One of the rules I was determined to stick to this year was to say yes to as much as possible – perhaps that’s justification for the indulgence of pizza and gelato binges that seem to be an almost daily occurrence this semester because let’s face it, Leicester, whilst I love you, the fact remains that there isn’t an ice cream shop on every street which quite frankly puts you at a disadvantage to Italy.
With this ‘Say Yes’ motto in mind, the other day someone sent me a buzzfeed article on 25 Bakeries in the World You Have To See Before You Die*. My friends know me so well. Anyway as I was scrolling down this list of bakeries and staring longingly at the foodie photos that accompanied each entry, it’s fair to say that I was mentally making a mental list of new places to add to my ‘Places to Visit’ list. Especially the one in Sweden, number 24 on the list, Taxinge Slott Café in Nykvarn – I’m sorry, but a cake BUFFET in a place that’s attached to a Castle??? I think I’ve found my new home… Should have learnt Swedish – I blame the British education system.
But, before I go off on a tangent, one revelation I had whilst reading the article was that one of the places on the list was in Milan. Now I’m the first to admit that my geography knowledge isn’t up to scratch, but having lived in the North of Italy for however many months now, even I knew that Milan was in my neck of the woods – that could only mean one thing. A daytrip was in order.
Seeing as I’m now free from lectures and exams, I’d made a list of the places I wanted to visit before I left, and Milan was already there, so this just gave me more incentive.
The only thing is the ‘gang’ per se seem to have abandoned Padova for the moment, either having left already for Cornwall or Barcelona (not that I’m jealous or anything) or off on trips or with guests, and whilst obviously it’s always great to go away with someone I don’t want it to be the case that when I’m back in sunny Suffolk in August I’ll look back and think I should have done more than sit around and wait. So, as a spur of the moment thing I bought a return tick to Milan for the Saturday at the ridiculous bargain price of only 38 euro. After an afternoon on Tripadvisor and downloading The BEST App for my iPhone which acted as my offline map for the day (Ulmon Milan – totally amazing and free to download, I can’t recommend it enough. The map is detailed with all the street names, even the little’uns, sign-posted major landmarks and the option to pin places you want to visit so you can find them easily and plan your route. They also have the app for other cities across the world, and if I’m ever lucky enough to visit them I’ll 100% be downloading their Ulmon App!) I was ready for my day of solo adventure. Obviously this included an early night as my 4:30 am wake-up had to be taken into account.The train was a Freccia Bianca – these are the fast trains, not the regional ones, so it was only a 2hour7minute journey – this meant I arrived in the metropolis of Milan at the early-bird time of 8:30am. Perfect time for cake. (Let it be known now that I had eaten two decent sized portions of cake by 10 o’clock – but as we all like to say, we’re on holiday. It doesn’t count.)
Needless to say that my Tripadvisor session was split into two categories – things to see and places to eat. Without knowing when the next time I’d be in Milan I wasn’t willing to leave it completely to fate when it came to pasticcerias, so I had gone with list in hand but obviously with the open mind to deviate if I stumbled upon somewhere new, which actually happened twice.
Breakfast number 1 – Pave – I had a Raspberry tart with Creme Patissiere, the best of both worlds – sugar and fruit. You can’t say I’m slacking on the five-a-day, no sir. Fairly near the station it’s more off the beaten track, with a cute, urban style.
Breakfast number 2 – Princi Cafe – this was a newbie, a place on my way to Sempione Park along Via Venezia, and after walking past the window I couldn’t not walk back and have a closer look. Never have I ever seen Pain au Chocolats looks so amazingly golden. So many regrets for not getting some pastry goods to go, but considering what I did get from there, my arteries are probably relieved I didn’t. It was one of those moments where you’re looking at the options and then you notice the Big Whopper, the King of the display, and as soon as the guy asked me what I wanted, I couldn’t help but point and ask him what on earth this heavenly looking cake was. Baring in mind it’s 10am, and this is a full-blown dessert cake ok, but he recovered, and went on to list every dessert-lover’s bliss. A biscuit base with a layer of chocolate hazelnut ganache, a thick layer of sticky caramel with caramelised hazelnuts and chocolate covered biscuit balls topped with a layer of frozen cream and covered with a coating of milk chocolate. By the end of his description I was just nodding and saying si, because I think after that you can’t really not try it, even if you know you should be gorging on the fresh fruit or the buttery croissants they have instead. But no, a holiday is a holiday and I was going to have that cake be damned.
The rest of the day’s food follows along the same vein – another pasticceria on my list, Sugar, was my afternoon stop where I had some cute blackberry and raspberry pastries, and as my attempt to find one of the gelaterias on my list failed as it apparently no longer exists (merci bcp Tripadivsor) a twist of fate had me walking past a place called Chocolot Maggi (funnily enough on my way to Sugar) and I had a raspberry and white chocolate ice cream. I kid you not, the white chocolate ice cream tasted exactly like I was eating Cadburys chocolate. It was a beautiful moment : ) And of course, I went to Pasticceria Marchesi, the Milanese entry on the Buzzfeed article. That’s one down, twenty-four more to go…
But obviously I didn’t spend the whole day on a food tour of Milan, as fun as that does sound – plus for the record I decided to forgo a Metro daypass and walk everywhere, which I like to think counter-acted the excess sugar intake of the day (too much wishful thinking?)
Anyway, food highlights aside, I enjoyed the actual city just as much. So much that I took over 600 photos. I haven’t done that since Canada so Milan is definitely topping my list of things I’ve done so far in Italy! I walked through Sempione Park and saw the Castello Sforzesco and the Arco della Pace – pretty perfect when the sun is shining and you’re surrounded by green grass and flowers. And whilst it is one of the touristy things to do, I went in the Duomo and went up to walk on the roof terraces – this was incredible. The view of the city isn’t much, it’s more of the actual Duomo that you appreciate. In fact, the Duomo is hands down one of the most amazing pieces of architecture I’ve ever seen.
So with the roof terraces ticked-off my to-do list, the only other main thing that I really wanted to do for definite was the Cimitero Monumentale, which obviously had to be on the other side of the city. But so worth the walk, and so worth the half a dozen map-check stops to make sure I was in the right place.
How to explain this place without making it sound weird… basically it’s a cemetery where the tombs and gravestones are so elaborately ornate it blows your mind. You could spend hours here and still not have seen everything, and I could have stayed there the whole afternoon if it weren’t for the incessant attack of ants that kept biting me – next time, I’m wearing my Timberlands.
I managed to see and do a lot of things in that one day – admittedly my train home wasn’t until 9pm, but with a city as big as Milan I wanted to make sure I could fit in as much as possible. And when you’re there you learn that there is so much more to the city than just Designer shops and fashion. For one, I’m crazy about Romans and their architecture, and Milan has a whole Milano Antico tour, which I bought a guide for, and there are apparently ruins and museums all across the city. Reason enough to go back!
So how was my first proper solo adventure of my Italy experience? It was pretty damn awesome. Yes the downside is I have no photos of me next to the Duomo or the Basicilia or La Scala or Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, but I had such a great time that this doesn’t really bother me.
Milan has to be one of the most interesting cities I’ve visited in Italy and I wholeheartedly say ‘Go Visit.’
*here’s the link for the buzzfeed article – everyone needs a little bit of cake in their lives!