The last lag of our Alps road trip was a long drive from Interlaken back to Turin Airport. We had a whole day and one night left to complete the mission. At first we planned to drive all the way down and sleep somewhere close to the airport. This would have been the most rational decision as we had an early morning flight back to Malta. However, priorities when it comes to travel sometimes change, and logic was put aside to stop in a a nice place which was still far away from the airport. Therefore we had to depart in the middle of the night to be in time for our flight. Do you think I regret that decision? Absolutely not given that I discovered one of the most beautiful villages in Northern Italy.
Interlaken to Grimselpass
As we departed from Interlaken we stopped in a beautiful village along the lake, named Iseltwald. It is another fairytale-style village with swans on the lake and small houses facing the mountains. The next stop was the Canyon in Aareschlucht. This canyon is very deep and the narrow passage takes you along the course of the water. From gentle flows the water sometimes becomes very powerful in the narrow canyon.
We continued our journey south west as we drove along Gutannen and Grimselpass. What do you expect to see here? Mountains, waterfalls, greenery, meadows with cows and sheep and anything that is usually expected to be seen in the stereotypical photographs of Switzerland. During this part of the drive luckily I was a passenger 🙂 I couldn’t stop opening the window and putting my head out to feel the fresh mountain breeze on my face! This is the most vivid memory I have of this place and I keep on smiling when I recall what I felt during this drive.
Simplon Pass to Lago Maggiore
We crossed the Italian border from the Simplon Pass and made our way to Lago Maggiore. I had visited Lago Maggiore 4 years ago but the weather was so gloomy that I wasn’t able to appreciate its beauty. This time I was not much luckier with the weather as it still was grey with some raindrops. However I was able to explore Stresa, one of the villages that face the lake. Stresa is a very touristic town, so you might want to search for another village where to stop if you prefer avoiding crowded alleys with souvenir shops and restaurants.
However it was on our way to the next destination and we decided to stop anyway. Luckily, when we visited it was not that much crowded and we enjoyed stretching our legs after the long drive. We also visited a small village up the hill named Campino for an aerial view of the lake and the islands. Well the weather was not that great so we were not that much impressed by the view. However I am sure that with nicer weather the view would be spectacular.
Our real target was Orta San Giulio. I am in love with these villages that in Italian are referred to as ‘Borgo’. These refer to very old towns that have retained their original characteristics in terms of lifestyle, architecture and traditions. Including a Borgo is always a must in Italy. Orta San Giulio is considered as one of the most beautiful borghi in the entire country. Apart from the features mentioned above, it faces the lake of Orta as well as the island of San Giulio (which can be visited by boat).
We arrived late in the afternoon after a long drive so unluckily we had little time to explore it. We went out as it was getting dark, however I would suggest half a day to explore well Orta San Giulio. Luckily it is not yet very touristic. Its historical centre is full of architectural gems as well as some excellent restaurants which serve local delicacies. Orta San Giulio will surely make it to the top 10 favourites in Italy and this won’t be my last visit.
We still had a long way to go and in the middle of the night we drove to the airport. I know this is not the ideal thing to do. However I don’t regret spending the night in Orta San Giulio as it was one of the highlights of this trip. Overall this trip was a little condensed and could be easily done in 8 days instead of 5, giving you the ability to explore more in each destination.
The Parco del Gran Paradiso can be done on a trip on its own if you enjoy trekking in the parks. However 2 nights in Chamonix and 2 nights in Interlaken would surely make more sense. We were not able to extend this trip due to work issues yet I am happy that I had a taste of some of the most scenic destinations. This surely won’t be our last Alps road trip 🙂