Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A City Break Within a City Break That Still Won't Break The Bank - Milan, Italy & St. Moritz, Switzerland

I’m a firm believer that if you're going to travel you might as well make the most of it! Most places we go, I try to see if we can do a day trip to another city or country close by, just as we did at the Christmas markets. Oh how I envy those mainland Europeans with their ridiculously close neighbours and their affordable public transport. 

Duomo – Milan Cathedral

I was cooped up in hospital for 4 weeks while pregnant, the consultant eventually told me I could do with a change of scenery for a few days, he may have meant for me to go home, but I took him quite literally and jumped straight onto AerLingus.com

I booked return flights to Milan Linate airport for a 5 day relaxing break. The price was surprisingly good that close to travel time, only €110pp.  From Linate Airport we got the Urban Line bus 73 to Milan city centre, journey time is 10 minutes & costs €1.50pp.

Milan City Centre

The Best Western Astoria Hotel had a great deal on at the time. We paid a total of €440 for 5 nights B&B for a double room. It’s a lovely hotel with really friendly staff located 15 minutes on tram 16 from Milan City Centre & a couple of stops further out is San Siro stadium. The rooms were fairly small but the huge array of fresh foods at breakfast more than made up for that.

There are fabulous affordable restaurants surrounding the hotel & one in particular right across the road. When they saw I was pregnant they couldn’t have been nicer. Everything that was cooked in the kitchen they brought me a little side plate to taste! We paid €24 for our meal including a carafe of house wine for my Husband. We returned most nights as the food, hospitality and prices were unbeatable.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – Shopping Centre

We got a hop on hop off bus the first day we were in Milan so we could familiarise ourselves with the city. We spent €24pp for a 24 hour ticket with a further 24 hours free. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is one of the world’s oldest shopping centres, construction started in 1865. Today it houses some of the most expensive designer shops in Milan, so great for window shopping! 

Here you’ll also find Duomo Cathedral, a stunning building that took 579 years to complete. We simply had to pay a visit as you can walk around the rooftop terraces & take in the amazing views over Milan. €12pp to gain access via lift & €7pp to use the stairs, you know we got the lift!

Just around the corner is the museum of Natural History and entry is free so we took a stroll around for a look & we weren't disappointed. They have every animal you can think of on display. It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon. 

While on a ramble back to the main square we stopped off for loo break & a cold drink. BIG mistake, the loo was a hole in the ground, it was impossible for me to go as I couldn’t bend that much without toppling over! Also they charged €6 yes €6 for a can of coke!

Terraces on Duomo

I regularly use Viator.com to see what’s to see & do in a city before I travel & it gives me great info on that can be done or where you can visit in the surrounding area on a day trip. Then I google the details to see if I can get it cheaper using public transport. 

As this particular day trip was to a different country I just went ahead & booked it through Viator, we paid €120pp for a 12 hour day trip to St. Moritz in Switzerland through the Swiss Alps on the Bernina Express train.

“Little Red Train” Bernina Rail Tour

Pick up is from central Milan - Sforza Castle at 7am, we just jumped on the tram outside our hotel & got to the Castle in less than 15 minutes. (You do need to bring your passport with you & if you are not a citizen of the E.U. a visa.) 

From here you are transported to the train station at the foothills of the Alps in a coach with an English speaking guide who points out places of interest along the way.

We couldn’t believe the colour of this glacial lake.

Due to traffic on the day, our coach missed the express train. We later found out that this was very lucky for us as the express has a glass roof which means the windows can’t be lowered. imagine the swelterings!? Just 10 minutes later we were boarded on an older train & on our merry way. 

The 2.5 hour journey took us through some stunning scenery the likes of which I’ve never seen before or since. We passed through the UNESCO World Heritage listed route of the Bernina Pass.

Stunning Alpine Valleys and Lakes - (Yodeling Optional)

After the 7,330ft climb onboard the Little Red Train you have an hour and a half to explore the gorgeous village of St. Moritz. It’s the highest peak of the eastern Alps & described as one of the world’s most famous, elegant & exclusive holiday resorts.
St. Moritz - Switzerland

After a leisurely ramble around the village we bought gifts (for me!) in one of the artisan chocolate shops. We took advantage of the “Champagne Climate” as the sun shines on average 322 days a year & stopped for lunch alfresco. 

I was pleasantly surprised when the bill came as it wasn’t as expensive as I would have thought for such a chic & stylish restaurant. We paid €50 for our lunch which is on par with a decent restaurant in Dublin. 

Unfortunately we didn’t get the train back down as the day trip includes a 3.5 hour, sometimes heart stopping, coach ride back to Milan on the twists & turns of the Alps.

Glacial Lake in Engadin

It was straight back to hospital for me after we landed for a further 2 week stay, with only my Alpine dreams to comfort me. Hell, it was better than spending my weeks reprieve watching daytime TV, eating a Toblerone, right? 

Have you been to Milan or St. Moritz? Please share any hints or tips you have, we'll definitely be going back. 

Or, have you ever been on holliers in one place and skirted off somewhere else while there? 

No comments: