Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Barfussweg: the Bare foot path

I am trying desparately to take my mind off the fact that my nose has been running since approx. 4:23pm - it's 11:26pm at the moment and I don't dare lay down. I finished a nice walk this afternoon and the allergies took over.

I have a love/hate relationship with Fall. Right now, I would like it to start freezing at night so all the molds/mildew will die a quick death. AND, I would like it to continue to be 65 - 70 F during the day for my pleasure. Small requests, I know.

I will therefore share our family escapades from Saturday above Engelberg. (Linds - would have love to stop by and say hi! to Marge but the wee one was having issues and timing was not right) We ended up at the lift to the Brunni Huette although we meant to go somewhere else. My bloggy friend Linds had posted about the new lift/play area above Engelberg at the beginning of summer and I thought the girls would love it.

They did. Here is the pond the "Barfussweg" encompasses. For us, winter is approaching and with it comes the fog/clouds - we needed a little escape from Zurich. So being above the clouds and in the sunshine at nearly 2,000M was a bonus. The idea is: you take off your shoes/socks, place them on a conveniently placed shelf and begin your trek around this large pond barefoot. It's designed for sensory stimulation. You walk into the COLD water, onto stones, then water, then wood planks, water, moss, water........

It was fun to see what the girls thought about the different textures. Some we liked and some we didn't.

This - MUD - I did not like. I only smiled for the camera. It felt gross. It smelled gross. Ewwwww! I think they supplement it from the cow pasture. I'm NOT kidding. Kendra thought it was cool but, then again, she wishes to have little piggies as pets.

At the end of your walk, you enjoy a warm foot bath. There is also a faucet for cleaning your feet and paper towels to dry them before putting your boots back on. Lovely!

All the while I'm thinking "OK, no one has any cuts or open abrasions on their lower limbs that when through the mud, right?"

"Paranoia will destroy ya....."

The view above the clouds:

Sometimes you feel you're on the edge of the world:

It's just so beautiful:

And then there are those who don't move regardless of the occasion:

There is always a little place to stop for a coffee. This house and barn serves as dairy, restaurant and home.

We had to try out the Rodelbahn (summer toboggan) before heading home. Now that is a good time!

The land of outdoor fun!

Well, I'm at the end of this post and still think that laying down with a running head is a bad idea. Worse yet, is that previous experience tells me this allergy reaction will lead to something more due to the inflammation, etc... that comes with it. Hope it settles soon. Especially as my idea of running around with tissue in my nose didn't sound too appealing to Kendra. She thinks I would be a bit embarassing.

Hah! She's just short of 9 yrs. I haven't even begun to embarrass her yet!

Friday, September 25, 2009

So close and yet so far

So - Are you ready to take a little quiz?

Match the packing picture with the child. Those of you who know the girls will probably have no problem with this but the pictures will offer clues.

Upon being asked to pack for CA this summer, these were the results:

1. 2.
Here are the girls doing their homework:
Can you match the packing photo to the right child?
It amazes me how two people can be so close and yet so totally different. I know it doesn't amaze anyone with kids. We see how different they are every day. I love their differences even though it can drive one insane - I live for nights when everyone is pleased with the dinner choice.
I could have added pic's of their rooms but that would have been a dead give-away. AND, you would see what I let them get away with. I'm not a good enforcer of room rules (other than NO food) and prefer to close their doors rather than fight it.
I love them so much and so very happy to be their mom. Thank You God!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

So far, I've only found 2 things cheaper....

in Switzerland than they are in the United States: Nespresso machines and Ski lift tickets.

I've checked the prices on the Nespresso machines (budgeting for things we must buy/replace when returning back to the States) and they are about $30 - $50 dollars higher than in Switzerland. However, I would guess that perhaps they go on sale in the States occassionally and absolutely DO NOT over here.

That machine is on the needs list vs the wants list. Bart and the girls will agree that I am human after that first cup.

Ski lift tickets. Kendra and I are already wondering when we'll have the first snow. A little sick, I know.

You can buy a daily lift ticket in Switzerland (Davos, St. Moritz, Flims) for $46 - $55 (50 - 62 CHF) . A daily lift ticket at equivalent skiing in the US (Heavenly, Vail, SunValley) runs at $75 - $80+.

