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From the Palatinate to the Lago

Lake Garda Arrival by Car – From door to door, our route is pretty much 700 km via the Fernpass route. Our driving time is usually 7-8 hours with normal traffic and no major breaks.

Unfortunately, there have been many highway construction sites all along the route for several years. The A8 in Germany has been a bottleneck near Pforzheim for years. Starting in 2025, the Lueg Bridge near Innsbruck is also to be rehabilitated and made single-lane for two years. It remains to be seen to what extent the journey via the Brenner freeway will then still make sense.

In any case, the two most common routes are the Fernpass route through Austria and over the Brenner Pass or the Gotthard route through Switzerland. Tolls are payable on both routes, and the same applies to the use of the freeways in Italy.

Fernpass route

Coming from the A7, you cross the border into Austria at Füssen. On the B179 we head in the direction of the Fernpass. After crossing it, follow the B189 to Mötz (take the 1st exit at the Fronhausen traffic circle 😉), there take the A12 freeway towards Innsbruck. From here on the route toll is due, i.e. a vignette is required.

Passing Innsbruck, we take the Brennerbahn A13 and then continue towards Italy on the A22. If the vacation destination is on the northern part of Lake Garda, the exit is Rovereto South. In case of heavy traffic, the alternative exit is Trento. If you are on vacation in the southern parts of the lake, you have no choice but to follow the A22 and exit at Affi.

Yellow speedster with luggage

Via Munich to Lake Garda

An alternative to the Fernpass is the route via Munich and Salzburg. For us, the route is unfortunately also about 70 km longer than over the Fernpass. Bypassing Munich is also not necessarily the best solution in terms of traffic…

Through Switzerland

Our navi likes to send us via Switzerland, supposedly this is the fastest route. However, it is more than 70km more than over the Fernpass and it is not faster. We have driven through the Gotthard tunnel a few times, but it is not the best route for us.

The standard route is via the A5 to Basel, there over the border and on towards Lucerne then through the Gotthard tunnel and in Como over the border into Italy. After that you have to pass Milan which can be quite annoying in terms of traffic. Especially during the day there is a lot going on here. Afterwards we will go via Bergamo and Brescia to the Lago. If you are in the north of the lake you still have to go up the Gardesana, which can also take a long time, especially in high season. “Vacationing” in the southern part of Lake Garda, the route via Switzerland is definitely worth a thought.

If there is a traffic jam in front of the Gotthard tunnel, the San Bernardino route is often recommended as an alternative. The route is about 100km longer for us, but still better than standing in a traffic jam for 3 hours in front of the Gotthard tunnel….

Car toll


As already mentioned, the use of the freeways and the Brenner Pass (if you use the freeway here) is subject to a charge. We always buy the vignettes in advance, and now you can also buy the sticker online and use it digitally. If you buy the vignette as an entrepreneur, it is valid immediately. However, the right of withdrawal is then not applicable. Otherwise, the sticker is valid from the 18th day after purchase.

Update on the long-distance pass route:
A route toll is to be introduced on the long-distance pass route from 2028. According to current information from the ADAC, this is 14 euros per route. In addition, the construction of a 1.4 km long crest tunnel is planned to relieve a 4.8 km long section of the Fernpass route.


Toll booth in Italy for car tolls

For the Brenner freeway, it is also advisable to buy the digital route toll in advance and to use the transit video toll. This is valid immediately, there is no right of withdrawal here.


The Swiss also charge a corresponding fee for the use of your highway. An annual vignette currently costs 42,- Euro (for cars up to 3,5 tons). For some routes an additional toll is also due, this applies for example to the San Bernadino Tunnel. You can find more information at ADAC.


In Italy, a ticket must first be taken from the machine at the Sterzing toll station. When leaving the highway, payment is then made at the cashier’s booth. Payment can be made both in cash and by debit or credit card. I recommend payment by credit card.

As I often travel to Italy (also on business), we have purchased a toll box for Italy from Maut1. The big advantage here is that we don’t have to pull a ticket or pay at the ticket machine. Billing is done monthly by the provider. The whole thing costs a few fees but is very convenient and saves time.

What is the best day of the week and the best time to travel to Lake Garda by car?

Especially during the summer vacations, the roads heading south are jam-packed. It can take 12 hours or more to cover the 700 kilometers. We have therefore gotten into the habit of going during the week (Tuesdays or Wednesdays). We then start either in the evening, when the after-work traffic has died down to some extent, or in the early morning between 3 and 4 o’clock. Of course, it is optimal if you can take a vacation outside of the vacations. Unfortunately, this is rarely possible…

But once we’ve arrived at Lake Garda, depending on the time of day, we head first to La Fenice or to the Rossi Bakery! wink

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