Friday April 21
We had makeup classes on Friday for our Monday class that we got off for Easter so I went to my nutrition class on Friday morning in the LdM Mercato Centrale kitchen! The classes take turns cooking in this kitchen and it’s so nice so I’m happy that we’ll be having class here the rest of the semester. It is kind of weird to have people taking pictures of you all the time – one side of the room is made of windows so people in the market can watch. I wonder how many strangers’ pictures I made it in? We made a stew-like dish with veal and then a side dish with pasta which was made from bread crumbs, Parmesan, and some spices – it was pretty weird but tasted good.
After class was over at 11:30 I went home to drop off my things and headed to the train station off to Milan to meet Maya! We are only allowed 2 class skips and I was using one of my skips for Italian class so I could go to Milan earlier instead of waiting after class ended at 5:45.
I took an Italo train for the first time and I was in first class so the ride was amazing. I even received drinks and cookies. 1:45 later and I was in Milano Centrale! I had to wait a little for Maya’s bus to come in and then we were off to our air bnb which was supposedly close to the train station. We soon discovered Milan is a huge city so we were a bit late meeting our host, Paolo, but he was understanding. It took a lot longer to get around than expected because all of the intersections are diamond-shaped, similar to Barcelona intersections, so you have to walk further to cross the street. The room was great and we were able to use the entire apartment. The apartment was in a great location next to a grocery store and two different metro stops.
Maya and I walked around awhile and discovered a huge park where there were many dogs playing. We sat on a bench and watched dogs play for a really long time and caught up a bit even though we were together in Brussels only two weeks before. We watched the sun set near the arch in the park and made our way to a dinner place called Dry Milano which was recommended to us by several people.
Dry Milano was a cool cocktail bar with great pizzas. Surprisingly, the service here was very attentive and we got free waters! We split two delicious pizzas and left very happy. Before going home, we wanted to go down by the Duomo and get some gelato. So, we decided to get a two day metro pass because it was pretty far away from our Airbnb. When getting the tickets at the kiosk, a man from Brazil had us help him get tickets because Portuguese was not an option – we communicated with him in broken Spanish and eventually got the job done. We are so lucky to speak English because it is the common language in most European countries.
By the time we got to the recommended gelato shop it had closed! It was a super bummer, but I’m glad we got to see the Duomo at night and we also got to go inside the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. This gallery was like the one in Belgium on steroids. It houses the first Prada shop. It was nice at night because no one was there except some venders trying to sell us roses. We got to stick our heal in the balls of the bull and spin around – something that wouldn’t have been possible during the crowded day.
Saturday April 22
On Saturday Maya and I had planned to go on a walking tour at 10…but things took a turn for the better. Maya has a friend in her class in Vienna named Marcello and he is going on exchange at Illinois next semester coincidently! Also, it is spring break for them so he happened to be at his home at a lake near Milan for the weekend. He invited us to his house for lunch and we happily accepted.
The train there was about an hour and very inexpensive and Marcello was able to pick us up at the train station. The drive to his house was along a few beautiful lakes with quaint towns surrounding it. We pulled up to his house and he opened the gate to the most beautiful property I think I’ve ever seen. Expansive gardens and well-trimmed grass. An amazing house on top of a hill that lead down to Lago di Monate in Osmate.
We didn’t know what to expect, but were very pleasantly surprised by the whole situation. There was a fancy table set up overlooking the lake with about ten place settings for all of his friends who were coming. People started trickling in and they were all lovely to put it mildly. They all helped with the cooking – which included warming up coals in a brick oven and transferring them to two grills to grill vegetables, kabobs, steaks, sausage, ribs etc.
Although I could only pick out a few things that they said to each other, it was really interesting to see how the group of people interacted with each other. Maya and I mostly sat there and listened because we didn’t expect the group of friends to speak in English the whole time – but I didn’t really mind because it was fun to see how much Italian I could understand. Every once in awhile someone would stop everyone and say “….come se dice ……..?” and then translate to us or ask us a question in English – it was nice for them to include us. I was also fascinated with everyone’s impeccable table manners as we devoured the delicious meal. After eating the food came the desert…many types of gelato and some type of dessert similar to a cream puff covered in chocolate mousse. Everything was sooooo good and my belly was happy.
After eating for awhile, the sun had disappeared from the eating area so we moved to sit in the grass in the sun and eventually wondered down to the water – we ran into one of their horses and a caretaker walking it around the property. Marcello rolled his pants up to tread through the freezing water, but the girls opted to sit on a fallen tree that laid above the water.
We enjoyed the view and made the hike back up to the top of the hill and joined the rest of the group sitting in the sun. They discussed playing a game of soccer and I assumed it would just be them kicking a ball around but to my surprise he boys went into the house to change into soccer gear and then pulled two soccer goals from a shed and played a full on game of soccer. So Italian! Maya and I stayed with their dog, Lucy, so we wouldn’t embarrass ourselves with our terrible soccer skills.
After the soccer game, Marcello was headed to Milan for the evening to watch a soccer game with friends and offered to drive us back! We took a quick pit stop at the biggest lake in the area and went down to stand by the water and watch swans swimming around. Marcello drove really fast so we were back to the city in no time.
Maya and I went to a restaurant on Via Corso on a recommendation from Marcello. We split the “Nonna’s pasta” and Milanese saffron risotto. The tomato sauce from nonna’s pasta was AMAZING. Easily the best tomato sauce I’ve ever had. It was so fresh and had ricotta mixed into it. On top was some aged mozzarella which was very sharp and salty. The risotto was also delicious: very buttery and warm. We ate dinner until 11:30 and the restaurant was still filled with Italians eating many courses with their wine.
Sunday April 23
On Sunday, we had to check out of our air bnb and finally made it to our walking tour. The guide’s name was Marco and he was awesome. Very Italian and passionate about history and funny stories. Somehow he managed to memorize everyone’s name in the group and it was a big group of people! The tour lasted about 3.5 hours but we stopped for a lunch break and we got some fried calzones called Panzerotti from a shop called Luini. WOW it was so good and greasy. We also got a sweet treat from there which was filled with pistachios and pistachio paste.
By the end of the tour we were both completely exhausted. We also didn’t have any water so we were feeling very slow. We went back to the park and walked through the castle before sitting under a tree to relax. After sitting in the shad for a while we regained our strength enough to explore the Navigli area in Milan – the canals!
This was a trendier area of the city and it was a little deserted when we were first walking around because it was like 4pm. We eventually found a cool restaurant with outdoor seating and split some salads and ordered craft beers. They were served in cool mugs and were both really delicious – we were building off of our amazing beer experiences in Belgium!
My train home was an hour before Maya’s overnight train back to Vienna, so we went to the train station a little early and I was home 2 hours later! Maya got home around 9am the next day but she said the overnight train was fine. I got home to a big mess though, Kristen had accidentally knocked over an entire bottle of olive oil in our kitchen. Even though she spent an hour cleaning it up earlier, oil seemed to be seeping from every crevice of our kitchen for the next couple weeks! It was the great oil spill of 11 Via del Castellaccio.
Reflecting on Milan, I had a unique experience being able to go have lunch at Marcello’s house and that was the highlight of the weekend! We really didn’t get that much time in Milan itself, but thats ok. Milan is the only city in Italy that is really commercialized so it doesn’t feel like you’re in Italy most of the time! It was a cool city though and I liked that there were so many different neighborhoods and you could get away from the crowds of tourists. Also, the Italians who live in Milan are very different from the Florentines… they are much more high fashion, business-y and put together. Florence it pretty casual in comparison.