Today we left the mountains of St. Moritz and journeyed to beautiful Lugano. To make the trip, we chose to go by the Bernina Express; it’s another of the wonderful panoramic trains offered by the Swiss.
After checking out, we used the hotel shuttle to go to the train station. The skies were looking a tad ominous and it was chilly. When we arrived the train was already in the station being readied for the trip. We waited on the platform for a few minutes chatting with a German couple who were taking the train to Tirano and then returning to St. Moritz.
Once they gave the signal, we boarded the train to get out of the chill. We still had about twenty minutes before we left and carriage slowly filled with people and luggage. We had the right side with the two window seats, so the views should be nice.
Right on time the train left the station and we were off.
The train takes about two and a half hours and you don’t want to look away from the window for a minute or you’ll miss the stunning scenery. Ok, that was a little exaggerated – you don’t see much when going through some of the tunnels.
However, even the tunnels are incredible when you realize what it must have been like tunneling through the mountains at that altitude and along the cliffs. Heck, I can’t even walk on the curb without stumbling.
The train travels up from St. Moritz to Ospizio Bernina at 2253 meters and then makes its way down to Tirano at 429 meters. You travel through the towering mountain glaciers, pass by mountain lakes, cut through valleys and end up among palm trees in Tirano.
So here are a few highlights and then I’ll post some pictures. Again, most of the pictures are through the train windows, so pardon the reflections.
- As the train travels up to Ospizio Bernina and you can see the way the glaciers have flowed over the ages.
- The lakes high in the mountains with their clean, clear water.
- Gazing down into the valleys from high above.
- The buildings high up in the mountains with no visible means to get up there.
- The monkeys racing along the train. (just kidding – I wanted to see if you were just skimming or really reading this)
- The high stone bridges.
- The spiral aqueduct in Brusio.
- The train traveling down the middle of the street like a tram in Le Preso.
Ok, and now pictures.
The end point of the journey is Tirano, Italy. It looked very pleasant, but for us it is just a change point. The second part for us will be on the Bernina Express Bus.
The bus will take us from Tirano, Italy to Lugano, Switzerland in about 3 hours with, no worries, a stop for the toilets and coffee along the way.
The bus route winds through many small towns along narrow twisting roads and along Lake Como and then Lake Lugano. We ran into patches of rain along the way, but not enough to distract from the scenery. We sat in the first row and were able to experience the drive without actually having to take the wheel.
Kudos to our driver for safely maneuvering the roads and hairpin turns while having to watch out for some of the idiot drivers and motorcyclists. I would have ended up with laryngitis from yelling, while he just calmly took it in stride.
Here are a few pics through the front window along the way.
When we arrived in Lugano, it was warm and sunny. We grabbed a taxi to get to our hotel and ten minutes later, we were there.
We are staying at the Hotel International Au Lac, located right on the waterfront. It’s a beautiful old hotel, close to shops and restaurants and especially close to the lake.
Our room is on the fourth floor and is very nice. It is a decent size, has a nice comfortable bed, two chairs, a desk and two windows that open onto matching balconies. Oh, and with an awesome view of the lake.
We were really pleased with the room and could have just gazed at the lake all evening. However, we were both hungry.
For dinner we went to an Italian restaurant called ‘Ristorante Galleria’. Nice place, but we had a little trouble finding it as one of the piazzas was under some construction. A little help from google maps got us there on time though.
We had a nice table inside, which happened to have a/c, as it was still warm and humid outside. As others filtered in, we laughingly said we were in the English room. The only difference was we were able to order in Italian and say a few other things unlike our roommates.
Our favorite comment of the trip came from a couple sitting at the next table, who live in North Carolina. After we ordered and made very small talk with the waiter, they asked where we were from and if we live here now. I guess our Italian is getting better.
Dinner was a caprese salad for both of us, then Sue had penne pasta with salmon and prawns, while I had linguine with chunks of lobster – all paired with a bottle of Arneis from the Roero region of Piedmont. Dessert was tiramisu for Sue and a glass of limoncello, while I had a Creme Caramel and a glass of Vin Santo.
The evening was beautiful and the sun was setting over the lake, so we took a pleasant stroll and then found a bench to just watch the water.
We headed back to the hotel to relax after a long, but excellent day.