Bernina Pass Attractions
One of the most rewarding routes through the Alps is the one which runs from St Moritz over the Bernina pass and down the Poschiavo valley into Italy, and usually remains open throughout the year for both road and rail traffic.
The pass is not only the watershed between the Engadine and the Valtellina but also the boundary between Rhaeto-Romanic (referring to the language and culture peculiar to southeastern Switzerland and the Tyrol) and Italian culture. The road, already being used in the 13th C. and built in its modern form between 1842 and 1865, traverses magnificent mountain and glacier scenery.The journey from St Moritz to Tirano in Italy goes over the 58km/36mi long pass road, via Pontresina (8km/5mi) to the Bernina pass (24km/15mi), and then via Poschiavo (17km/11mi) to Tirano (34km/21mi).By rail on the Rhätische Bahn, the journey takes 3.5 hours (the highest railroad over the Alps). A tourist attraction is the Bernina-Express from Chur via the pass to Tirano, which can also be combined with the Glacier-Express.
The road through the Bernina Pass crosses the plateau via Samedan (airport) and Celerina, and begins to climb at Punt Muragl (cableway up Muottas Murag). At Pontresina there are views up Val Roseg to the right and Val Languard to the left. 4.5km/3mi farther on a road goes off on the right to the Hotel-Restaurant Morteratsch (45minutes climb from here to the Morteratsch glacier, 35minutes up Chünetta). From the sharp bends at Montebello there are superb views of the Morteratsch glacier, Piz Palü (3,905 m/12,812ft), Bellavista (3,827 m/12,556ft), Piz Bernina (4,049 m/13,285ft) and Piz Morteratsch (3,751 m/12,307ft). Two of Switzerland's finest cableways start from special stations on the Bernina railroad.
Diavolezza (ski area)
The Diavolezza (2,973 m/9,754ft), one of the most popular skiing areas in the Alps, is reached by a cableway starting just beyond Bernina Suot (length 3,625 m/11,894ft), height difference 883 m/2,897ft, time 10minutes). The Diavolezza-Haus (2,977 m/9,768ft), situated opposite the giant peaks of the Bernina group, affords magnificent views. From here there are numerous paths leading into the mountains, including the "Diavolezza-Tour", one of the easiest glacier walks (three hours, with guide), going from the Diavolezza-Haus by way of the Pers and Morteratsch glaciers to the Morteratsch Hotel. Summer skiing.
Piz Lagalb (2,959 m/9,708ft: lower station Curtinatsch 2,090 m/6,857ft, upper station 2,896 m/9,502ft: restaurant, with panoramic view): wildlife park, view into the Valtellina. The cableway, 2,381 m/7,812ft long, runs up from Curtinatsch (Bernina-Lagalb) in eight minutes.
The Bernina Hospice (2,309 m/7,576ft: 40b.) is a good walking and climbing base. Two lakes, Lej Nair (Black Lake, 2,222 m/7,290ft) and Lej Pitschen (2,220 m/7,284ft), fed by springs, drain northward into the Inn; they are separated by a masonry dam from the Lago Bianco (White Lake, 2,230 m/7,317ft), an artificial lake supplying the Brusio hydroelectric station. From the Alp Grüm (2,091 m/6,861ft: railroad station) there is a fine view of the Palü glacier (Alpine garden). Nature-lovers can observe many species of birds, from the golden eagle to the rock swallow, from the pigmy owl to the snow finch.
Bernina pass (Val di Livigno)
Fom the Bernina Hospice the Bernina road leaves the rail track, which runs over the Alp Grüm and down into the Val di Pila, and climbs past the Lago della Crocetta to the Bernina pass (Italian Passo del Bernina, 2,323 m/7,622ft), with the desolate landscape of ice-worn rocks commonly found on the high passes and beautiful views on both sides. From here the road runs sharply downhill in short bends and then descends in four hairpins, with magnificent views down into the valley, into the Val Agoné, the highest part of the Poschiavo valley. At La Motta a road branches off on the left over the Forcola di Livigno pass (2,315 m/7,596ft) into the Val di Livigno, in Italy (3.5km/2mi to the frontier, then 15km/9mi to Livigno: large skiing area, customs-free zone).
