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11 February 2011

I popped over to Milan this past weekend to go see a friend from university.  An hour and ten minutes later by plane from Barcelona, I had arrived at Malpensa, the main airport for Milan, situated 49km out of the city.  Getting into town was no issue, and I took the Malpensa Express that runs from the airport to Cadorna station and in less than 30 minutes, I was in the heart of the city, waiting for my friend a the station’s Burger King.  I must admit, my first meal in Milan was in fact chilli poppers at Burger King (for which I received a “tsk tsk” and a disappointed look from him as I was busy scoffing it down)… But in my defence, I hadn’t eaten anything since the night before and it was already past noon and I was in no state to wait until we got to a local pizzeria.

So eventually we walked to a nearby restaurant and yes, in hindsight I should’ve waited those few minutes because as usual, the food was fantastic and I’m proud to say I cleaned up my plate.  Then it was time to walk it off with a city tour.  Milan is not so much a pretty city.  Coming from Barcelona and Cape Town, Milan looks much like any other major city.  Cars, trams, buses and just traffic all round.  Not to mention, the numerous graffiti on the walls.  It kind of reminded me of Berlin actually.  The city looked somewhat gritty but I guess it added to the character.  Then just like that, we walked along the narrow streets and it opened up into Via Monte Napoleone… the most famous fashion street in Europe.  Designer stores all round with their offices above .  It seemed somewhat surreal to think that this is actually where it all happens.  Milan.  The fashion capital and obviously way beyond my price range.

But amidst the high end fashion stores and walking past housewives in fur coats, I noticed a bunch of interesting manhole covers.  I later found out that it was part of a public street art project called “Under the Over” (http://www.wheremilan.com/site/?p=1354).  I’ve uploaded a few of the ones I saw below.  Seeing the city with someone from there and meeting their friends was like getting a glimpse of what life in Milan is like.  There is just old money everywhere.  Most of them had their own businesses, family owned and passed down of course.  Then it was all about weekends away in their houses in Nice, going up to the mountains for skiing and basically just having a good time.

My first night in Milan, after dinner with my friend and his friends, I lost him along the way and ended up at some club downtown with his friends.  I must say, the Milanese are super friendly – well, at least the ones I met that night were anyway.  And after the club had closed at 3am, we drove to some nondescript hole in the wall in some warehouse looking area and there we had “bombas”.  It’s basically a pastry but what made it more amusing was that it was illegal.  These guys operated at night, obviously evading tax.  It was literally a hole in the wall and you had to order through a slot in the door where the guys on the other side would just hand it out to you.  Oddly enough, after 10 minutes or so, two policemen joined the line – they got theirs for free obviously…

I finally moseyed back to the apartment at 4am after a friend of his dropped me off – but not before driving around in circles… all the streets in Milan look alike.  On the whole, it was a fitting start.  But as a tourist, I would probably stay just over a day in Milan.  Must see sights are the Duomo (the famous cathedral), the Castle, walk along Via Monte Napoleone, have pizza at the many restaurants but a particularly nice one is right by the park, just across from the Arco della Pace.  We had ordered take-aways from there and went up to his friend’s apartment overlooking the park – probably the equivalent of an apartment overlooking Central Park.   It was amazing.  And of course, not to miss is the painting of the Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci at the Cenocolo.  It’s recommended to book ahead as tickets tend to be sold out weeks in advance but we were lucky and got some tickets on the day.  Too bad I couldn’t take a picture of it – getting in there was such high security, it felt as if I was entering the US embassy.  The painting itself seemed unreal.  This was what we got shown in art class, in books, in movies but never before did I think I’d see it in real life.  Anyway, it was quite a sight.  Not as big as I had thought it’d be but amazing nonetheless.

These are some of the manhole covers I mentioned earlier.  I think every city should have these made!

Below, this is inside the Cathedral.  It’s HUGE.  And I’m glad I got this shot.  I only realised it when I looked through my photos again.

This is a street just off the Via Monte Napoleone.

And below is Luini, home of the best Panzerotti in Milan.  Apparently they’ve been in this place for more than 40 years and it hasn’t changed one bit.  It somewhat reminded me of the soup nazi from Seinfeld.  When we got there, there were just rows of people waiting to order.  It’s purely take-away only and there were smartly dressed people just sitting on the pavement in the financial and most expensive area of Milan having their Panzerotti’s.  It was worth the wait.

This wall below is in Bologna just outside the library.  We all drove there for the day, had tortellini’s (which the city is known for) and drove back to Milan later.

Ciao Milano!