Our two week journey around Italy began in Milan. From what we had heard from friends or colleagues who had been to Milan we were not expecting amazing things from the city. Their opinions appeared to always summarise into “it’s alright”. But on the two days we were there, we were pleasantly surprised to find an exciting city stuck in the shadow of it’s more favoured neighbouring cities.
There were picturesque views of northern Italy countryside as we flew in to Bergamo airport, which is a small airport about an hour’s drive from Milan, a consequence of flying with Ryanair. We enjoyed a rare occurrence in Europe of moving through the airport and onto transportation with impressive efficiency! Bergamo being a small airport helped, but the Terrorvision bus we used, which was €5 each was straightforward and easy to find right outside the airport exit.
An hour later we were in the busy centre of Milan and because there is a very well connected metro we found our hotel with relative ease. We paid €8.25 each for a 48 hour pass, which was perfect for the amount of time we were spending here, as single tickets were €1.50. Our hotel was situated right next to the Wagner stop on the red line, which is one of the best kinds of location, as we could leave our hotel and be on a metro whizzing along underground to any part of the city with no worries over traffic.
Our hotel, named Nuovo Marghera was better than we were expecting! It was a reasonably priced three star hotel. We did have to pay city or “tourist” tax at a slightly bruising €4 per person per night. But a city tax was tagged on to our hotel bill wherever we stayed in Italy. We had a lovely terrace, nice bathroom, safe, fridge and big bed. After we checked in it felt good to have a nice sit down and feel happy that we were finally in Italy on our little travelling adventure!
We only had two nights in Milan and had no plans to do anything in particular and I think this made it a nicer experience. We of course spent a lot of time at the main attraction of the city and that is the main square which is dominated by the wonderful gothic duomo. The architecture of the building is unique in it’s design and structure and gives it it’s own character.
The duomo doesn’t take all the attention, as next to it is one of the oldest shopping malls in the world, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. It is named after Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of the Kingdom of Italy, designed in 1861 and built by Giuseppe Mengoni between 1865 and 1877. The building is filled with expensive shops that for the simple budget travellers we are, were merely windows with pretty stuff to look at. We of course had to have a spin on the bull mosaic for the good luck it is supposed to bring…so many people have done it over the years that there is now a deep rounded hole on the bull’s crotch where tourists and locals have dug their heel into it. We thought it was three spins but didn’t know if it was in a specific direction…so we did it both ways. Which may have brought us an equal measure of good and bad luck…
There are plenty of museums and shops to keep the tourists happy. One area we really liked was the grand Sforza castle and the gardens behind it. There are museums inside the castle but there’s plenty more to it than that. We just walked round the castle and park and enjoyed the sights and atmosphere. The Milan Expo had begun by the time we were there, so there was a lot of advertisement for it. Luckily none of the big stages were erected in the square while we visited which was a bonus as it would have ruined the view!
One of the bad points of Milan is the surprising lack of restaurants, or places to eat in general in the centre. On our first night we were happy to settle for anything and we managed to find a nice simple looking restaurant near the duomo, where we had a relatively tasty pizza while seated outside, enjoying life go by in a busy Italian city. However, the next day food was a lot harder to come by. Around the centre we really struggled to find anywhere and had to share some chips from a popular place called Amsterdam Chips to tide us over. We gave up looking in and around the centre, so we jumped on a metro back to our hotel and after a bit more searching we found a tasty Chinese restaurant. I get the impression that Milan focuses more on fashion than being well fed.
We felt that Milan is an underrated city in Italy. It is seen as a modern metropolis that doesn’t have the history of Rome, quaintness of Florence or charm of Venice, but don’t let that stop you coming here. Although we struggled to find food, it has a vibrant atmosphere, great transportation, buckets of historical sights and little hidden gems such as the controversial middle finger sculpture officially titled L.O.V.E in the Piazza Degli Affari outside the Milan stock exchange. I was really glad we decided to start our journey In Milan and we were ready for our next destination, Rome.