Based solely on the input from this Forum, we decided to use the regional trains for this route, from Pontresina to Campocologo, and back again. Because of the changing covid mandates, we didn't want to cross Italy into Tirano, then re-enter Switzerland. One of the train experts here on the Forum worked out the schedule for us, so that we boarded the regional train at 9:04 am, disembarked in less than two hours at the last Swiss stop, [10:51am] , waited 17 minutes, and boarded the returning train at 11:08 am. [We were incredibly thankful for this help; the hotel gave us a schedule, but the print was so small I had to photograph the pages and then enlarge them in order to read.] About a dozen other folks did the same, getting off at Campocologno. We wanted to ride to this last stop, as we wanted to experience the Brusio Viaduct, on which the train makes a 360 degree turn. On the regional trains, you can also hop off/on various stops for hiking and exploration.
The Regional train was great: not crowded, the windows opened and brought in the fresh mountain air, and we could easily change seats across the aisles, depending on the scenery. [These are also a plus for the covid situation.] In addition, my photographs came out amazingly well, without window glass glare, and having been taken from a moving train. We passed the panoramic trains a few times, and one could easily see that every seat was reserved; no reservations required for the regional trains. The regional trains are also free with the Swiss Travel Pass.
Having watched TV specials and U-Tube videos showing the Bernina Express highlights, I wondered if the real route would live up to expectations. However, not to worry, the scenery was fantastic!!! We had perfectly blue skies, clear air, glistening reflections in the glacier lakes, and panoramic views. We rode the route twice, and were in as much wonderment the second time as the first, and it was nice knowing what to expect around the next turn. All my research on the route allowed me to appreciate the Swiss ingenuity and precision required to build this train route in the early 1900's, especially in an era of hand-calculations, without aide of computer math.
We had brought snacks and nourishment for the four-hour round trip, and returned to the Pontresina / Surovas "Stop by Request" by early afternoon.
The rest of the day my husband rented a mountain bike from the hotel, half-day for very reasonable rates, and I took advantage of the Bellavita Pool, free pass from the hotel. The outdoor pool maintains 93 degrees year-round, and has a view of the Alps and glacier. The mixed-gender locker room was a surprise, but there were private changing stalls. I then wandered the shops on this Monday, as everything was closed on Sundays, but didn't purchase anything, as most shops sold high-end hiking and mountain biking equipment.
We had dinner at a wine bar/cafe, Gianottis Wilderei, with great Swiss wines and fresh food. I still have a hard time with a 8chf charge for bottled water, but there was never a line on any Swiss restaurant bill for a tip.
In Pontresina, many establishments did not have English menus, which was a surprise, so the waiter had to interpret the menu orally. It was deer season, so venison was on everyone's menu, which did not suit my fancy.
I do hope to return to this beautiful area, and take advantage of the many incredible hikes in the Alps and out to the glaciers.