You might be surprised to hear that you can join an organised day trip from Lake Como to St Moritz, in the summer. A large part of the attraction is that the journey includes a spectacular ride on the Bernina Express, along the only Swiss railway line that crosses the Alps above ground. This was our experience of the excursion.
The coach picks passengers up at various points along the western side of the Lake before heading north. This part of the trip is a quiet affair, mostly taken up with thinking about what’s coming next. The most interesting distraction comes when the tour guide tells us we are passing through Dongo, where Mussolini and his mistress were shot by patriots and hung up by their feet in the town square. This information is a godsend to the guide who, up until then, has been on a near starvation diet of occasional, small, Romanesque churches. Unfortunately, however, it’s wrong – Mussolini was captured in Dongo but executed in Mezzegra, near Lenno.
We leave the bus at Poschiavo and board the Bernina Express, a bright red train designed inside as a sort of moving viewing gallery. It climbs from 429 to 2,253 metres, without the use of cog wheels, despite gradients of up to 70%. (No, I don’t know what cog wheels are either.) The route is spectacular, providing panoramic views of the valleys below as the train climbs higher and higher. There’s just one hitch. Too often, the view is blocked by the foliage of young trees or a sort of elongated garden fence. But when you can see the view, it’s spectacular.
When the train reaches the top, the landscape changes to a combination of permanent ice formations (glaciers), sharp peaks and eerie lakes, after which you rejoin the coach at Bernina Diavolezza, for the last part of the outward journey.
There’s enough time at St Moritz to have a cup of coffee, or a snack, and buy some chocolate. But the day isn’t over yet. The return journey involves the coach negotiating a steep descent from the mountains in a series of hairpin bends. You can’t help thinking this is where you’d like the fence – preferably made of steel.
For more information on the train, see the Bernina Express website. It’s also worth a look for the writing, which, as the following extract shows, has a real spring in its step:
‘Life does not always run in a nice, straight line. There are also bends, curves and the occasional obstacle to negotiate. And sometimes you come across things in life that really do make you realise how good it is to be alive. Welcome aboard the Bernina Express. The joie de vivre line.’
The trip from Lake Como to St Moritz including Bernina Experss train was organised by Il Porticciolo Viaggi. Click here to view their website and email details.