Sasso San Gottardo
Two museums in one and a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will allow you to walk through the heart of the Alps along kilometers of tunnels excavated during World War II. On the one hand, the Sasso San Gottardo Museum looks at the recent past offering a visit of the military fortifications of the 20th century. On the other, it projects us into the challenges of Switzerland's future (and of the world in general) with topics about meteorology and climate, as well as sustainable water management, mobility, habitat, energy and security. Without forgetting the wonderful crystals of the Alps, something unique!
A fortress at the heart of the mountain
The visit of the historic fortress Sasso da Pigna is a unique experience also because you won't walk around a museum but rather through a real and surreal world developed inside the Gotthard. You begin by covering hundreds of meters of tunnels before reaching an underground funicular excavated at the heart of the mountain that leads to the actual fortress, located under the Gotthard peak. This structure is one of the largest in terms of local fortresses and was in use between 1943 and 1999. In fact, it was built during World War II as part of the so-called Ridotto nazionale, a military strategy put together after Hitler's German conquest of France.
The fortress consists of two gun batteries that protected the Leventina Valley as well as the S. Giacomo and Nufenen Passes, each equipped with two 15-centimeter cannons. Accessible to visits are also the rooms that hosted, still at the heart of the mountain, a garrison of 500 men, a hospital with 87 beds and storage for water, foodstuff, ammunition and fuel that guaranteed autonomy from the outside world for a few months.
A look into the challenges of the future
In that same fortress, an important part of Switzerland's recent history, some space is dedicated to the contemplation of future challenges that await our country. Topics such as meteorology and climate as well as those related to sustainable water management, mobility, habitat, energy and security are taken into consideration. Every theme is firstly being compared to the history of the Gotthard and then projected into the future in a stimulating and interesting way by making use of modern multimedia technologies. In a large hall you will also have the chance to admire some of nature's most wondrous products: extraordinary crystals found in the vicinity of the Gotthard, unique in the world for their size and purity.
If you have more time…
Should you have an entire day at your disposal we recommend a visit on both the slopes of Gotthard's interesting region, south and north. Before leaving it is good to gather information about possible traffic at one or the other entrance of the tunnel and to adapt the tour from south to north or vice versa in order to avoid long waits.
If the southern entrance is free, continue along the freeway, going through the tunnel, and exit in Göschenen continuing to Andermatt. Before arriving in town you will see the so-called "Devil's Bridge", one of the Gotthard's most striking places. It is worth parking there for a while and take the short circular tour (approximately 20-minute long), indicated on an information panel. It will allow you to observe the work done by humankind over the centuries in order to guarantee railway and road connections across the Alps. You will notice the superimposition of bridges from different eras inserted into an exceptional landscape, where the river water does not flow through stones but slides along transparent granite rocks.
Continue to Andermatt and the Gotthard Pass by crossing a lunar landscape. Once you have reached the peak, visit the Sasso San Gottardo Museum and then descend towards Airolo by using the old cobblestone road (Tremola). The landscape will not disappoint you: certainly an unforgettable experience! Once you have reached Airolo, do not miss the occasion to taste and purchase the cheese and traditional regional products at the Caseificio del Gottardo (Gotthard Dairy). To get there simply follow the signs for the Airolo-Pesciüm cable car: the dairy is located next to it.
Should there be traffic at the tunnel's southern entrance, follow the abovementioned itinerary in reverse order by leaving the freeway in Quinto (one exit before Airolo) and continuing along the highway towards Airolo and then to the Pass by following the blue panels in order to take the old cobblestone road (Tremola).