Back in 2014, a video was released by Evo Magazine which celebrated Mallorca’s Best Road in the World. Watching the brand new Porsche unleash its power on the Formentor and Sa Calobra roads captures the hearts of many car lovers and Mallorca fans. But it is not always just for fun, car manufacturers use these roads all the time. Kept tightly under wraps, pre-launch models are shipped here for test-driving on these famous roads.
And for these exquisite roads we have Antonio Parietti to thank, one of the most tenacious figures in improving access to the Serra de Tramuntana. Parietti (1899-1979) was the head of the Provincial Government’s Engineering and Roads Department, and chairman of Foment del Turisme, an organization dedicated to the promotion of tourism. As part of the Local Roads Plan, aimed at adapting existing roads for motor vehicles, he personally supervised two major projects in the Serra de Tramuntana: the 1925 road between Puerto Pollensa and Formentor, which allowed Adan Diehl to build his famous hotel, and the 1933 road to Sa Calobra.
Remarkable in his tenacity, instead of being overwhelmed by what stood in his way, Parietti observed the Tramuntana winds and understood that where the slopes were too steep he made a curve, when rock stood in the way he would remove part of the cliff and place the waste where it was needed. Work started on the construction of the Sa Calobra road in 1928, it was completed six years later. A technical feat at the time, a difference in altitude of over 800m had to be overcome, using 12km of winding road. The most difficult stretch was the 270º bend known as “Nus de la Corbata”. In total, over 31,000 cubic metres of rock and earth had to be moved and the terraced walls on which the road rests were built by hand.
Both were built for tourism purposes, not to unite existing towns and villages but to offer visitors access to two unique spots that have become famous precisely because of these roads. Now Sa Colabra is on the hit list of many hundreds of cyclists who visit the island and is Team Sky’s unofficial pre-season testing ground. As one amateur cyclist George Scott wrote on his blog, roadcyclinguk.com, “Having climbed the short col to reach the summit of Sa Calobra, the descent begins and a 360 degree hairpin flyover sets the tone. From there the mountain drops away beneath you and series of hairpins, stacked one on top of another, unravel but there’s little time to enjoy the view. It’s a white-knuckle descent – part thrilling, part terrifying – and sensory assault, the wind rushing through the vents in my helmet as I plunge towards the sea. Each hairpin is a test of nerve and requires heavy braking, before a short sprint to get back up to speed, only to repeat the process."
See the video that inspired this article in August 2014: