Train Holiday Memoirs – A Planet Rail Customer’s Account of their Train Holiday to Switzerland & Italy by Rail Part 9

September 26,2014

It’s a nice early start again for the short walk to the station to catch the Bernina Express. It was easily the coldest it has been so far but very sunny and all our worries about the weather in Switzerland have been well and truly quashed.

We had read during our research, that there was no catering on board (although I found this hard to believe on a 5 hour journey) so we brought sandwiches with us for the journey…

Of course when the train came in the first thing we saw was the catering wagon. I suspect we might have to update the Man at Seat 61!

The first class coach is admittedly small but the seats are leather and there are panoramic windows.

We have window seats which is great as those sitting next to us (if anyone comes) do not have a table. There is also plenty of room for luggage.

Five minutes before the train leaves and there is much faffing going on as usual. How difficult can it be to find your seat and settle down when boarding a train!

Twenty minutes gone and we seemed to have stopped quite a few times without explanation.

A cheery little man has been round with a drinks menu but his promise of Prosecco seems to have been his little joke. I suppose it is a tad early at 9am.

We are going through a valley with the river Rhine which seems quite full and fast and once again it is that lovely icy blue/green colour. I can see a little church perched on a rocky outcrop. Oh and there is another. It says in the leaflet that there is no other place in Europe with so many castles in such a small area. The area is Domleschg.

Now we are passing dramatic gorges and so far the trip has easily been more dramatic than the Glacier Express. Lots of small tunnels open out to show ever more exciting landscapes beyond.

Surprisingly the train has stopped at a little stop to take on more passengers and now we have people beside us which is, if I’m honest a little awkward – but I suppose it is part of the experience of travelling by rail.

When we receive our drinks I noticed that there is Prosecco available… so told the guy that we would have one a bit later.

A true feature of the Bernina Express – we’ve just gone over the Landwasser viaduct which amazingly was built without scaffolding. Once again I think of the people that built these railways, and the inevitable lost lives in the name of exceptional engineering feats.

Most of the peaks are rocky with no snow, but I’m pleased to report that the very highest do have snow on them!

You may have guessed by this point that this has to have been one of the trips of our lives. Of course the blue skies and sun has made it extra special (as is always the case) but the scenery has been absolutely incredible. Breathtakingly high mountains, deep blue glaciers, jagged ravines, crystal blue water, steep gradients and outstanding viaducts.

Small church, Thusis


Piz Bernina

The train stopped at Alp Grum station – just past the top of the Bernina Pass – for a well needed 10 minute leg stretch and photo opportunity.


Bernina Express – Stopover at Alp Grum

alp-grum bernina express

Stopover at Alp Grum

This was to be our first view of the Italian Alps, blue in the distance, with rocky outcrops, steep waterfalls and fast flowing streams.

This trip had it all – except food – but luckily we had bought a sandwich (another note to bear in mind for future travellers) and the man got to us just in time for us to enjoy a reasonably priced glass of Prosecco. Mind you we worried we had ordered a whole bottle and how were we going to drink it in one hour!?


Italian Alps from Alp Grum

Our neighbours have just got disembarked from the train at Poshiavo where they are being collected and driven to St Moritz.

lago-di-poschiavoLago di Poschiavo

I would love to come back to this area and go on a valley walking holiday – it seems to be every view is more breathtaking than the last!

It all reminds me of the metal toy trains on a mountain that you could buy when we were children. They went round the side of the mountain and through tunnels on the way.

Our carriage is quite noisy now and the excitement has clearly caused an electric atmosphere. We wended our way down into a wonderful wide valley with little villages and a wide stream. On my right is a waterfall tumbling through the pine trees.

The whole journey has been amazing and now we have half an hour left before we get on the next train to Milan and followed by one to Florence. I am absolutely loving this.

We have just passed through the station at a very busy time on a Friday evening but luckily our train was opened fairly quickly and we are on board ready for the next leg in our rail holiday adventure.

I had not expected to have such a scenic journey from Tirano but we went down along the shores of Lake Como which has now become another place that I long to visit.

Mel got all excited as he saw a flange and realised that would be the place he visited about twenty years ago.

Once again (it’s happened a lot on this trip) words failed me as it is so amazing and I only managed a few minutes sleep as everything was too interesting to miss.

At Tirano we arrived about 2 minutes late meaning we could get straight on our next train to Milan. That train had no catering at all but once again we were prepared. (Mel has just read that there should have been a buffet car on the last train) In truth, First class was not all that great but at least it was quieter than the rest of the train.

So we are now on this train for two hours and then a quick walk and we will be settled in the hotel at Florence. Gin and tonic here I come…!

One thing I have noted is the huge amount of graffiti everywhere. I’d go as far as to say it’s probably the worst I have seen anywhere.

We are going at 297 kph (184.5mph!) on our way to Florence and it really feels like it as we speed past fields of sunflowers.

Up to now the scenery has been relatively uninteresting but gradually it is changing. It is still very flat though.

This time, our travel companions are quite different as they are mostly travelling for business rather than pleasure.

There is a little dog behind me and his owner is a young girl who seems to have lost her ticket or not have one. The man in the next seat along looks like Nigel Farage. I do love people-watching on trains!

I am really looking forward to the sights of Florence but in reality, most of all I am looking forward to just sitting in a square in the sunshine watching the world go by. How lucky are we?

Continue to Part 10

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