As a transit point in Europe, I seem to find myself using Milan quite regularly, so that leaves just enough time to eat in a couple of restaurants and fit in a modicum of sightseeing. Each time I visit I learn more about this great city and one day I will give myself a little more time to get to know it better. It is a very walkable city and the Milan’s Duomo is a central compass point around which I find my bearings each time. This year on arrival at the railway station, we had so much luggage, definitely not the way to travel on a train but we had been in Europe for 6 weeks already! We were approached by a porter, a self appointed one of course who attached himself to John whilst he went in search of a luggage trolley. John did a quick surveillance of the station, totally in vain and returned to collect me sans a trolley (there weren’t any) but thankfully still with the ‘porter’ in tow. We decided to use his services and just as well as we would have missed the cues for the complex route out of the enormous station, down a couple of escalators before finding the right exit where the taxis are allowed to wait. Our young porter (in his late twenties) spoke Italian and Arabic and we did our best to communicate some pleasantries. When it came to paying there was no kerfuffle about the money, he just graciously accepted whatever we gave him. Our taxi cost us 15.00 euros, it was a short trip but the taxi had to wend its way down a few one way streets to our hotel. Our location was superb, we were in a side street to one end of the shopping mall on via Dante, the mall closest to the Castello Sforzesco. The mall is not an American style shopping mall, but the original mall, a street converted for pedestrians and bicycles only. I had researched the hotel before I left Australia and booked it online. My search criteria was something central, not too expensive, to be under 250 euro per night mark and one where the rooms are proudly displayed on the website. After extensive research I found everything I wanted in Antica Locanda dei Mercanti. When you are on a budget you do have to put more time into research, it is only when you go for the very top tier of hotels that you don’t have to worry about the details, and if it doesn’t deliver you have the right to complain and normally it is put right. At our new fave hotel, there is no restaurant but the staff will make a tea or coffee any time of day for you in the lobby lounge and at no charge. Breakfast included in the tariff is delivered on a tray to your room. Italian breakfasts are notoriously ordinary but we had perfect croissants and you can choose to add some extras, at a cost of course. There is a computer with wifi for guests in the lounge and they are progressive enough to offer free wifi in your room if you bring your laptop. We were offered a ‘terrace room’ which is in another building- almost next door, but for just one overnight stay we opted to stay in the main building as our room was perfectly fine for us. The bedhead looked as though it once served time as a the panel of a choir stall, very sombre but lightened up with high quality white linen. We also liked our roomy marble lined bathroom. There was air conditioning and it was needed in June. The hotel had some very striking paintings in some rooms and the lobby. I am guessing that this hotel is booked out well in advance for the Milan furniture fair. It had the touch of architects and designers without being too precious. Antica Locanda dei Mercanti. Off Via Dante – Very close to the Cadorna North station so anyone familiar with Milan could reach it easily by the train system. http://www.locanda.it/ If you want something very high end but want to avoid the conventional formality of Milan’s posh Four Seasons try Straf, a 64 room boutique hotel in the La Scala opera house district. Via San Raffaele, 3
When you need to eat, don’t settle for a touristy cafe or restaurant in the city, head for the Brera district. Ask you hotel to recommend somewhere here or go for a walk and take a chance. It is a good area to visit as it is an art and food district. Convivium, I love this name for a restaurant. For lunch here we had chicken and porcini risotto, that worked out at around 14 euros, an antipasti for one that was enough for two, of generous prosciutto and melon 12 euros. A main course of Tuna cost 19 euros and wine by the glass 3 euros. Via Ponte Vetero, 21 – tel +39 02 86463708.
Obika is the unlikely name of a ‘Mozzarella Bar’ in downtown Milan. A mozzarella bar based on a sushi bar… a perplexing concept. We called in for a light dinner at this chic bar lined in as much black as is still possible to see your way round. A confusion of cultures with its hand forged cutlery from Thailand. A Japanese chef at the bar, assembling dishes comprising of all the variations on mozzarella di buffala currently in production. An unusual combination that works. The mozzarella awaits us whilst floating in fish tanks and when an order comes in, the chef moves up and down collecting his samples to create the orders. We shared a Degustazione Mozzarella for two at 30 euros but it would easily have been enough for 4 people. A glass of Tasca d’Almerita (Sicilian wine I know well) will only set you back at 5 euros, fairly good prices really for Milan. I would say it is a place for both DINKS (double income, no kids) and empty nesters just like us. Not going to Milan sometime soon – Obika’s website says they are now open in Rome and Florence. via Mercato, 28
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II Above the central ceiling dome, light filters down on the splendid mosaic floors – look for the Latin cross pattern. The octagonal centre represents four continents, another represents Art, Agriculture, Science and Industry. People madly photographing their feet on the floor of the zodiac sign Taurus the bull for good luck. This is where you visit the original Prada store, also the Italian hatmaker Borsellino is here. I loved the speciality glove shop staffed by Asian women, what does that say? Then there is the area for even more designer boutiques – go to via Monte Napoleone and look up and down its side streets for more designers. If you are love lingerie you cannot go past the fabulous Laura Urbinati who only has three shops in the world, Rome, Los Angeles and at her base in Milan.Piazza San Eustorgio, 6
HISTORY Archaelological Museum at the Castello Sforzesco So we were on a day (Monday) that the galleries in the castle were closed but that gave us time to enjoy walking around the entire castle grounds and enjoy all its courtyards. It is on our list for the next visit, you always have to leave something for next time and with Milan there will always be a next time. Visit the castle link as it now features a virtual tour.