Our road trip around the Italian lakes had been long awaited, finally we were able to take time out of work in early September 2015.
This was the outline route we planned to take.
We embarked on this adventure from our own front door, so the planning of the trip was down to us (the best way to do it). We have an Audi convertible and we weren’t going to let the any clouds get in our way.
Day 1: From home to Thann, France
From our home in the South East of England one of the easiest ways to arrive into mainland Europe is by the Eurotunnel, Le Shuttle. The rail journey is 35 minutes, you roll off of the train in Calais and you flow into the main arteries of the European highways network, and make your escape across this wonderful continent. However, some thief has already stolen an hour though, as you switch to Central European Time.
The aim was to head to the Italian lakes as soon as we could, but didn’t want to miss out on some of the spectacular Swiss scenery and listening to the ringing of the cow bells in the fields (yes, they really do wear them). The plan was to head across France and plant ourselves on the Franco-Swiss border in the southern Alsace region of France.
We used the toll roads through the majority of France, these roads are very easy to travel on, and often quite quiet due to the tolls.
Don’t be put off by the tolls, unless your plan is to take a leisurely drive through France (which we do regularly), but these toll roads are great to use when time is not on your side.
We opted for the town of Thann, this was 420 miles (675 km) drive from home and we stayed in a very welcoming hotel, Hotel du Parc.
Tip of the day….wear sun cream when the roof of your car is down.
Day 2: From Thann to Stresa, Italy
The next morning we head off towards the Swiss border at Basel, where we purchase our vignette. This is compulsory if you intend to travel on any Swiss motorways, currently the cost of the permit is CHF40, that lasts a year, but not great value if you only plan to use it once.
The Swiss like a tunnel, I suppose it beats going up a mountain, and the back down. We had probably been through 30 of them, and was making good time, when the Sat-Nav broke the bad news. 3 miles of stationary traffic, we continued, there was no plan B. We hit the back of the jam, and it was indeed stationary. Although to the right was a slip road off, after consultation with Ms Sat-Nav, we formulated a plan B; And a stunning plan it came up with. Instead of queuing for the Gotthard Tunnel, we ended up taking the Gotthard Pass. It was amazing with mountain passes, cows with alpine bells, meadows, waterfalls and Swiss chalets. All we were missing was a chorus of eidelweiss…
After a 20 mile detour we continue south and cross into Italy at the north end of Lake Maggiore, what a wonderful sight, just what we had been waiting for. Where the lakes and mountains appear to merge.
We weave down the SS34, the western shore of the lake, discovering small towns and villages whilst listening to the dulcet tones of Dean Martin.
Locals may find the pace of driving frustrating, but going with the flow is a lovely way to take in the magnificence of the mountains and lake.
After our 240 mile (385 km) trip we arrive at Stresa.
Day 5: Stresa to Menaggio
Leaving Stresa and off to Menaggio on Lake Como. It’s not too far at all….. or so you would think, but this is a road trip, why take the direct route.
Nestled between Lake Maggiore and Lake Como is Lake Lugano, so we headed south around Maggiore then toured north towards Lake di Varese.
This leads us around the base of Parco Regionale Campo dei Fiori, and then north until we reached the far west point of Lake Lugano, Ponte Tresa (we are now back in Switzerland, no time for a fondue) and on to Agno.
We headed south to Morcote, as we wanted to enjoy touring the lakes as much as possible, before following the road north to Lugano.
We continue to immerse ourselves in the journey, cross back into Italy, and onto Menaggio which is on the west side of Lake Como.
We certainly were not disappointed to come face to face with another lake. Although this is not just another lake…. this is Lake Como.
Including our planned tour around Lake Lugano, we only travelled 82 miles (132km), at a very leisurely pace.
Thursday we performed a lap of the Lake, enjoying the towns & villages that surround it.
As Friday was Gary’s birthday we had planned a little extravagance.
See our ‘Splashing about on the Lake’ adventure for more on that.
Day 8: Menaggio to Monza
We head down the west side of Lake Como, once again driving through some very picturesque places, passing George Clooney’s villa on the edges of the lake. We stop off in Como for a couple of hours, always time for an ice cream, or more precisely a gelato, then continue south to Sesto San Giovanni (just outside of Monza).
This part of the journey was only about 52 miles (84km), our accommodation for next 2 nights, whilst attending the Grand Prix, was Grand Hotel Villa Torretta.
The following day, after the Lewis Hamilton celebrations, we start the next part of our adventure onto Bavaria, Germany.
Inspired to visit the Italian Lakes?
Would you like to mess about on the water? Tempted to have 3 trips in one?
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