Three Days in Milan, Italy

I loved traveling with two-month-old Sophie to Milan (just over 3 hours from Zurich on the train) and can’t wait to show her these photos when she’s older. I’ve even already blocked out the massive, annoying flight delay on the way home to NYC.

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A baby forces you to slow down. (No sh*t, said every mom everywhere.) Honestly, this is still the hardest part of adjusting to baby life for me, even when we are home. We stuck mostly to the touristy center of Milan, near our hotel - the fantastic Mandarin Oriental, Milan. We stayed at the hotel for dinner twice and went out once. And we spent most of the days exploring, giving her (and us) a break in the late afternoons.

My highlights:

The beautiful old-world cafes Marchesi 1824 (now owned by Prada) and Cova (now owned by LVMH), basically right next to each other on Milan’s fancy Monte Napoleone shopping street.

Staying at the Mandarin Oriental - there is just nothing like returning to a fancy cocoon after a day in a European capital. It’s the best location, five minutes from the Duomo and Teatra la Scala (opera house), with great people watching. Pro tip: Get the bright green minestrone soup at the bar for a pasta break. It’s so good.

Walking out of the Mandarin Oriental

Walking out of the Mandarin Oriental

Scoring same-day tickets to The Last Supper thanks to the Mandarin’s concierge team. It made me want to reread The Da Vinci Code, but it is truly spectacular, though much more faded than I expected, and somehow looks alive. Get there at your exact entry time!

A visit to gourmet grocery store Peck - the produce made me wish I had an apartment to cook in.

A bubbly, fun lunch at Luca e Andrea in the Navigli canal neighborhood (not L’Altro Luca e Andrea). Luca e Andrea was the perfect tiny gem for lunch, filled with Italians and Nancy Meyers-movie music. The canal area is fun to explore, but I’d never go on a busy summer Saturday. Best during the week in the off-season.

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Luca e Andrea

Luca e Andrea

Strolling through the beautiful Brera neighborhood, and stopping at Obica Brera for lunch. (We have an Obica in NYC, and it’s a chain now, but it’s so much better here.)

Walking to 10 Corso Como, Milan’s original fabulous shopping center, and getting coffee at the cafe, plus shopping at the enormous Eataly.

I can’t help but love Eataly all over the world.

I can’t help but love Eataly all over the world.

Dinner at Giacamo Bistrot, a great neighborhood spot a 20-minute walk from our hotel.

A stop at La Rinascente, Italy’s famous department store, and checking out the 7th-floor food hall, with great views of the Duomo from the restaurants. It’s not the best department store food hall I’ve been to (that honor goes to KaDeWe in Berlin), but worth a stop.

Views at La Rinascente

Views at La Rinascente

Trying a famous panzerotti (basically a pizza Hot Pocket) at Luini - the lines get crazy around lunch, so try to go right when they open.

Visiting the top of the Duomo on our last morning. It had been 17 years since my last visit and I’m so glad I did it again. So worth it!

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I had grand plans to visit two highly praised museums - Armani Silos and Fondazione Prada (there’s a cafe there designed by Wes Anderson!) - but next time. Other restaurants on my list: Al Porto, Sadler, Il Cavallino, La Pesa Trattoria 1902, Cracco’s - but we’ll need a baby-sitter for these.

Walking in Brera

Walking in Brera

Beautiful Wengen & the Bernese Oberland

View from the Beausite Park Hotel, Wengen. 

View from the Beausite Park Hotel, Wengen. 

We spent a picture-perfect summer week in Wengen in the Bernese Oberland this summer. It's a magical car-free town with views of the Jungfrau, one of the highest mountains in Europe. Little Wengen, with its cute main street, wonderful restaurants, and mountain town clothing shops, is also home to one of my favorite hotels in Switzerland - the family-owned Beausite Park Hotel Wengen. You wake up to views of the valley and the Jungfrau, enjoy the most delicious breakfast buffet and dinners, fantastic coffee in the cozy lounge, live piano music at night in the bar, and true Swiss hospitality. I loved seeing all the American, British, and Swiss families gather at the dinner tables on their vacations. It's so, so lovely. 

The must-do's in the Bernese Oberland: hiking, cheese, and wine. Here are some more of my highlights: 

  • A wonderful family-owned cheese shop, Chäs Gruebi in Wengen, that stocks lots of Alpenkäse (Alpine cheese) and Swiss wine. The essentials.
The Chäs Gruebi shop in Wengen (on the way back to the Beausite Park Hotel). 

The Chäs Gruebi shop in Wengen (on the way back to the Beausite Park Hotel). 

  • Dinner outside at Da Sina (behind the Hotel Schönegg) for pizza, pasta, and salad. It was such beautiful, cool weather and the light on the Jungfrau looked fiery and ablaze as the sun set. Eat on the patio if it's nice, but the inside is super cozy, too. 
Dinner outside at Da Sina. 

Dinner outside at Da Sina. 

The Jungfrau ablaze near Da Sina. 

The Jungfrau ablaze near Da Sina. 

  • An Aperol Spritz on the terrace at the Hotel Caprice - stunning views, perfect weather! 
On the terrace at Hotel Caprice. 