Should you come over during the winter, bring some gear and take a run or two on the slopes. Seriously.

These price comparisons lead me to briefly touch on Target (oh, how I love thee, let me count..). A thanks to M(IA) who blogged her love of Target - just a little torture for me. I'm running out of Ziploc baggies and miss their 2 boxes for $5 specials!

My aunt returns from nearly two weeks in Italy and one of the first things out of her mouth "Oh, honey! I miss Target." Yes, I know. I did my best to console her and commiserate with her. Love you Aunt E.

See, she was suffering from a cold/congestion and would go into the pharmacies and be offered one remedy item. The price - about $14 - was also a factor.

She said "I'm used to choices and the store staying open until 10pm." "And on Sunday" I added.

There will come a day when we will once again live in a land where stores are not closed by 6-8pm during the week, 4-6 on Saturdays and closed entirely on Sundays. When we will no longer import a small pharmacy on return trips. However, one does adapt and I am very tuned in to what I need and when I need to get it. We have more planning and fewer one-off errands - that's a good thing, right?

It's really hard to communicate these kinds of things without the experience to go with them. It's hard to say " Oh, the stores aren't open as long and things cost more here." Aunt E was getting the full experience.

I try not to cost things to death but we are still too practical to throw our coins to the wind and say "Sure Rachel, you DO need new shoes so lets get those VANs." Because the VANs over here are 100 - 130 CHF and I know that Uncle Jason & Aunt Kris can hook us up with a VANs outlet when we're in SoCal come December. I'm talking a basic VANs shoe - not the tricked out leather versions.

There is also the shock that occurs when visitors open their first menu and realize how much it costs to eat here - Switzerland and Europe in general. We highly recommend grabbing sandwiches/drinks at bakeries or buying snacks at a market and really eating out only once a day. A family of four eating out for lunch and dinner can easily spend $60 - 80 (lunch) and then $100 - 140+(dinner) depending on what they have. And our family of four includes 2 girls who still order off the children's menu (they don't like it when adults order off the childrens menu OR when adults try on kid's shoes..........) Drinks (3 soda's & 1 water) will comprise $15 - 18 of the bill.

So as you think of your trip to Europe (I know you are!), budget accordingly for food and enjoy yourself out on that beautiful mountain with that cheap lift ticket. As ski season starts, I will be reminding you all of the hazard known as a "Swiss lift line." Really, that's an oxymoron as 'line' or 'queue' don't really belong in that phrase.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Numero 300!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Numero 300 is easier than Nombre drei hundert.

Regardless of how I spell it, this is the 300th post on Swiss Family Olson. I can't believe I've thought I had enough interesting things to say or share over the last 3+ years. Wow!

I should have a little cake or something. But then I'd have to eat it all myself and that wouldn't be pretty, would it?

So I would like to thank my friends and family who read this blog for your very kind comments. Huge thanks to my friends who also have blogs because it makes me feel connected to life back home. It's been a great way to share our life here in Switzerland and offer a look at what I'm thinking since I can't exactly call you at my "primetime" of 10am and discuss my thoughts. You're all in bed and I'd end up with fewer friends and family I think.

Along the way, I've picked up a few readers who I don't know in "real life." Thank you also for reading and any comments you've left.

I never thought in my wildest dreams I would ever - EVER - meet people I 'met' on the Internet. Then again, I never dreamed I would sign onto Facebook and be plunged into a world of people I haven't seen in 20 - 25 years - and find it's fun. I like knowing where they are now and if they offer, what they're doing.

I don't have a lot of 'outside' readers. At least I don't think so. If so, great! but you're lurking and never tell me who you are. Then again, I may not want to know. Please feel free to continue lurking.

So - it may come as quite as a surprise that I have actually met two wonderful ladies who stumbled upon our Blog once upon a time. They are as nice in person as they are on their Blogs.

So this post is dedicated to these Bloggy Friends.

In my crazy summer of posting, not posting, I haven't shared my meeting with Judy. Now - some would call this story I will tell coincidence. I don't think so but I don't know yet why Judy and I stumbled upon each other. Unless it's simply to see that she and her family, former Expats (Singapore), adjusted back to life in the US of A and she has a tremendous heart for God. But God is not a God of Coincidence.

