Road Trip in Austria/Switzerland/Northern Italy

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Road Trip in Austria/Switzerland/Northern Italy

Post by Burns » Sat Jul 06, 2019 17:08

In September, my friends and I are planning on flying to Munich, picking up a hire car and spending the week exploring Austria, Switzerland and Northern Italy (I can hear Owain replying to this before he even knows the thread exists). Most of the trip will involve driving mountain passes and hiking into the mountains in search of glaciers (two of us do landscape photography and the third just puts up with us spending ages with our cameras) but I was wondering what points of Sabristic interest you could point me in the right direction of?

Roads like the Stelvio Pass will almost certainly be covered and I'd like to see the Arlberg Tunnel but I've never been to this part of the World before so it'd be good to get a few tips before I go. At the moment, we're looking to base ourselves in Innsbruck and explore from there.

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Re: Road Trip in Austria/Switzerland/Northern Italy

Post by roadtester » Sat Jul 06, 2019 17:31

The Stelvio is certainly worth doing, although it is more interesting for the sightseeing than as a great driving experience.

One car hire tip - I’ve come across small print in German car hire (admittedly this is ten years ago) that prohibits you from taking certain makes/models, e.g. Mercs, into Italy - presumably because of a fear, justified or not, that they are likely to be nicked. So if hiring in D, A or CH, mention you are planning to go into Italy, so you don’t end up getting caught out.
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Re: Road Trip in Austria/Switzerland/Northern Italy

Post by Burns » Sat Jul 06, 2019 17:52

roadtester wrote:
Sat Jul 06, 2019 17:31
The Stelvio is certainly worth doing, although it is more interesting for the sightseeing than as a great driving experience.

One car hire tip - I’ve come across small print in German car hire (admittedly this is ten years ago) that prohibits you from taking certain makes/models, e.g. Mercs, into Italy - presumably because of a fear, justified or not, that they are likely to be nicked. So if hiring in D, A or CH, mention you are planning to go into Italy, so you don’t end up getting caught out.
I saw that on the Avis website. I normally get the cheapest (or second cheapest due to size) auto they have so there's no issue there with crossing over into Italy.

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Re: Road Trip in Austria/Switzerland/Northern Italy

Post by Owain » Sat Jul 06, 2019 22:51

Burns wrote:
Sat Jul 06, 2019 17:08
In September, my friends and I are planning on flying to Munich, picking up a hire car and spending the week exploring Austria, Switzerland and Northern Italy (I can hear Owain replying to this before he even knows the thread exists).
I've just discovered it!

In September, my partner and I are flying to Geneva, hiring a car, and spending ten days exploring Switerland. We're staying three nights in Geneva before spending the final seven in a cottage in the Italian-speaking canton Ticino. I booked it at a time when a certain political situation deterred me from booking my usual road trip to Italy, and I wanted to go somewhere that wouldn't be affected by that situation. We're hoping to visit Berne and Zürich, and the bizarre Italian exclave of Campione d'Italia.
Burns wrote:
Sat Jul 06, 2019 17:08
Most of the trip will involve driving mountain passes and hiking into the mountains in search of glaciers (two of us do landscape photography and the third just puts up with us spending ages with our cameras) but I was wondering what points of Sabristic interest you could point me in the right direction of?

Roads like the Stelvio Pass will almost certainly be covered and I'd like to see the Arlberg Tunnel but I've never been to this part of the World before so it'd be good to get a few tips before I go. At the moment, we're looking to base ourselves in Innsbruck and explore from there.
The Arlberg was closed when I drove through Austria, so I had to negotiate a spectacular climb over a mountain instead. I liked Austria, but I found the roads to be horrendously busy, which was frustrating because I was only driving through the country and have never actually stayed over. You'll need a vignette for the S16, as well as the A-prefixed motorways.

Liechtenstein is worth a visit. It will only take you ten minutes to drive through the country, but it has to be done! It's also a good way of sneaking into Switzerland without all the border infrastructure that you find on the major crossings.

As a tunnel enthusiast, you'll have to drive through the San Gottardo. Personally, I've always found it rather tedious (and there can be long queues which hopefully you'll avoid in September), but it's very long and has the unusual distinction of being an S2 motorway.

In northern Italy, the Dolomites are spectacular if you and your friends like landscapes. They look like jagged teeth. The SS51 is a particularly lovely drive between Dobbiaco/Toblach and Cortina d'Ampezzo. I've never driven the Stelvio, so roadtester is your expert there...

