I had never been to Italy and Milan was to be the first city for my visit there. Taking a flight from London, I arrived in Milano, Italy the night before my 30th birthday. Milan is how the name is pronounced in English, but in its native Italian and other Latin languages, it is Milano. From the airport I started to follow signs to take the train to where I was staying, which is just outside the city center by about 15 minutes. Since I didn’t know if I was going in the right direction for the train I asked a kind looking woman and fortunately for me she spoke good English and told me to simply follow her since she was going in the same direction. A few minutes later we were seated side by side on the train and enjoying great conversation. My first night in Italy and I was already making a friend! By the time we arrived at our destination, the Cadorna station, she had invited me to visit her someday in Puglia where she owns and rents out an amazing villa. Take a look at it and visit there as well if you would like: Trullo Madonna dell’Arco.
The next ten days were wonderfully full of the city of Milano. I have to preface everything with this: the people of Milano are wonderful! And yes, I could be a little biased since many of the ones that I interacted with are friends of mine, but at the same time they are, after all, true locals of the city. I also had plenty of occasion to wonder the streets on my own and with my friend Anne who joined me there from her home in Germany…we are not shy to talk to strangers and would frequently stop random people on the street to ask directions, clarify which bus we should take, and try to decipher between their broken English and our poor Italian where a good local restaurant was.
My first full day in the city was a special day, April 4th, my 30th birthday. This was one of my goals being fulfilled, to start this next decade in Europe and here I was. Anne and I asked our roommate Jacomo where the nearest neighborhood cafe was located for some coffee and breakfast first thing in the morning. He offered to show us and so we invited him to stay for coffee as well. He showed us on a map where we could go in the city center to have a good time. He also got us our coffees and croissants for my birthday. Italian men are such gentlemen!
More friends resulted from there…Filippo is a friend of my friend getting married in Milano during this time. He joined us at the cafe and then decided that he wanted to take the day off and show us around the city for my birthday. Wonderful! I thought…our own Italian guide for the day. From there we followed Filippo to purchase a day pass for the public transportation system. This is a great way to go because a single one-way ticket is 1.50 Euros whereas a day pass is only 4.50 Euros. These tickets can be used for the bus and the metro system throughout the center of the city and some of the surrounding areas. So we bused down to the city-center and got off at the Castle Sforzesco. We did a quick walk-through of the beautiful medieval architecture and made our way down the Via Dante which is closed off to traffic and devoted solely to pedestrians. This lead us down directly to one of the great beauties of this city: El Duomo, the Cathedral of Milano.
The beauty and splendor of the cathedral is amazing…we spent time outside in the plaza and then went inside. At some point, I felt scandalous because Filippo took us past a certain rope to an area where Catholics go to pray. Thing is, Anne and I are not Catholic and the area was somewhat monitored so that people went in for sincere reasons. Well, we were certainly sincere in appreciating the beauty of the cathedral’s splendor and as I sat on the hard wood pew, I took in the quiet hush sounds of reverence that were invoked by such surroundings. Now, I could try and go into elaborate detail to paint the picture of what amazingly old and beautiful surroundings we were in…but if you have been in old world cathedrals, you know what I was experiencing and that no words can really capture what I saw. So simple reference and pictures will have to suffice.
From there we ventured back out into the streets, wondering first through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II where I took part in the local Milan tradition of turning on the balls of the bull mosaic located in the floor of the center. I know, sounds ridiculous, but there were local men actually doing this as we walked up and so of course we had to take part…why not, right? Tradition says that it brings good luck.
By this time we had worked up an appetite from all the walking we were doing so lunch was on our mind. I love what took place next: Filippo called ahead to a friend that owns a small Italian restaurant and asked him to prepare a traditional Milano dish of lamb for all of us. The restaurant was actually closing, but they promised they would stay open late for us. We arrived to the scene of red and white checkered tablecloths, a porcelain hand-painted pitcher of red wine, bread, meatballs, and a gigantic platter of the famous cooked lamb and vegetables. It was delicious to say the least. We ate till the point that we were pleasantly full and then finished with espresso and small chocolate covered biscuits (also known as cookies).
The day later ended with a spectacular birthday dinner with my dear friend Marilena and her fiance (now husband) Flavio, who is a big house music composer in the group Harley & Muscle. Check out their Facebook page to hear their fantastic music: Harley & Muscle Facebook Fan Page. I had known Marilena for over the past year so it was wonderful to finally visit her in her home city and meet her fiance, family, and friends. They took Anne, Filippo, and me to eat amazing sushi at Iyo and we had a wonderful evening together. Details on the restaurants we went to for lunch and dinner will be coming soon in another blog post that will focus on the great restaurants to experience in Milano so please stay tuned for more about my time there.
You can probably see that in my opinion the best way to visit Milano is to visit friends there. I realize we each like to travel in different ways however and a person doesn’t always have friends in the city they’re visiting. I’m very glad that for my experience with Milano, I had friends who are long-time locals of the exciting area. My advice to you, is to make friends who are from there and travel to places where you know some locals. For now, I will say Ciao Ciao!