Here are Judy and I at the Mall of America in July. Had a great 2 hours visiting with her and her daughter. If her grown daughter is any measure - Judy is a person with a lot of heart, a great sense of humor and down to earth. Love it.

Here is where the funny story/coincidence comes in - I'll try to keep it clear:

Judy came across my blog via a comment I made on another blog with an Expat reference - about 2 1/2 to 3 yrs ago (!). She followed the link and in reading my posts that month, sent a message saying that she thought she knew my IA worship pastor who had been her choir director in Missouri. I checked with said worship pastor's wife and sure enough, it was the same person - Mr. KD. Small World.

THEN, last Fall, as I was writing about a missions trip the girls and I were going to take with worship group from IA, she comments again. It seems, the missions conference we would be at in Hungary would be attended by her best friend/friend's husband who are missionaries in Budapest. So last October (08), I met Judy's best friend. Who's husband was looking at me like I landed from Mars - what is the world coming to when you are meeting other people's virtual friends in foreign countries.

It sounds weird to me and yet this is what has been added to my life. I have enjoyed it.

So Judy and I met finally in July at the ever convenient Mall of America. She saw Bart walk past before she reached me and recognized him! Isn't that funny? A little?

And I'm re-sharing a picture of Linds and I whom I met in Engelberg, Switzerland at her sister's house. She is a delightful lady who writes wonderfully. Although she's been in Switzerland twice since, circumstances have been such that we haven't been able to get together again. Although I did see her sister last March when I took friends to Engelberg - beautiful place! We hope to get another visit in soon - all in the timing!

The post of that meeting is here: http://swissfamilyolson.blogspot.com/2008/12/its-all-boomamas-fault.html

So Thank You to all my Bloggy Friends, including those who were 'real life' friends before, for giving me some inspiration to keep this up.

Happy 300!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Melser Alpfahrt '09

Friday night, my aunt and uncle returned from their wanderings in Italy and crashed. We didn't plan anything too strenuous for the weekend and I thought a local Swiss culture outing would be fun. An Alpfahrt.

No, one isn't required to say "excuse me" after using such a word.

In the mountain regions of Switzerland, farmers graze their dairy cows/goats in high mountain pastures during the summer and keep them in barns/valley pastures during the winter. In late Spring comes the 'alpaufzug' when the farmers place bells on the animals and take them from the lower pastures up to the high pastures. Come Fall, they round them all up and bring them down again during the 'alpfahrt.'

There is a bit of ceremony attached to this transportation process. The families who's herds are 'coming home' prepare floral arrangements - for the cows, the herders are dressed in traditional shirts, the 'big' bells come out and food and drink are plenty for the on-lookers.

So off to Mels we went. Bart and the girls stayed home as 1) the girls and he had homework/work to do, 2) they have been before and 3) Kendra didn't want to go because of the noise.

We had some tasty Brats/drink while sitting on the curb waiting for things to start. It did start a little slower than my previous experience. But I suppose one can't predict how fast a cow can get dressed and start moving down the mountain, can one?

This pretty lady started off the parade. Quite the statuesque headpiece.
These bells can be as big as their heads.
Lovely and colorful in the colors and crest of Mels.
So, why is it that we wear these ridiculous things anyway? I just want to head to the barn and put my hooves up.
On her way to church?
Sweetest little baby.
And the winner is: Miss Blondie from Mels.
Although the dairy cows are the main focus, one cannot forget the source of yummy, yes Mom, yummy Goat Cheese!

I've been wondering where the Swiss sense of humor was lately and apparently, it was located in the hills and brought to town. Thank Goodness!
Let's not forget the working partner......
of the People:

I really need to get Bart a pair of these. I'm actually worried as I think we may have agreed to dress for Oktoberfest (business table). How do I get out of that one?
G & L - It was great showing you a bit more of Switzerland (Luzern was yesterday). Wishing you a safe flight home, Thank You for taking part of your vacation time to spend with us and see you again, live and in person, next Summer.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

To Kill a Mockingbird

As I told a friend via email this week, I fell in love with the characters all over again and just cried my little eyes out. What an inspirational piece of writing from a woman, Harper Lee, who "just wrote a simple love story." It makes me want to reach out and give Boo Radley a hug.

If you don't know who Boo Radley is - read the book.

