural road-bed, and with a final ramp you get to Malga Tomba (923m/3000ft), formerly used for summer pasture. A brief descent would lead to a fast-descending, very technical trail, a favourite of local downhillers. Instead, put your shifters to test, and resume ascending to the right. On reaching a house, turn left into a glade, move on to a demanding singletrack, cross a stream, and after a few twists and turn, go downhill on a disconnected doubletrack, until you reach a forestry road that takes you back in ascending mode. This time you reach Rifugio Marzola (1000m/3280ft). This is the analog of Rifugio Maranza, just on the other side of the Marzola, and popular with people living this side of the Marzola range. Further up you reach a small glade "Prati alle Sorti" just under the rocky mountain top. From here you start a long, fast and pleasant descent, first on a doubletrack with natural road-bed, and then on a wider gravel road.
A gasduct is being built [Spring 1996] here. The works have wreak havoc of many fine parts of this mountains. In particular the "Prati alle Sorti" all hardly exist now, and the first part of that beautiful double track is a muddy mess. The forest has been cleared for fifteen meters across.
[Written at the end of 2001] Later a track has been rebuilt in the above clearing. This is rideable alright, but it's nothing like it used to be, when the track used to run trough the forest.You get to the village of Vigolo Vattaro ("Vigo" or "Vigolo" come from the same Latin root that gave the English "wick" such as in "Warwick", or "wich" as in "Norwich").
The simplest solution is now to take S.S. 349 back to Trento, but it's not funny. So you start on it, but then turn immediately right, stay on pavement for a while, and then you have two choices.
This part has now (November 1995) been littered with "Private - No trespassing" signs. I have talked to other bikers, and we all believe that this does not refer to the trail, which has to be a public one, but only to the property on the sides of it. Still, you'd better be careful here, lest you find yourself in front of the business end of a dog or a gun...
There are further variations. I'll just mention that one can get to Passo Cimirlo also from the other side, on the Valsugana valley. That's steeper, and the road-bed is a bit tricky, fine gravel first, and big, slippery stones with liberal additions of the above later. I have done it several times, when coming back from rides in Valsugana, but only recently (Summer '95) I managed to do it without dabbing. It's mainly a matter of keeping a very slow pace, and of knowing, when you're in the middle of the steepest and hardest section, that what looks like eternal Inferno ends just around that corner up there.