I define amazing travel for leisure as a combination of a great airfare deal, well planned outfits, good wine, great food while immersing oneself in the culture. Earlier this summer I scored an amazing deal on Emirates airline to travel to Milan, Italy thanks to the discount travel blog Thrifty Traveler. I have Brooklyn born and raised friends who are currently expats due to work and I had plans to visit in 2017 but, when I received the link, I decided to spend Thanksgiving abroad and I didn’t regret it one bit.
Emirates Airline is ranked as one of the best airlines in the world with amazing in-flight entertainment, roomy seats, all you can drink beverages both alcoholic and non-alcoholic and savory meals. Flying economy, I still felt as though I was experiencing luxury service in the sky. Note to domestic airlines with international flights, Emirates is the shhhhhh- thank you.
Milan was my touchdown city; we stayed in the nearby suburb of Varese, a sleepy enclave with gated chalet designed homes. My host, friends since Middle School had just settled in a few weeks prior to my arrival but had immersed themselves in Lombardian culture as though they were natives.
I've been to Milan years ago for work but my dream was to visit Venice. We took the Le Frecce high speed train from Milan's Centrale Station and arrived in Venice two and a half hours later.. Tourist trap and all, Venice is a beautiful city rich in design, food and drink. Can we talk drink? Here in the states I'm all crazy about happy hour but in Italy, Apertivo is the best time of the day. Since most restaurants open around 7:30, Apertivo is more like Happy hour’s sophisticated aunt. Apertivo is less about getting discounted drinks, it is more the time to open your appetite have a light cocktail such as an Aperol Spritz or a regional wine with a light bite to eat which is rather inexpensive. I dined on a glass of Rose and a small prosciutto sandwich at Barcollo, in the Mercato area of Venice to a total of 4 Euro which is around $4.50. Imagine getting a glass of wine and a sandwich in the Brooklyn for that, I’ll keep dreaming.
Venice is all about riding around the canals in a gondola but, after traveling up the Grand Canal via the Vaporetto, I was content with mass transportation and channeling my inner Talented Mr. Ripley. I believe in always bringing something back from my trips and Venice by far is my favorite place for inexpensive and thoughtful trinkets. From items made of Venetian glass, to multi-colored pasta, watercolors of the canals, the merchants in the Mercato didn't make me feel taken for granted I actually felt like I gotten some great deals.
Lodging was a stunning Air BnB in the sleepy Giardini area of Venice, our host, Xenia, was both professional and hospitable. The apartment was romantic and chic, perfect for a short stay.
The following morning, I woke up earlier and took a few more pics, had a pastry and espresso and picked up a few culinary delights at Coop, the grocery store chain to bring back home. Note, everyone loves food products brought back from Italy. Whether its pasta, olive oil or lemoncello, purchase your products in the supermarket, the selection is excellent as are the prices. Actually, I became obsessed with Italian supermarkets and food emporiums. I spent a lot of time in Tigros the equivalent to Stop n Shop if Stop n Shop had a dining area and made a stellar espresso. Thanksgiving Day we headed back to Varese for a group dinner in a traditional Milanese restaurant Il Vicolino Spizato where we blasted American music and did the Mannequin Challenge successfully.
Our weekend plans were taking place in Monaco for a little glitz and glamour. It's a little over three hour drive from Varese to Cote d'Azur where we stayed in another Air BnB on the hilltop with gallant views of the French Riviera. I through on a sequin jacket and we had dinner at Tip Top a dive like restaurant with a wall full of celebs who have visited in the past. Settling back in our white washed abode the following morning we took in sunrise and when I realized God is the greatest artist.
Lunch was at the Fairmont Hotel, which had the most captivating views and service. Being a true American, we couldn't pass on the chance of visiting Starbucks which no one comes to use the WiFi but to actually take in the Mediterranean Sea. Wanting to have a Monaco experience, what I’ve imagined it to be minus the unlimited budget I tried to find a fun yet affordable place to have dinner and fell upon Pacific.
You know how they say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas well what happens in Pacific is a euphoric epiphany of fun. Great food, a birthday cake that almost said Happy New Year, my imperfect French the Stevie Wonder version of Happy Birthday, a trio of very handsome servers and karaoke, the only question that remains is why did we leave?
All good things must come to an end and on our last day before departure, heading back to Varese we stopped in Switzerland to do shopping at the Foxtown Outlets. Sprawled over thousands of acres, Foxtown is a mixture of affordable brands think Esprit, Benetton along with a few American brands Nike, Michael Kors, Coach, well known Euro brands Pinko, Furla and luxury brands Fendi, Gucci at discounted but not fire sale price. Plus November is not the time to shop; January and July are the months when sales are great.
3 countries and a principality later, the redesigned Malpensa airport is a destination of its own with first-rate duty free shops that you can use spend your last bit of Euro before boarding your flight back home via Emirates.
Stay tuned for my next trip…. Ciao for now!