A story of understanding, mis-understanding, education, patience, prejudice, ignorance, compassion, fear, mystery and love. Of apparent injustice because of the color of a man's skin. He said, she said. And tears over human nature.

I find it interesting how I can 'just read a book' and then find myself applying so much of its character to my everyday life. As I explain how 'life' has been going and some recent observations, I will try to tie it all together coherently. Let me know if I succeed or not.

Our family has been in another season of change. That change will continue within the year if plans to move back to the States go forward next Summer (you just never know....). As we head into year 4 in Switzerland, we've found ourselves to be the ones "left behind." Many who started out with us have moved on/back.

Bart has a new team he's working with on the client. Rachel's best friend moved to another part of Switzerland and she's adjusting to middle school plus public transportation. Two of Kendra's best friends have also moved and she has only 2 of her friends from last year in class. I am juggling between 2 schools and a more complex schedule, a Bible study group cut nearly in half (from moves) and making new friends or re-inforcing acquaintances as school-mom friends have moved away. Yes, we still have some wonderful friends here but things are different.

We had Bible study today (studying Esther - its tough being a woman, by Beth Moore) and a topic we did discuss was our separateness from the Swiss. Our group represents the USA, UK, South Africa, S. Korea and Alaska (heehee - that's for S). Employment opportunities came up as the fact exists in this current economic situation that, unless you speak and write nearly perfect German, there is very little for you here. Even if you are capable of doing the job and it has little speaking/writing requirements.

One woman saw an add in the paper where they are looking for "dialect free Swiss German." Now - anyone who has read this blog long enough or knows anything about Switzerland can laugh long and loud at this point. There is no such thing as "dialect free Swiss German." Swiss German is a dialect language - unwritten and spoken differently about every 60 km or so.

Someone declared it illegal discrimination but I beg to differ. There must be discrimination laws in place before it can be called 'illegal' and the laws to this effect in Switzerland are vague and few. Up until approximately 15 years ago, one's position in the largest bank in Switzerland (shall be un-named but is in trouble with the US Tax Court) was commensurate with one's position in the Swiss Army. I know this as the mother of one of Rachel's classmates was given one of the first women management positions approx. 14 years ago.

This language discrimination makes it difficult for anyone who is not Swiss German to get a job. A whole population of Expat spouses, those married to Swiss, hold Swiss passports but are originally from other countries and those who speak Swiss/High German but with an accent find themselves passed over. Just imagine what would happen to our USA economy if we decided that all those who spoke English with an accent were not qualified. Let's make it "dialect free" as well so we need to choose which part of the country people should sound like.

It all comes down to protecting their people and their economy. We know this and it's not a big shock. But an insular economy cannot sustain itself for long - despite what they say out of Geneva (a recent study has now put Switzerland as #1 strongest competitive economy over the USA - it's the chocolate everyone is soothing themselves with).

Not to mention - it keeps us (non-Swiss) separate. It's not always easy living as an outsider. As much as we love it here, we are in a little bubble and we don't always fit in. A recent Zurich newspaper article discussed the difficulty they are having integrating the "auslander Kinder." Does that surprise any of you? It doesn't me. The adults have a hard enough time developing relationships with Auslanders and so their children do too. The girls friends are Swiss/American, UK, American, Canadian, Italian, Dutch, Hebrew, Scottish, French - none are 'just Swiss.' After 3 years, I still have one Swiss friend in the neighborhood. My neighbors are nice but not needing me to be their friend.

I must clarify - I have several other 'Swiss' friends but they are through the school and have lived for long periods outside of Switzerland. Thus, they have lost much of their 'Swiss-ness.'

So as I go about living my life here, I wonder what comes across to the Swiss I do meet? Do I typify their American stereotype (I admit, I do smile waaayyyy too much and sing as I walk) or do I give them something to think about? Do they want to learn from us and change along with the rest of the world or will they cling to their ways?

In "To Kill a Mockingbird", Atticus Finch is fighting a losing battle for a just cause so he can live with himself and someday, his children and others can benefit. Miss Maudie tells his son Jem "I simply want to tell you that there are some men in this world who were born to do our unpleasant jobs for us. Your father's one of them."

I love that. Atticus Finch took the hard road.

