The Via Spluga – where Slow Italy meets Germanic Switzerland
  • 4 days hiking
  • 80k (option to shorten with local bus)
  • Ascent 2855m
  • Descent 3255m
  • 8 cultural sights
    …plus one unforgettable bus ride over the Splügen Pass.

From: Thusis (Grisons – Eastern Switzerland) prounounced “too-sis”
To: Chiavenna (Lombardy – Northern Italyprounounced “key-a-venna”

A multi-day hike traversing two countries. Taking in a variety of unique trails, local gastronomy, and quirky culture as well as long standing traditions and an intriguing history. Welcome to a trip with seemingly random fridges full of artisan abundance and more regional language flavours than your average yomp!

The route and accommodation

As a self guided trip, the route was clear and well maintained. The hiking was made all the more comfortable by (having your bags transported for you at no extra cost, and) staying in hotels of outstanding quality – each special in its own way, often featuring a wellness spa or an authentic restaurant. (And they prepared your packed lunches whilst you had breakfast!) Quite different from multi-day hikes using basic accommodation such as UK hostels, refuges and monasteries in Europe, teahouses in Nepal, sherpa tents in Peru or doorways of Nicaragua…

Yet this route encompassed the varied terrain and beauty of all those places. We hiked through forests, waterfalls, gorges, balconies, ski slopes, stone steps and wooden bridges… Venturing across energetic rivers, majestic lakes, wild flowers, fake strawberry fields, marmottes, farm animals and self-service fridges containing artisan produce.


Journeying there

Even the journey over the Splügen Pass (to get to our starting point) was out of this world… Winding through rustic mountain villages from 333m to 1800m, the most incredible bus ride of two cultural and economic halves set the tone for what was to come. The laid back (but very competent over the tight, narrow bends) Italian driver was a stark contrast to the Swiss German driver and his timekeeping screen… thankfully both buses were very comfortable and there was even a piano and toilet inside the changeover bus stop!


Primed to say “Hallo/Guten Tag’ and “Ciao”’ as standard, we were most confused when hearing different greetings. We found it refreshing to feel at home in modern Europe and grounded by nature, whilst also feeling like we were in a foreign land as English was rarely spoken.

Swiss German – Schwizerdütsch
Hello = Gruezi / Sali zämme

German variants
Hello = Servus / Moin

Italian – Italiano
Hello = Ciao / Salve

Romansh – Rumantsch
Hello = Ciao / Tgau / Allegra

A note on Romansh – Switzerlands fourth language
Indigenous to the Grisons canton of Switzerland, this language originated around 15BC when the Romans conquered the area of Graubünden. A hybrid of the Vulgar Latin spoken by soldiers and colonists, and the language of the native people, it dispersed across mountainous villages and fragmented so it failed to flourish. As more Germans migrated, German became the default language. Today, approximately 60,000 people speak Romansh and the Swiss government annually invests several million CHF to preserve the Romansh language.

*Not to be confused with the ‘Romance’ family of languages.


This was certainly a foodie’s journey. We happily compared the savoury Swiss breakfasts to the Italian sweet morning treats and surprised ourselves with the varied packed lunches and selection of evening restaurants. Being overwhelmed by a family sized pizza and finding out a pizzoccheri is a pasta, were revelations! 

We were invited to visit a Crotti for dinner on our final night – I’d never seen such a big fridge system (or that amount of cheese!) and were blown away to find out it was a natural structure cooled by mountain air. Unsurprisingly eco in the ultimate Slow Food city of Chiavenna.


Included in our goody bag were several vouchers to museums, palaces, spas, waterfalls etc to visit along the way. These were all optional and the one time we spent a significant chunk of time at a cultural site didn’t matter as there was a bus option to get to our final destination. (Shussh don’t tell anyone! In hindsight we would have set off earlier that day to fit everything in.)


As a previously unknown valley to me, I was surprised at its rich history. I’d heard that pilgrims, military and artists had mentioned this area in their works and was overjoyed to recognise it in a painting by John Ruskin.

One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is the fact this well trodden route has got everything… from a vibrant city at 300m, outgrageously pretty mountain towns and traditional architecture, to a snow covered pass at over 2000m!



We hiked in early June but feel the lakes would be warmer for swimming in late summer. September would be an ideal time to visit as there’s an annual Crotti and Slow Food festival in Chiavenna. We might have to go back!

For more information and prices, check out: Via Spluga – Live Breathe Hike


Special thanks to Blacksheep Sérigraphie for our new t-shirts and turning them round in time for our trip – they make for fun photographs, don’t you agree?