I was on my way to the Italian dolomites sourcing Italian ski property and innocently just hired a car at Bergamo BGY airport and set off. Great weather, sun shining, 20’C in the last week of November...snow never crossed my mind, as it had been reported that recent snow falls had melted and no snow was due.
I was driving up to Arabba and had a meeting in the next valley in Alto Badia. It had started raining and slowly I was climbing altitude. Just before Arabba the rain changed to fine snow. Slush started to form on the roads and I continued to climb. I drove through Arabba, going fine and turned to take the Passo Campolungo (1875m) to Corvara. Five minutes out of Arabba the road had turned white. I was going quite slowly just to be safe and a few cars were overtaking. I started to think snow chains but I saw that the other cars didn’t have them on so I kept on going. I came to a steep climb and my wheels started slipping. I pulled up to reflect as I had still quite a climb ahead of me and yet another car overtook me still with no snow chains and then it clicked, they must have winter snow tyres on.
Now back in Bergamo airport winter snow tyres were never mentioned, nor snow chains. So there I was stuck on the road in the snow. I gently reversed and turned round and went back to Arabba. Called my meeting contact and agreed that he came over to meet me in Arabba rather than me going to him. Pulled up in Arabba, now with a little snow on the roads, but nothing serious and parked up outside a bar. A quick cappuccino and my contact turned up.
We agreed to go over to his office in the next valley in his car fitted with winter snow tyres. During the journey he explained to me about winter snow tyres and how they have a special grip that heats up and grips the snow permitting you to drive over snow with an amazing control. Those hairpin bends covered in snow looked dangerous but we glided round them.
Three hours later after a successful meeting he brings me back to Arabba and to my surprise my car is now in half a metre of snow. My man suggests leaving the car where it is and staying in a local hotel as tomorrow the snow should disappear. Great thanks ciao. In the bar the locals had received the overnight weather forecast and more and more snow was forecasted. Everyone laughed at me for having normal tyres on the car and travelling without snow chains. From the bar window I could see vans pulling up and attaching their snow chains. I decided it was time to get out of Arabba, I had a plane the next day and I didn’t want to remain stuck here.
The barman lent me two large spades and I started digging and clearing the road so I could reverse my car out, stupidly parked on a slope. I jumped in the car hot and sweaty, covered in snow and hit reverse and all I got was wheel spin. Oh no! Stuck in the snow. More digging a little grit and eventually I managed to move the car onto the thick snow covered road. Locals advised the local car mechanic for a set of snow chains. Snow chains have you ever used them ?? 100 metres down the road at crawling speed in 1st gear and I made it to the mechanic. 100 euros later I had a set of snow chains fitted to the front tyres. Yes 100 euros !! Amazing you can buy them in the supermarket for 35 euros. Pulled out of the mechanic’s and on to the road. I could now drive in 2nd gear at 20mph . I was safe. 10 minutes later and the snow on the road started turning back into slush. I had made it...or so i believed!
Have you ever tried to fit and remove snow chains ?? Well I drove on the slushy road for about 5 minutes with the chains on, hoping to find a sheltered illuminated spot...no chance. I had been advised NOT to drive too far with snow chains on and with no snow on the road so eventually I stopped. Rain, wind and dark and my first attempt of removing snow chains. It’s not easy. Instructions in hand, mobile phone trying to create some light and NO luck. They just wouldn’t unhook. Like a damsel in distress finally some kind soul pulled over and asked if all was ok ? “Of course not i can’t get these damn snow chains off” and in two seconds he slipped them off the wheels.
Moral of the story
Snow chains are hassle. It is much easier to have winter snow tyres. Believe me. In Italy you are legally obliged to carry snow chains or have winter snow tyres when in the Italian winter mountains. You will see the road sign indicating where and when they are necessary. The police regularly monitor the roadside and pull you over for inspections. Fines vary from 100-300 euros if you are without either.
Yet NONE of the car hire firms in Italy hire cars with winter tyres !!! So either hire some snow chains, which is expensive, but less than a fine or buying them when stuck in the mountains and learn to fit and remove them in a dry warm garage and NOT on the roadside in the cold wet dark. Many Italians have a laugh at the foreigners stuck on the roadside fitting and removing snow chains. With wifes in the car shouting out instructions and incompetent husbands struggling. Don’t worry you won’t be the first or the last. Learn before you hit the snow!
If you know of any car hire firm in Italy that hires cars with winter snow tyres please let us know by submitting your comments. I have heard of some people who rent their car in France or Switzerland or Austria where car hire firms provide winter snow tyres and then drive into Italy. Have you done this? Remember if you are heading into the Italian ski resorts this winter to ski in Italy or to stay in your Italian ski property then be prepared. Moss Italian Property Consultants have a range of Italian ski property investments in Italy.
By David Moss
Company: Moss Italian Property Consultants
Telephone: UK +44 7740189740 Italy +39 3474750272