Wanderlust – Milan, darling….Milan (and day trip to Tuscany)

When I asked around about where to go in Italy, everyone said two places: Venice or Tuscany/Florence.  NO ONE said Milan.  I think people are missing out on an awesome place.  It’s a great city that doesn’t get over run by tourists during the day.  I felt immersed with the locals and able to truly experience a great city.

What to Expect

  • Language barrier – Mostly hit but some misses.  There were a lot of people surprisingly fluent in English.  They often had English menus or translations.  However, there is always an appreciation when you attempt to speak Italian.  Try Duolingo for a couple weeks before heading out.  If we hit a roadblock, my broken Spanish suprisingly was a great middle ground.
  • $ – The largest chunk of my money went to purchasing tour tickets.  Food and drink were reasonable.
  • Summertime = mosquitoes.  Like no joke – REALLY BAD!!  Buy strong repellent.  We got bit so much we swelled up
  • Weather in early July is hot!  It was about 90’s every day.  Also, the sun doesn’t set until 10pm.  Sunscreen is recommended.
  • City travel – trains, buses and walking served us fine and was super easy to manage.  We got a week long pass.  I think we took a cab/uber once.
  • Regional travel – Traveling in Europe in general is best done by regional trains.  By the time you wake up 3 hours before the flight to take the city train to the regional train (that would have taken you to the next city) to get to the airport to go through security and pay $50+in baggage fees..you wasted a lot of time and money.  It’s cheaper, faster and a lot easier than you think to figure out the train system.  We took a plane from Milan to Rome and it was by far the worst decision of the trip.

Food and Drink

  • Cheese, prosciutto, wine, Oh my! – The food was sooooo good.  Imagine the best Italian food you have ever eaten.  Now imagine better and that for every meal.
  • If you want water with your meal, you have to pay for a bottle.  However if you are walking around, there are these fountains known as green dragon that you can fill up your water bottle.

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  • If you are looking for some nightlife, I recommend Sempione or Navigli.  We stayed in Navigli in an airbnb.  By the time we got to our place, it was about 1am on a Monday.  There were still a lot of people out and about.  Sempione put us on to aperitivos.  It’s pretty much a happy hour that last anywhere from about 4pm – 9pm where if you buy a drink, you get to eat at a buffet for free.  It’s pretty delightful.

Activities

SHOPPING!

  • When in Milan, you go shopping.  The month of July is full of deals because August is a vacation month for Italians.  Therefore, there were sales after sales after sales!  We checked out a couple different areas: The fame Quadrilatero D’oro, the Brera area, and Corso Buenos Aires.
    • Would I recommend this: YES!
    • Would I do it again: Sure.  After I save up enough money to do it again!

Fitness

  • A couple years ago, I started doing workouts with Nike Run Club.  They have clubs around the US and the world.  When I found out that there was one in Milan, I forced my brother to do it with me.  It was fun and a great way to see parts of the city.
    • Would I recommend this: Sure, if you like to run
    • Would I do it again: Yes, because I already do this all the time in Chicago and any other city I go that has Nike Run Club.

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Day Trip to Florence/Wine Tours

  • You go to Italy.  You have wine.  Simple as that.  There were very few wine tours leaving from Milan. We took a quick regional train out to Florence to get to a tour that went to the Tuscany/Chianti area.  Our guide was great and it was probably the best price I saw for tours.  The group range from 20 -30 something year olds travelers.  On the tour, we stopped by San Gimignano, a gorgeous Medieval town in Tuscany.  It boast having the worlds best gelato and some amazing views.  After the tour was done, my brother and I had about 4-5 hours to kill in Florence.  We ended up hiking up (it’s literally a 30 -45 minute hike up the streets so be prepared) to Piazza Micheangelo, a lookout point of Florence.
    • Would I recommend: Yes, very affordable
    • Would I do again: Maybe, would prefer to see another wine region.

Best of Milan/Last Supper tour

  • My brother and I both really liked this tour.  While it’s family friendly, I don’t know if it’s great for kids.  It’s a lot of walking around the city and information.  Seeing Da Vinci’s last supper was amazing.  Be advised that’s the only thing you really go into.  Everything else like the Duomo or Castello Sforezco, the guide takes you by it and explains the historical importance.  If you like historical tours, this may be your cup of tea.
    • Would I recommend: Yes.
    • Would I do again: I would probably buy tickets to see the Last Supper.  However, the rest of the tour could have been done on my own listening to an audio book like Rick Steves.

Cooking Class

  • By far, the best experience of the trip!  Going into it, we didn’t know what to expect.  Where was it at?  Would it just be us?  What transpired is my brother and I learning  how to make lasagna from scratch from an Italian grandma in her home.  The experience was so authentic that the fuse kept going out because the outlets couldn’t handle the AC, burners and mixer at the same time.  It was hysterical.  After we made what I consider the best lasagna ever, we sat on her awesome rooftop garden and devoured our meals.  She then made us coffee and then offered us some homemade lemoncello.  It was all quite delightful.
    • Would I recommend: YES YES YES!!!
    • Would I do it again:  Yes.  I would cook the same meal with the same person.  She was great!

Teatro Alla Scala

  • This theater is world renowned for opera and ballet.  We saw A Midsummer Night’s Dream ballet while we were in town.  After we paid normal price, we found out we could have gotten day of tickets for a fraction of the price.  Oh well.
    • Would I recommend: Yes.  At least find a way to get a tour inside.  It’s gorgeous
    • Would I do it again: Depends on the performance.  I wouldn’t buy a ticket just to see the inside again though.

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We were sad to say goodbye to Milan.  We had some great experiences along with meeting some fun locals in the evening.  Our journey continues to Rome….

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