Val di Campo
5.5km/3mi from the Bernina pass is La Rösa (1,878 m/6,162ft), a picturesque little mountain village at the foot of Piz Campasscio. Then downhill above a wooded gorge, with beautiful views, followed by two sharp bends down to Sfazu (1,666 m/5,466ft: restaurant) and over the Wildbach at the mouth of the beautiful Val di Campo (on left), a valley gouged out by a glacier (narrow mountain road, 8km/5mi, maximum gradient 13%). 4km/2mi beyond La Rösa, on the left, is the Pozzolascio restaurant (1,530 m/5,020ft), near a small lake.
From La Rösa the road runs high up on the wooded mountainside, soon affording an excellent view of the Poschiavo valley. On the opposite slope (view restricted by trees) are the boldly engineered bends of the Bernina railroad. 10km/6mi from La Rösa, at San Carlo (1,095 m/3,593ft), the road reaches the floor of the Poschiavo valley (Italian Valle di Poschiavo). Before the village is a hydroelectric station belonging to the Brusio complex.The 34km/21mi long Poschiavo valley, which descends from the Bernina pass to Tirano in the Valtellina, is a region of southern vegetation and Italian lifestyle. It remained part of the canton of Grisons after the cession to Italy of the Valtellina, which belonged to the Grisons from 1512 to 1797. In 1987 the valley was subject to catastrophic floods, but repairs were completed within a year.The Poschiavo Valley Museum (opening hours given), housed in a restored 18th century building, contains collections on the local life and traditions of the valley.
The road on the south side of the Bernina pass is now of a good standard. Passing through the Valle di Poschiavo it comes to Poschiavo (1,014 m/3,327ft: pop. 3,600), the central area of population in a commune made up of six separate villages. Sights include the 17th C. Town Hall with Romanesque tower, the Late Gothic church of San Vittore (15th-16th C.) and the Baroque church of Santa Maria Presentata (17th-18th C.) with a beautiful ceiling painting in the nave from 1770. Not far from the Piazza are the elegant patrician houses. Colorful facades characterize the Spaniola quarter, which was settled in the 19th C. by emigrants returning from Spain.
Gita a Selva
This children's festival is based on the 19th century custom of visiting the church every spring. Local children climb the Selva Alpine meadow to the nearby chapel, where they gather for a service and then a meal of polenta.The rest of the day is celebrated in a more pagan manner, with song, dance, theatrical performances, sports competitions and general merriment.
Le Prese (summer holiday resort)
4km/2mi beyond Poschiavo is the summer holiday resort of Le Prese (alt. 965 m/3,166ft) on the Lago di Poschiavo.
The commune of Brusio (alt. 740m/2,428ft: pop. 1,340), which takes in the seven villages between the Lago di Poschiavo and the Italian frontier, is an area of lush southern vegetation. The principal village is dominated by the towers of its 17th C. church.The road continues through tobacco plantations and forests of chesnut-trees to Campascio (630 m/2,067ft) and Campocologno (553 m/1,814ft), the last place in Switzerland (customs), with the Brusio power station (33,000 kW).From the Swiss-Italian frontier crossing at Piatta Mala the road leads into the Valtellina. The Village of Madonna di Tirano (438 m/1,437ft) has a famous pilgrimage church (1503-33). The road now forks: to the right it runs down the Valtellina and continues via Sondrio and around Lake Como to Lugano (120km/ 75mi); the road to the left runs up the valley to the old town of Tirano (429 m/1,408ft: pop. 8,000), straddling the River Adda, with old patrician houses of the 15th-17th C.
This belvedere (2,091m/6,860ft) overlooks the Palü Glacier and the Poschiavo Valley. It can be reached from the Ospizio Bernina station.