As I already mentioned, my first impression of Milan 7 years ago was not very favourable, so when my dear friend P No 1 and I decided to choose that Italian city for our September weekend trip, I was curious to see what I would think this time…
We arrived late on Friday evening, I waited for P’s train from Geneva at the Milano Centrale – first impression: I was left alone! Most of the time if a girl is standing on her own, in the evening, somewhere in a public place in Italy, especially in a seedy train station (actually also true for Brussels and other bigger cities), she can be sure to be harrassed, either by weirdos, drunks/druggies or just by men who feel that it is their mission to make you less alone… Nope, it didn’t happen on Friday and was I happy about that!! The only comments I got was a few bless you’s when I sneezed!
Our hotel (Hotel Windsor) was walking distance from the train station on Piazza della Reppublica and the room was really ok – 100 EUR/night including breakfast. We asked in the reception for a suggestion for a bar and we were recommended Corso Como, a pedestrian street 10 min walk away. The street was buzzing with life, people standing around having drinks, gelato (ice cream – it was still 25 degrees at midnight) in cool clothes (the girls wearing the shortest mini-skirts ever) and sunglasses. We found a bar in a court yard that looked nice and a little calmer than the bars and restaurants on the street. We had great cocktails (I had a Green apple martini) for 9,50 EUR. In Italy drinks are always served with a little bowl of crisps, or olives – in 10 Corso Como as the bar was called, we got three bowls with olives, crisps and roasted almonds. A nice touch!
We had an early night as we were quite tired and looking forward to getting up bright and early the next day… it didn’t really happen that way but we did have a good night’s sleep and a nice, big breakfast the next day, despite rattling trams outside the window and the Italians preference for cookies to start off the day.
The sun was shining and we walked to Il Duomo and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, passing La Scala (the opera) on the way. In the galleria, with a beautiful mosaic floor (I always tend to look down in these kind of places: I love the floor of San Marco in Venice for example) and a huge glass ceiling, we popped in at Gucci’s to look at the shoes and bags. A bit out of our price range but it was nice to look! Il Duomo, the third largest cathedral in the world (after St Peter’s in Rome and the Sevilla cathedral) was closed for lunch so we just walked around the piazza where a huge MTV stage had been set up for a MTV concert in the evening. We continued our walk on Corso Vittorio Emanuele and in Furla I found a nice, black leather wallet for 62 EUR – not too bad for a designer piece! P found a beautiful dress (for work) in Max&co (MaxMara’s cheaper brand), which she bought.
Our shopping continued at an interior design shop, Moroni Gomma with lots of affordable design and gadgets – they were selling among other brands Swedish Sagaform, Danish Normann of Copenhagen and the Tivoli radios that I love!
We had lunch at the Armani Caffè, the best roastbeef sandwich that I have ever had – a ciabatta filled with rucola, some kind of mustardy mayonnaise and roastbeef, buonissimo! I don’t know if it tasted better because of the trendy environment?
P had read in one of our three guidebooks that the Cimiterio monumentale was a striking graveyard with big mausoleums – we visited it just before sunset (and closing time). It has a huge, renaissance style entrance in black and white and it really doesn’t disappoint once inside – it is so beautiful with old monumental graves with spectacular statues, and private chapels. It had a real mystical atmosphere, especially with the sun setting and the stillness away from the noise of the city.
On our way back to the hotel we went back to 10 Corso Como once again as we had read in the guidebooks that it was also a designer shop, art gallery etc. We looked at expensive clothes by Comme des garçons, Triptyque candles (45 EUR or so for a candle, however good it smells is just too expensive for me!) and cheapish design by Kate Moss for TopShop. After all our walks we decided that we deserved an aperitivo, and we sat down in the same court yard as the evening before for some prosecco (Italian bubbly).
In the evening we took the metro to the Navigli district, where the the last remaining canals of the city are situated. The crowd was a little more relaxed than the Corso Como-people, and we sat down at the Luca & Andrea Caffè Bar at the table by the canal. It was great for people watching, sipping some Nero d’Avola wine (Sicilian, one of O’s & my favourite wines) and waiting for our dinner to be served. I had a very simple tagliatelle con pomodoro e basilico, as they had ran out of carpaccio (the only time I eat raw meat!) but it was so tasty! I have learnt from O that very often the simple dishes in a restaurant are the best… at least if it is a good restaurant!
On Sunday we got up almost as late as on Saturday but the sun was still shining and we walked (despite the many blisters on my feet but I’m used to it by now, and I am quite good at blocking them out!) to Il Duomo for a visit inside. It is really huge with a very high ceiling but very bare walls for being a catholic church. Mass was held while we were inside and we heard some beautiful singing from the choir. Afterwards we strolled around the Quadrilatero d’Oro (golden quarter or something similar) with all the designer shops, some were open despite it being Sunday and we looked at tacky Prada shoes and bags (sorry for all those Prada-fans!) and peeked in through the shop windows at the [closed] Viktor & Rolf boutique – it is upside down!!
In the Moscova area, we had the best focaccia ever (I can’t decide if the Armani ciabatta or the focaccia was the best food I had!) at a bakery called Princi. Italians like to complicate life and it was not easy to figure out how to order – first you took a number, then you chose what focaccia you wanted (I had one with prosciutto and ricotta plus one with zucchini), it was weighed and you were given the receipt, which should be brought to the cash register where you also indicate what drink you’d like. Pick up your focaccia, go to the bar and show the receipt and order your drink, then you are ready to sit down and devour!! Even the Italians were confused and I had to explain it to one guy – in Italian! (Please remind me again why I need to learn Spanish – Italian is so much more fun, probably because I can already make myself understood!)
The Milan weekend was finished off with a nap in the Giardini Pubblici, one of the many parks in the city, before heading back home after a great Italian weekend! I would really recommend Milan for a weekend getaway – as long as you remember that it is not Venice or Florence when it comes to beauty, however you eat far better than in Venice and people are definitely friendlier as well!
PS I have always claimed that Italians don’t know how to queue – yesterday I saw the worst chaos ever, created by Belgian pensioners at the check-in desks at the airport! My fellow Belgian [younger] travellers and I had to tell them off for jumping the queues (they even pushed and shoved among themselves). It was hystrical!!