Visiting Tirano, Italy
Tirano sits at the entrance of the Swiss Valposchiavo, where the northern and southern Alps meet. The historical center is just past the train station and over the river; you can cross one of the bridges and enter through an original old gate in the medieval wall. The Porta Poschiavina is the best city gate to see with its sixteenth century frescos. Walk down narrow roads, past stone towers, and by palaces that were once home to noble families. The Palazzo Salis, belonged to the Swiss Salis family and built in the mid 1600’s, is now a museum.
The main attraction in Tirano is the church at the edge of town which also sits on a small plaza, Piazza Basilica, where the Bernina Pass railway line passes. The church, Basilica della Madonna di Tirano, is a Catholic shrine to the Madonna di Tirano and is dedicated to the appearance of Mary to Mario Degli Omodei in 1504. There is a small chapel to the left of the entrance that is dedicated to the place where Mary appeared. The inside of the Basilica is very impressive and covered with artworks, carvings, and paintings. The 17th century organ is an impressive Baroque piece dominating the front of the church and even the ceiling as it stretches up towards the dome in dark wood.
I highly recommend you take a coffee break at the outdoor café by the Basilica and admire the view.
You can easily walk to the Basilica from the main train station by walking down the tree lined Viale Italia street. The church is also where you will see the bright red Swiss trains pass right through the center of the intersection, with barely a blow of a whistle and no train crossing bars. To see the Swiss trains run like clockwork through this small Italian piazza it is quite a sight to see, for in true Italian style the train creates a scene with traffic uproar, and it is gone before you know it and everything goes back to normal until the next train.
Tirano is a nice small city to visit. If you are taking the Bernina train from St. Moritz or another Swiss town, Tirano is the end of the line and perfect for a few hours to have lunch and run over to see the church before getting back on the train.
For a comprehensive and thorough guide to Tirano and the surrounding area, click here for a pdf official tourism guide. This guide of Tirano also includes maps with suggested routes and highlighted buildings/museums to see along the way.