Traveling from Italy to Switzerland and back all in the same day? It’s a long day, but it’s possible and I am going to tell you how my friends and I did it.
Our day started bright and early on a Tuesday morning where we had to meet at the Milano Cardona train station at 6:30 in the morning. My traveling companions for the day, two American softball players playing for another Italian professional team near mine, Sarah Pauley and Jamee Juarez. This is a trip Sarah and I had been trying to figure out when to do since we got here, so we signed up for the Swiss Alps Bernina Express Rail Tour.
We boarded the bus at 6:50 in the morning and began our journey to Tirano, a small town located at the foothills of the Swiss Alps. To get there, we took a beautiful drive around Lake Como and later through some of the Italian wine country between Tresivio and Sondrio. The nickname for the wines made in the area we passed through was Inferno because the trees were planted on hills and slopes, and could only be picked by hand. Add the hot sun on top of uneasy terrain; the wine can literally be considered a hell to make. These are identified as Valtellina wines as well as four others, that are known for being high quality.
After about two and a half hours and one bathroom/coffee stop, we made it to Tirano. There,
we got to explore the Santuario della Beata Vergine di Tirano, which is a very old, but elegant church. It was built to honor the miracles that occurred there and it is even said that the Virgin Mary appeared there to a shepherd. It is smaller than the other churches you will see in Italy, such as the Duomo di Milano and others, but it still packs quite a bit of beauty. I do recommend visiting, as during my time here in Italy, I have not seen any other churches like it. Afterwards, we had a few minutes for some souvenir shopping before we boarded the bus to head towards the Tirano train station where we would have lunch then embark on the train for Switzerland.
The train line we took as part of our tour is called the Bernina Express. It is this long, red train with large windows you can even open to look out and see the scenery. The train does not go too fast, so over about a two and a half hour period we went through the incredible landscape of the Swiss Alps, seeing glaciers, glacier made lakes, small farm towns, and so much more. The colors of the scenery were so vibrant that it honestly didn’t even feel real. The trees and scenery reminded me a great deal of Glacier National Park, on the Canadian side, a trip I did when I was younger with my family.
The people of our tour group were all relatively friendly and we moved around the car into different seating areas to get better pictures. Moving forward, our group sat on the right side of the train, which is where I would recommend you sit as there are better views. However, our bump in the trip came from the backpackers who were hiking the Alps and hopping onto the train at its stops in the various towns and hiking spots. Sarah and I are both over six feet, and when these people would try to squeeze into our already small seating area, they would get mad at the lack of room they had because of Sarah’s and my legs. At one point we were also cussed out in German for not immediately moving over and giving up our seats for one group who was not a part of our tour. This provided a rather miserable 15-20 minutes or so for Sarah and I with our legs pressed against each other and no room to move. Fortunately, they did not stay on for the rest of our ride and we were able to carry on without many more legroom issues.
Eventually, we made our final stop in St. Moritz, Switzerland, the same place where two previous winter Olympics were held. Due to the schedule of the tour, we only had a little more than an hour in the town, so while some people in our group went and relaxed by the lake, we went into town in search of one of the famous Swiss chocolate shops. The one we found was called Laderach, and let me tell you, the chocolate was fantastic (keyword was, the chocolate I brought back with me didn’t last long). Other than that, we strolled around town and took pictures.
Now while an hour may not seem like much time, it actually worked out really well for us. Unless you are a big name shopper (like Jimmy Choo, Rolex, Louie Vuitton) there won’t be much shopping to do besides the chocolate store, Switzerland gift shop, or maybe ice cream. We did wish we had a little bit more time to go walk by the lake as well, but by this point it was already almost 5pm and we still had to travel back.
We all got on the bus and while watching the beautiful scenery; quite a few of us fell asleep for the journey home.
I am so happy we did this trip and I do recommend you do it. However, it was a really long day. I also don’t think there would be a better way to do this trip in a day as there is so much to see, and transportation can always be an issue. If you want to make this a longer trip, I would recommend taking a car and driving the route (which is something you can do), this way you can get out and hike around some of the glaciers as well. Or, you can reserve your own tickets to take the Bernina Express and stop where you like; there are many hotels along the route at different stops. What is nice about being on a tour is having a knowledgeable guide on your headset, explaining the different scenery and history of places we were seeing.
If you do decide to take this trip, here are my recommendations:
Pack water, but drink sparingly. They do give you a water bottle in Tirano, but one bottle of water that day will not be enough, especially with the altitude. However, there was no bathroom on the bus, and I did not see one on the train.
Pack snacks. It is a long day, and some of the places we stopped, while they do have lunch, may not be good for snacks, so bring some along to help keep your energy up throughout the day.
Guard your leg room. If you don’t want to be disturbed by hikers on the train ride, find a way to make it so you have four people in your seating area (that is the max allowed) that way, there would not be room for them to squeeze in.
Bring motion sickness medication. You will be on a bus and train for a lot of time that day as well as in changing altitudes. I am really happy for bringing along some Dramamine, because with all the twists and turns, you start to feel it.
Bring Advil. For the same reason as above, you will be on a bus and train for most of your day, and this can get really uncomfortable for your body. Pack some Advil to help prevent being too sore the next day.
Pack a spare charging pack. You will have your phone out for most of the trip, especially on the train, taking pictures of the scenery. Unless you have some super phone with a 14-hour battery, pack a charger as you will need it.
Be sure to check out my video of the experience as well!
And this was my experience of traveling to Switzerland and back in a day! Drop a comment below if you have any questions on the trip, or have taken it yourself!