Winter Road trip: Italy to Switzerland

winter-road-trip

Insane. Immense. Incredible. These are the first 3 words that pop into my heads when I think of my road trip from Bergamo to Switzerland and back to Bergamo. I wanted to do something special for Stephen’s Christmas present/birthday present – somewhere he hasn’t visited and also somewhere that has snow – Switzerland! However, flying to Switzerland was very costly, so instead I looked at other options. I realised you could fly to Bergamo (outside Milan) for the fraction of the price. I then, impulsively, hired a car from Budget after I calculated how long it would take to get a train from Bergamo to anywhere in Switzerland.  I was crapping myself days before the holiday because this was the first time I would drive in a different country, on the other side the road! However, it turned out to be one of the best holidays  have ever been on! And definitely, one I’m going to remember!

map-of-bergamo-to-grindelwald
My route from Bergamo to Grindelwald

Day One: Bergamo to Lake Como

I flew from Dublin to Bergamo with Ryanair (price over comfort every time). I had 4 hours to kill until Stephen arrived from the Netherlands. Since the airport is pretty tiny with limited WiFi connection and few shops to look around, I went outside for walk. And thank God I did! Right outside the airport is a shopping center with +400 stores. Literally a 3 minute walk away. Literally the perfect way to spend 4 hours in Italy -go shopping! In the shopping center I found a huge grocery store so I bought enough food to last us the 5 days – croissants for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and pizza for dinner. I even bought zip lock bags for our sandwiches haha! I stored the groceries in a locker and carried on shopping. I got a few dirty looks for the locals, mainly because I was walking around in Salopetts and a fleece, instead of high heels and a full face of make-up.

After 3 hours of being judged on what I was wearing, I went back over to the airport to wait on Stephen. When he finally arrived, I went to pick up our hired car for Budget. I am under 25 years old so it was very costly to hire a car especially when I took out extra insurance to cover my excess. We hired a Fiat Panda (we named her Fifi). She was a dream to drive and it wasn’t too hard to get use to driving on the other side off the road in the other side of the car – especially with a calm co-pilot like Stephen who kept me right!

As soon as I found my way out of the airport car park – we were on our way to Rogaro, a very small village that looks over Lake Como.  We planned to drive towards Milan and then up to Lake Como so we would avoid the tiny mountain roads. However, I didn’t set the sat-nav correctly and soon  we were driving in and out of villages, negotiating one roundabout after another, trying to forget that they were a million cars behind me. In hind sight, I am very glad for my mistake because even  though I was sweating like a pig driving along the narrow roads, the views were insane! Lake Como was on our right and high snowy mountains on our left. We stopped in nearly every spot we could, to get out and take pictures (and to let the the queue behind me pass)!

After nearly 2 hours of driving, a ferry ride, 10000 roundabouts, a couple scary ‘near hits’, a lot of screaming and 36782 pictures, we finally found our accommodation – a home I rented of Air BnB. We made pizza, our lunch for tomorrow, showered and fell asleep!

Accommodation Review:

Link: Click here for link
Name: Bel Sit
Address:Via Rogaro, 20, 22019 Tremezzina CO, Italy
Bedroom: 2 – One double room and  one baby room (including a cot)
Kitchen: Fully equipped (oven, 4 hobs, microwave, fridge, freezer, cuterly, pots and pans etc. etc.) and clean
Living room:Large, spacious, full of light, included a large TV and a view of Lake Como
Bathroom: 1 – Included a toilet, sink, spa shower, bidet and toiletries.
Price: Ok for one night but expensive for a whole week – £50 per night.
Location: It isn’t easily accessible by public transport and it isn’t near any shops. However, it is a short drive to the shore of Lake Como and to nearby towns and villages.

Comments: The house has a gorgeous view of Lake Como which you can admire from the living room. It was a perfect house for a family to stay for a week. It had everything we needed. However, you need a car to access it as it isn’t located near a bus or train station and it is up a steep hill!

