5 wonderful days in Milan
April 22, 2012 § 1 Comment
After months of longing to go I took my first trip to the north of Italy and spent five wonderful days in Milan.
Staying at my friend Bea’s house and having her play tour-guide for me meant that I got to really see the city and go beyond the tourist hot-spots.
Although I’ve travelled a fair bit in the past two years, having someone to show me round was a new experience. And I loved it.
Not only did I have my own personal translator (I love travelling but despise being that English-speaking person who can’t say more than two words in the local language), but I also had someone who could tell me the history of the place, without it being boring and stuffy.
For me, the indisputable best thing about Italy is the food. I could honestly live off pizza, pasta and gelato.
Staying with Bea meant that I had a proper sit-down, family, three-course meal at least once a day, every day.
Spaghetti and pesto, home-made gnocchi, roast pork with caramelised onions and cooked apples, and the world’s largest take-away pizza is what I was treated to.
But, my favourite Italian dining experience had to be aperativo. One blogger describes it as “A pre-dinner drink, meant to “open” the palate and it gives you a chance to socialize, relax, and nibble as dinner approaches or is overlooked altogether.”
The way it was explained to me is: you buy a cocktail at a bar and then you take as much food as you want (as many times as you want) from the buffet. And it’s not just nibbles on offer – pasta, salads, chips and even dessert items can be on offer.
So, where you may ask, to go to eat?
For gelato: Grom
With 19 flavours to choose from (my favourites were stracciatella and Crema di Grom), made from the best ingredients, you simply cannot go wrong.
For cafe: Chocolat
A cafe completely devoted to chocolate (just in case you couldn’t tell by the name), this for a chocoholic like me was a little piece of heaven.
From ice-cream desserts to brownies to cakes and tarts, there is anything any chocolate lover could need.
And that’s not even mentioning the hot chocolate – Italian style: thick and rich. I had mine with a taste of orange. Delightful.
The only downside – the price – it’s certainly expensive, but with treats that good, it’s totally worth it.
Although it sounds like it, my trip to Milan wasn’t entirely about food – Bea did show me round some of the ‘must see’ tourist places, including the famous Duomo di Milano.
This Gothic cathedral is stunningly white (and according to Bea is constantly being cleaned to keep it pristine and sparkling) on the outside, with beautiful high ceilings and stained-glass windows on the inside.
Just off to the right of the Piazza is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele – a glass and ironed roofed shopping centre. Inside, near the centre, is a mosaic of a bull (the symbol of Turin).
According to tradition if you spin on the bull’s balls you will become lucky. And yes, I spun. And yes, I looked ridiculous.
For our cultural fix we visited the Brera Art Gallery, which is also an art school.
The gallery largely consists of Italian artwork, including masterpieces such as ‘Marriage of the Virgin’ by Raphael, ‘Supper at Emmaus’ by Caravaggio and ‘The Kiss’ by Francesco Hayez.
For modern art (not something I’m usually interested in) we went to the Museo del Novecento. The gallery is devoted to Italian art from the avantgarde movement from the beginning of the 2oth century to today.
But perhaps one of my favourite sights was San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore. Made up of the public sanctuary, the main altar and the Hall of the Nuns, the church is most famous for its beautiful frescos.
This is just a taster of what I saw while in Milan: we also took a look in the Bascilica de Sant’Ambrogio, wandered through the Sforzesco Castle and surrounding park, walked along the canals and took our time strolling down Via della Spiga, Milan’s most famous shopping street.
Unfortunately the one thing in Milan I did not get to see was Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, located in the Santa Maria delle Grazie.
But I’m not too disappointed – it just gives me an excuse to visit this lovely city once more.