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Day 8: Lugano to Tirano

The aim for today was to travel from Lugano to the small Italian town of Tirano via the Bernina Express bus. There is only one bus which runs between the two towns per day and reservation is mandatory, so I had booked the tickets well in advance online. Boarding a bus in Switzerland is a much more civilised experience than boarding a bus in Macedonia or Montenegro, so without any pushing, shoving or stress we were soon on our way :)

The Bernina bus takes three hours to make the journey between Lugano and Tirano. Many of the passengers carry on to travel to full Bernina Express train route towards Davos or Chur, but we were using it as part of a complicated route towards our ultimate destination of Bolzano. The scenery through which the bus travels in spectacular though and so the journey is definitely worth making in its own right.

The advice which I'd read online was to sit on the right hand side of the bus, and sure enough this turned out to be the best plan, as we were treated to some stunning views of Lake Lugano as soon as we set off. It took a mere fifteen minutes or so to reach the Italian border, shortly after which we left Lake Lugano behind and travelled through a series of mountain tunnels, before emerging by the shore of Lake Como.


The bus followed the shore of Lake Como for several miles, between Menaggio and Sorico, stopping in Sorico for a ten-minute break which allowed us to get out of the bus and take a few photos.


After Sorico, the bus turned away from the lake and continued through the mountains towards Tirano. It turns out to be a lot more difficult to take pictures from a moving bus than from a moving train, but the views were still amazing.


We arrived in Tirano shortly after 1pm, amazed that the journey had passed so quickly, and decided to have lunch straight away so as not to miss the serving times. It was wonderfully warm and sunny when we first sat down outside, but during the course of the meal it began to get cooler and cloudier, and by the time we were walking towards our hotel to check in it was clear that the heavens were going to open some time soon.

Our hotel was situated just across the road from an enormous basilica, built in 1504 to commemorate an apparation of the Virgin Mary which ended a plague in the area.


It's a very impressive church and from a distance you can see more clearly just how huge it is.


Unfortunately, no sooner had we snapped a few pictures of the basilica than the thunder and lightning and torrential rain began. It rained for more than four hours straight, and so we were forced to retreat to our hotel room.

Around 7pm it seemed that the storm had passed over, and so we were able to set out and explore Tirano. Finally we had some clear views of the mountains.


The guidebook had said that Tirano had an impressive medieval centre, but it took us a while to locate it. Once we found this tower, we figured we were on the right track.


Sure enough, we soon found some streets which looked extremely old indeed...


...and before long we were in the main square, complete with another impressive church.


Tonight is our only night in Tirano, before we head back over the border into Switzerland tomorrow. Fingers crossed it will stay dry there!

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