There is much we all want out of life. We have been given much already. We all feel a need to connect and be part of a community. Of a family. That's why we get homesick. We are so priviledged to be here but there is sacrifice too. Each person's sacrifice is different. Sometimes we are asked to be in a place that is 'harder' and I wonder what we will do with that experience. With all the lessons we learn.

Matthew 7:12-14 "So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few."

So as we walk our different roads: I pray they are narrow, I pray God will keep us here in these mountains for as long as He wants us to be and I pray there are many Atticus Finch's along the way.

Monday, September 07, 2009

What's wrong with this picture?

This will be a word picture.

We are at the K-garten playground at school while Rachel is in a violin lesson. There are no other parents around and about 8 kids playing there besides my Kendra. Two of the kids are girls around 9 yrs old (not my kids) and they have hauled a little wooden table to the top of the slide - before I saw them do it and had a chance to stop it.

Here is the resulting conversation:

Me: Girls, I don't think you're supposed to take that table up the playstructure.

Girl 1: We've already done it twice.

Me: I really don't think the teachers want it off the ground and you should bring it back down.

Girl 2: We slid it down the slide already and it's fine.

Me: The table could break and someone could get hurt. I think you need to bring it down now.

Girl 1: Well, if it breaks, I'll just buy a new one. I have over a hundred dollars or so...

Me (deep breath): It doesn't really matter whether you have the money to replace it or not, what matters is that we respect school property and don't cause little ones to be hurt.

And then I went and told on them to Mr. S who yelled at them out his window (as I knew he would) - just to make sure the message got across.

I am not judging the parents here. But, I do hope I have/will instill in my girls a sense of responsibility for people and property that has nothing to do with age, race, money or social status. It has to do with respect. And consideration. And good manners. The Golden Rule. Am I that old fashioned?

Update: I just read the WH release of President Obama's Back to School speech. I quite frankly don't understand what the fuss is (and I was looking for the "political slant" that's being yelled about). It is a speech promoting work ethics, community and responsibility for ones own self - not letting your circumstances dictate your outcome. I think the girls referred to above need to hear it. That said - our gov't can also behave just like those girls. 'Aw, well, guess we broke it. We'll just throw some money at it and get a new one.'

Speaking of word pictures.

It's Fall and cooling off. I know it's cooling off because 'he' is wearing a hat - a stocking hat. He is very tan - I worry about skin cancer for him. His feet are leathery from walking - he doesn't wear shoes. He is probably in his late 70's but his legs are in great shape. His torso is thicker but he's not overweight - and very tan. His shorts are very faded but we once saw him in bright blue ones and all of us in the car said "Hey, someone got him new shorts!" His bald head is shiny in the sun but not the other day as the temperature dropped and he had on the stocking cap - and his shorts - sitting there talking to his friend. He does appear to have all his mental faculties intact.

But - I have to wonder everytime I pass by him - "Why does he run around town in just his shorts?" Does anyone else have such a neighbor? You probably don't have grown men walking down the street home from the Lake in just their Speedo's and a T-shirt either.

Enough word pictures. From an American living in Switzerland.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

What to do, what to do.....????


(remember, I'm playing catch-up so, although we are currently in school mode, I'm re-living the end of summer)

I looked over my Chamonix posts and decided, I really covered it. The only thing missing is a picture of our car going in and out of the garage - with mouths dropping open at the sight. I'm not joking - I had a man drop his jaw and wag his head back and forth while I pulled carefully out.

I draw attention to myself in vehicles even without a fancy sportscar. Although my FB analysis says I should be driving a Corvette. Hey, I wouldn't mind.

Anyway, I said goodbye to Mom & J and headed back to Switzerland. We had about 6 days and then Bart's sister arrived from Minnesota. We took her up to Wengen for her first week and hiked her boots off but, I've done enough mountain pictures recently. We're going to Italy instead.

Mind you, we ONLY went to Italy, in August, when all the Italians have fled the cities for the coasts, because S was here and there was no other time to take her. We chose Milan because 1) we hadn't been there yet outside of a train connection 2) there would be Italian food and 3) it's only 3.5 hrs by car from our place.

We enjoyed our brief visit and I have plenty of pictures to share. Milan doesn't need more than a brief visit unless you are going to do some shopping. It's hard to do a lot of shopping when approximately 40% of the city is shut down during August.

