The first thing we checked when we got up was whether we got snow covering the road (remember, we were at 1800m/6000ft!) and secondly we checked the status of the alpine passes around us. Luckily for us, it was actually just cold and overcast and only a slight drizzle wet the road and cars (and our GoPro). Although as expected, the central alpine passes (and Stelvio that we crossed two days earlier) were all closed due to snow conditions or winter closures. We then ate breakfast, packed and cleaned up the apartment, said goodbye to friends and packed the car, and then put our plan to leap-frog the bad weather into place!

Driving route of the day

Leaving St. Moritz

Before heading down towards Chiavenna over the Malojapass, we decided to do some more drive-by videos in St. Moritz and the beautiful lakes. Due to my clumsiness, we had to do some of the parts twice because I forgot to turn the camera on. But eventually we managed to take some footage and just as it started to rain more heavily, we got ready to leave the Engadin.

Leaving St. Moritz

Driving by the lakes

First we wanted to fill up with gas, since the gas in Switzerland is considerably cheaper than in Italy. However, this proved somewhat challenging on a Saturday. Most of the gas stations we encountered were unmanned and while you could feed them with cash, they only accepted EC cards or credit cards with embedded chips and PINs. Unfortunately, our US credit cards were all without. We fortunately had a 50 francs bill left that we used to fill up in Maloja, and we found an open gas station with convenience store later before the border crossing.

Rainy day

Driving down the Malojapass was more fun than climbing it the day before. We even encountered a driver that was willing to drive fast ahead of us who we followed with enough distance so he could "clean" the road of any cops ;).

Exploring a Castle and Getting Explored by Swiss Border Guards

Along the way, we stopped in a small hammock with an imposing castle (Palazzo Castelmur) that was built in the late 1700ies by a local who made money as a pastry maker in Paris. It now houses a museum, that unfortunately was closed. But we stayed a bit to take some pictures and explore the village.

Palazzo Castelmur

Then we continued on down towards the Swiss border, where we actually got stopped and had to show our passports and car papers! I guess they were getting confused that people with Swiss passports would drive with temporary German license plates into Italy. However, after they checked the papers, all was well and we entered Italy.

Outboard Cam-shot of the border crossing (sorry for the rain drops)

Driving in Italy

Our first goal in Italy was to drive along the west side of Lake Como. This is a lovely drive through some picturesque villages along the lake and through some tunnels. Even though the weather was not the best, the vistas were lovely. Even the rain stopped in between, so that for most of the drive along the lake we were driving with the top down. Around Cernobbio, we got stuck in some traffic that probably cost us an hour on our time plan, which we took in stride.

From Como we then entered the Italian highways and drove towards Alba. The Italian highway system is in pretty good shape. We had to be careful to not drive too fast though, since the Italian authorities seem to like to install all kind of gadgets to catch speeding cars and fine them nowadays. Although most of the cars drove above the speed limit, especially in construction zones. The car handled great as a tourer! The only small complaint was that the toll booths were not designed for low sport cars ;). The weather seemed to improve and the roads were mostly dry.

Arriving in Alba, we noticed that the city center was bustling with people and carnival like activities! After slowly driving through the maze of center town - us admiring the architecture, some people admiring our car - we finally pulled up to a hotel just as the sun set. Our hopes for a good night rest and some great local cuisine was crushed when we were told that the hotel, and probably most hotels in the city were fully booked for the night! It was the White Truffle Festival which runs through most of October and into November. Our tip: Don't miss it but book your hotel early!

Since we were planning to reach Nice on the next day, we decided to drive on to Cuneo, the last bigger town before reaching the Colle di Tenda, which we wanted to cross during day light. Unfortunately, our GPS could not find a highway, so the drive was a bit long and boring on country roads, often stuck behind slow moving cars that were driving below speed limit.

We were happy when we arrived in Cuneo and found an almost empty Hotel Cristal which also provided underground parking for a very good price for the night. Since we still had a lot of food (Bündnerfleisch and Swiss cheeses for example), we decided to dine in our room this time and prepare for the drive over the pass. I checked the inforoutes06 webcam at the French side of the tunnel for snow, and it was still bare. We set our alarm clock early and had a good night sleep. We definitively seemed to have sneaked under the bad weather…. Or so we hoped.