A Snowy Journey: Riding the Bernina Express from Italy to Switzerland (#12DaysOfTravel, Day 3)

Though I’ve covered most of my trip to Italy this year on the blog, I kept forgetting to post about taking the Bernina Express, the path of which is mostly a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Not because it wasn’t stunning, but because it was so different from the rest of the trip. And as winter approached, it seemed fitting to keep this snowy journey in reserve until this time of year.

The beautiful red Bernina Express.

Italy was marked by sunny days, mild weather, historic monuments, and city life. Switzerland, on the other hand, was snowy, remote, and otherworldly. No less impressive, but an experience unlike any other I’ve had to date. For all my love of cold and mountains, the train took me closer to mountains than I’ve ever been. A few times, it felt like I could reach out and touch the mountaintops.

Another phenomenon of this trip was the stark seasonal change. It was April, so when we left Milan by bus at the crack of dawn, I wouldn’t have said it was cold. As we drove a little over two hours to Tirano, Italy, I watched the landscape change from metropolitan to agrarian.

On the way from Milan to Tirano, we drove past Lake Como.

Then, in Tirano, the first touch of nippiness touched my nose, but quickly left any time I stepped into the sun.

As we boarded the Bernina Express, a little red train, and pulled out of the Tirano station, greenery could be seen anywhere you looked.

The Brusio Viaduct. It’s difficult to get the full effect of these and how tight of a turn they are!


Green and red — still feels like spring!
I couldn’t get over these tiny remote towns in the shadow of huge, snowy mountains. Imagine living there!

But the greenery didn’t last long. Soon we approached Miralago and the Lago di Poschiavo. From here, we transitioned into deep blue with a touch of white.

Then, those light dustings progressed into this majestic scene as we entered the Bernina Pass from which our train took its name.


Soon, it was a winter wonderland. And I was growing more and more delighted with every curve into this magical white paradise.


The last few minutes of the train ride were nothing but sheer mountains and snow. It was windy, and we had the windows open so as to take pictures, and one little snow cloud snuck its way into the car, plunging us into misty white blindness for a moment. Like I said, I love mountains. But being so high up in the mountains with not a soul in sight, except train passengers was an experience I won’t soon forget.

Finally, we’d arrived at our destination, the tiny, but glitzy resort town of St. Moritz, Switzerland. A place far too glamorous to hardly count as representative of Switzerland, but it was beautiful.

Then, after looking around, it was time to head back to Milan. This time, it was a bus trip back all the way, via a much more direct route. But that route looked like this:



Good thing I like roller coasters? After this bit of treacherous driving (and pro driving on the part of the bus driver!), our return to Milan was safe and uneventful, and full of the same pretty scenery as we had going.

If you want to see the Swiss Alps while on an Italy-based trip, taking the Bernina Express from Tirano is the way to do it. Spectacular and a testament to the wonder of nature, it adds another element to Italy’s charm and history.

Note: This was the one and only tour I booked in Italy, the Swiss Alps Bernina Express Rail Tour from Milan, via Viator.com, which I would recommend. For a more complex situation like this, where multiple transfers and border crossings were involved, it made my life easier, and gave us something memorable to do on the national holiday that is the day after Easter in Italy. Our tour guide, from Milan-based Zani Viaggi, was professional, friendly, and full of fascinating information about Italy.


This is day 3 in the 12 Days of Travel on The Globe Turner. Stop by tomorrow for day 4 of #12DaysofTravel, a series of travel memories from 2015. There will be a post every day ’til Christmas!



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