On a Saturday where we had no other commitments, Sebastian Lip and I decided to go on a bit of a day trip from Switzerland to Italy.
In twelve hours, we covered quite a lot of ground, spanned two countries, and had a great time doing it 🙂
The day began with departure from the very pleasant lakeside Hotel Winkelried in Standsstad, Switzerland.
This hotel is named after Arnold Winkelried, a rather interesting historical figure from this area who changed the course of a major battle in a rather dramatic manner. You can read about that here if you are curious to know more.
We left at 6.30am, armed ourselves with croissants from the local bakery, and set off to the South toward Lake Como.
Once we’d crossed over into Italy, we drove first into Milano. This was motivated by nothing much more complex than the notion that our being in Italy demanded that we have a cup of coffee while we were there!
We also had a bit of a walk around some of the city streets to get a sense of the place.
One thing that seems like a caricature of itself in Italy – especially in Milano – is the driving. It is frenetic, with an impressive lack of respect/concern for things like lane-keeping and speed limits. The driving style appears to lean toward what I’d describe as ‘fast and opportunistic’. The dominant vehicle size is ‘tiny’, and thats because people seem to park in any available patch of ground on the road, on the footpath, or both!
Departing Milano, we headed back north toward Bellagio, a town on the southern shores of Lake Como.
The drive to Bellagio was unexpectedly entertaining, due to the nature of the last stretch of road along the edge of the lake to the town. This road was old, barely more than one lane wide, and flanked with hard barriers (steel and stone).
That might be ok if it was a lightly used road, but… it wasn’t. Instead, we found that this road was windy, fast (the 50km/h posted speed limit appearing to be more of a minimum than a maximum), busy (with cars, bikes, motor-bikes and… trucks), and all this traffic was very much a two-way proposition! It was highly… entertaining… to drive here 🙂
Once we did arrive in Bellagio, on Lake Como, I was mindful of coming to a place whose name has significant cachet, and was quite looking forward to seeing it.
I was not disappointed! It is a very beautiful place, and we happened to have arrived on a particularly lovely sunny afternoon. We walked around the old cobbled streets of Bellagio and nosed around shops and restaurants (as well as simply enjoying the sensibility of a place with such obvious history).
Being in Italy demanded that lunch consisted of two canonical Italian food choices… Pizza and Gelati 🙂
While having lunch, we observed multiple cars whose drivers were in the process of taping up busted side mirrors and/or assessing various interesting scrape marks on the sides of their cars. It seems that the road does yield its share of victims.
After lunch, we took the easier way back… by choosing the use the car ferry across the Lake to Cadenabbia on the northern shore.
From there, we drove back into Switzerland via a famous road pass had (fortunately) opened for the season only the day before.
This is the Gotthard Pass, which rises to almost 7000 feet and offers truly spectacular views of the Swiss Alps on a road bristling with high end road engineering (to be viable to maintain in the harsh winter climate of the area).
We returned to the Winkelried at about 6.30pm, twelve hours and a lot of kilometres later. We were tired, but extremely happy. It was such a nice day.
For Australians, I think the notion of being able to drive between countries for lunch seems quite exotic. It certainly does to me!
We have found, in return, that visitors from Europe to Australia find the notion of being able to drive for hours on end in the outback, without seeing many other cars or people.. and without changing countries at all… is equally exotic for them. It seems, as always, that humans find joy in new experiences.
Below you can see some photographs and commentary from Seb and Simon’s Excellent Adventure. I hope you enjoy them. We had a brilliant day.