See the section for Europe of the Trento Bike Pages.

A Tale of Two Trains,
between Switzerland and Italy

Contributed by Marco Buffa in November 1995


Train leaves from Chiasso to Airolo at 6:30; at the ticket office the clerk refuses to load my bycicle on the same train I travel because "the man who is in charge to do that is not still arrived". According to the clerk I have to ship my bycicle with a different train from the 6:30 and forces me to buy a 12 FS. ticket for shipment instead fo the usual 6 FS. ticket for extra luggage. In the end he says "if you want to load yourself your bycicle ... " My bycicle and I are on the train at 6:29 ... Note that during the week I have phoned the ticket office askng three simple questions:
  1. Is the 06:30 train provided of luggage-wagon that carries bycicles?
  2. Is it possible for me to travel with my bycicle on this train ?
  3. What I have to pay for this service ?
and the answers were 1) yes 2) yes 3) 6 FS. ...

At 8:20 start from Airolo to Nufenenpass: at first the effort required is not so much. Valle Bedretto is crossed and I can see the arrow saying "Passo S. Giacomo" (it's a path that takes to Val Formazza and then down to Domodossola , interesting for mountain-bike). Sun shines but the route is in the shade of mountains: that's good because the ascent becomes steeper and straight. With a right hairpin begins the last part of the ascent: very regular but without a real resting stretch.

Towards the end, slope decreases and then here's the small lake of Nufenenpass (till here: 23 Km 120 min 1300 mt of devilment). Clouds cover completely mountains and I have to buy postcards to see the view of Finsteraarhorn: anyway the place is magnificent.

The descent is one of the steepest I've ever seen: it's a stress-test for brakes. At the end I'm at Ulrichen: turn left to Brig. I meet some stretch of ascent but then is definitively descent, a very fast descent. Valais is made up of much grass and a few little houses: in the distance I see the Alps and it seems to see the Mattherhorn (Cervino).

Without no stops I quickly reach Brig (till here 74 km. 220 min 1350 of devilment). There's much traffic in Brig also due to men at work: they' re completely restyling downtown asphalt made up of nice pave'. No drinking fountain in sight: I have to go to the railway station to find one. Previously i had bypassed one in Fiesch; however I'll find one halfway to Simplonpass. Railway timetables get me to start the ascent to Simplonpass in the hottest hours of the day. The ascent is quite regular but steep especially at first: some effort is also required to reach a viaduct remarkable for its shape and size (in fact I'll find it as a subject of postcard at Simplon Hospiz). Once I'm on I understand the meaning of its shape: it's "wind-saving".

Simplonpass is according to me one of the less fashinating Switzerland pass: it's just like a very wide saddle. (till here: 98 km 360 min. 2700 mt of devilment) Towards Domodossola many Km of descent (a lot under verglas): once I enter Italy I can see immediately signs of 1993 flood ; one year has passed but here there are still claer tracks: also unexpected there is some stretch in ascent.

To avoid the highway in the tunnel i turn right following indications to "Crevoladossola" and then the ones to Domodossola (two hairpins). In flat land I get to Domodossola twenty minutes before leaving of my train. (till here 140 km. 480 min. 2800 mt. of devilment). Once the train finishes skirting Lago Maggiore it's time to get off the train; Vergiate is the second station after crossing Ticino At first I follow indications to Azzate and Varese: here there's much traffic but it's late so I have no choice.

I meet several traffic ligths because several main route are crossed. Without enter Varese (very chaotic) I follow indications to Gazzada Schianno Castiglione Olona and, above all Vedano Olona. After a long descent a steep ascent (10%) allows me to get out of Varese environement and to see the first indications to Como. Now I'm in the Varese-Como-Bergamo route; at Olgiate Comasco turn left to Drezzo the last village before frontier and then a very steep descent (15%) to Chiasso. (180 km. 590 min. 2900 mt.)


No: Nufenenpass from Ulrichen (more precisely: from Brig) is very difficult.


Chiasso: consider the fact that the original path not included train because it started from Bellinzona and then, always by bycicle, Airolo, Nufenen, Brig, Simplon, Domodossola, Locarno Bellinzona (265 km. >4000 mt of devilment). Unluckily route from Domodossola to Locarno has been closed since November 93 till July 95.