This December I turned 50. To celebrate my milestone birthday, I returned to Italy for six days of solo travel. I spent the days roaming the streets of Como and Milan - the area my sister and I lived over 20 years ago and where the idea for Alora was born. I walked and walked, visiting old familiar spots along Lake Como, enjoying my favorite foods from Lombardy, and taking my sweet time window shopping in Milan!
It was an amazing trip and a very special way to celebrate such a big milestone. Read on for a recap of the highlights from my getaway and ideas for your next trip to this stunning region of Italy.
Part 1: Como
Arriving to the train station in Como brought my first tear! From day trips into Milano to weekend jaunts down to Florence, my sis and I were in and out of this stazione on a regular basis. It had been updated since my time there, but the old Como signs were familiar and the cappuccino at the bar was terrific, just as I remembered.
I spent the first two days of my trip in Como and stayed at the Palazzo Albricci Peregrini, a lovely hotel located in the historic city center. The staff was terrific, and they served homemade breakfast each morning that was to die for. Plus the location was perfect for strolling the charming streets all beautifully decorated for Christmas. I'd highly recommend it if you are planning to visit!
Walk to Moltrasio
It was typical winter weather with rain and temps in the mid-40's, so I bundled up and, with my umbrella in tow, walked the 5 mile route up the west side of the lake to my old house, located in the small village of Moltrasio. I'd forgotten how the leaves changed color in the winter and how that added to the stunning views. I opted to take the boat back, a fun reminder of the commute I used to do when I studied Italian down in Como!
I was determined to enjoy some of my favorite foods from Lombardy, the region where Como and Milan are located. The cuisine is rich in both ingredients and flavor. A few hours after my flight landed, I enjoyed this hearty bowl of Pizzoccheri alla valtellinese, a traditional dish from Valtellina, north of Lake Como near Switzerland. Pizzoccheri are buckwheat tagliatelle noodles, and in this dish, they are mixed with cabbage, potatoes, butter, and fontina cheese. So rich and so tasty!
Part 2: Milan
My last dinner in Italy was at Trattoria Milanese, a very traditional Milanese restaurant that caters to locals. I loved that the menu was only in Italian. I lucked out and was able to get a table at 7:30pm - well before the locals arrive for their typical 9:00pm dinner reservations!
I ordered the Cotoletta alla Milanese, and it was perfect. Classically prepared - a veal cutlet pounded thin, covered in breading and fried in butter - and served with a lemon wedge. Once again, so simple and so delicious. And speaking of simple and delicious - artichokes were in season, so I enjoyed them shaved raw with Parmesan, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and a few turns of fresh cracked pepper. Buonissimo!
As for my favorite Lombardian sweet, I definitely got my fill of panettone on this trip. I've shared about my love of this Italian sweet Christmas bread originating in Milan before, and I knew it not only would be displayed in every pasticceria window this time of year but offered on nearly every dessert menu in the city as well. Italian obsess about panettone during Christmas, so I followed suit and obsessed over it too. I snapped photos of them beautifully wrapped in windows and happily agreed to the free sample from a baker who insisted I try his recipe with my afternoon caffè. I even purchased a mini version to nibble on during my flight home!
As for shopping, the following photos capture so much of what I love about Italy and Italians. From fashion to flowers, to elegant dishware, beautifully-wrapped pastries and perfectly-displayed produce - I love it all. And what a gift it was to spend six days surrounded by the beauty of Italy during this magical time of the year.
So fun to share this special trip with you! Lake Como and Milan will always be special places to me and I hope that you'll consider visiting this area if you travel to Italy.
Buon Natale e Buon Anno!