Tales On Rail: Day 4 – Scenic Excitement on the Bernina Express

The adventure continues! The day started off a little unexpectedly after I unknowingly flooded my bathroom with the unusual Swiss shower in my room, but we enjoyed another wonderful Swiss breakfast at the Hotel ABC in Chur. As we walked to the train station the morning sun kissed the top of the beautiful mountains. Looks like it’s going to be a gorgeous day, our first sunny day since we’ve been in Europe.

Tales on Rail Bernina Express
Beautiful views of the Swiss Alps while traveling on the Bernina Express to Tirano

I have to say I am a little sad knowing that we are leaving Switzerland today. This was my first time here and it is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. All of the people here were also so friendly and helpful. A warm thank you to all of our Swiss hosts – everybody had such a fantastic time!

Travel on the Bernina Express

We got onto the Bernina Express en route to Tirano. This is another gorgeous panoramic train. The windows on this one are actually curved so you have uninterrupted panoramic views the whole way. On the way up we passed through a very densely wooded, mountainous area. There were a lot of sections where you were hundreds of feet up looking down into deep ravines full of blue/green water. My stomach turned a bit on some of these sections because the train is right on the edge of the mountain.

Tales on Rail Bernina Express
Traveling through tunnels and over bridges on the Bernina Express

We’ve been on the train for less than an hour and have already passed through so many gorgeous stone tunnels. At one point before entering a tunnel the train crossed a very beautiful stone bridge with arches on a turn which offered great views of the actual train. A woman announced over the loud speaker that we were entering the section where we climb to the highest point of the trip.

To do this the train actually circles around the mountain in and out of tunnels offering gorgeous views. My stomach dropped every time we exited a tunnel because you would always be higher than before and right on the edge. We passed by ski lifts and a groomed sledding run with high snowy sides. This looked like so much fun, the woman on the speaker said you can hike on it in the summer. We had a quick stop in the town of Samedan where there must have been 3 or 4 feet of snow. This looks like another great town for cross country skiing.

Boxed lunch on-board the Bernina Express
Boxed lunch on-board the Bernina Express

Later on we were served a boxed lunch that included meat, cheese, bread and other snacks. We were also given a small bottle of red wine and a small bottle of Grappa for good measure. After lunch we rolled into the most rugged section of the route. These are the Alps that you picture in your mind. Huge, snow cover, no trees and snow blowing off the top. Just when I thought Switzerland couldn’t get any more beautiful!

Tales on Rail Bernina Express
Plow train along Bernina Express route, keeping the tracks clear of snow to allow trains to operate

Some of the snow up here is definitely deep enough to be over my head. At some points there are walls of snow so high on either side of the train that you can’t even see out. We even saw the train-plow that they use to clear off the tracks. As we started down towards Italy the snow began to be less plentiful, the styles of houses began to look more Mediterranean and there were vineyards everywhere. You could still see the snow capped mountains in the distance which was very dramatic against the greenery below.

Tales on Rail Bernina Express
Bernina Express heading into Italy, Swiss Alps tower over green landscapes.

Benvenuti Italia – Welcome to Italy

We spent 2 hours in the cute village of Tirano waiting for our connection to Milan. Immediately we could feel the warmth of the sun. It was 60 degrees in Tirano which was like summer for most of us in comparison to the weather in New York and Chicago. We walked around for a bit. The city is very adorable Italian, right at the foot of the alps. We sat down at a cute cafe outside for a drink. I think it was pretty obvious we were American because none of were wearing coats while all of the locals were very bundled up. It was very gorgeous and felt great, I even had my sleeves rolled up.

Traveling on Trenitalia Trains

We took a regional Trenitalia train from Tirano to Milan. This train had very comfortable seats. Even though this technically wasn’t a scenic train, the ride was very beautiful. We rode past a couple villages on Lake Como that were gorgeous. Beautiful quaint Italian style homes nestled into the hillside overlooking the lake and snowy mountain peaks.

We arrived in Milan and exited the platform. This is a much larger station than any we have been in yet. The architecture and stonework is very beautiful. A bunch of my colleagues had to use the restroom and were shocked when it cost 1 euro to get in. I remember this from when I was at this station in December. It is a very foreign concept for Americans and is extremely annoying when you haven’t exchanged for euros yet.

We walked to the NH Milano Touring Hotel and could definitely see the differences between Italy and Switzerland. There were a lot more people, all who were in a hurry. There was also a lot of graffiti and a lot of horns honking. I suppose it is hard to compare Milan to any cities we’ve been to already because it is so much larger.

Dinner time – we went with Italian food…

Tales on Rail Milan
Pasta with mini meatballs in a meat sauce at La Fabbrica Pizzeria in Milan, Italy

We took a cab to La Fabbrica Pizzeria to have dinner. I had pasta with mini meatballs in a meat sauce. This was delicious, you could really taste the wine in the tomato sauce and the meatballs were so flavorful. I am normally not a huge fan of meatballs but these were great. We also had some delicious local wine, as has become the trend.

Early tomorrow morning we head to Venice for a walking tour and then onto Florence. Going to be a very busy and exciting day!

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Jeryl Murphy Cestone says:

    That’s some box lunch, WOW!!!!!

  2. anne says:

    I have been following your trip on twitter with Rail Europe ,, Amazing and I would love to do it,

  3. Tammara Hays says:

    I love that you get wine with each meal!!!! Views are spectacular!!! Enjoy!!!

    1. Nur says:

      10 days is not a lot of time to cover all of the cities that you meiontned. If you pick one of the cities, then it would be worth it to rent a car to explore the area around the city. For instance, if you pick Florence, you can travel around to wineries in Tuscany, drive to Pisa and the beach and go to Siena and Assisi.If you choose Milan, you can visit the Lakes Region and sample wine in Piemonte, go hiking in the Alps and visit the Sacri Monti (look this up in Google).If you go to Rome, you can drive out to the beach, go to the Castelli Romani, and head to Hadrian’s Villa and Villa D’Este.But if you are planning to see Rome, Milan, Florence, and Venice in 10 days, I would just buy regular train tickets (not an Italy Rail Pass) between each destination and stay in the city without a car. Venice has water taxis and no cars. Florence is small and you can walk everywhere and there is no place to park. Milan and Rome are large but have good public transportation. Another solution is to find an organized tour that is going to these cities that will take you to places you want to visit along the way.

      1. Lynell says:

        If time is money you’ve made me a weaethilr woman.

  4. Mary says:

    I do not recommend car renatl in Italy, most of all in big cities like Rome, Milan, Florence, Venice, since you have to know how to drive in Italy (in streets thare are cars, scooters, bycicles and mopeds and if you are not used to them you could make an accident) and moreover you cannot drive in many streets which are ZTL (that is: limited traffic zones) where driving is forbidden except to residents

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