Translation edited by: Arianna Cassani.
Down the valleys, up to highest peaks, there’s a special train, painted in red, that crosses the Alps, moving through breath-taking landscapes, majestic mountains, glaciers and snowy mountain tops.
This is a unique rail line, and it allows tourists to cross the Alps in the open air. It is also known as “Bernina Express”, and it is the slowest express in Europe.
This wonderful railway departs from Tirano, goes through Poschiavo Valley and Bernina Pass, and connects Valtellina to Sankt Moritz. It follows a beautiful but intrepid route, and for this reason it is considered one of the most interesting itineraries in the world.
It goes beyond 1824 metres of difference in height between Tirano and Ospizio Bernina, and it reaches a height of 2253 metres. Due to its altitude, this rail line is the highest in Europe.
It originated at the end of 1800, thanks to a brilliant intuition of some engineers that thought how to help people that lived in those valleys: they created a rail line that could connect the main town centres, and this helped also the development of tourism in those areas.
The route was planned on different levels, and had a specific goal: it had to guarantee a service that could satisfy the inhabitants, but also the visitors who wanted to live a magical experience.
At the end of 1800, the Bernina railway was one of the most important ways used to exchange goods between the North and the South. But, due to ice, bad weather conditions and snow, the trade was interrupted during the winter and the crossing slowed down.
For this reason, people asked for an easier service, a service that could be more effective, more rapid and, if possible, even more modern; thanks to technological advance, the Bernina Rail Line was born, and it was completed in 1910. This structural engineering gem, which measures 61 kilometres in length, has formed part of UNESCO World Heritage since 2008.
It is composed of 55 galleries, 196 viaducts and it has a slope of 70%. This rail line perfectly matches the Alps. Furthermore, with its 21 stops, it is possible for tourists to get off whenever they want, and have a look at the beautiful surrounding landscapes.
The starting point is Tirano, a small town near Sondriothat became famous for the Bernina Express. People can also have the possibility to spend unique moments there. An example can be the quality time that we spent in Tirano Bed & Breakfast with Bruno who spoiled us and also gave us some advice and told us what we could do and visit. Another example is the fabulous pizzoccheri of Valtellina, one of typical courses that You can taste in BistrotMerizzi.
The layovers that must not to be missed:
Alp Grüm, 2091 metres above sea level. When tourists get off the train, they have the opportunity to spend the night in one of the rooms close to the station. Everything surrounded by the enchanting landscape of the Alps, composed by Piz Palù glacier and its lake. According to the seasons, the lake generates beautiful contrasts that go from the most beautiful green of the water during the summer, up to the whiteness of the snow during the winter. This is the place recommended to those who love hiking and photography. The ones who are the most observant will notice the Japanese engraving that says: “Rail Line Tirano/Sankt Moritz – Railroad Halsone/Tazan”, that symbolises the twinning between Switzerland and Japan that started in the 1920s and it was made official in 1970s.
Pontresina, 4048 metres above sea level. Once a farming village, it became more and more famous when Clara Chris, a resourceful young businesswoman, started to rent rooms because of redundancy in the hotels of Sankt Moritz (that is very close to Pontresina). Clara was lucky enough and launched tourism in that area, close to the beautiful glaciers.
When people leave the station, they have the opportunity to walk down a marvellous and suggestive path that leads to the uncontaminated Val Roseg. The path measures 7,5 km in length, it can be travelled by horse-drawn carriages, it can be covered by foot and in winter people can use snowshoes or can practice cross-country skiing.
What about us, reckless adventurers? We covered that distance by foot, lost in the beauties of the winter landscape. It was worth all the while, and we were rewarded by the beauty of the places we visited, included the Grigioni Swiss Canton.