Day two: Lake Como to Grindelwald

The drive from Lake Como to Grindelwald was my favourite. It was 90% motorway so it was easy to drive and the views were immense! They were snowy mountains all around us – it felt like we were in a winter wonderland.

We had a few pit stops so I could stretch my leg, eat our lunch and go the toilet. Stephen also made it a necessity to buy a bar of Toblerone – for obvious reasons.  We sang along to Stephen mix CD, singing at the top of our lungs for 3 hours going in and out tunnels. When it was sadly time to turn off the motorway, the roads got narrow and steeper – but nothing comparing to the Italian roads. At one part, we were driving under a cliff edge and a huge icicle fell on our car – what were the chances?!

Stephen oh’ed and aw’ed at the scenery but I was too busy concentrating on the road to appreciate the views – the biggest downside to driving! We made it to Grindelwald, thinking that the hardest part of driving was over – however, the parking in Grindelwald was a nightmare! Our hotel manager told us that the only way to locate the free car parking was to drive up a steep hill and was covered in ice and snow. That meant we would have had to put on our snow chains! No way! So after trying and failing at parking somewhere else for free, we gave up and parked in an underground car park in the city center – which cost 26 Swiss Francs but it was better than the alternatives.

After we checked in and got our luggage into our rooms- we went exploring. The World Snow Festival was happening in the city center. This is a competition where teams from all around the world make amazing ice sculptures out of huge ice blocks.

Later on, we went to dinner at Eiger hotel where we had the best burgers (and free bread for starters).  As soon as we finished our meal, we headed to the sports center. With our hotel, we got free use of the ice skating rink and the swimming pool and sauna! Since Stephen never properly ice skated before, we went ice skating! It was a bit embarrassing at the start because everyone on the rink already were basically professionals – everyone was skating backwards, doing twirls and playing ice hockey.  However, after nearly an hour and a half and few tips from the locals, Stephen was able to ice skate without holding onto anything – I was super proud.

Accommodation Review:

Link:Click here for more info
Name: Hotel  Tschuggen
Address: Dorfstrasse 134, 3818 Grindelwald, Switzerland
What was included: Double room, shared bathroom, free parking, free use of the sports center, free bus rides, free breakfast.
Price: Ok considering the price of other hotels and what was included.
Location: Perfect, walking distance to everything  including the train and bus station– right the city center. Couldn’t ask for better.
Comments:
We stayed in a double room that had a wonderful view of the mountains and the town. The room had its own sink and we shared a bathroom. The bathroom was always clean and usually vacant when you needed it. The breakfast was your standard continental breakfast – very filling! The only downside is the parking. I think they should have told me before I came that the parking is difficult to access.

Day three: Grindelwald to Sachseln

Grindelwald is ski town. Everyone that goes there during the winter, is going skiing – except Stephen and I. We went to Grindelwald because the views are incredibly beautiful! I thought about going skiing but I couldn’t see the point if we were only skiing for one day – it usually takes me a day to get back into the swing of things. So instead – we went sledging! If you have never done this- I suggest you put this on your bucket list right now. It is the best fun, ever! The sledge run we were on, is the longest in Europe! A bus lifted us from the bus station in Grindelwald and brought us to a ‘village’ in the mountain called Bussalp. Bussalp consisted of a restaurant, a sledge hire shop, first aid cabin and a few other closed wooden huts. From Bussalp, you can either walk up to the top of Faulhorn (2 and half hours) or sledge to the bottom from Bussalp. Because I am seriously unfit and we were on a time restriction (I wanted to be at our next destination before it gets dark), we decided to just sledge from Bussalp. I know I keep going on about the views, but when you are sledging down a long slope, and the snowy mountains are watching you from every angle- it’s just insane!

Within 4 hours, we were able to sledge down the mountain 3 times! At approximately 3pm, we knew it was time to go, sadly! It gets dark at 5pm and we had to get down the mountain, buy something for dinner and drive to Sachseln which is over an hour away!

For my information about Bussalp and sledging click here.

We left our sledges back, grabbed a hot dog for the road and reluctantly said goodbye. We went shopping in the local grocery store for our dinner that night, paid the car parking ticket and waved goodbye to the Gorgeous Grindelwald.

