The final pass we’ll be driving on this year’s rally takes us over the border between Italy & Switzerland. At almost 2,500m above sea-level, the pass connects Martigny and Aosta.
If you have not heard of the pass before, then you will be sure to have heard of the breed of dog, The St Bernard. Famous for the barrel hanging around its neck, The St Bernards were bred large enough to traverse deep snow and to scent out lost people. It is often said that they carried small casks of brandy around their necks in the belief that the liquor had medicinal properties.
Back to the driving, the road’s winding design, providing stunning panoramic views, is very curvy and fun for a leisurely drive, so it pays to take it slow. Great St. Bernard Pass is the 3rd highest road pass in Switzerland and is an important route between Geneva and Torino.
The pass is traversed by the Swiss Road 21 and the Italian SS27. The pass has been climbed several times by the Tour of France and the Giro d’Italia bicycle races. The road is difficult and it’s a nightmare in the wet or dark (or both). The snow in the pass in winter may be as much as 10 metres deep. The temperature may drop as low as -30°C. The lake in the pass is frozen for 265 days per year.
A tunnel through the mountains that was built in 1964 allows travellers to make the journey unhindered during the winter, which is good news if you decide to visit during that time.