Day two was a bit more ambitious: about 100 miles travelling through mountain peaks including five mountain passes at over 2,100 meters: Ofenpass (2149), Forcola di Livgno (2315), Passo d’Eira (2209), Passo di Foscagno (2291) and Umbrailpass (2503). That is the height of Kosciusko five times in the day. Countless hairpin bends, numerous gear changes and amazing vistas across valleys and mountain peaks. Unfortunately, the drive was longer than planned as the La Schere tunnel was closed (due to we believe to a rock fall) so we ended up adding 20 miles and returning (almost) to the top of Stelvio again!
All in all we travelled from Italy to Switzerland (a visit to St Moritz), back into Italy, then Switzerland and finally Italy again. All quite seamless with only occasionally a border patrol waving us through. Most borders just have the closed down customs buildings gradually disintegrating in the extreme weather. Where there is someone at the border checking cars they are apparently looking for refugees hidden in cars, however, as the MGB is too small to hide anything in, let alone a person, we just get waved through. The scenery we travelled through was varied and beautiful.
Many of the towns we travelled through had ski lifts, indeed we probably passed about 20 towns that would be thriving in winter: not to say they were not thriving now with the hikers and cyclists. Throughout the two days we were amazed at the number of people out and about either cycling or walking. Everywhere we went there were paths with hikers or cyclists on them, up and down mountains, along valleys and into the trees. It seemed that every lay-by on the road had a car tucked into it as healthy Europeans set out for their days exercise. Then, of course, all these people out burning up calories need feeding, so there are restaurants everywhere, particularly at the top of the passes. Often the roads are covered with partially open tunnels, obviously to keep them free of snow in winter. Some are one way and controlled by traffic lights.
The valleys here are full of fruit trees, grown in very tight formation and trimmed to a narrow width, not growing naturally and spreading as they do in Australia.
We also drove through fields of crops, often being watered extensively, while cows graze the hillsides. And, yes, they do wear cow bells! They are also pretty contented, there is plenty of feed here.
We are staying at a great hotel set high up on the hill above Mals with views over the valley. As the location is quite isolated dinner is included as well. This makes decisions about what to have easier, as the five courses only have two choices each. The menu is interesting and the food is excellent,both delicious and creative. It was a pleasure to eat in the hotel each night.
After a few nights we got to know our neighbours (you have set tables) and we enjoyed our discussions so much that on our third night we had dinner with Christiana, Peter and their son, Oola. A most enjoyable evening and, again, we learnt so much about living in Germany as a result of our conversations.
Another highlight of this hotel is the car and motor scooter collection owned by the hotel owner, Georg. The collection is housed in one of the lower levels of the hotel and on one particular night dessert was served as a buffet ‘in the garage’. This is a fascinating small collection mainly consisting of motor scooters and three wheelers, mainly Italian Isos, BMW Isettas and German Messerschmitts as well as a beautifully preserved 1959 Mercedes 190 SL
A fabulous night and a terrific hotel where the guest is well looked after. Every morning on your breakfast table there is a list of recommended hikes or places to visit that day. Ours always came printed in English. Each night, the waiter assigned to our table spoke good English. (Not every member of the hotel staff spoke English.) A reflection of how well run this hotel is.
The South Tyrol is a beautiful area and one well worth visiting, especially if you like driving twisty, challenging mountain roads.