Disadvantages Italian men on a major "charm" offensive & you will come back broke
Recently I wrote a review on Geneva. The last time I visited myself and my flatmate (otherwise known as LIZKEMPO) decided to make a proper holiday of it so we jumped on a train and headed into Italy afterwards. So by way of a sequel I’m now writing a review of our next destination, Milan.Milan is in the north of Italy, situated in the plains of the Po Valley, and is the capital of Lombardy. When you think of Milan several things instantly spring to mind. Perhaps the first is that it’s not as stunning architecturally or culturally as other Italian cities such as Rome, Florence or Venice. Industrial might even cross your mind. But secondly the redeeming feature is that Milan is universally acknowledged as the city of style. Images of glamour, designers and Victoria Beckham on a shopping spree (just as I write this an advert for ‘The Real Beckhams’ has come on TV – spooky she is everywhere!) are inevitably evoked. And it was for that reason Milan has always held an attraction for me.
TravelWe arrived in Milan on a train from Geneva. If you are planning on taking a bit of a tour of Europe the trains are excellent – we just turned up at the station bought our tickets and then sat on a nice comfy train watching the stunning Swiss scenery slowly blend into Italian countryside for four hours. Do keep your passport handy for the border checks. The train was very reasonably priced at about £35 each one way. It makes you wonder why trains in Britain are unable to offer this level of service.
If you are flying directly into Milan for a mini break Easyjet fly to Linate airport (about 5 miles / 8km from city centre) for between about £10 and £50 depending on the time of year you wish to travel. Other airlines to try are of course British Airways and Air Italia. Also if you are planning to take a bus or a taxi from the airport to your hotel it is perhaps best to clarify the exact location with the tourist office because Mulitmap had us right over the other side of town!The centre of Milan is not particularly spread out so we mostly walked from place to place. However there is a fast and cheap tube service (which bizarrely has music playing!) and trams in some areas.
AccommodationAccommodation in Milan can be as expensive or cheap as you wish. We stayed quite close to the station in a lovely B&B for only around £25 each per night. We booked this hotel over the Internet – www.italiantourism.org or www.hotels-in-italy.com have a wide range of hotels to suite every budget. You print out a confirmation page and call / email the day before you arrive and everything runs like clockwork!
SightseeingAlthough the sights in Milan don’t have the pulling power of those in Rome I was still very impressed by what was on offer. Marking the city centre of Milan is the fabulous Piazza del Duomo dominated by the 14th century Gothic Cathedral Duomo. Unfortunately at the time we were in Milan scaffolding covered the front façade but the structure was still very impressive from the sides. You can go inside the cathedral but make sure you are covered up – most importantly your shoulders and legs or security will not let you in. The same applies to most religious buildings in Italy. The Piazza del Duomo is also home to the stunning Galleria Viltorio Emmanuelle a very posh, very beautiful shopping mall.
Also worth a visit is the imposing Castello Sforzesco, which was built in 1450 by Francesco Sforza. It now houses various museums which we found to be of only average interest but the structure itself is very impressive. The medieval Basilica of St Ambrose, and the churches San Satiro and Santa Maria delle Grazie are also worth a visit.Shopping
The most fantastic thing about Milan is of course the shopping! Quite unexpectedly there is plenty to buy in Milan that doesn’t break the bank. Shoe shops are quite literally everywhere. In fact we spent one whole day shoe shopping, with of course the necessary beverage and food stops! Corso Buenos Aires is a wide avenue with shops on each side that ran from our hotel all the way to Duomo. It is here that you find the more moderately prices shops including shoe shops with prices comparable to the British high street. The area all around the Cathedral Duomo provides a more expensive shopping experience. Both the garment and shoe shops are stunning here – I have a picture of myself outside one such store practically salivating over the gorgeous shoes! Still its not all window shopping because some familiar shops can also be found here like an enormous Zara and a HMV. Finally the neighbourhood of Brera is worth checking out for its more unique shops.Going Out
The nightlife in Milan is excellent. As well as numerous bars there are several clubs to choose from. Hollywood and Casablanca are the most stylish and not cheap for this reason. They are located on via Como, which is also a good place to visit for bars. It is a good idea to check and see if you can book at taxi at your hotel before going out so you are not left stranded and always remember the drinks are a lot stronger in Italy than at home!Food
As a vegetarian Italy (in fact most of Europe) isn’t exactly ideal. On the seventh attempt they seem to understand that you want to know if there’s meat or fish in a particular dish and laugh at you and tell you of course there is! Most of the time I eat pizza because I knew I was safe! If you are a meat lover you are well catered for with a vast variety of dishes. I am reliably informed that some of the best restaurants in Milan include Gualtiero Marchesi on via Bovesin della Riva, Savini at the Galleria and Rigolo on via Solferino – all of which serve Italian and sometimes French and Tuscan food. As we were on a rather more limited budget we mainly dined at standard pizza and pasta places and chain restaurants. Spizzico is like a pizza McDonalds where you can get a large slice of pizza, a drink and another item like chips, salad, pudding etc for 5 Euros – bargain! There is also a buffet style restaurant ironically called Ciao and lots of pizza / pasta chains where you can buy a meal for around 10 Euros.Be careful when eating around the Piazza del Duomo as even the cheapest looking places charge the earth. At one very standard looking café two cokes cost us over £7!
Traveller Warnings1) If you are female you may well receive some hassle from the local male population! Most of this is harmless and good-natured but as anywhere it is probably not wise to walk alone late at night. Catcalling is very common – “Ciao Bella” is a phrase you’ll hear a lot!
All in all Milan was a brilliant place to visit. It is probably best for a city break type of holiday and for those who love shopping and generally being in stylish surroundings! If serious culture / art is what you’re looking for you may well be better off in one of the other Italian cities and kids would probably be bored out of their minds here! But I thought it was absolutely fab!
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