Regarding purely Sabristic interest, the best thing I can think of is Italy's underground GSJ. If you do manage to get down to Lake Garda, the SS45bis down the western side is a much nicer drive than the road down the eastern side, complete with lots of Fascist-era tunnels with 'windows' onto the Lake. As a tunnel aficionado, I'd say that drive is an absolute must!

When you get back, be sure to let us know where you went, and what you thought of it all.
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Re: Road Trip in Austria/Switzerland/Northern Italy

Post by roadtester » Sat Jul 06, 2019 23:00

Owain wrote:
Sat Jul 06, 2019 22:51
In September, my partner and I are flying to Geneva, hiring a car, and spending ten days exploring Switerland.
See if you can fit in a visit to this, which I hadn't heard of before:

https://www.emilfreyclassics.ch/en/

Frey is/was an importer into Switzerland in particular of BL and its various brands.
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Re: Road Trip in Austria/Switzerland/Northern Italy

Post by Owain » Sat Jul 06, 2019 23:11

roadtester wrote:
Sat Jul 06, 2019 23:00
Owain wrote:
Sat Jul 06, 2019 22:51
In September, my partner and I are flying to Geneva, hiring a car, and spending ten days exploring Switerland.
See if you can fit in a visit to this, which I hadn't heard of before:

https://www.emilfreyclassics.ch/en/

Frey is/was an importer into Switzerland in particular of BL and its various brands.
:scratchchin: I've just shown your recommendation to Jessica, and she said "Let's do it!"
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Re: Road Trip in Austria/Switzerland/Northern Italy

Post by avtur » Sun Jul 07, 2019 09:46

Owain wrote:
Sat Jul 06, 2019 22:51
.... When you get back, be sure to let us know where you went, and what you thought of it all....
And post pictures ... somehow I don't that words alone will be sufficient to describe what you see and expereince :driving:

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Re: Road Trip in Austria/Switzerland/Northern Italy

Post by danfw194 » Mon Jul 08, 2019 14:09

One thing that sticks out in my memory from a Swiss holiday back in the mid noughties was the Lotschberg tunnel in the Valais region, where you drive your car onto a train and it takes you through about 15 miles of tunnel. Just googled it to refresh my memory, goes from Goppenstein to Kandersteg. Worth a look if you're in the area.

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Re: Road Trip in Austria/Switzerland/Northern Italy

Post by Burns » Wed Jul 10, 2019 18:13

Owain wrote:
Sat Jul 06, 2019 22:51
You'll need a vignette for the S16, as well as the A-prefixed motorways... ...As a tunnel enthusiast, you'll have to drive through the San Gottardo... ...In northern Italy, the Dolomites are spectacular if you and your friends like landscapes. They look like jagged teeth.

When you get back, be sure to let us know where you went, and what you thought of it all.
It looks as if you can buy a vignette for Austria digitally, although I'd imagine I can only do this once I know what my hire car's registration is. I'm also guessing I'll need a separate vignette for Switzerland? Speaking of which, what part of the month will you be in the country? I'd like to see the Gotthard Tunnel but the pass looks to be just as interesting. Having driven the Lærdal Tunnel six times, I'm sure the Gotthard Tunnel will feel tiny by comparison.

The Dolomites are a must, even if we only have time to skim the edge of them whilst driving around the area. Unfortunately, I doubt we'll make it as far as Lake Garda. There's too much to try and cram into one week. I plan on recording all the drives on dashcam and I'm sure I'll take a lot of photos.
danfw194 wrote:
Mon Jul 08, 2019 14:09
One thing that sticks out in my memory from a Swiss holiday back in the mid noughties was the Lotschberg tunnel in the Valais region, where you drive your car onto a train and it takes you through about 15 miles of tunnel. Just googled it to refresh my memory, goes from Goppenstein to Kandersteg. Worth a look if you're in the area.
I've seen another like this not too far from the Austrian border. It looks as if long tunnel trains act akin to ferries in that part of the World.
avtur wrote:
Sun Jul 07, 2019 09:46
And post pictures ... somehow I don't that words alone will be sufficient to describe what you see and expereince :driving:
I'll definitely post photos. If you're on the Facebook group, I'll probably post phone snaps as I travel but I carry my DSLR everywhere as well so I'm looking forward to doing some landscape photography over there.

