How about lunch in St. Moritz?
We have been in Milan for a week and haven’t left the city, loving every aspect of this beautiful place, but one out of town excursion was too fun to miss. How about a train ride to St. Moritz for lunch?
The train ride through the Swiss alps seemed appealing, as did a visit to one of the world’s most famous ski resorts, tucked some 1900 meters above sea level in the south Swiss alps and easily reachable on a day trip from Milan.
One of the most spectacular ways to cross the Alps is on the Bernina Express, an old fashion red train that runs every day from Tirano all the way to Chur, stopping at St. Moritz on the way. Through the winter month the train provides the only means of transportation to some of the most remote alpine regions. The train is an adhesion train and operates much like an old fashioned bus: you ring the bell for the train to stop at your station en route.
If you are not driving you reach Tirano from Milan by an air conditioned bus travelling through Lake Como and then north eastern Lombardy through gorgeous countryside, quaint villages and Nebbiolo vineyards that are terraced up high and steep slopes.
We stopped in Tirano, a charming Alpine village that caters to ski tourism, being in the heart of Swiss alpine ski area. We walked through the tree lined main street and checked out a few of the food shops and bakeries. Since it is close to Christmas season there were beautifully wrapped panettone lining the shelves to the tune of 50 Euros. I didn’t want to carry anything more than I was already carrying so I dragged myself out of the store without buying any hoping to get a second chance in Milan before we leave. Panettone originates from Milan and I have developed a serious addiction to it years ago, unable to pass one without buying and consuming it in short order. Good thing it’s only available around Christmas.
Normally you would board the train in Tirano but repairs to the railroad between Tirano and Poschiavo necessitated that we continue on the road to the village of Poschiavo where we finally boarded the train. From there it begun the final climb to 2300 meters and then descended to 1900 meters to St. Moritz. In its entire route the train crosses 196 bridges and go through 55 tunnels.
Living in Canada and having hiked and traveled through the glorious Rocky Mountains the scenery was not entirely foreign but it was still different enough and I cannot even begin to describe the rugged beauty of the Swiss alps. I hope the images speak for themselves.
Storybook villages lined the valleys and glacier lakes glisten with the purest of blues. The red train snaked up the steep track at times with barely an inch to spare between us and the drop to the valley far below.
Before we boarded the train I was wondering which side would be best to sit on to catch the best views but there is no best side. The train winds its way up and at each turn you get the view from either side. In any event, I didn’t sit for a moment, moving between windows to take pictures, breath in the crisp air (you can open the windows) and try to take it all in. I hope I captured some of the scenery in the images below but it’s one of those things you have to see for yourself.
Arriving at the St. Mortiz train station we looked up the mountain to see the grand hotels of the village and down below the beautiful lake. During the winter the lake freezes over and serves as a skating rink as well as a stage to the many winter sports (even Polo) and events that take place there. Known as the playground for the rich and famous it is quite low keyed off season and most of the facilities are shut down.
The resort is divided into three villages so if you book a ski vacation in St. Moritz be sure you know were it is located. Right now it’s off season in St. Mortiz and the hotels were closed for the season to be reopened in early December.
We walked along the pedestrian only Via Serla lined with shop after shop of high end designers. Clearly this is not the place where you ask the price for anything. We stopped for lunch at one of the few restaurants that are open year round and sampled a special Swiss cheese from nearby Ftan village.The Ftan cheese is long ripening with prominent flavour and semi dry texture. I believe it is only available in that region so it was a special experience to try it in the region where it is made.
After lunch we lingered with a large cup of hot Swiss chocolate topped with plenty of whipped cream before catching the bus for the return trip to Milan.
The route down was something I have never experienced before. Saying that the road is narrow and winding is an understatement as you can see from the images above. But it was fun and this is only one section of the road. Otherwise, we rode through Alpine villages that seemed empty of their inhabitants who will probably return there for winter activities.
I definitely put this area on my travel map as a must return to place, next time in season. It would be fun to rent a car and drive up there, stopping at some of the picturesque villages along the way, spending a few days hiking and generally exploring and experiencing the food and culture.