12 hours in Milan and then to the Italian Alps

June 15, 2013

I’m sitting on a train en route to Switzerland with Alex Cheifetz, watching a steady decrease in the topographic expression of the Italian Alps as we move south. We met up a few days ago in Milan, and now we are heading back there to catch a train to Switzerland.

The strike of the French air traffic controllers caused a 7 hour delay of my flight from Malaga to Milan, but after a 3 hour flight and a 45 minute bus ride, I found myself in the Milano Stazione Centrale.

It was about 11 pm, and I was tired of sitting all day, so I decided to walk through the city to the hostel where I planned to meet Alex, rather than take the metro rail. I walked the two and a half miles through downtown Milan sandwiched between my two backpacks, sweating and navigating with GoogleMaps screenshots on my phone. I looked like a dirtbag compared to the many young Italians who were out for the evening in the fashion capital with their fine suits and dresses.

I spent the night in a hostel dorm with three Turkish girls who didn’t speak much English and met Alex the next morning. Neither of us are keen on spending much time in the big cities, so we took a train north to Varenna that day.

From Varenna, we ferried across Lago di Como to Menaggio and checked into the Menaggio Youth Hostel for two nights.


A ferry comes into port at Menaggio on Lago di Como

We spent some time wandering around the town and ended up in a trailer park outside of town adjacent to a towering limestone cliff with climbing routes everywhere! It was late in the evening at that point so we went back to the hostel and made some plans for the immediate future and the next two weeks. Here are some photos of Menaggio in the evening:










Bellagio in the background


The next morning, we walked out the door at 9 am after a leisurely breakfast and started going uphill.


A view of Bellagio over the rooftops of an Alpine hamlet

We ended up going on an urban hike through about 6 different towns on the way up to Breglia, where an official hiking trail began.


Alex navigates the narrow corridors of the village above Menaggio


Bottled water!



We sat down in a public park in Breglia to eat our lunch. Just as I was craving some fresh fruit, a produce truck pulled up to the town center and honked its horn. Just as I had seen in Spain a week earlier, a group of little old ladies came strolling out of their homes with baskets to stock up.



I joined them and got some snacks for the trail.


Breglia’s belltower


On the way to Rifugio Menaggio, the units are hiking time in hours…weird and not accurate.

From the park, we walked up to Rifugio Menaggio, where a group of older hikers were each enjoying a slice of chocolate cake and a coffee. So this is how they do it in the Italian Alps…


The Rifugio! We did not eat any of their cake or coffee.

We went the rest of the way up to the summit of Monte Grona.



Italian Alpine club trail markers.




Mt Bregagno







The holy summit…

On our way back down, we caught a bus back to Menaggio to get back before the grocery store closed, so we could enjoy another cheap meal. The bus driver seemed to be a bit confused that we didn’t have round trip tickets when we got on. We could have easily taken the bus up the hill, but that would have cut out half the adventure.

Our plans for the next week are loosely based around spending a week exploring a few areas in the Swiss Alps. We plan to spend time around Grindelwald, Gimmelwald, Lauterbrunnen, and possibly Zermatt if the weather is nice.



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