Filling in the gaps between Munich and Milan (or a little beyond)
October 8, 2015 8:03 PM   Subscribe

Solo traveler looking for your recommendations for off-the-tourist-trail places roughly between Munich and Milan for the last week of December/first week of January. Bonus points for an interesting place to spend New Year's Eve.

I'm going to be flying into Munich in the last week of December and flying out of Milan about 10 days later in January of next year. I don't have any particular attachment to visit either of those cities, and am looking for interesting places in between. I'm a solo traveler in my 20s; my ideal destination is a little off-the-beaten path with good vegetarian food and nice scenery to decompress after a stressful year. Since I'll be traveling during New Year's, I'm also looking for someplace with a unique New Year's Eve.

My idea right now is to follow the EuroCity train line from Munich to Innsbruck for a day or two, and then down to Bologna which I can use as a base for day trips to nearby places like San Marino and Ravenna. Bologna's Rogo del Vecchione seems interesting too. Does anyone have any experience in those cities or can recommend something else? I don't think I'll be renting a car, but extra hours in transit by train are not an issue.
posted by a bird, it's a bird to Travel & Transportation (4 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I would like to suggest Bolzano, which is in a heart-achingly magnificent valley in the Dolomites (which also serve as a suggestion of their own). It looks like the intercity train from Innsbruck to Bologna stops there anyway. I have only been to Bolzano in summer, so I'm not sure exactly how it is in the winter, but much of the infrastructure (i.e. gondolas) is clearly winter-oriented. It's a majority-Italian-speaking city in the majority-German-speaking Italian province of Südtirol/Alto Adige, which makes it an interesting crossroads of Alpine culture.

Bolzano has a traditional German-style Christmas market and, come to think of it, if I had to choose a place to spend New Year's/San Silvestro, Bolzano might be pretty high on my list — I hated the firecracker warzone that I encountered in a big-city San Silvestro in Rome. Which, if you want to de-stress, might be something to think about!

You might also check out Lago di Garda not far from Bolzano, along the same route closer to Bologna; again, not sure how it is in winter.
posted by xueexueg at 8:20 PM on October 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: As a resident of both Munich and Innsbruck, I can confidently say that your plan so far is quite excellent (feel free to MeMail for specific tips or even a place to stay – there's a very good chance that I'll be in Innsbruck with a bed to spare at the end of the year). When the weather is nice, Innsbruck can even be a pretty nice place for New Year's; the Christmas market is still on and the tourism agency does a yearly fireworks show from one of the mountains to the north of the city which you can see from pretty much everywhere.

I second the recommendation to spend a few days in South Tyrol for winter awesomeness (they have high mountains and there's typically more snow than both further north and south). While you're in the alpine region I'd also set aside half a day for a sledge ride, which around here is a thing even adults do: You hike up a mountain for 1–2 hours, have a cheap but filling vegetarian lunch at a chalet and then sledge back down. There are a lot of possible destinations for this. Without a car and sledge of your own, I'd recommend Kemater Alm (buses from/to Innsbruck every 15 minutes, ½ hour bus ride, 2 hour hike, sledges for hire, and ridiculously idyllic).

If money is a concern and you don't have a railpass, I can also recommend taking the bus instead of the train, which tends to be much cheaper. For example, Munich–Innsbruck is a 2:30 hours journey at 8 € (vs. 1:45 hours at 37.80 € by train).
posted by wachhundfisch at 5:41 AM on October 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

North of Milan is a town called Bormio which has the most amazing natural hot spa.

It includes outdoor hot pools overlooking the mountains and totally insane underground caves connected by hot springs that you can swim through.

You can go as a day visitor and they loan you robes and towels etc. It's great.

posted by colie at 6:18 AM on October 9, 2015

And wow Bormio is exactly half way between Milan and Munich.
posted by colie at 6:34 AM on October 9, 2015

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