Note to those who wish to visit Italy: August is not your month. Unless you have leisure time and don't care if local shops are open. AND, you like it hot.

The Italians go "on holiday" in August. We experienced this last year while we stayed in Chianti. It's hot in August (many homes don't have air conditioning and we're talking Central Valley California hot) and they go to the coasts or travel to other 'cooler' countries. Many shops/restaurants close on the first weekend of August and don't re-open until the last weekend of August.

Other tips for Italy - always carry tissues and hand sanitizer (for the ladies WC) with you. That's probably the singlemost important tip I can give you.

In spite of the heat - and we melted in it, we had a fun time and I'm happy to share:

Just loved this old wooden tram. You only see them once in a while and I find them pretty cool. Our view of the Duomo that morning - it is a beautiful building. It's one of the 4 largest cathedrals in the world (St. Peter's Basilica, Seville's Duomo and a new Ivory Coast cathedral are the other 3). It's been recently 'cleaned' and is bright and like a fancily decorated cake - ornate and delicate.

I absolutely love the floor.
OK - I will admit these children do not look happy to be in church. The blur you see is Rachel's fan. We had been walking around in there and it was, stifling hot and only 11am. I will also point out Kendra's sweater tied around Rachel's shoulders.
Ladies - when in Rome (or any other Italian city) and visiting any of the churches, you should be prepared for dress codes upon entering. They let Kendra (la bambina) by with spaghetti straps but I had Rachel covered up before we got to the door. There are no bare shoulders, low necklines or shorts allowed. Ladies (young & old) must cover the shoulders and if wearing shorts, wrap a sweater/scarf around. Some cathedrals provide 'paper scarves' but many don't and if you are not properly dressed, you will find yourself buying an 10 Euro 'pashmina' at the local tourist trap so you can see the Cathedral you traveled 4,000 miles to see.
Bart and I ventured up to the top/roof of the Duomo - it's worth the 8 Euro/person elevator fare. Great views of the city and the amazing rooftop.

We had a great time exploring this other side of the Duomo. And by now have lost about 3lbs in water weight. Fortunately, there was a drinking fountain there on the roof. Hallelujah!
Here are the girls in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II with it's incredible roofs linking 2 Piazza's together. Reputed to be the forerunner of our modern day shopping mall.
We headed to the "Fashion Triangle" after lunch. Milan is one of the 3 largest fashion capitol's of the world along with Paris and New York ( I still say London should be in there now but I get boo-hoo'd from some). I loved the 'window shopping.' I can window shop all day and be perfectly happy going home having only purchased a cup of coffee or something to sustain myself.
Yes - this says it all. I'm sure the security guard inside the YSL door was thrilled.
There were these cute Fiat planters lining the street in various places.
Rachel waited a while but it seemed the Lamborghini owner wasn't showing up to give her a ride....a little ostentatious, don't you think? Maybe a Ferrari instead?
These dresses caught my eye from the street and I had to show the girls. They were absolutely gorgeous. The girls immediately started "OK, I'd wear this one for in the church and then this other one for when you eat, what's that called? oh yeah, the reception......"
Here is the handbag that I joke about owning:
Isn't it pretty? I'm in the market for a new 'bag' but I'm a bit picky. I don't switch out purses so once my stuff goes in, it stays in. I've had my current purse for 3 years. So I want something that will last but is cute and versatile.
However, I need one that doesn't come with a 1,500chf price tag. Even I can't amortize/justify that one.

We did do a little shopping:
Everyone cooling off at the fountain in front of the Castello Sforzesco (palace of the Visconti family):

Had a great dinner at a restaurant recommended by the hotel.
Our very kind and funny waiter - claiming we were on a diet as we couldn't finish our dinners. Portions were a little bigger than we've grown accustomed to. And he brought out the Limoncello - compliments of the house. I'm the only one who likes it (dare I admit that on the blog? It's for medicinal purposes - a digestive!).
It was fun sharing a bit of Italy with S. A new place for us but comfortable. We had a lot of fun and a good experience in Milan but - I would recommend it as a short visit. We'll be going to Florence in November though. We did a day trip there from Rome 2 years ago and it's been on my "I'd like to go back and spend a little more time" list.
Buona sera!