About North-Eastern Italy: Po Plain and Austrian Alps
If you ask which is the most beautiful motorway journey in Italy, some will say Verona to the Brenner Pass, others the Brenner Pass to Verona. That, together with a more humdrum stretch of motorway between Verona and Modena, is where most sights are located. If you have the option, south to north is the more spectacular way to travel: a steady climb on an imperceptible gradient, crossing and re-crossing the ice-blue Adige river from the wide plain of the Po towards the peaks and pinnacles of the Brenta and Dolomiti massifs. That way you have the mountains ahead of you and the sun on them, reflecting unearthly colours. Several times you approach an impasse. Each time the crags open up and allow the road to slip through.
Apart from this scnery, the best places to visit lie between Trento and Vipiteno and tgo cover these you will need more time. The road is sound and mostly it follows the narrow valleys of riverine lakes and torrents, but there are tortuous sections across the saddles of the watersheds. You rise to about 700 m and are hardly aware of it, the naked cliffs (too steep for snow to lie on them) to right and left being more than twice that height. The one difficult pass with many hairpin bends, well-guarded but calling for careful driving, is that of Monte Giovo or Jaufen at 2,094 m. It is not recommended for caravans and is closed between November and mid-June. Many ski resorts, castles, old towns and sensational views are packed into the Trentino and Alto Adige regions. The latter, still a debatable entity, is known to the Austrians as Sud Tirol. Every town, village and hill has both a German and an Italian name; we use the Italian, but acknowledge the combination of Teutonic efficiency and Latin gaiety which gives these regions their agreeable atmosphere.
The Verona-Brenner motorway is a painless way of getting in or out of Italy. It sweeps on to Innsbruck and the Munich-Salzburg-Vienna autobahn network. The Brenner Pass at 1,371 m is simplicity itself for the motorist.
Between the Brenner Pass and Verona the main railway line between Austria and Italy accompanies the motorway and the Adige river. At Trento a branch line struggles through the Val Sugana to Bassano del Grappa and ends up in Venice. At Bolzano a branch line goes west to Merano. The electric trains which used to thread the high valleys to the ski resorts are no more and it is wearisome travelling by bus – everyone goes to the winter sports grounds by car, then cable-car. But there are reliable bus services along major routes and all the country towns round Merano, Bolzano, Trento, Verona, Mantua and Modena are adequately served. Autostradale (www.autostradale.it) runs buses to Mantua, Molveno and the Garda; SAD (www.sad.it) runs services and tours in the Dolomites.
A dense network of ski-tows, ski-lifts and cable cars of modern construction gives another dimension to mountain travel. Cable cars and chairlifts can carry 4,000 people an hour to the summits near Trento. The world’s first cable-car was installed at Bolzano in 1908.