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Re: Road Trip in Austria/Switzerland/Northern Italy

Post by JosephA22 » Thu Jul 11, 2019 13:56

I've driven a few of the Swiss mountain passes in that part of the country, and have to say the Gotthard pass was my favourite - specifically the Via Tremola, which is the oldest of the existing passes. Maybe because it's been bypassed twice, first by the modern Gotthard pass, and then by the tunnel, it hasn't been updated the way most other alpine roads have, so it's still cobbled for example, and certainly feels like it would have done to cross an Alpine pass before the days of modern engineering on the roads.

Even if you're not intending to drive to/from the south of Switzerland on the A2, you could make an easy loop from around the Andermatt/Hospental area, where many of the passes sort of converge. I've done this route before, which does not take too long, and is a spectacular drive, both on the modern pass and the Via Tremola. I recommend down on the new road and up on the old, but obviously it can be done either way. If you search Via Tremola the images will give you an idea of what the road looks like. It can be shut for repairs sometimes though, and more generally at times there can be long queues (as in a couple of hours...) to enter the tunnel, and you can easily get caught up in that even if you don't intend to use the tunnel.

Another nice loop from the same general starting area takes in the Susten Pass, Grimsel Pass and Furka Pass, like this for example. Lots of spectacular views, three high passes, and you pass the famous Belvedere hotel on the way up to the Furka pass. You can also go inside a glacier from the car park next to the Belvedere (search Rhone Glacier), as a tunnel is carved out each year. It's unusual, to say the least.

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Re: Road Trip in Austria/Switzerland/Northern Italy

Post by DJMS » Thu Jul 11, 2019 15:45

Burns wrote:
Wed Jul 10, 2019 18:13
Owain wrote:
Sat Jul 06, 2019 22:51
You'll need a vignette for the S16, as well as the A-prefixed motorways... ...As a tunnel enthusiast, you'll have to drive through the San Gottardo... ...In northern Italy, the Dolomites are spectacular if you and your friends like landscapes. They look like jagged teeth.

When you get back, be sure to let us know where you went, and what you thought of it all.
It looks as if you can buy a vignette for Austria digitally, although I'd imagine I can only do this once I know what my hire car's registration is. I'm also guessing I'll need a separate vignette for Switzerland? Speaking of which, what part of the month will you be in the country? I'd like to see the Gotthard Tunnel but the pass looks to be just as interesting. Having driven the Lærdal Tunnel six times, I'm sure the Gotthard Tunnel will feel tiny by comparison.
The Austrian vignettes are really easy to buy in person when you arrive. The first petrol garage you come across should sell the stickers which you just stick in the windscreen. Most garages before the border will probably sell them if you are driving into Austria.

Unfortunately I haven't made it far enough west by road to know how the Swiss system works but I would imagine it would be possible to buy in a garage before the border or there may be an official place on the border.

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Re: Road Trip in Austria/Switzerland/Northern Italy

Post by Owain » Fri Jul 12, 2019 21:16

DJMS wrote:
Thu Jul 11, 2019 15:45
Burns wrote:
Wed Jul 10, 2019 18:13
Owain wrote:
Sat Jul 06, 2019 22:51
You'll need a vignette for the S16, as well as the A-prefixed motorways... ...As a tunnel enthusiast, you'll have to drive through the San Gottardo... ...In northern Italy, the Dolomites are spectacular if you and your friends like landscapes. They look like jagged teeth.

When you get back, be sure to let us know where you went, and what you thought of it all.
It looks as if you can buy a vignette for Austria digitally, although I'd imagine I can only do this once I know what my hire car's registration is. I'm also guessing I'll need a separate vignette for Switzerland?
The Austrian vignettes are really easy to buy in person when you arrive. The first petrol garage you come across should sell the stickers which you just stick in the windscreen. Most garages before the border will probably sell them if you are driving into Austria.

Unfortunately I haven't made it far enough west by road to know how the Swiss system works but I would imagine it would be possible to buy in a garage before the border or there may be an official place on the border.
My Swiss vignette from 2015 (right) and my Austrian vignette from 2017 (left). Sorry about the bug splat on the windscreen between them!

Vignettes (blue Rover).jpg

Re. Swiss vignette:

In Switzerland you can just drive to the border (if it's a major crossing, such as motorway). If you don't have one, the border guards will direct you to one side, ask you to pay X euro or X Swiss francs, and just slap one on the inside of your windscreen. Beware of the exchange rate; there's quite a difference between X euro and X Swiss francs, and it is much better to pay in the Swiss currency! All vignettes are for one year, including the December of the preceding year, and the January of the following year (so 14 months total).

