South Tyrol

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We wanted to go somewhere in the mountains where we could just relax over the winter holidays. We found the perfect spot in South Tyrol. Although a part of Italy today, this region is in many ways more Austrian than Italian. Most speak German as their first language and food is a mix of schnitzels and knödel alongside pasta.

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San Luis Retreat Hotel & lodges

San Luis is hidden in a forest above the town of Meran (or Merano), which has a great Christmas market. Chalets and treehouses surround a lake that is frozen over the winter. We stayed in one of the Loft Chalets, which has its own sauna and a hot tub on the terrace. Every morning we woke up to find breakfast set up in the kitchen of our chalet. Lunch was a more casual buffet while dinner consisted of several courses that changed each night. There was even afternoon tea with cakes and ice cream available. When we weren’t sitting inside by the fire, we were in the pool that opened to the outdoors, or the whirlpool in the middle of the lake.

The entire retreat is amazing and they made Christmas there very special. It was exactly the holiday we were looking for to end the year with.

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Turin

While not quite off the beaten path, Turin is not exactly at the top of most travel lists either. Maybe that's why Turin felt like the most authentic city we visited in Italy this time around. Home to Fiat, Martini and Nutella, Turin is the capital of the Piedmont region. We mostly sat around caffès drinking bicerin (Turin's specialty drink of layered espresso, chocolate and cream) and walked through the numerous piazzas. Although we visited in the middle of a heat wave, the endless arcades around the city provided much needed shelter from the summer sun. 

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EAT

Del Cambio
Caffè Al Bicerin
Caffè Fiorio
Porto di Savona
Stratta (caffè and good gianduiotto) 

SEE

Mole Antonelliana
Piazza San Carlo
Via Roma and Lagrange
Museo Egizio
Monte dei Cappuccini (for amazing views) 

STAY

Turin Palace Hotel

Lake Como

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An hour train ride from Milan, Lake Como is a popular destination for foreigners and Italians alike. The lake is larger than I expected; you could spend weeks visiting all the towns lining the Y-shaped lake. As this was my first time here I decided to stay in Bellagio, a town I knew would not disappoint. You can drive around the lake but the better option in my opinion is to hop between towns by ferry.

We explored the mid-lakes region (Varenna, Menaggio, Tremezzo and Bellagio) and also took a ferry to Como, the largest city on the lake. 

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Milan

My mom came to visit and we decided to travel to Italy for a week. The first stop on our Italian tour was Milan. The city is all about design, art and style—you wouldn't expect anything less from the fashion capital of the world. Then there's the food. Local specialties include ossobuco, cotoletta (veal cutlet) and risotto alla milanese. We ate as much as we could while taking in the sights of the city.

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EAT

Antica Trattoria della Pesa
Pasticceria Marchesi
Da Giacomo
Luini (for their panzerotti) 

SEE

Duomo di Milano
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Teatro alla Scala
Pinacoteca di Brera

STAY

Room Mate Giulia (right around the corner from the Duomo and Galleria)