The journey to Sachseln was uneventful one (thankfully). We ended up at the house we rented off Air BnB an hour before I was suppose to. So we parked in Sachseln town, rang the owner of the Air BnB and told them we would be half an hour. This gave us plenty of time to have a walk around this cute village by Sarnersee lake.

The owner was pleasant but spoke very little English. His son, that lives in the apartment next the one we are renting, speaks perfect English, so we communicated through him.

Accommodation Review:

Address: Sachseln, Obwalden, Switzerland
Link: Click here for more information
Bedrooms: 1 double bed
Bathroom: 1 – included a shower, sink ad a toilet.
Kitchen: – Half equipped kitchen – no oven.
Price: Expensive as you have to pay extra for cleaning if you only stay one night.
Location: Perfect for us, but you need a car to access it. It is approx. 30min walk from the train station, up an icy hill.
Extras: HOT TUB!

Comments: I didn’t mind paying a little more for this property since it included a hot tub! The house was very clean. It came with a massive TV that had Netflix. The only downside was that there was no oven. We had bought an oven pizza to cook that night – so you can guess that we were VERY disappointed to see no oven.  The house was difficult to find because our sat-nav brought us the wrong house. Apart from that – we had a great stay here!

Day four: Sachseln to Bergamo

This journey, for me, was sad. We were on our way home. The journey was 90% motorway again. However, as soon as we crossed the Italian boarder, the drivers were crazy!! I really had to focus on my driving because we were on a motorway that consisted of 5 lanes and cars were coming at me from every angle! It took approximately 4 hours to get the Bergamo because we had  stopped a few times along the way.  I don’t recommend driving through an Italian city on a Saturday afternoon – its hectic!. However, I realised, as long as I was arrogant as them, I would be ok! Haha! After a stressful 5 minutes of driving, we arrived at the nearest car park to our B&B. And wow, was our B&B was gorgeous!!

Accommodation Review:

Name: Donizetti Royal
Address:Via Torquato Tasso 94, 24121 Bergamo, Italy
Link: Click here for more information
Bedroom – one large double bed with a TV.
Bathroom – Shared bathroom including toilet, 2 sinks, shower/bath and toileties.
Living room: There was a large living space for all guests to use. It included a TV, a corner sofa and a dining table.
Kitchen: Fully equipped and clean
Location: Directly in between the old and modern parts of the city! In walking distance to everything. Couldn’t ask for better.
Comments: Highly recommend this B&B! Our host was the nicest Italian I have ever met! He told us where to park for free. He provided us with a map of Beragmo and highlighted the top places we should visit, where to eat, what to do etc. The B&B itself was gorgeous and very modern. I loved my stay here, and if I go back, I will be booking this B&B again!

After we got our bags into the B&B, we started to walk towards the old town. The buildings at this part of town are so Italian! The houses are very tall, colourful and old.  The Old Town had incredible views of the city as it was located on top of the hill. From the old town, we took a funicular train to the castle. It was about 6pm, so it was quite dark, so we couldn’t see the castle very well. But the views of the city were worth it! We ate more pizza and ravioli.  I wish we had more time to explore this overlooked city!

My thoughts

Overall, even though parts of the driving was scary, I wouldn’t have changed a thing about it (except made my trip longer, duh!). Without renting my car, we wouldn’t have been able to do the things we wanted or seen the things we did. We wouldn’t have been able to do the whole holiday at our own pace. I would definitely recommend driving when discovering Europe – especially when you are over 25 when it’s affordable!

The holiday wasn’t too expensive but no matter what you do in Switzerland – it’s going to be pricey. We kept our costs down by preparing the majority of our own meals and avoiding unnecessary purchases such as sweets, souvenirs and gifts.

If you have any other questions – comment below, send me an email or contact me on social media:

Twitter: youngdumbtrave1
Facebook: Young Dumb Travelling Blog
Instagram: @youngdumbtravellingblog

Thanks for reading!

Peace out my wanderer!

 

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