It is always hard when your job sends you to Italy at the beginning of spring! This time I decided to add on a weekend in Milan and invited some friends and my sister to join me. We arrived late on Friday night into Milan Malpensa airport (not the closest airport to Milan, that’s Linate Airport). We safely made it to Hotel Serena where we were staying, which was about half way between the train station and the centre of town. We went to a restaurant close by on the recommendation of the hotel. I had Veal Milanese, a traditional Italian dish named after the city. A milanesa consists of a thin slice of meat or even eggplants dipped into beaten eggs then into bread crumbs and fried. We finished the meal with some complimentary Limoncello, which was delicious.
We were up early the next morning to walk into the city centre and visited the Duomo of Milan – a gothic cathedral that took nearly 600 years to build. It is the fifth largest in the world, and the biggest in Italy! We had a glimpse inside, then paid to climb to the top. You can pay more to get an elevator, but it wasn’t such a hard climb. We were lucky to have such beautiful weather and we had a gorgeous view of the city. When we got back down the bottom, there was a huge line of people waiting to go to the top, so we had arrived just in time! It would pay to get there before 10am I think.
Afterwards we went and had a quick look at Teatro alla Scalla, a world-renowned opera house close to the Duomo. The impressive building looked slightly less so due to its modern surroundings, but the inside was absolutely stunning! A previous theatre had burnt down in the 1700’s and this current theatre was built in 1776 on the former location of the church of Santa Maria alla Scala. It contains around 3,000 seats organised into pit-stalls, arranged in six tiers of boxes. Its stage is one of the largest in Italy, and when we saw it, the backstage could be seen with forklifts moving around parts of a set. It was huge! There is a marvellously huge chandelier in the centre, adding to its grandeur. We explored the museum, which contained costumes, countless books and artefacts, and photos of the famous people that have appeared there. It was well worth a look.
After lunch we had a lazy stroll through the grounds of Sforza Castle, a castle built in the 15th century which now houses several different museums and art galleries. None of them piqued our interest, so we continued on our walk through an enormous green park. The sun was shining and it was very warm, so we decided to enjoy it and lay on the grass for a little while. Libby and I even did some handstands on the grass!
Afterwards we all got some gelato, and we walked towards Santa Maria delle Grazie to see if there was any possibility that we could Da Vinci’s The Last Supper. You really do need to book several weeks in advance, so we only saw the exterior of the unassuming church, commissioned in the late 1400s by the dukes of the Sforza family. The Last Supper, which Da Vinci painted for them and finished in 1498, is inside somewhere – apparently!
We bought 24-hour metro passes and used the underground to get back to our hotel for an afternoon rest – all that walking and sunshine really took it out of us! We found a supermarket and bought some nice Italian wine to share, before heading out into the Navigli District for an Aperitivo. Italian happy hour isn’t two-for-one drinks, but free food with your drinks! A rather nice selection of free food.
Navigli used to be one of the largest inland ports, full of hundreds of canals. Now only three remain, two of which are the backbone of the neighbourhood. It is a beautiful place full of restaurants, cafés and bars, and a very lively atmosphere. A completely different feel to the city centre which is only a 20 minute walk away. After our drinks we had a leisurely dinner. This time I had Milanese risotto, a simple comfort dish made with saffron and parmesan. Delicious!
The next day we woke up slowly, then wandered around the streets of Milan having a look at all the expensive shops. The weather was absolutely stunning again, so we spent the afternoon reading our books in the park with some more gelato before heading back to the airport. The others went back to London, but I got to spend a few more days in Italy, albeit at work. Not that I could complain when this was the view outside my window: