On the Road: Milan, Italy

1.30.17

Buongiorno friends!!! I’ve gone through the heaps of pictures I took in Italy and picked out some of my favorites to share, along with some thoughts and pieces of advice.  It was my first time visiting the country and I was really overdue to go, considering my husband gets to go a few times a year for his job. It was getting embarrassing that we’ve been together over five years now and I had still never gone with him. But thanks to super cheap airfare right now, it happened! I’m hoping this week will be full of posts, a few summing up my travel experience, a few recipes inspired by the trip. So strap in kids, let’s get Italian up in here.

I did break my number-one travel rule which is to learn a little bit of the dominant language of the country.  This trip was definitely planned a teeny bit last minute so my time spent on DuoLingo was limited, and my feeble attempt to speak Italian was the result.  I knew the basics but when it came to actual conversation, I was a mess.  So try and learn a little before you go, just to feel more in control.  However, those who lived there were very kind about the fact I was a tourist and didn’t speak the language.  Italians in general were incredibly warm and friendly. We spent our time in Milan and Rome.   Rome was a little more interesting, while Milan was very similar to any major city. I enjoyed both but by the end of the trip felt I squeezed as much out of Milan as I could, but could’ve explored days more in Rome.

This is my face. Doesn’t it look super clean and refreshed, despite the fact it’s right after I arrived at the hotel after I took an 8-hour overnight flight??  You know why? I brought Burt’s Bees make-up removing cloths in travel size in my purse.  Along with that I also brought my contact case and my glasses.  So while I didn’t sleep on the plane as much as I wanted, when it was ‘time for bed’ I was able to wash my face and take out my contacts to relax until morning came.  My skin felt moisturized and fresh instead of clogged and gross. Hands down best travel decision I made.  And obviously wear comfy clothes since you’ll be sitting in them for so long. Also they serve wine on the plane, like just as a normal drink. And if you think I didn’t take advantage of that to and from, then clearly you haven’t learned who I am at ALL from this blog.

Our hotel was about a 15 minute walk from the Duomo.  What’s so fascinating is how similar cities can be.  The Duomo is a beautiful old cathedral, the streets kind of  circling around it, the Duomo being the center.  Not as easy to navigate as NYC but still I understood the structure of the streets.  All around the Duomo were the most popular food and clothing stores you could name, like Times Square. Times Square obviously isn’t centered around an 800 year old church, but the vibe is the same.  Crowds of people, shopping, even musicians with tip jars playing for the visitors.  It was weird actually, this super old building surrounded by an H&M and McDonalds.  But I guess such is tourist life in well-known urban cities. The first night I arrived, Phil had to work late, so I set out and explored on my own.  I made it to the Duomo in one piece and just sat in front of it and stared at it for a while, basically until I couldn’t feel my hands anymore. It’s a pretty grand piece of architecture to take in. Since it’s not as crowded this time of year I could just enjoy the sight, without feeling suffocated. It was a nice moment to really take in that I had in fact, made it to Italy.  We also grabbed a drink at a rooftop bar on our last day that was right next to the Duomo, a great send off after a full week.

These ceilings are actually an indoor mall of extremely high-end stores right by the Duomo.  Piece of advice, don’t bring heels.  Not worth it.  Walking to and from the Duomo wasn’t that far but we explored all over Milan and Rome and there are tons of cobblestone streets.  Thinking of walking in anything other than sneakers or boots is laughable.  Pack comfortable sneakers, a great pair of ankle booties and an interchangable wardrobe.  I packed about three sweaters, a cardigan, black pants, jeans, one casual skirt, a white tee, two lighter long sleeved shirts for layering, and two button downs I could also wear under sweaters if need be.  I basically wore everything once, but knew I could double up depending on the weather. Everything I packed was pretty neutral in color so it was easy to mix and match.

And if you can tolerate the cold and have the chance, visiting in the winter was kind of magical.  Less crowded, cheaper to fly. Make sure to layer up, bring one epic scarf and gloves. Of course it would’ve been nice to not have to wear a sweater, a hoodie, a jacket and a scarf, but there was also no one on the sidewalks, no lines to get in places, no crazy wait for touristy areas. There was something very cool about visiting in the winter because it’s off peak and you can enjoy the city without so many people to push through.

We loved walking around during our time off together. The buildings looked exactly like I had imagined.  Burnt oranges, or deep rose colored, or mustard with terraces and columns.  Covered in vines, they just look old.  And not old like run down, like lived through history old. Does that make sense?  There was something so different about the architecture there and here.  I was constantly swerving my head around to take in everything as we walked down side streets and main roads,  at all the houses and small shops.  This canal was one of my favorite spots.  I’m sure in the summer it’s full of people, but being colder and abandoned, it was nice to just enjoy the silence around it.

Yes, you totally have to pay $25 just to SEE The Last Supper.  Do it.  We splurged on a few super tourist must do things, this being one of them.  Totally worth it.  I think it’s hard to imagine just how large these frescos are until you see them in person.  I definitely didn’t understand how magnificent this art was till I was standing in front of it.  Thinking of someone on scaffolding 500 years ago painting an entire wall over the course of 4 years is…..well humbling to say the least. I think what may have been most impressive is how it’s still standing and in such great condition.  If you don’t know the history of the building The Last Supper was painted on please look it up.  I had no idea and it’s seems almost impossible that it’s lasted the test of time.

Don’t be afraid to take the Metro. Phil and I were far from scared to take public transportation since we live in NYC.  And basically all systems are the same.  We used the subway a bunch and it was easy and cheap.  While we were in Milan the NFL playoffs were happening, and since we cheer for the Falcons, we were lucky enough to find an awesome sports bar (Offside, check it out) in Milan willing to turn on the game.  I made a ‘reservation’ for us around 9pm and the picture above is how they keep track of their reservations.  Hilarious.  Being surrounded by a bunch of Italians cheering for American football was an experience, which only got better considering that THEY WON!!!!! We got super drunk and took a taxi back to the hotel. Just like we would’ve done in NYC.

Know when you want to eat!!! So Italy is way different with their eating schedule than America.  They enjoy, the don’t rush and they don’t even start thinking about dinner until 8:30. You show up for dinner before that and they’ll serve you, but totally judge you.  Also, lunch is almost non existent when it comes to grabbing a bite someplace.  Everywhere  shuts down from about 2-7.  So if you want a midday meal……well basically you’re fucked. Phil and I learned this lesson the hard way time….and time….and time again.  Make sure to have snacks on you, or eat around 1pm and don’t plan to eat again for a while if you’ll be out and about. We would desperately be walking around trying to find anywhere that was open to eat when we were actually hungry in the middle of the day.  Granted we found some delicious food when we finally succeeded, but it wasn’t an easy quest. 

That’s part one of my experience. Nothing earth shattering.  But this was the first time I’d been to Europe since high school.  Of course it just made me want to travel more, actually all the time and just somehow make it my job and just visit everywhere. And only do that with my husband forever.

I still have to show you Rome, and this mini dessert tour I took myself on during our last day in Milan! 

We all deserve a little treat.....share!
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