The ceremonial opening of the Gotthard Base Tunnel in June was a chance to note technology’s capacity to triumph over geography. When scheduled train services start running through the tunnel later this year, passengers will speed under the Alps in darkness. Those keen on actually seeing the mountains would be wise to stick to the old railway line (which will remain open to passenger traffic) or, better still, follow the old coach road over the Gotthard Pass towards Switzerland’s Ticino region and to Italy.
The approach to the pass on the north side follows the wild gorge of the River Reuss. Greygreen rocks tilt ever sharper as you climb up towards Andermatt. Eventually one reaches the Teufelsbrücke (Devil’s Bridge), an ancient stone bridge which ambitiously links the two sides of this great rocky defile. Long before any railways were built through the Alps, this trade route over the St Gotthard Massif was central to European economics and politics.