The Great St. Bernhard Pass is a great alternative route to avoid the long Gotthard tunnel traffic on Saturdays during the Summer Holiday Season or the slow traffic on the San Bernardino Pass
Picture by Marek Ślusarczyk or www.microstock.pl
I was driving towards the Great St. Bernhard Pass on Saturday, 24th of July 2017 with no traffic in sight, while drivers were already waiting in a 13 km traffic jam in front of the Gotthard tunnel to travel towards Italy and slow traffic on the San Bernardino Pass. My destination was Genoa to catch the night boat to Sardinia.
I never have had such a comfortable and stress free holiday drive to Italy.
The Great St. Bernhard Pass connects Martigny in Switzerland with Aosta in the region Aosta valley in Italy. It is the third highest road pass in Switzerland at a maximum elevation of 2,469 m (8,100 ft).. This pass was already used in the Bronze Age! The pass is famous for its dog called: St. Bernhard dog.
The Great St. Bernhard Pass between Martigny and Aosta (openstreetmap)
View Aosto and the Valley: Picture by Svíčková
The Great St. Bernhard pass is similar to the San Bernardino Pass. On the top of the pass there is a tunnel. I had to pay around 27,90 Euro for a passenger car category A2 while the tunnel at the San Bernardino pass tunnel is free to use. This toll at the Great St. Bernhard pass tunnel is due to the fact that the tunnel is jointly owned by Italy and Switzerland. In Italy they have toll system for their roads, while in Switzerland you pay a yearly onetime fee of 40 CHF to use all highways.
Here you find the overview of the tolls: http://www.letunnel.com/homepage.asp?l=3
Update on the traffic: http://www.letunnel.com/homepage.asp?l=3
To take this route, you need to go past Bern, all the way to Lake Geneva, and drive until Martigny.
The map shows how to get from Basel via the Great St. Bernhard Pass to Aosta in Italy.
Comparison between the roads from Basel to Genoa via the Gotthard tunnel vs the Great St. Bernhard pass:
Basel – Genoa via Gotthard tunnel 5h 25 min 483 km
Basel – Genoa via Great St. Bernhard pass 6 h 15 min 562 km
A traffic jam of around 5 km in front of the Gotthard tunnel would already equalize the time for driving via the Great St. Bernhard pass.
Where to eat?
The first stop I made at the Service Area Saint Vincent-Chatillion Nord. This is the first stop on the highway after the Great St. Bernhard pass. I was disappointed by the quality of the food in this Autogrill. Next time I would rather stop before the highway starts and eat in some of the beautiful restaurants along the Great St. Bernhard pass, before or in Aosta. You can also check tripadvisor: https://www.tripadvisor.ch/Restaurants-g187863-Aosta_Valle_d_Aosta.html
The next stop was around 40 km before Genoa in Ovada. Once you leave the highway, right at the exit there is Bennet, a big shopping center. On top of it has clean toilets with Swiss made technology which you can use for free.
I paid 1 Euro for an espresso in the coffee shop.
The toll charge was 21.80 Euro for using the highway in Italy towards Ovada.
Great St. Bernhard Pass: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_St_Bernard_Pass
Great St. Bernhard Pass Dogs:
Great St. Bernhard Pass Tunnel: http://www.letunnel.com/homepage.asp?l=3
Driving the Great St. Bernard Pass (Italian Job opening scene) Ferrari F355 355 F1 GTS – Matt Munro https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpz73YygUdM
Gotthard Tunnel Alternative Routes: http://www.swissxover.com/traffic/gotthard-tunnel-alternative-routes/