I am happily writing this post from my house in Palermo after returning from an incredible traipse through Milan and Rome.
I went into this trip a little apprehensively, as Milan has a less-than-glowing reputation. Friends said to skip it, the ever-trusty Internet gave the city a resounding “meh”, and my host dad, once a Milan resident himself, jokingly claims the best part of Milan is the train ride back to Rome. Hence, the trepidation.
I am very happy to report that I couldn’t disagree more. I loved Milan! After much thought, I have decided the discrepancy here lies in Milan's spot in the tourism ladder. Between the colorful Amalfi coast and the historical beauty of Rome, Milan is distinctly different, visually. Coming from other places, I imagine it can be disappointing to see a true city if you're expecting pink houses squeezed between ancient ruins. However, I make a strong case that Milan's beauty lies instead in its urban character.
Often, I find a thick layer of tourists and stores boasting massive boards of *insert city here* fridge magnets to be exhausting and difficult to ignore when visiting a large city; however, in Milan I felt there were so many places to see that it had a bit of a diaspora effect on the hordes of visitors. It certainly did not hinder the feeling of wonder on my first night when I exited the Metro directly into the magnificent Duomo or block my need to spin in delighted circles under the dome of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. The city is constantly bustling, which made me feel so at home and nostalgic for my beloved Chicago and the always-hustling Brits of London.
I also want to note that Milan was an easy city to experience inexpensively, which is always appreciated by the financially-challenged 20-somethings of the world. (Check out the hostel I stayed in, Ostello Bello Grande, if this is a priority for you-- it was the palace of all hostels.) The food game was also notable. Luini panzerotti’s -- savory doughnuts stuffed with mozzarella and tomatoes--are possibly hand-rolled by the gods, the apertivo along the canals in Navigli is hard to top, and once, by happy accident, I ordered a family-sized vat of tiramisu. It was delicious and I left Milan happily fed.
My Milan Top 3
1. Terrace of the Duomo
2. bikeMi to navigate the city by bike
3. Triennale Design Museum
1. As I said before, Duomo is a showstopper. Massive and oh-so-aesthetically-pleasing against a light blue sky or black night, a person could stare forever. Because it was so fantastic, I wanted to take a closer look from the roof. Seeing the intricate statues and the lacy-looking architecture up close was a beautiful experience, and-- as I nearly slipped to my death on the slanted marble roof-- I couldn’t help but think this would never fly in the USA.
2. As for my biking experience, bikeMi is just like Divvy or any other bike sharing program. After a subscription purchase, you get a half hour free and then you pop the bike back on the rack and get a new one. I’m not even going to lie, the first two switches were stressful as HELL. I am an awful multitasker as it is, so motorized vehicles in close proximity plus me trying to adjust a bike seat without dropping my phone into a gutter equals a disaster on wheels. But, once I got the hang of it, I was off! I saw the entire city this way and was able to hop off or go inside at my leisure. Highly recommend this mode of transportation, as long as you have an ounce of patience. (I do not, as made obvious by the tire marks all over my legs).
Finally, the Triennale Design Museum! This place was heavenly. Located inside Parco Sempione, the Museum was a) air conditioned and b) full of architecture, shiny structures masquerading as uteruses, and delightful installations that made me think about art’s place in even the most mundane life experiences. In this case, pictures will tell the story better than words.
In the end, I wasn’t quite ready to leave the happy, busy streets of Milan, but Rome was calling!