Milan Darling

5 Mar

Another weekend, another 5.41am train. The things I do to save money. On the upside, during my nocturnal outings I have discovered that there are TWO 24 hour cafés on my road. This would be good if they were like English cafés with seats and wifi and the like, but here the done thing is to run in, grab a tiny coffee and a pastry, eat them standing up at the bar, and run out again. Apparently any meal under 3 courses doesn’t deserve a table, so most cafés here have very few, plus you get looked at funny if you stay for more than 10 minutes.

There are also 2 fruit sellers on the way to the station which are run out of small concrete rooms which don’t have doors and are more like sheds. At night as they can’t ‘shut up shop’ in the usual way, instead they just pile all the wooden fruit boxes up around the doorway and cover everything with a tarp. For extra security, they play loud angry recordings of what sounds like muslim prayers, or sometimes communist propaganda, which scared the absolute shit out of me the first time I walked past at 5am. I thought they were shelters set up by hobos. I’m guessing it’s pretty effective at keeping those pesky fruit-display-thieves away at night.

Anyway, back to me on a train on Friday. Thanks to a 15 minute delay (how can a train be delayed at that time in the morning?!) which turned into a 45 minute delay as the journey went on, it took about 7 hours to get to Milan. I know there are quicker ways, but this was a direct train so I just got on and slept pretty much the whole time. I met up with Charli and Luisa from Bristol, plus Luisa’s sister Ida who was also staying for the weekend, and we went off to have lunch and do various touristy things. They wouldn’t let us in to see the Duomo because of Luisa’s scandalously short skirt, so we put it off and instead went to Parco Sempione.

Duomo

Duomo

Parco Sempione

Parco Sempione

We were really lucky the entire weekend as apparently up until Friday it had been rainy and horrible, but for the few days I was there it was relatively warm and even pretty sunny! Spoleto on the other hand is always quite cold even on cloudless days, must be something to do with the humidity. Moving on from the weather chat (oh so English), after visiting the park we went our separate ways as I desperately needed a nap, Charli was doing a few hours of au pair work, and Luisa was organising moving house.

For reasons I can only blame myself for, there was a bit of a mix up with Charli as I couldn’t stay at hers because she lives with the family she au pairs for, which meant that the day before coming to Milan I had to find a last-minute hostel. I ended up staying at the Zebra Hostel which isn’t too far from the centre and is right by a direct tram to the Duomo. My advice to anyone planning on staying there is that it’s a great hostel for staying at with friends, being social and meeting foreign people as it has a cool communal area with a giant sofa thing and a bar, and it’s especially good if you want to go out in the evening as the reception is open 24 hours and there’s no curfew. However, if you have any intentions getting a full night’s sleep, this isn’t the place for you.

I booked a bed in a 12 person room and found that, weirdly, in the larger shared rooms the walls don’t actually go all the way up to the ceiling. I’m assuming this is something to do with fire safety due to having so many beds in one room, so not having full walls stops them from being officially ‘rooms’. The downside to this is that you can hear everything in the 2 adjacent big shared rooms, and you can also hear everything in the corridor (and the bathroom if its door is open). There are smaller rooms with proper walls though, so if you jump on the booking a little earlier than the day before, there shouldn’t be any problems.

Y u no have real walls??

Y u no have real walls??

Zebra Hostel

Zebra Hostel

Reassuring...

Reassuring…

That evening we all met up and went for predrinks before an Erasmus night. Our attempts to order Long Island Iced Teas ended up with us being given big glasses of gin with a little bit of lemonade in. Good value for money, not easy on the stomach though. Highlights of the evening include the sweaty older gentleman who started a Mr. Motivator-style aerobics class in the middle of the dance floor, finding that guy:girl ratio was waaaay on the sausagefest side, and being subjected to cage dancers who looked like Russian prostitutes. Whatever floats your boat Italy.

Getting back I was worried that in my less-than-sober state I would stack it trying to get back into my hostel room and infuriate a lot of European gap yah students, but when I eventually made it in at 5 there were only a few other people asleep there. Some Spanish girls turned up at about 5.30, and then VOLUNTARILY got up at 8.30, which woke everyone up both times. It’s not even like they decided to do anything with their early start as they were still in the hostel 3 hours later.

On Saturday Charli and I started with a visit to the inside of the Duomo, which I have no photos of because you have to pay for a wristband to use cameras inside. One thing Italy does very well is profiting from tourism, and unlike in Bordeaux where many sites and museums were free, in Italy you’re more likely to have to pay for entry, even if it’s a small fee. We then had some lunch followed by a trip to the Triennale to see an exhibition called ‘Sesso e Design’, purely so we could see The Great Wall of Vagina. Because we’re really highbrow and cultured yeh?

We left feeling very empowered and enlightened, etc. etc. and went to visit the stark contrast to this, the Last Supper. I expected a bit of a Mona Lisa thing where you turn up and go ‘is that it?’, but the Last Supper definitely lives up to expectations. No photos allowed, yet again, and anyway I spent most of the allotted 15 minutes viewing period looking for hidden patterns and symbols because it’s definitely all a conspiracy.

Very pleasing Da Vinci-related signs outside the Last Supper

Very pleasing Da Vinci-related signs outside the Last Supper

We squeezed in just a little bit of shopping, and I discovered my new favourite shop ever Brandy Melville. Despite the name it’s actually an Italian brand, although luckily for me they opened their first UK shop in November. I spent far too much money there feeding my drop armhole vest addiction which would be great if I lived somewhere where it’s remotely warm, or if they were in any way appropriate to wear for teaching, but unfortunately not so until summer, or I’m in England where I won’t get tsked at for showing too much skin.

On Saturday evening we went out for a relaxed aperitivo before having a relatively early night, since I hadn’t really slept for 2 days by that point. Sunday was mainly based on shopping and food, followed by a rushed goodbye before catching a train home at about 6. As I was in such a hurry before the train I grabbed a sandwich from the WHSmiths-type shop on the platform, although at the time I didn’t realise that it wasn’t salmon and cream cheese but actually salmon and mayonnaise, which is really unpleasant combo when you only open it 3 hours into your journey and it’s all warm. Also note to self to not book trains that get in at 12.10am again when it’s really really cold in Spoleto and you have to walk home and you have teaching the next day.

A few more pics of other things we got up to:

Sforza Castle

Sforza Castle

Da Vinci himself I believe

Da Vinci himself I believe

La Scala

La Scala

Gelato every day

Gelato every day

Charli, Luisa and Ida

Charli, Luisa and Ida

Despite what many people say about Milan being too busy, too concretey, and too focused on consumerism, I really loved it! It’s really easy to get around as there are buses, trams, the metro and overground trains, although most of the touristy places are within walking distance of each other. I would really like to go back for a longer period of time, ideally when it warms up a bit more, although I’d probably say the same for most places I’ve visited here so far. Come on Spring, where are you??

Sights of the day

Near my hostel there was a little alcove with a few vending machines in, which sold snacks but also things like vegetable broth, ready meals, and cutlery. There was also a hot and cold drinks dispenser and a microwave, and what was even more surprising was that everything was really clean and in tidy even though it’s open to anyone to use! I think it was called something like ’24 hour self serve fast food’ which would be such a great idea in England if there wasn’t such a high chance that people would urinate in it.

Fast food

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