On the terrace at Hotel Caprice. 

  • Hiking from Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg: a 1.5 hour walk, slow descent, doable for almost anyone. The fields of wildflowers (blooming in late June/July only), the rushing waterfalls cascading down from the glaciers, the views, THE AIR. You take the gondola from Wengen to Männlichen and then the trail is well-marked, like most trails in Switzerland. In Kleine Scheidegg, I loved eating at Restaurant Grindelwaldblick. You can either hike back to Wengen from Kleine Scheidegg or take the train down.
En route from Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg. 

En route from Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg. 

  • A slice of homemade apricot cake at the restaurant at the Wengenalp train station - German/Austrian/Swiss baked goods are hands-down my favorite in the world. They're not as sweet (you won't find enormous cupcakes or brownies), there's a big focus on fruit (like the apricots), and they're often topped with a giant blob of lightly sweetened whipped cream. 
  • Lunch at Hotel Alpenruh in Mürren after hiking from Lauterbrunnen to Mürren (amazing views of the Jungfrau, Eiger, and Monch mountains). Take the quick tram from Lauterbrunnen (across from the train station) to Grütschalp and set off from there. It's mostly flat and really beautiful - you'll make friends with all the cows along the way. Best done on a day that isn't too hot - there isn't a lot of shade. 
Lunch at Hotel Alpenruh in Mürren.

Lunch at Hotel Alpenruh in Mürren.

  • A note on trains: Not all mountain railways are included with your Swiss Travel Pass, a must if you're taking a lot of trains in Switzerland. Seat61 has a great overview of train options in Switzerland, but know that you will probably be shelling out extra for gondolas and other regional trains in the Bernese Oberland. 

The Hotel I (Almost) Want To Keep Secret

Lounging before breakfast. 

Lounging before breakfast. 

But I won't because I loved this place so, so much. Because our time and money is precious. 

I love discovering places in Switzerland that I never would have known about, had I not been traveling with Alex - like Melchsee-Frutt outside of Lucerne. 

Views near Guarda Val. 

Views near Guarda Val. 

This hotel, Guarda Val in the Swiss mountain town of Lenzerheide, is Alpine perfection. Split among eleven 300-year-old chalet-style huts, it's a place that will envelop you. The breakfast is divine, their main restaurant is one of the best in town, they serve coffee and cake every afternoon in a soaring space with a fireplace, there is a beautiful small spa and jacuzzi outside (which they call an "open-air hot pot" - haha). You wake up to heart-stopping views, you're breathing in air that can heal you, you realize you want a simpler life (or maybe that's just me). 

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Most of all, I loved discovering Lenzerheide. I had been to Arosa - which is now connected to Lenzerheide by cable car, making it one of Switzerland's largest ski areas. But Lenzerheide is pretty special - it's really primarily Swiss people who go here. 

Tip: I'd highly recommend a car to get to Lenzerheide in the canton of Graubünden - it's that rare place in Switzerland not connected by train. But you will be rewarded. And maybe I'll see you there this summer. 

This Magical Place Called Melchsee-Frutt

Chances are if you've been to Switzerland, you have never been to or heard of Melchsee-Frutt, a tiny ski resort 45 minutes from Lucerne. You dream of Gstaad or St. Moritz or Zermatt. But part of the joy of getting to know Switzerland better has been discovering tiny little villages - ones I had no idea existed. For the Swiss, especially those who live in or around Lucerne, Melchsee-Frutt is pretty well-known.

There isn't a lot up here. I think 100 people live here year-round. If you want a buzzing restaurant scene, people decked out in Canada Goose and Prada ski clothes, Chanel storefronts, and glossy magazines breathlessly covering the society of the ski town (hello Aspen - I love you too), this isn't the alpine village for you. 

But. BUT. If you want to truly disconnect (but yes, there is free, fast WiFi), finish that book you've been meaning to finish for months, actually talk to your partner (really talk, about life and plans, and solve long-stewing debates), spend time in a wonderful spa, hike in gorgeous Alpine scenery followed by a hot bowl of soup, and feel your shoulders relax for the first time in months, this is the place for you. 

We stayed at the WONDERFUL Frutt Lodge, where the food is delicious (including the breakfast buffet), and the rooms are sink-into-your-bed worthy. The main lodge is separated from the family-friendly lodge by an underground tunnel.  

Day one was rainy and gross and I still loved it because it meant we didn't really leave Frutt Lodge. We still did a 45-minute walk around the lake in the cold fog. I got a massage, swam in the gorgeous spa pool, read my book at the bar (with Swiss cow bells adorning it), and read some more in the super cozy lobby lounge with a crackling fireplace. 

Day two the sun shone brilliantly and we hiked again, past the picture-perfect church, next to the clear, glassy lake, breathing in that crisp, perfect Alpine air.  

I love so many places in Switzerland, but this feels like a secret. I can't wait to go back. 

  • Tip: You need a car to get here. You can drive all the way up to Melchsee-Frutt and park it in the lot (and you won't use it for the rest of your trip as you can't drive in the village) or park it at the base of the mountain and take the gondola up with your luggage. 
Driving down the mountain, back to Lucerne

Driving down the mountain, back to Lucerne