As mentioned in Varenna to St Moritz (preview) we have undertaken an epic and beautiful train adventure through a small portion of Northern Italy to the Italian/Swiss border then transferred to the famous Bernina Express. To sum it up….WOW!!!

This was one of the most exciting, scenic, awesome, adventures of the trip so far. As was mentioned in Part I it was a bit of an epic organisational exercise. When we say epic I guess the hardest thing was understanding the web sites for both Italian rail and the Bernina as both had to be booked on line and we had to make sure we could connect getting there and getting home. To illustrate how difficult it was we decided to askt our hosts, the Vergottini’s, to help us with the on line booking for TRENITALIA (Italian Rail) and even they struggled with the bookings for the leg to Tirano. Then we had to contend with the Bernina site where you make a reservation then need to bring that with you to purchase the ticket once you arrive in Tirano. But eventually we got there. So armed with our reservations we jumped on the local ferry over to Varenna to begin the first leg.
Map
At Varenna we had an hour to kill so plenty of time for another cappuccino in a local cafe then up the hill to the train station.

From Bernina Express – St Moritz
From Bernina Express – St Moritz

Now this was our very first train station for Italy and we have to say, it was ordinary. The station was disgusting. It was unmanned so you would expect a little disrepair but it was atrocious. The toilets were an absolute mess, looked like they hadn’t been cleaned for months and the general state of the stations façade looked the same. But we weren’t going to let this worry us, we were on an adventure. Then the first trains came along, luckily not ours.

From Bernina Express – St Moritz

It looked as bad as the station!
Then we saw this little beauty and were instantly glad we had booked 1st class on line.

From Bernina Express – St Moritz

And we were off on train journey leg 1.


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This leg takes about 2 hours and sees us heading north through some wonderful rural countryside. There are many small towns and old structures. The air is smoky due to the habit of burning off in preparation for spring. We pass vineyards, olive groves, and farm houses, some seemingly perched impossibly on the side of steep and rocky hills.

From Bernina Express – St Moritz

And we arrive in Tirano, a beautiful little town very close to the Swiss border. A short walk from the Italian station takes us straight across the border to the Swiss station and the start point for the Bernina Express.

From Bernina Express – St Moritz

Here we establish that our on line activity was simply a reservation and we still need to purchase the tickets, however our reservation guarantees us a seat in the special panoramic carriage. So we pay in Swiss Francs and with tickets in hand

From Bernina Express – St Moritz

and about 2 hrs to kill before the next leg starts we explore Tirano a little and settle on somewhere for lunch. Some beautiful spaghetti for me

From Bernina Express – St Moritz

and a gnocchi for Ali

From Bernina Express – St Moritz

Then the time has come. With mounting excitement we make our way back to the station and on the train and find our seats. The carriage we are in is not crowded, in fact there are only about 6 other people on a carriage that would seat about 30 so we are told we can sit anywhere. The layout is groups of 2 seats facing each other on each side of the aisle so we make the most of this by spreading across the isle to take advantage of the views on both sides. It has panoramic windows so the views are uninhibited, reflections are the only issue.

From Bernina Express – St Moritz

And we are off on Leg 2!
Firstly through some small valley towns then up and through the amazing Swiss Alps. It is a very sedate and leisurely trip with the train barely exceeding about 30 kmh all the way. There are a lot of switch backs, tunnels, and ancient bridges. And you can find all the stats over at the Bernina Express Wiki

From Bernina Express – St Moritz

We must just say again it is an awesome trip with some exhilarating views like these

From Bernina Express – St Moritz
From Bernina Express – St Moritz
From Bernina Express – St Moritz

and if you click on those you can see some more.

After 2 1/2 hours we are up and over the Alps and in St Moritz. Once we get off at the train station the cold really bites, we both rug up with beanies and gloves and decide to take a few minutes to walk across an overpass that gives a view of the frozen lake.

From Bernina Express – St Moritz

Then it’s a quick coffee and brioche to warm up at the station cafe and into a taxi to our hotel.
Our hotel, called Hotel Bernina, coincidentally, is excellent, it is in Samedan, about 10 minutes from the station. The room is very spacious with fantastic views across the Alps.

From Bernina Express – St Moritz
From Bernina Express – St Moritz
From Bernina Express – St Moritz

After dropping our bags there is still a little daylight left so before dinner we go for a walk through the streets and frolic in the snow.

From Bernina Express – St Moritz

Then back to the hotel for some dinner a bed. It’s been a long day.

The next morning brings beautiful sunshine and after a leisurely breakfast in what appears to be The Grand Ballroom, we unfortunately have to leave.

From Bernina Express – St Moritz

So it’s back to the train and off on the return journey across the mountains.

From Bernina Express – St Moritz

Farewell St Moritz.

From Bernina Express – St Moritz