Milan is only about a half-hour from the Swiss Alps, a great getaway for a busy med student. Let’s take a ride.
You can actually see the Alps from IMS Milan. A ticket to the Swiss town of Chiasso, at their foot, is 5.50 €, and takes 33 minutes by direct train. On Sunday, a friend in Geneva and I decided to meet up on the Swiss-Italian border — albeit not in Chiasso, but rather in Brig, which is a German-speaking town to the west.
The trip begins in the ever-impressive Milano Centrale railway station.
There are several Sunday direct trains to Brig. I left at about 11:30 AM, which gave me plenty of time to sleep in the night before. The train is run by the Swiss national railway, and ultimately terminates in Basel, at the intersection of Germany, France, and Switzerland.
As is almost always the case with Swiss trains, it was punctual, spotless, and cheerfully decorated.
This winter was the first of my life in which I had not seen snow. When it snowed in Milan I was in New York, and when it snowed in New York, I was in Milan. So as our train climbed elevation toward the mountains in the distance, I was particularly excited to see the ground turn white.
We then headed north through the countryside…
…to the Italian city of Domodossola. If you look carefully, you will notice that the Domodossola train station has a deposit bay for Italian Mail on the left — and Swiss Mail on the right (“Poste Italiane” — “Poste Svizzere”).
After Domodossola, we passed through a tunnel and were in Brig, Switzerland. The mountain air was so fresh!
The entire center of Brig is a Swiss national heritage site. It has about 12,000 residents, and is famous for its monasteries, convents, and castle.
My friend and I had a lunch of traditional Käseschnitte, which is baked cheese on bread soaked in wine. The restaurant, Couronne, had glass walls looking out onto the main town square.
What I appreciated most about Brig is how well-kept the town was. Buildings harmonized in flawlessly painted pastels. What felt most like a relief was the almost complete absence of graffiti “tagging“, which is otherwise painted on seemingly every possible wall in sub-Scandinavian Europe, including the English-language med school cities of Milan, Pavia, Rome, Naples, and Bari. Graffiti tagging is a “hypermasculine display” which film director David Lynch says has, aesthetically, “pretty much ruined the world”. Brig, Switzerland, however, without graffiti, lets its original beauty shine through.
My friend and I walked up a grassy hill outside of town, and turned around.
We are back in Milano Centrale…
…and I was home in bed by 10 PM.
Brig and Chiasso are not the only Alpine destinations reachable easily from Milan. There are hundreds of places to see. Many of my classmates at IMS Milan go to the mountains regularly to ski, for relaxation, exercise, and just to socialize together.
Erik Campano is a consultant to the English medical school of the University of Turin and doing a Master's degree studying artificial intelligence applications in global health at the University of Umeå, Sweden. He completed his Bachelor’s of science in Symbolic Systems at Stanford University, and then he worked for about eight years as a radio news anchor, before moving to biomedical scientific study and research at the University of Paris and Columbia University. His goal is to develop AI technologies for international emergency humanitarian aid organizations like Doctors without Borders, and to combine medicine and journalism. Erik grew up in Connecticut, and is a citizen of the United States and Germany.
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