Re. Austrian vignette:

As there is no border infrastructure on the Austrian borders, there is usually a service area shortly before or immediately after the border, where you can buy one. You can purchase a week-, month-, or year-long pass.

In neither case do you need to provide your registration number.
Burns wrote:
Wed Jul 10, 2019 18:13
Speaking of which, what part of the month will you be in the country? I'd like to see the Gotthard Tunnel but the pass looks to be just as interesting. Having driven the Lærdal Tunnel six times, I'm sure the Gotthard Tunnel will feel tiny by comparison.
I intend to be in Geneva from 2 to 5 Sept, and in Ticino (staying near Bellinzona) from 5 to 12 Sept.

SABRE road trip?
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Re: Road Trip in Austria/Switzerland/Northern Italy

Post by DJMS » Sat Jul 13, 2019 09:21

Owain wrote:
Fri Jul 12, 2019 21:16


My Swiss vignette from 2015 (right) and my Austrian vignette from 2017 (left). Sorry about the bug splat on the windscreen between them!


Vignettes (blue Rover).jpg


Re. Swiss vignette:

In Switzerland you can just drive to the border (if it's a major crossing, such as motorway). If you don't have one, the border guards will direct you to one side, ask you to pay X euro or X Swiss francs, and just slap one on the inside of your windscreen. Beware of the exchange rate; there's quite a difference between X euro and X Swiss francs, and it is much better to pay in the Swiss currency! All vignettes are for one year, including the December of the preceding year, and the January of the following year (so 14 months total).

Re. Austrian vignette:

As there is no border infrastructure on the Austrian borders, there is usually a service area shortly before or immediately after the border, where you can buy one. You can purchase a week-, month-, or year-long pass.

In neither case do you need to provide your registration number.
Burns wrote:
Wed Jul 10, 2019 18:13
Speaking of which, what part of the month will you be in the country? I'd like to see the Gotthard Tunnel but the pass looks to be just as interesting. Having driven the Lærdal Tunnel six times, I'm sure the Gotthard Tunnel will feel tiny by comparison.
I intend to be in Geneva from 2 to 5 Sept, and in Ticino (staying near Bellinzona) from 5 to 12 Sept.

SABRE road trip?
I have only ever driven into Austria coming from Hungary in the few times I have been so I don't know about other crossings. Taking the Hungarian M1 sounds very similar to the situation you described for Switzerland as the old border buildings are still there and traffic is reduced to 1 lane with the police checking for the vignette stickers.

The Austrain vignettes are easily available along the length of the M1 and M7 in Hungary and even where I crossed the border into Slovenia to buy the Slovene vignette yesterday. I would guess they would be just as easily available to buy around the Munich area before crossing the border too.

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Re: Road Trip in Austria/Switzerland/Northern Italy

Post by Owain » Sat Jul 13, 2019 17:48

DJMS wrote:
Sat Jul 13, 2019 09:21
The Austrain vignettes are easily available along the length of the M1 and M7 in Hungary and even where I crossed the border into Slovenia to buy the Slovene vignette yesterday.
I'm a fugitive in Slovenia, on account of numptiness described here. I've never received the fine.
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Re: Road Trip in Austria/Switzerland/Northern Italy

Post by DJMS » Mon Jul 22, 2019 15:46

Owain wrote:
Sat Jul 13, 2019 17:48
DJMS wrote:
Sat Jul 13, 2019 09:21
The Austrain vignettes are easily available along the length of the M1 and M7 in Hungary and even where I crossed the border into Slovenia to buy the Slovene vignette yesterday.
I'm a fugitive in Slovenia, on account of numptiness described here. I've never received the fine.
That was a really good read - sounded like a good trip. If you ever do make it back to Slovenia, I would really recommend getting up to drive the Vrsiska Pass, I had a great drive over it last weekend. Lucky the fine never came through for the vignette, I'd always heard they were quite on the ball with dishing them out.

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Re: Road Trip in Austria/Switzerland/Northern Italy

Post by Burns » Mon Jul 22, 2019 19:58

Owain wrote:
Fri Jul 12, 2019 21:16
I intend to be in Geneva from 2 to 5 Sept, and in Ticino (staying near Bellinzona) from 5 to 12 Sept.

