Just a stone’s throw from the Swiss border, Tirano sits at a
cultural and geographical intersection, between that of the Alps from the Passo
Bernina to the Passo Aprica, and on the axis between Milan and Alta Valtellina.
As one of the most picturesque towns in Valtellina, there’s a warm, appealing
atmosphere for gourmands, culture-seekers and outdoor enthusiasts to bask in.
A trip on the famous
UNESCO-listed red Bernina Express railway should feature on everyone’s
Valtellina itinerary. Hop on board in Tirano, where the unforgettable
cross-border journey begins, taking you over the Bernina to St Moritz in
Switzerland’s stunning Engadin valley.
A visit to Grosio’s Rock Engraving Park is a must-do for families; inside the Rock Engraving Park you’ll see the Rupe Magna, one of the biggest petroglyphs in the Alps, taking you on an adventure through the ages with archaeology, castles, rock engravings, and nature as your guides.
Tirano is a great match for fans of the outdoors, with a portfolio that includes hiking, rafting on the River Adda, and cycling in all its facets. For those who enjoy two wheels, there’s everything from bike-touring along the Sentiero Valtellina to mountain biking on the mountainsides or road riding up legendary climbs such as the Passo del Mortirolo, which ramps up almost immediately from Tirano.
While the attention for Tirano’s outdoor scene is well deserved, its delectable regional cuisine should never go unmentioned. In and around the city, the straight-to-plate gastro scene is flourishing, so allocate time to visit local wine producers for tastings and stroll through the apple orchards.
Beyond the fascination of Grosio’s prehistoric petroglyphs,
Tirano and its surrounding villages have a lot to offer when it comes to
museums, historic palazzi and churches.
Most notably, Tirano is home to the only Basilica in the province of Sondrio. The Santuario della Madonna di Tirano was built in the very spot where, according to Catholic tradition, the Virgin appeared in front of local resident Mario Omodei on 29th September 1504, promising an end to the plague. While arguably of great religious significance, this Basilica is also considered one of the most monumental renaissance buildings in Valtellina.
Easy to navigate on foot, check out Tirano’s Ethnographic Museum (the Museo Etnografico Tiranese) in the piazza of the Basilica, and head up above the town to admire the medieval frescoes of the ancient church of Santa Perpetua, a former xenodochium that historically offered refuge to foreigners or pilgrims. The Church of San Rocco stands a little bit further on. While meandering through Tirano’s picture book lanes, you can’t miss the ancient Sforza walls with the Bormina, Milanese and Poschiavina gates, the castle of Santa Maria, the bell tower of the Church of San Martino and the wealth of lavish buildings, including the residences-turned-museums Palazzo Salis and Palazzo d’Oro Lambertenghi.
Privately owned but open to visitors, Palazzo Merizzi is a sight to behold as is Grosio’s Villa Visconti Venosta and its park. Don’t leave Tirano without checking out its historic castles: namely the castle of Bellaguarda in Tovo Sant’Agata, Pedenale’s tower in Mazzo di Valtellina, as well as Grosio’s two castles in the Parco delle Incisioni Rupestri.