This delightful trip across Northern Italy is specifically designed to please your senses from sight and hearing to taste and smell. It begins with an engaging mountainside drive through some of the best driving roads the country, or even Europe, has to offer. You will visit a spectacular piece of engineering in the form of the Serru Lake Dam, and finish with a race around Lake Como and the charming little villages surrounding it.
Finally, to end the long haul, we’ll describe the hotel that was chosen by Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond to stay in during the ol’ Top Gear days. Surely, there’s no other way to end a Grand Tour than with a sea view and good food.
PART 1 – To the Mountains and Back
We begin this trek in Turin, the capital of the Piedmont region of northwest Italy. It’s also an easy place to get to internationally, with Turin Airport being just outside the city. From here we’re going to travel north to the Eastern group of Graian Alps on the Colle del Nivolet mountain pass via the SP460 and SP50.
The Strada Provinciale 460 (SP460) is a long and engaging road where you can have some serious fun behind the wheel, especially as the road is usually quiet and visibility is high. Along the route there are multiple tunnels. Perfect for those of you who want to make the most of the echoing chambers paired with a loud exhaust. Forums have suggested that the long tunnel to the west of Noasca is Europe’s steepest tunnel.
Next is the SP50, another incredible driving road where eventually the view of peaceful mountains will be interrupted by the dams of both the Ceresole Reale and Serrù Lake. There are plenty of opportunities to pull over so you can focus your attention on the beautiful scenery to your left and these technological marvels which power and water the people of Turin. You may even want to stop here for a locally produced pizza at one of the many restaurants along this road.
Now comes the last road of the section, the Colle del Nivolet
It has an elevation of 2,641 metres (8,665 feet) above sea level, and was home to the filming of one of the most iconic heist films ever created, The Italian Job. The constant winding turns will test any car’s suspension set up, and the constant changes of elevation will leave your brakes wishing they’d stayed at home.
Be wary: This pass is one of the highest passes in Italy and safety barriers are few and far between. Maintain a high level of engine braking unless your brakes are up to the challenge. Once you’re off the side, you’re not getting back up. Because of this, it is wise to not travel this pass during the cold periods of the year as ice can form easily and snowfalls are common. In fact, it can become so treacherous that the road is closed between 15th October and 15th of May.
Once you reach the top, there’s plenty of free on/off road parking if you fancy a hike. If not, enjoy the road on the way down and watch for brake fade.
Top Hotels In Turin
Hotel Concord – website
- 4 star
- Central to Via Lagrange
- From ¢120.60 per night (double)
Hotel Principi Di Piemonte – website
- 5 star
- In the heart of Turin
- From ¢162.00 per night (double)
Hotel Diplomatic – website
- 4 star
- In the heart of Turin
- ¢79.00 per night (double)
PART 2 – From Turin to Lake Como
The second part of this trip involves a lot of driving, and depending on what kind of driving you prefer, this could be quite monotonous to begin with, but this is a Grand Tour – we have a remedy.
Before you leave, decide if you want to stop at Milan, the design and fashion capital of the world. This breaks up the two and a half hour drive nicely and will give you an insight into modern Italy.
Make sure you visit La Rinascente, Milan’s famous department store. Or if you want something slightly more cultured, you could visit the opera or the National Museum of Science and Technology. Different strokes for different folks, of course.
Follow the route above and you’ll eventually arrive at Lake Como which is said to be the most spectacular of Italy’s three major lakes, Como, Garda, and Maggiore. The reason as to why soon becomes apparent as you drive down Via Napoleona towards the city of Como and the deep green mountains come into view. It’s little to no surprise that this destination is popular with celebrities such as George Clooney and Richard Branson when you see the incredible views and housing backed onto the lake.
Enjoy the views and tranquility of the area while you’re there, and if you’re interested in architecture and its history, make sure you checkout some of the extraordinary cathedrals such as the Basilica di Sant’Abbondio. Likewise, if you’re into genuine Italian cuisine, you must visit Trattoria La Costa and indulge in their selection of fine wines.
The Top Gear Aspect
Now we’re at Como, we can put on our Top Gear shoes and begin our race around the lake. There are two ways you can go about this. Start from the top in your car and race through the tasteful Italian villages and towns around the lake, or go straight across in the way of Jeremy Clarkson on his Quadski.
Ferries and hydrofoils go to and from most cities and towns around the lake, including Como. Prices are low, ranging from around ¢8.00 – ¢15.00. You can check, book, and get more information on their website.
In the Car
The roads around Lake Como consist of sweeping corners, dual lanes, and positive cambers. Stay by the edge and you’ll drive through quaint and classic Italian towns which will fully engross you in the Italian lifestyle. There are also plenty of places to pull over and stop if you want to make the most of the lake and the eyeful that is northern Italy.
Again, like the roads explained earlier in this piece, there are a few tunnels sprinkled across the area, so make the most of those, too.
Rounding Off The Trip With Relaxation
This trip has involved a lot of driving, and depending on what you like a road trip to involve, a lot of walking, too. The best thing to do now is to end the trip with total relaxation. And what better place to stay than a place that was chosen by Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond themselves, called Castadiva Resort and Spa.
This 5 star hotel that describes itself as a ‘a property of excellence and exclusivity, perfect for a romantic weekend or a week of vacation in one of the most beautiful and charming lake of the World.’ they pride themselves in saying their the first and only eco-friendly resort on the lake.
Their Penthouse and Villa suites boast great luxuries and outstanding views of the lake, some of which include private pools and entirely separate buildings found within the grounds. Are you taking a loved one? It was voted the most ‘romantic retreat’ of the year by SLH. Not such a surprise once you read the list of anti-stress treatments and massages, not to mention the fact that you can book a meal made by their executive chef, Massimiliano Mandozzi, to be eaten in the moonlight.
This hotel will let you relax into the Italian lifestyle and allow you to soak in the views and experiences of the trip. From the mountain roads of Colle del Nivolet to the fashion capital of the world, ending in the luxury of one of the most sought after areas in the country.