SABRE road trip?
We're planning on visiting the Verzasca Dam on the 5th so you never know, we might just bump into each other. I have no idea what car I'll have but according to Avis, it'll be a Merc C-class or similar.

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Re: Road Trip in Austria/Switzerland/Northern Italy

Post by Owain » Tue Jul 23, 2019 15:48

Burns wrote:
Mon Jul 22, 2019 19:58
Owain wrote:
Fri Jul 12, 2019 21:16
I intend to be in Geneva from 2 to 5 Sept, and in Ticino (staying near Bellinzona) from 5 to 12 Sept.

SABRE road trip?
We're planning on visiting the Verzasca Dam on the 5th so you never know, we might just bump into each other. I have no idea what car I'll have but according to Avis, it'll be a Merc C-class or similar.
Mine is likely to be a Volkswagen :(
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Re: Road Trip in Austria/Switzerland/Northern Italy

Post by Burns » Tue Jul 23, 2019 19:22

Owain wrote:
Tue Jul 23, 2019 15:48
Burns wrote:
Mon Jul 22, 2019 19:58
Owain wrote:
Fri Jul 12, 2019 21:16
I intend to be in Geneva from 2 to 5 Sept, and in Ticino (staying near Bellinzona) from 5 to 12 Sept.

SABRE road trip?
We're planning on visiting the Verzasca Dam on the 5th so you never know, we might just bump into each other. I have no idea what car I'll have but according to Avis, it'll be a Merc C-class or similar.
Mine is likely to be a Volkswagen :(
I normally get the cheapest auto I can when I hire (holidays are a break from having to deal with clutches and gears as well) but because I hire a lot, I got a discount so I went a two grades higher than normal and got that for ~£250. Considering that gets split evenly between us all, it works out cheap. Plus, I'd imagine German rentals tend to stick with their own car manufacturers.

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Re: Road Trip in Austria/Switzerland/Northern Italy

Post by RickyB_uk » Tue Aug 27, 2019 16:10

Just come back from road-tripping. I'd registered my car for an Austrian digital vignette and did need to provide the registration plate. You can buy a 10-day vignette for €9.20. Be careful with dates though, due to the Austrian interpretation of consumer protection rules for digital purchases, you need to buy your online vignette at least 18 days in advance (unless you are a company or entrepreneur). But you can buy stickers quite readily at many places. I bought my Slovene sticker in Austria, and my Czech sticker in Slovakia, so near borders you ought to be able to buy both countries' stickers.

I didn't bother purchasing a Swiss vignette (Only a full year's vignette at 40 CHF is available) since I didn't use any of the motorways. You don't need a vignette for non-highways.

I drove the Furka Pass in Switzerland, which rises to 2,429m. The Rhone Glacier is up there somewhere. There is a car-train that goes in a tunnel beneath. I also paid the €36.50 fee to enter the Großglockner High Alpine Road - which is Austria's highest paved mountain pass at 2,504m. Some stunning scenery from up there.

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Re: Road Trip in Austria/Switzerland/Northern Italy

Post by Burns » Tue Aug 27, 2019 23:10

RickyB_uk wrote:
Tue Aug 27, 2019 16:10
Just come back from road-tripping. I'd registered my car for an Austrian digital vignette and did need to provide the registration plate. You can buy a 10-day vignette for €9.20. Be careful with dates though, due to the Austrian interpretation of consumer protection rules for digital purchases, you need to buy your online vignette at least 18 days in advance (unless you are a company or entrepreneur). But you can buy stickers quite readily at many places. I bought my Slovene sticker in Austria, and my Czech sticker in Slovakia, so near borders you ought to be able to buy both countries' stickers.

I didn't bother purchasing a Swiss vignette (Only a full year's vignette at 40 CHF is available) since I didn't use any of the motorways. You don't need a vignette for non-highways.

I drove the Furka Pass in Switzerland, which rises to 2,429m. The Rhone Glacier is up there somewhere. There is a car-train that goes in a tunnel beneath. I also paid the €36.50 fee to enter the Großglockner High Alpine Road - which is Austria's highest paved mountain pass at 2,504m. Some stunning scenery from up there.
Digital is out the question since I fly on Saturday and I won't know the car registration until I arrive in Munich. I've spotted a petrol station on the German side of the border near Mittenwald so I'll pick up an Austrian vignette there. I'm hoping to do something similar with the Swiss one once I get near the border.

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