Non-Race Travel: The Best of St. Moritz, Florence, and Rome

IMG_3321Better late than never on this one!  My husband and I were fortunate to be invited to a wedding in St. Moritz, Switzerland in mid-January this year.  I honestly had never heard of St. Moritz, but as soon as I Wikipedia’d it, I was pretty pumped, even if I mis-pronounced it for several weeks until someone correct me (Mor-RITZ, not MORE-itz).  We also decided to extend the trip with stops in Florence and Rome, Italy.   Here are some of the highlights.

Best Things to Do in St. Moritz, Switzerland in Winter

Best Running Route: The Swiss have a special name for walking in the snow: winterwandern.  So they’ve created miles and miles of walking paths throughout St. Moritz.  Some are relatively flat, like the ones that lead downtown.  And others are more hilly, like the serpentine trails up the ski slopes.  So pick a path and get running.  Yaktrax or microspikes recommended — the trails are covered in shallow snow.  Most of the trails have signs to help you navigate, but there are also maps online.

Best Non-Downhill-Skiing Activity: A main attraction for St. Moritz is the downhill skiing.  But if you’re not much into downhill, or just want something different, St. Moritz offers some of the world’s best cross-country skiing.  We took a 1 hr. skate-ski lesson with Suvretta Sports, as I had heard from some friends in CO that the gliding skate-ski style was more fun that traditional cross-country skiing.  I loved it, and it was a fun workout.  Challenging, but doable.  Wear layers.  No helmet, snowpants, goggles, etc. required.

Best Relaxing Outdoor Adventure: When your legs get tired, bust out your lift ticket and head up the tram and gondola to the very top: Piz Nair.  Enjoy a hot chocolate (plain or spiked) at the top and take in the panoramic views of the Alps.  Snap a selfie with the goat statue.  Then ride the tram and gondola back down.

Best Chance to be Brave: Sledging (aka sledding) at the Preda-Bergun sled run for only 17 euros.  Take the train a few stops from St. Moritz to get to the run.

Best Activities We Would Have Done If We Had More Time:  Walking at the top of Mouttas Muragl; snowshoeing

Best Italian Tiramisu:  An amazing, adorable spot in Zouz… working on finding out the name and will report back.

Best Way to Get There: Regional train from Zurich (through Chur) was easy and beautiful.  Upgrade to the panorama car for 5 euros.

Best Things to Do in Florence, Italy

Best Stair Workout:  I’m not really a fan of visiting churches.  But when I hear that churches have stair climbs, I become more open-minded.  The Duomo provides two opportunities for stair climbing.   Neither is absurdly hard, but they’ll get the blood flowing and the legs burning.

Best Hill Workout:  Piazzale Michelangelo and Boboli Gardens.  The Gardens were one of my favorite stops during our trip.  Very peaceful will beautiful views of Tuscany and the city.

Best Gelato:  No question about this one.  Gelateria Dei Neri.

Best Sandwich:  Vegetarian option at All’Antico Vinaio.  Do it — you won’t regret it.

Best Classically Italian Dinner: Buca Mario.  I won’t promise that it has the best food you’ll ever eat, but it does feel authentic, warm, and welcoming.

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Best Things to Do in Rome, Italy

Best Running Routes:  Someone else compiled them nicely!

Best Mindless Run:  Worried about getting lost?  Check out the river path.

Best Park: Villa Borghese.  Other gardens are listed here, and other outdoor spaces are here.

Best Cacio e Pepe:  Roscioli Ristorante Salumeria.  Make a reservation.

Best Church-Related Activity:  Tour the Vatican.  Even if you’re not Catholic, even if you’re atheist.  Book a tour.  Get there early.  Wear warm clothes if it is cold outside.  Be prepared for crowds.  If possible, take a little time to check out the more modern parts of the art collection — the church has some pretty impressive stuff…

Best Ruin-Related Activity:  Buy the joint ticket to the Colosseum, Foro Romano, and Palatine Hill. Get there well before closing time (which is quite early in the winter — I think 4:30?).  Tickets sales stop one hour before close.  Plan to spend the bulk of the time at the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill — the Colosseum is more impressive looking from the outside but is worth a quick lap since entrance is included in the combined ticket price.  In terms of other historic sites, skip the free Circus Maximus — not a lot going on there.

Best Non-Ruin, Non-Church Activity: Food tour with Eating Europe.  Our favorite stops were Volpetti (cheese and olives, plus some meat for the meat eaters), Testaccio Market (for bruschetta, buffalo mozzarella, and fritti), and Flavio al Velavevodetto (for carbonara, cacio e pepe, and amatriciana).  This tour takes you off the beaten path.

I’ll also note that we had good success with AirBnB in both Florence and Italy, with significant savings compared to staying it a hotel.  In addition to being less expensive and usually offering kitchens/refrigerators, we like that the AirBnB hosts generally give suggestions for local spots to check out. 

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