Hope you’ve all had a delightful weekend. I for one certainly have – I’ve just gotten back from beautiful Milan! I headed over to explore the Italian fashion capital and trawl the festive market stalls of L’Artigiano in Fiera (huge international event dedicated to arts and crafts) with a couple of friends – Ashley and Attiya, who study with me in Vienna, and Eve, one of my best friends from college at home. She managed to pop up for the weekend from Rome where she studies to join our merrymaking (and help to navigate around the city, since she speaks Italian), to make the weekend even more exciting.
Well, I’d never been to Italy before, and we were only there for two days and two nights – but I can safely say I’ve fallen in love with Milan. To give a bit of structure to this post (because there’s just too much to say), I’m going to list what I felt were the Top 10 Best Things about our little city-break.
- The People and Attitude
We were all quite shocked about how friendly and helpful everybody was. Maybe it’s because Austrians generally seem so business-y (and sometimes a little grumpy), but the Italians were relaxed and smiley and jumped at the chance to help every time they noticed we were lost in the metro. The city is quite international, and we really felt welcome, despite being very obviously foreign.
2. Il Duomo
This incredible cathedral (which took 6 centuries to complete) is bang in the centre of the city, and right in the middle of all the market stalls which are set up at the moment for the international festival. We spent most of our second day eating, drinking and milling around in its general vicinity, soaking up its gothic magnificence.
3. The Market (L’Artigiano in Fiera)
Well I am a sucker for Christmas markets, and in fact markets of any sort. So to find myself literally surrounded by wooden cabins decked out in twinkling lights, offering a whole myriad of treats ranging from mulled wine to hand-knitted Alpaca socks was a bit like wandering into heaven. Evie and I went on a bit of a coffee-and-wine rampage in actual fact, which in the end led me to buying a whole stack of woollen socks I didn’t need.
4. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
This is basically an arcade just off the Piazza del Duomo – one of the oldest shopping arcades in the world. It boasts such luxuries as the Gucci cafe, Prada, Louis Vuitton and the Biffi Cafe (opened 1867 by the pastry chef to the monarchy). It’s known as the ‘the drawing room of Milan’ due to its popularity as a meeting spot, and it certainly is one of the most impressive drawing rooms I’ve ever seen.
This actually brings me straight onto:
It is Italy’s fashion capital. We knew that much. We didn’t actually expect the men to look like they’ve just walked off The Sartorialist and the women to strut the streets in five inch heels at 2pm with designer dogs following closely behind. ‘Every street’s a catwalk’ is quite literal in Milan. Needless to say, I loved it. I only wished I’d brushed my hair before taking to these chic streets.
6. The Art
Since we only had two days, we decided to keep the museum-based stuff to a minimum. Eve studies Art History full time, and at home I take any module I can find in it because I think it’s wonderful, but there’s no need to drive everyone else mad with talk of lighting and brushstroke inflections. At lunch time, however, having stumbled incredulously through the Galleria, we happened upon a free and exclusive Rubens Exhibition. Obviously we couldn’t resist. We lined up for twenty minutes and then went to view The Adoration of the Shepherds in the town hall at Palazzo Marino. A nice moment of quiet in the bustling metropolis.
7. Alright – the PIGEONS
Anyone who knows me well will know that I, unlike many, many people, love pigeons. I don’t know why. They’re cheeky and a bit brazen and can actually be quite pretty when they aren’t covered in filth. So when I saw these Pigeon-Whisperers in the square and realised that actually I too could hold some pigeons on my arms, well, it made me very happy.
8. The Terrazza Gallia at the Excelsior Hotel
I don’t think I’ve ever been somewhere so posh. The bathrooms were completely mirrored and the toilets flushed on their own (?). On arrival we were served olives, sugared almonds and home-cooked beetroot chips. The waiter covered us with heavy red blankets on the terrace. For a moment we truly felt rich. We stumbled upon this insane rooftop bar by chance on our way to a different one – and actually it couldn’t have been beaten. Drinking Gewürztraminer whilst overlooking Milan was one of the best moments of the weekend.
My Italian housemates said to me before I left Vienna, ‘If you don’t manage to see anything else, you HAVE to see Navigli.’ They were right. We arrived at the banks of the canal after dusk to find fairylights twinkling overhead and the after-work, wine-infused buzz that really gave us the ‘Italian feeling’. Of course, the Amaretto, fresh pizza and tagliatelle also added to the experience.
And finally (yes, I’m wrapping it up now, I promise!):
10. The sky at sunset
That’s genuinely the sky above our street at about 5pm. It’s not edited – it’s just flipping insane. If that’s not going to tempt you to Milan, what is?
So that’s my little weekend break summed up in 10 compact(ish) points. Milan has a reputation for being quite industrial and perhaps not as cultural as Rome or Florence, say. But having spent a few days in this most chic and friendly city, I’d highly recommend you consider it next time you need a quick escape.
Thanks for reading (if you made it the whole way through!),
And until next time, ciao!