Austria to Italy - Four countries in a day
We'd booked a hotel in Dornbirn called the Pension Zum Löwen, quite a historic building but with a very modern makeover and I'd thoroughly recommend it. Good staff, good views, a great price and a vending machine with beer in it – just what we needed after another very hot day in the car. The town has a nice public square filled with bars and restaurants and the whole place just had a really nice vibe. With plenty to do outdoors we'd quite like to visit again. After the routine of breakfast and loading, the latter often sees people hanging around the car park waiting for you to start the car and drive off, we decided to squeeze in an hour or so of sightseeing before we hit the road. We used the local cable car that offered a 1000m vantage point and great views. Once we'd wandered around in the sun and taken a few pictures, we got in the car and headed into Liechtenstein.
There's not much to say here about Liechtenstein. We drove in, stopped to take a couple of pictures in Vaduz, which seemed very pleasant and it's here we spotted our first Ferrari of the trip: a black F430 Spyder. It's a very small but affluent country with a pretty church, a castle and they have the coolest number plates I've seen to date. After spending a total of around 30 minutes in Liechtenstein we were in Switzerland. Still no border personnel and still no motorway pass.
Realising we'd covered three countries in the last half hour, we decided we could plan today's route to take in a few well known towns on our way to Italy and we'd be driving our first high alpine pass of the trip. We chose a route that would take us south-east, cruising through scenic valleys towards the mountains and ski resorts. Gradually gaining height on the drive we first stopped on the outskirts of a very quiet Klosters to look at a very cool bridge, then another stop to look at some cows with bells before arriving in Davos for a quick look around. Sitting at 1560m, apparently Davos is the highest town in Europe but more importantly for the petrol head in all of us, it sits at one end of the Flüela Pass.
A quick about-turn in Davos saw us taking a right onto route 28 and that was it, we were on our way up a mountain. As with many roads in the Swiss valleys the start of the pass is nice and wide and in a fast car it's tempting to give it a 'bit'. However, in a car like the 360 you can be travelling at three figure speeds in a very short period of time and we hear the Swiss police have absolutely no sense of humour when it comes to speed. With that in mind it's wise to keep it respectable and we tended to enjoy our drives in more of a 'point and squirt' fashion, darting between the sharper corners rather than attempting warp speed down the lengthy valley straights. Emerging from the pretty alpine forest of the lower slopes, the well-surfaced road continues ever upwards through to tighter corners higher up until we stopped at the top, joining the various tourists and bikers for a drink in the sunshine at the hospice.
Needless to say, if you try and drive a high performance car like a teenager on a road like this, you'll find yourself at the bottom of the mountain quicker than you could possibly hope to reach the top. Stamping hard on the brakes into hairpins with minimal barriers and huge drops beyond, you'll also discover a whole assortment of previously undiscovered noises your spouse is capable of making.
We dropped down around 1000m via the eastern flank of the pass and into the small town of Susch, where we spied a couple of UK Ferrari’s – a 348 & F355, before turning south and following the (still high altitude) valley towards St Moritz.
Passing through the town and past the large lakes and recreation areas of Silvaplana we found ourselves descending the delightful Maloja Pass. If the God of tarmac had played a game of snakes and ladders on a mountainside, this is what it would look like. For us it was a steady cruise down with plenty of other cars for company but it was still a sight to behold. I bet climbing the hairpins would be good fun if you were to approach it from the other direction. Once we'd lost a bit of altitude here, the valley drive towards Italy becomes greener and it's an easy cruise to the north of Lake Como.
The S340 along the western shore of the lake can be a bit slow going as you pass through a lot of small towns, but it's nice enough regardless. There are some narrow roads south of Menaggio but it's fine, as long as you keep your eyes open for mopeds (we're now in Italy remember…!). I should mention that the other side of the lake is a better drive as we'll find out a week later, with less traffic, fewer hold-ups and stunning views.
We'd driven a couple of hundred miles, crossed the Alps, driven in four countries and made it to Cernobbio, just north of Como. We'd also discovered the lower half of the lake is possibly one of the most attractive places you could ever wish to live. A word of warning though: If you come here, bring insect repellent.
Austria and Switzerland
A few pictures from along the way.