Milan: a city of beautifully crafted buildings, amazing views, tons of adorable dogs & way too much delicious food!
We arrived in Milan on a gloomy Thursday after quite the trek from our place in Amsterdam (walk, taxi, bus, plane, other bus, metro, walk). To escape our equally gloomy accommodation (tip: don’t book the Zebra Hostel) we walked up the street to Willy’s for our first taste of authentic Italian food.
Off to Italy!
Needless to say we were a little surprised by some of the uniquely Italian parts of this restaurant: they charge for water (tap water doesn’t seem to be an option), they charge for the “free” bread you receive at the beginning of meals and THE PORTIONS ARE ENORMOUS!
Biggest. Pizza. Known. To. Man.
Could we have any more carbs on this table?
After filling ourselves to the rim with lunch, we did the only sensible thing: added gelato! Gelato in Milan is sweet, homemade, delicious and not nearly as expensive as I thought it might be.
We trekked over to Milan’s pride & joy: the Duomo. A fairly impressive church, Duomo sits in a central square of Milan’s shopping area. We also checked out the Galleria Emanuelle (gorgeous and kept us out of the rain, but extremely unaffordable) and Carlie made some new friends!
Carlie and her new friends!
We finished up the day with leftovers and boardgames back at our hostel. After a long day of rain and travel, we happily hit the hay by 9!
Valentine’s Day! And the only day with sun!
We decided to take advantage of the bright skies and romance in the air with a day trip to Lake Como (where George Clooney has a house!). We took a train to Varenna, a cute little lakeside town, where we marvelled at the water, mountains and cute little homes before taking a ferry over to Bellagio.
Welcome to Varenna!
Ferry boat views
Bellagio was also home to amazing mountain and coastal views, but with the added bonus of sloping cobblestone streets where we found a cute little family restaurant to lunch at. After wobbling back down those sloping stairs, we hopped on another ferry to the bigger town of Como.
The steps of Bellagio
Getting lost on the streets of Como felt worlds away from the busy, rainy streets of Milan. We discovered cute little stores, grand churches and that every other resident has an adorable dog! Right before our train ride back to the city, we took the funicular up to the top of the mountain just in time to catch the sunset. Only complaint of the day was not running into George and receiving an invite to stay at his house!
Beautiful church in Como
Sun setting over Lake Como
Back in the city we decided to try out a new pasta place that, while delicious, brought us a bottle of wine we didn’t order. We spent most of the meal fearing the worse, since you pay for everything at restaurants (including a cover charge for sitting!), but turns out, we didn’t need to worry. The wine was only 5 euro!
Overcast, but not raining, day 3 saw us exploring some of Milan’s more hidden gems. We started with the Papiniano flea market that opens every Saturday. The market was HUGE, literally stalls as far as the eye can see. Most of the stalls were clothing, where respectable Milanese women were digging through piles and elbowing each other for the first grab at a 3 euro sweater. We also found some food stalls and were very tempted to bring bags of cheap produce back to Amsterdam.
Admiring the food stalls at Papiniano
We stopped at a cafe for lunch and then carried on to a random natural science museum that Steph found…that actually turned out to be pretty cool! There were lots of interactive components and whole hangars filled with boats, planes and trains. We managed to spend a good 2 hours there before we got museum-ed out and had to listen to our daily gelato calling our names.
Only the coolest museums have ornate balconies
After the sugar fix, we joined the crowds at the Santa Maria della Grazie church for the 5:00pm viewing of Da Vinci’s Last Supper. The whole process was very orderly: you buy tickets online beforehand and are corralled into different rooms where the doors shut behind you before the next doors open. Finally, we got our 15 minutes with the painting and I was pretty impressed (unlike the overhyped postage stamp that is the Mona Lisa). The painting is directly on the church wall, bigger than life-sized and has undergone years of deterioration, vandalism, war and careful restoration.
Home of the Last Supper
Spot the difference!
We ended the night back at Willy’s with much more sensible orders of pasta, instead of giant pizzas.
Seafood pasta – yum!
Our last day in Milan started with a visit to the Castello Sforzesco, which honestly turned out to be a bit of a let down. The castle looked cool, but we quickly discovered that there were only mini-museums to view and not even all of those were open. I was hoping for some grand rooms decked out in royal furnishings, but instead we just saw a lot of art.
Carlie finding an Asian wedding outside of the castle!
We recharged at a nearby cafe, where Carlie taught us, and the wait staff, how to make paper cranes! Unfortunately, our waiter ripped his crane, but the 3 remaining ones were proudly put into the cafe’s display case.
After lunch, we walked along the shopping strip and poked our noses into a few places. Finding a tiny crepe place was probably the best purchase of the day – absolutely delicious! We followed the crepes up with coffee and tea at a quaint little Italian cafe.
Best crepes ever!
The rain must have finally gotten to us, because on our search for a dinner spot, we decided to risk it and try AYCE sushi! Apparently, Japanese/Asian food is pretty popular in Milan. Unfortunately, it pales in comparison to Vancouver, or even Toronto, sushi. I didn’t mind it too much, as it satisfied my Asian food craving, but I don’t think we’ll be repeating that mistake any time soon.
The next morning we said goodbye to a very rainy Milan at 4 in the morning. After another long trek, I was napping in my own, much more comfortable, bed by 1pm.
Grazie Milano, for a lovely trip! Next weekend, Belgium!