Bernina Express

In safe hands: with bus driver Renato Borri

In safe hands: with bus driver Renato Borri - Bernina Express

His eyes are focused on the road ahead while his hands deftly turn the steering wheel back and forth: Renato Borri expertly steers the Bernina Express Bus and its 48 passengers from Tirano through Valtellina, along the shores of Lake Como and through narrow lakeside streets to Lugano in just over three hours.

From the glistening glaciers in the mountains on Ospizio Bernina down to the swaying palms of Italy: the Bernina Express connects northern and southern Europe on its way from Chur to Tirano, building bridges between language regions and cultures. And that holds true of the Bernina Express Bus that continues the journey from Tirano to Lugano: bus driver Renato Borri is from Ticino, he speaks Swiss German and Italian, and his passengers today are German, French, English and Japanese. For the next three hours, they have all consigned themselves to the care of the bus driver who now knows this stretch of road inside out: "For six years now, I have travelled virtually every day from Lugano to Tirano and back again," he says in Swiss German – with a wonderful Italian accent, just as you would expect of a man from Ticino.

«Nothing has ever happened. Sometimes another car has to swerve or reverse a little to let me past.»
Renato Borri

All aboard!
When the passengers get on in Tirano, Renato Borri has already completed a three-hour journey: he set off from Lugano at 10 a.m. on the red Bernina Express Bus to get his passengers to Tirano in time for lunch. After his well-deserved break in the Italian sun, it’s time for him to get back to work again. Borri carefully checks the reservation confirmations of all 48 passengers that are travelling from Tirano to Lugano today – after all he wouldn’t want to forget anyone. The bags and suitcases of varying shapes and sizes all disappear into the boot. Once all the passengers have found their seat, Renato Borri welcomes his fellow travellers on board – in German and Italian, and then, because his guests requested it, in English and French. You’ve got to hand it to him: this man has linguistic talent! But the bus driver plays it down: "I can manage the welcome speech in English and French, and that’s about where my knowledge of the two languages ends," he says with a smile. And then he sets off; concentration is now order of the day. Every now and again he makes an announcement about any sights worthy of mention along the way; but passengers are not allowed to engage the bus driver in a long conversation at this point.

Vines, lakesides and hairpin bends
First the bus travels through the picturesque region of Valtellina, which has made a name for itself in particular because of its wine. Here, in the lower part of the Valtellina, the valley is broad providing plenty of space for extensive vineyards where mainly the Nebbiolo grape is cultivated. After around an hour and a half, the party reaches Sorico, a small village at the northern tip of Lake Como. Time for a short break and the chance for the passengers to stretch their legs. "We’ll continue in 15 minutes," Renato Borri announces. Not that all the passengers are back on the bus ready to set off again after that time. Has he ever lost a passenger? "Oh my goodness! No, never. After all, I check all the seats before we continue." The next stretch takes the red bus along the shores of Lake Como, revealing small bays and dreamy fishing villages. But that’s where the dreaming ends. Near Menaggio, the road bears off to the left – and the trickiest part of the journey begins: the Bernina Express Bus struggles on round one hairpin bend after another and Renato Borri literally has his hands full with the steering wheel. But the experienced bus driver confidently manages even the most difficult parts: "We take part in driver training every year. And that prepares us for just about anything really." A loud beep of his horn lets other drivers know that a large vehicle is on the road – and revives even the most sleepy passenger. "Nothing has ever happened," says Borri. "Sometimes another car has to swerve or reverse a little to let me past." The trip becomes more gentle again along the shores of Lake Lugano and shortly after Customs, the scenery starts getting more urban again. Today’s destination has been reached: Lugano.

Time to stop work? Not quite …
Once all the suitcases have been unloaded and Renato Borri has said goodbye to all the passengers, he still has not finished work. "I live around 30 minutes away from Lugano – and that’s where my bus has to go into its garage. Then I have to tidy things up on the bus so that it is ready to start off again in the morning." At 10 the following morning, the next round trip starts off again in Lugano for Borri, with 48 different passengers. "Whether I get bored with the route? Not at all. First of all, I really love being a bus driver – and secondly I enjoy the views from the bus on the way from Lugano to Tirano and back again every day."

Bernina Express Bus: Tirano - Lugano

Bernina Express Bus: Tirano - Lugano

The journey starts in Tirano through the picturesque Veltlin. The italian valley landscape is famous for its wines. During the journey along the shore of the Lake Como the view rables across the picturesque bays and the dreamy fishing villages. The narrow shore streets of the Lake Lugano accompany us to Switzerland and our destination, Lugano.