Our favorite way to get from Switzerland to Italy? Skiing!
The iconic Matterhorn mountain is a bucket list location for many. The Swiss Alps might not be thought of as an Italian vacation destination, but here's a fun fact: the mountain sits right on the border of Italy and Switzerland, so it's technically shared by both countries. This means you can start in Switzerland... and ski down to Italy! This unique cross-border experience is one of the highlights of the Matterhorn, and here's how to plan it for your next adventure.
Start in Switzerland, End Up In Italy
Our route of choice is to start your skiing journey in the Swiss village of Zermatt. This charming town doesn't allow cars, which adds to its storybook appeal. Zermatt is renowned for its skiing, luxury hotels, boutique shopping, and a vibrant après-ski scene. It's surrounded by stunning mountains, and lies just below the famous Matterhorn peak.
Start your cross-border skiing journey in Zermatt, and take the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise lift (which, fun fact, is the highest cable car station in Europe) and ski down towards the Italian border. From there, you can cross the border and continue skiing down to Italy - from there, you follow the signs for Breuil-Cervinia, or Valtournenche.
Discover the Bustling Ski Town of Cervinia, Italy
Cervinia is another picturesque town located in the Valle d'Aosta region of northern Italy, nestled at the base of the Matterhorn mountain. It's one of the most expansive ski areas in the entire world, with over 150 miles of ski slopes for all levels of skiers.
Apart from skiing, Cervinia plays host to many winter activities: snowboarding, ice skating, and even snowshoeing. There are also several spas and wellness centers in the town, offering a range of treatments and relaxation options - nothing like a warming spa afternoon after a day spent in the snow.
Cervinia is well known for its beautiful resorts and cozy ski chalets, too. We recommend Les Neiges D'antan for a bit of peaceful and calm luxury, and Hotel Hermitage for a beautiful setting and delicious food.
One of the biggest draws of Cervinia after a long and active day is the elevated but comforting culinary classics the town has to offer. The cuisine of Valle d'Aosta is the classic comforting and decadent north Italian food - think polenta, fontina cheese (which is made in the Aosta valley), and the famous stufato: a slow-cooked beef stew made with red wine.
The Classic Italian Alpine Town: Valtournenche
Valtournenche is known for its beautiful alpine scenery, traditional architecture, and, like Cervinia - excellent skiing opportunities. Completely surrounded by mountains, lakes and trees, it's a visually stunning place to visit.
Like Cervinia, Valtournenche has delicious north Italian cuisine to offer. One of the most famous dishes from the region is polenta concia, a rich polenta dish made with fontina. It's all about warming you up from the inside when it comes to Italian alpine fare! Try restaurant Foyer des Guides for classic Italian food in an unbeatably pretty setting.
Valtournenche is known for some truly delicious desserts, too. The torta alle castagne is a cake made with local chestnuts, and bonet is a rich chocolate and amaretti pudding - all dishes utilizing the gems of the north.
Overall, Valtournenche is a great destination for those looking for a quieter, more traditional alpine experience, with excellent winter sports, breathtaking scenery, and a welcoming local culture.
Getting Back To Zermatt
From Cervinia, you have a few options for returning to Zermatt. To ski back, you will need to take a series of lifts and cable cars, including the Valtournenche gondola, the Salette chairlift, and the Klein Matterhorn cable car, which will take you back up to the Swiss side of the mountain. Alternatively, you could choose to take a taxi or shuttle bus between Zermatt and Cervinia.
From Valtournenche, you would take the ski lift to Salette, and then another lift to Chamois. From Chamois, you would take a cable car to the top of the mountain, where you can ski down to the Italian-Swiss border. At the border, you will need to present your ski pass and cross through a gate before continuing down the slopes into Zermatt. The entire journey from Valtournenche to Zermatt can take a few hours, depending on your skiing level and the conditions.
It's important to note that skiing across the border from Italy to Switzerland requires a valid ski pass that covers both countries. Many ski passes in the area, such as the Matterhorn Ski Paradise pass, allow for skiing between the two countries. Be sure to check the details of your ski pass before attempting to ski across the border!
Ski In Winter, Hike In Summer
While Cervinia and Valtournenche are primarily known as winter sports destinations, they both offer plenty of summer activities. When summer rolls around, they become popular hiking destinations - and even a hotspot for mountain biking. A vast network of trails all offer breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.