10 May 2020 - Day 29 – Bernina Express, Tirano and Como
As I was falling asleep, I counted twenty-four cathedrals and ten countries so far on this trip. And I wasn’t even in my target country yet, although, by this afternoon, I finally reach Italy. But today was going to be an experience. Up ahead of the phone alarming me, I was downstairs with my roller. Pushing it to the side, I scooted in to grab another of those cold cut baguettes and a croissant, figuring I could get coffee at the train station. Checking out, I was practically running down the slight incline with anticipation to get to the station, despite the overcast skies.
The source of my excitement was that I’d be riding the #BerninaExpress through Switzerland this morning. This was a great find for me. While researching a way to get from Chur to Lugano, it looked like I’d have to return to Zürich, take a train south through central Switzerland, and then get on a bus to get to Lugano. I’d be spending all day just on transportation! Then I found this engineering marvel. Just over 4 hours on a train to arrive in Italy, and I could use my Eurail pass with a small supplement to get a reserved seat. This had to be a dream come true.
Okay, I looked several YouTube videos, and think this 10-minute long one gives the best review of this awesome ride.
Suffice it say this was the highlight of the trip so far. Despite my 70 years, I think I was bouncing up and down, excited and shooting pictures for almost the whole trip, except when I had to replace dead batteries or we were briefly in tunnels. And I really want to do this again at least twice – in both directions!
Arriving just before one in #Tirano, I was able to store my roller in the Swiss (SBB) station while I explored the town for two hours, before my first Italian train ride. All passengers got off, as those continuing to Lugano would take a different SBB train, while those with Italian destinations went on via ItaliaRail. My plan was to head to Como via Monza.
No cathedral in Tirano, but there is a notable church, the Basilica dell’Apparizione della Beata Vergine. In fact, as the train had approached the station, we’d passed it. Built in the early sixteenth century after a Marian apparition, it is quite a church. Carvings and stucco everywhere, behind a gate sits the chapel honoring this visitation in the western end as one enters. At the eastern end, the apse is curved under a massive dome with monochrome art work. Such religious fervor on display was very moving. After about 40 minutes, I decided to not retrace the 15-minute direct walk I’d used to arrive, but take a route through the residential part of town, up a slight rise.
Approaching the station, knowing I had about 4 hours before reaching Como, ending with a half hour ride from Monza, this train’s destination, I stopped at Sale e Pepe to get a pizza to go. The menu was in Italian and German, so I did the great point-selection process for prosciutto, sausage, mozzarella, gorgonzola and pepperoni, and asked them to fold it in half after it was finished baking in the brick wood-fired oven. Sort of my own calzone. With a bottle of water, I still got away for 10€, grateful that I was in Italy.
The ItaliaRail train was definitely not the deluxe I’d experienced in Switzerland. Still, I was comfortable, had a double seat to myself, and there was plenty of luggage room. Two and a half hours later, we pulled into Monza.
The train to Como San Giovanni would leave in half an hour and take 45 minutes. It had rained while the regional train crossed to the east. Because I planned on visiting Monza in a few days, I rolled my bag around the station and a bit outside. The station is functional. There’s the River Lambro on the opposite side, but in front of the station, just a big park. Reentering, I roamed a bit before finding the correct platform and boarding a Trenord train.
Arriving in #Como at the San Giovanni station, my days journey was coming to an end. Damp streets, I had a half kilometer walk to my hotel. Google Maps sent me straight out of the station a block to a pedestrian bridge over 4 lanes of traffic. Walking north along it for two blocks, I then opted to veer into a park so I could walk away from the speeding automobiles. Nearing the marina, I made two rights and the Ostello Bello Lake Como was awaiting me. Apparently I’d booked into a hostel, but with my own room and bath. Comprised of two buildings, with reception and breakfast room on the street, and the other was set back across a slate patio. I was booked into the back building, one level up, and facing away from the courtyard. I learned that as many as a dozen folks shared a room with triple bunkbeds against each wall.
Hauling the blue beast across the courtyard and up a flight of stairs, I found floor space to open it and leave it for my two day stay. A camera battery went into the charger. The hotel was very close to the marina and Lake Como, so I expected to be able to find a seafood restaurant nearby. The dining at the hostel was pizza, or you could head around the corner to get provisions and cook for yourself in the communal kitchen. Most of the nearby restaurants were pizza places, and I’d had my daily dose on the train. So I headed to a burger place, because I was told the fish places were closed on Sunday evenings.
Macinato Fresco offered more than burgers – I saw some nice pieces of beef being served. As I was now in Lombardy, I asked for a Nebbiolo, and they suggest a half carafe of their house red. I opted for fettucine Bolognese as a primi and a stacked burger as secondi. And I was too full for dessert, although they looked superb. Food and wine were delicious, and I stumbled out quite sated.
Returning to the hostel, the courtyard was filled with twenty-somethings, sharing pitchers of beer and recreational whatever, entertaining in small groups with a few guitars. I was tired despite my not really doing much walking today, so I headed to the room. The camera battery was still charging when I returned, but as I worked on this posting, it finished and I started the second. I put the phone into another adapter plugged into the wall, and downloaded a lot of pictures from the camera chip. Things were fairly quiet in the building, especially since I faced away from the gatherings downstairs, so once this is uploaded and the photos put into the right places, I can turn out the lights (except for those glowing red lights of charging batteries) and go to sleep. BTW, I hope everyone had a good Mother’s Day.