Now almost a month delayed, here is my final post from my Milan trip that I took at the end of February. Thursday night our colleagues at the transport company in Milan took us to aperitivo. The word is associated with aperitif, from the latin aperire meaning “to open.” Generally speaking, this is a sort of happy hour with appetizers, but much more structured and extensive than what we might see in the US. Here’s the deal — you purchase one drink (per person) and then have unlimited access to bite-size food that is generally laid out along the bar, where you walk around and pick up what you want (almost buffet style). The food was really good — and all stuff I like! Little pizza bites, fried cheese or potato bites, ciabatta breadsticks, etc. Apparently this has really caught on in Milan in the last 10 years as the thing to do — it works quite well with the traditionally late Italian dinner time (around 9 or 10 pm), as it fills the hours of 6 or 7 to 8 or 9pm.
After all day in meetings, our very kind hosts showed us how to spend the evening in Milan...
On Friday night, after two very long days of work, my colleague Mark and I went out for a nice stroll and a great dinner. Mark lived in Milan for 6 months when in college (nearly 10 years ago), so his passable Italian and knowledge of at least a few neighborhoods was quite useful!
A beautiful tower just steps from my hotel and the Duomo
We decided to head to the Navigli District, the area where Mark once lived, and a very vibrant neighborhood centered on several canals which were created in the 12th century to provide Milan with a port (by linking to nearby lakes). The area is teeming with restaurants, shops, and galleries in old warehouse buildings lining the canals.
The nighttime scene along one of the canals in the Navigli District
One of many small charming cul-de-sacs near the canal
We had an amazing dinner at one of those places we all wish we knew in every city — unassuming front door and reception area leading to a very cool dining space alive with activity. In perfect Italian style, we finished dinner around midnight. My only complaint about an authentic Milanese dinner was the separation of primo (first plate – pasta) and secondo (second plate – meat); I wanted to enjoy my excellent penne bolognese with my equally good veal Milanese! After dinner we walked all the way back to the hotel, through the old Roman gate.
The Roman gates, which Tram Line 3 passes through
On Saturday, I spent the morning playing transit tourist (as you have already seen), but in the afternoon I visited the central area of Milan, including the fabulous Duomo.
Stazione Milano Centrale - the main railway station, used by more than 300k people per day on trains to locations throughout Italy as well as France, Germany, and Switzerland. The original design in 1912 was based on Union Station in Washington DC.
After lunch with Mark, we headed to the roof of the Duomo — Milan’s massive gothic cathedral that is the very heart of the city. While sources disagree on the exact ranking, this little worship hall is without a doubt in the top five worldwide in size — so it is not suprising that it took from 1386 to 1813 to complete it! What IS remarkable is that, through all that time, generations of builders were true to the original Gothic style.
Front view of the Duomo and the Piazza del Duomo
For €5 each, we walked up the staircase in the square tower (3 steps up, turn, 3 steps up, turn) — there is a lift, but it is €2.50 more. The reward at the top is worth the climb, however.
After emerging from the stair tower, I found myself in the midst of a gothic world
The more than 3,500 exterior statues are each unique...
...and this is one of my favourites!
There is also an amazing view of the piazza, with the spectacular Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II on the right (with some of the priciest and most famous shopping in the world).
Continuing up, we reached the actual roof - where people can lounge and take in the sun!
Also from the roof, a great view of the Alps in the distance...
...and the Piazza del Duomo at the cathedral's doorstep!
And that, my friends, is the last word I have (for now) about Milan. I apologize for the timing of this post, and I’ve promised to try and write more quickly after my adventures in the future.