After living in Central and South East Asia as a European, living in Milan had turned out to be quite a culture shock. People around me decided not to turn their heads, nor smiled at me – occurrences which were normal to me, simply based on my appearance. Naturally, I should have enjoyed the lack of attention – which however turned out to be rather lonely and harsh realizing the limitation of social interaction with one another. I was told over and over again that Milan is not like the rest of Italy and I shall commence my quest for smiles and niceness in the South. But I was here to study in Milan and thus had to deal with its people here – and again I do not mean to generalize: however, the lack of smiles, absence of polite reactions and general moments of kindness have outweighed the occurrences of genuine niceness. This may stem from my meager Italian skills, is however not an excuse, as experienced in Cambodia. It was thus and is thus difficult to adapt. Also, cycling has turned out to be more intricate than expected – this ecological endeavor has not completely arrived in this vehicle-ridden city, as to which its undertaking has at times been rather dangerous. Important to add is that Milanese people (and here I quote) love their dogs. Transporting them in baby carriages, on bikes, in their arms – these furry creatures are welcomed nearly everywhere.
Apart from the social interactions, the dolce vita has its charms. Starting off with the Cappuccino and Brioche in the morning, heading off to a lengthy lunch coupled with some glasses di vino, and finalizing the day with an Aperitivo or a three-course dinner. Of course, Aperitivo and dinner may be combined – I have however never managed this. Aperitivo allows for us to indulge in a buffet, in combination with one or mostly several drinks. As Italians mostly constrain themselves, cleverly thinking of the dinner lying ahead, most foreigners get attracted by the sheer word buffet and overindulge.
Although living standards are relatively high in Milano, the markets taking place on a weekly basis offer both fresh and affordable vegetables, fruits, meats and more. A further lovely fact about Milan is its weather and location. Its weather firstly allows to visit large and lively parks, such as Parco Sempione, or one of the many small green patches in midst the city. If these do not suffice, a quick drive may place you in Bergamo or the surrounding lakes, such as Lago Maggiore and Lago di Como. One must just try to tag along with Italians (which all seem to have a place in the mountains) to avoid the touristy crowds. These crowds also swarm Milano beginning March, as to which I have given a number of places with which crowds may be avoided and Milano and its perks therefore evermore enjoyed.
A three-day trip to Milano shall include:
- Stroll and observe the Sunday fleemarket in Navigli
- Do not limit your visit to that – Navigli has a lot to offer, particularly in the evenings: Mingle and listen to live music at Colonne, observe the architecture, or enjoy an Aperitivo along the canal and end up at a live music bar Nidaba Theatre in Via Emilio Gola
- Observe the gathering of hip people on the East Market happening monthly
- Visit the north of Milano: stroll and shop in Via Brera, be inspired by walking through the Castello towards the Arco della Piace. On your way, you can stop for a coffee at Locanda alla Mano and end up at Arco della Piace for a fancy Aperitivo at Living Liqueurs Delights in Via Agostino Bertani
- Indulge in a delicious lunch at Giulio pane e ojo in Via L. Muratori (unfortunately a menu is not given and orders are taken by imitating animals, so a delicious surprise will be expecting you)
- Hereafter, digest all the food with a coffee at Un posto a Milano – a renovated old barn
- Visit the area around Cinque Giornate: practice your Italian at the Thursday Market in Via Pietro Calvi, followed by the best cappuccino and brioche at Cocotte in Via Benvenuto Collini; be surprised by the quiet in Via Abramo Lincoln, have an ice cream at Grom, and take a nap in the park next to Porta Venezia. To round off the relaxed day, have a Bloody Mary at Mom’s Bar in Viale Monte Nero and enjoy the delicious offered snacks
- Also to be found in that area is a Rotonda with delicious pastries and coffee to observe your incredibly Italian surrounding: Rotonda della Besana in Via Enrico Besana
- Hotel to recommend: Fifty House in Via Benvenuto Collini
- Best Pizza in town: Pizzeria da Geppo in Via Giovanni Battista Morgagni 37 – reservation is recommended
- In general, stroll the small streets, get lost, hop on and off the trams and eat eat eat!
Matilde Isaia & Flavia Esposito