Tirano: The Italian Gateway to the Bernina Railway

In this guide we visit the town of Tirano, the southern terminus of the famous Bernina Railway.

Tirano trains

After a visit to the beautiful town of Varenna and an equally pleasant onward train ride, I found myself in Tirano.

Although Tirano is the northern terminus of the standard gauge railway from Milan, it’s not end of the line.

In Tirano, you have the opportunity to connect to a narrow-gauge railway line that will take you across the border into Switzerland.

Of course, I am referring to the famous and incredibly scenic Bernina Railway, which is the primary reason why so many tourists flock to Tirano.

trenord train milan tirano
My Trenord train has arrived in Tirano after a gorgeous ride from Milan. ©Paliparan
tirano trenord station
Tirano’s Italian railway station from where Trenord regional trains depart to Milan. ©Paliparan
railway station tirano
Trenord regional train at the station. ©Paliparan

Tirano: Should you stop overnight?

If you want, there is absolutely no need to stay overnight in Tirano as connecting between the standard gauge Italian trains and the narrow-gauge Bernina Railway is straightforward.

Both the “Italian station” for Trenord regional trains to Lake Como and Milan and the “Swiss station” for Rhaetian Railway trains, such as the renowned Bernina Express, are conveniently situated on the same square.

With an early start, it’s perfectly doable to travel from let’s say Zurich to Milan via the Bernina Railway in a single day, changing trains in Chur and Tirano on your way south.

However, there are some instances where an overnight stop in Tirano can make sense.

If you are traveling southbound from Switzerland to Italy, you may prefer to consider avoiding an onward train to Lake Como destinations like Varenna or Milan in darkness, as this railway line also offers some pleasant views.

When travelling north, you may want to avoid a very early start of your day, which is especially true if you originate your journey in Milan.

Besides, it’s hardly a crime to stay overnight in Tirano as it’s a pleasant town to visit which will make a nice farewell to Italy when travelling north or a good introduction to the country when heading south.

If you plan to make a same-day connection in Tirano, I would advise to make sure that there is always a later departure available in case you miss your intended train due to a delay.

This is particularly important when traveling northbound, as Trenord regional trains are sometimes subject to delays, and you wouldn’t want to take the risk of missing your reserved Bernina Express train.

italian station trenord
The Italian station for Trenord trains to Lake Como and Milan. ©Paliparan
tirano train stations trenord Rhaetian Railway bernina
The Italian station in Tirano (left) is located directly opposite the Swiss station for the Bernina Express into Switzerland. ©Paliparan
bernina railway express station
The narrow-gauge station for Rhaetian Railway trains into Switzerland. This is where the Bernina Express departs from. ©Paliparan

An evening in Tirano

Tirano is a small town with just under 10,000 inhabitants and you can easily visit it in one or two hours.

As there are some appealing café, bars and restaurants, it’s however not a bad place at all to linger for a while longer.

Especially when coming from expensive Switzerland, the significantly more affordable prices in Italy for drinks and food will come as a great relief.

tirano italy
View over Tirano. ©Paliparan

A walk through town

I arrived in Tirano in the evening, just as the sun was about to set behind the mountains.

To make use of the limited daylight hours that still remained, I immediately set off on my walk through town as soon as I had arrived.

ice cream shop
Cafés and ice cream shops in Tirano. ©Paliparan
town centre walk
Walk through the town centre. ©Paliparan
forested mountains
Tirano is surrounded by forested mountains. ©Paliparan
tirano town centre bernina railway
Perego Building in the town centre. ©Paliparan
war memorial
War memorial in a public park. ©Paliparan

Old town

Tirano is divided by the River Adda, with the stations situated on the north-western side of the river and the old town on the south-western side.

Although Tirano’s old town is rather small, the cobblestoned streets and fine squares such as Piazza Cavour make for a nice walk.

Within the old town, you will discover several historic palaces dating back to the Renaissance era, as well as the Collegiate Church of Saint Martin (Collegiata di San Martino).

