Ever since I visited Switzerland for a few days about 30 years ago, I’ve been itching to return. So when we were planning our trip to Italy, including four nights at Lake Como, I was determined to work in at least a day trip to this snow-capped wonder. After doing some research, I realised it was going to be a bit of a battle to get ourselves into Switzerland and back using public transport (due to the train schedules) and it would be a very long day indeed.
I managed to find a travel company called Il Porticciolo Viaggi, which is based in Menaggio and offers day trips, including one to Switzerland with a section on the Bernina Express. We booked it!
On the last full day of our Italy trip, we woke to cloudy skies and light rain. Undeterred by the weather, we went down to the ferry dock and boarded the car ferry bound for Menaggio, where our group trip to St Moritz was due to leave at 8.00am.
We left too early for the breakfast at the hotel, so fruit, a biscuit and a cup of tea had to suffice.
We were greeted in Menaggio by our guide for the day, Julia, a British ex-pat 1960’s fanatic, complete with mini skirt, knee-high white boots and bouffant hair style! She directed us to where we could board the mini bus for the journey. We joined a group of 17 people, which was a good number. Julia provided just the right amount of commentary throughout the trip.
We drove through small villages and onto the countryside at the north of Lake Como, noticing the large number of hillside vineyards along the way. Wine is so popular and important in Italy, there are vineyards everywhere, but apparently the grapes from this area are something special, and so is their wine.
We then arrived in Tirano, a town at the base of the swiss Alps, where we enjoyed morning tea and a wander around the town.
We then crossed the Swiss border (they didn’t even check our passports!) and headed up into the Alps to the small town of Poschiavo. After a brief look at the village, we boarded the Bernina Express train which took us from Poschiavo to Diavolezza.
The Bernina Express is one of the most spectacular ways to cross the Swiss Alps. The distinctive red train snakes its way through valleys of incredible beauty, past pretty villages, frozen rivers and icy glaciers, through tunnels, across multiple bridges, all the while moving slowly up steep mountain slopes.
The train itself and the stations were spotlessly clean and ran precisely on time. We chuckled about how the Australian trains could take a leaf out of the Bernina book!
On arrival at Diavolezza, we left the train to encounter light snow, which was a bit of a thrill for us, as we rarely see the white stuff falling. We were there at the end of April (two months into Spring), so it was rather unexpected.
We re-boarded the mini bus, which took us the rest of the way up to St Moritz.
Once up in the iconic ski resort of St. Moritz, we visited a restaurant called Hauser, where we enjoyed a lunch of pearl barley soup and shared one potato rosti, both of which were delicious.
At around $70 AUD, it was the most expensive lunch we had during our trip – I think we paid extra due to only having Euro currency, rather than Swiss francs. We couldn’t really argue about the price, we just had to pay!
Afterwards, we took a walk, but most of the shops were closed as was the off-season. Naturally, we were devastated to not be able to visit Jimmy Choo, Chopard, Rolex and Louis Vuitton!!
We bought a couple of relatively inexpensive souvenirs and went to take a couple of photos of the town and lake before meeting the group at the bus.
Considering the grey skies that morning, the weather was actually good to us, with it clearing enough so that we could see the views of the mountains, lakes and snow. After lunch, it started to sleet and rain, which continued all the way home.
We had to negotiate some very hairy roads on the way back, including a steep section with switchback sections.
We were pleased to have a very experienced and competent bus driver to get us down the mountain safely.
We arrived back in Menaggio before 6pm, and caught the 6.10pm ferry back to Varenna, where we enjoyed a pizza and bottle of wine for dinner at Bar Il Molo on the harbour front. We so enjoyed our day trip to Switzerland, and we were so pleased to have squeezed it in on our last day.
Have you been to Switzerland? If so, where did you visit?
The Besties Do Italy series details how Seize The Day Project’s Lyndall and her long time best friend Jane ventured to Italy to celebrate a significant birthday – sans husbands and children. Shhh, don’t tell anyone they’ve gone!
Read more posts in this fascinating series here:
Positano, you stole a little piece of my heart – Exploring Lake Como: The Greenway Walk – Eternal Rome: I only just met you, but I think I love you – Some Enchanted Evening in Venice – The journey to Cinque Terre: When things didn’t go according to plan – A trip to Villa San Michele, Anacapri – Cooking up an Italian storm in Roma – A visit to beautiful San Gimignano – A gourmet twilight tour of Trastevere – A memorable dinner on Lake Como – Finding the best gelato in Italy
Linking up with DeepFriedFruit for #LovinLifeLinky