The most famous church in the region, the early 16th century Sanctuary of the Madonna of Tirano, is however located at the far western end of the town.

Sadly I didn’t have the time to visit this church.

river adda tirano railway
The River Adda bisects Tirano in two. ©Paliparan
piazza cavour
Piazza Cavour and the Town Hall of Tirano. ©Paliparan
piazza cavour tirano railway
On Piazza Cavour there are some appealing terraces for an al fresco meal or drink. ©Paliparan
cobblestone street
Cobblestone street in the old town. ©Paliparan
tirano old town
Old town of Tirano. ©Paliparan
Collegiate Church of Saint Martin tirano
Collegiate Church of Saint Martin. ©Paliparan


I ended up having dinner in an old town restaurant called Foglia d’Oro, which had an attractively priced set menu featuring some local dishes with wine and water included.

My starter of Bresaola (air-dried and salted beef) and fried cheese balls was delicious, while the local pasta dish was quite good.

Although I was satisfied with the meal, the service at the restaurant was shockingly slow as it took ages to flag down one of the waiters and to finally receive my dessert, a piece of cherry pie.

Bresaola and fried cheese balls starter. ©Paliparan
pasta tirano
Local pasta dish as main. ©Paliparan
Piece of pie as dessert. ©Paliparan


I stayed the night in Tirano at a place called Eco Rooms&Breakfast.

The place appears to be under the ownership of the same family who manages Restaurant Liberty Street and Restaurant Merizzi, as I enjoyed my complimentary breakfast at the former and checked in at the latter.

I was certainly pleased with my double room, situated in an apartment building that offered stunning views from the balcony, overlooking the town centre of Tirano and the railway station.

The room was perfectly clean and comfortable and featured a kettle and espresso machine with complimentary tea and coffee.

For my one night stay I paid €67, a rate which included breakfast.

Eco Rooms&Breakfast
My room was located in an apartment building in the town centre. ©Paliparan
Eco Rooms&Breakfast
My comfortable double room at Eco Rooms&Breakfast. ©Paliparan
tea coffee maker
Complimentary tea and coffee. ©Paliparan
en-suite bathroom
En-suite bathroom. ©Paliparan
tirano view
View from my balcony over Tirano and the surrounding mountains. ©Paliparan
tirano train railway station
Balcony view towards the train station of Tirano. ©Paliparan


The next morning, I enjoyed a tasty complimentary breakfast at Liberty Street, where along with the more traditional Italian breakfast fare of a croissant and espresso, there were also several yummy pies available.

From the restaurant, it was just a short walk to the Rhaetian Railway station, where I would board the Bernina Express for one of the world’s most beautiful train journeys all the way to Chur in Switzerland.

breakfast pie coffee
Yummy pie for breakfast. ©Paliparan
bernina railway tirano
Ready to take the Bernina Express from the Rhaetian Railway station in Tirano. ©Paliparan


If you wish to experience the full length of the Bernina Railway, your journey will take you through its southern terminus of Tirano.

Although it is certainly possible to transit through the town and immediately continue to destinations further afield, Tirano can also serve as a convenient place to break up your journey.

This is particularly true if you arrive late from Switzerland on your Bernina Express journey or plan to depart early on the Bernina Railway into Switzerland the next day.

With its range of tourist facilities including hotels and restaurants, Tirano is a pleasant destination to visit for a few hours or even for an overnight stay.

Trip report index

This article is part of the ‘Scenic Trains Around Switzerland and the Italian Lakes‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:

1. Bergamo: A Visit to Lombardy’s Beautiful Hilltop Town
2. Travelling From Bergamo to Milan by Train
3. From Milan to Varenna and Tirano By Trenord Regional Train
4. A Varenna Visit: A Day Trip to Lake Como’s Most Beautiful Town
5. Tirano: The Italian Gateway to the Bernina Railway (current chapter)
6. Bernina Express Train: Guide to Switzerland’s Most Scenic Railway
7. Review: Swiss InterCity (IC) Train Chur to Zurich and Basel

** rest of the chapters to follow soon **

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Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.

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