Milan is a real mixture – sophisticated in many ways but also a not in a way such as one would see in Paris, New York or even Sydney. The city is large, grey with very few parks and monuments. It is very much a business city. However, like anywhere, it is the people that make any place and despite their surroundings, the Milanese know how to live. Every restaurant and bar seems to be full every night. Around our local corner, which we think is a microcosm of Milan, there are within a radius of 50m, three restaurants, a coffee lounge, a casual lounge/bar and a hole in the wall bar. We can see these from our windows and in the evening it is fascinating. The coffee lounge opens from about 8 am to 6 pm and is the local haunt for the mothers after their children have gone to school. They all turn up with their dogs and sit around having coffee. The dogs love it, the mums need it. Now working hours have us totally confused but we think they are 9am to about 1pm, then 90 – 120 min break for lunch and a further session until about 6:30pm. Lunch is taken very seriously with everyone seemingly at a restaurant. This is very disconcerting for visitors because most of the shops close during this period. The three restaurants around our apartment are all very busy during the lunch period. However, evening is the most interesting. Again the restaurants are busy but the real action is at the hole in the wall bar. It is packed every night with people drinking, socialising, talking to the local labrador who either sits on the pavement or just wanders around and everyone generally has good time. They seem to go home about 1am, including the labrador. We just spend a lot of time looking out of the window enjoying it all. People also ride bicycles around here, either their own or ones you can rent from the racks at various locations. It is not unusual to see a young couple riding past, stop, kiss and then continue, it is still spring here.
There are a lot of historic buildings, many galleries and museums but for some reason they are not publicized like they would in other European cities. For instance, last Sunday we stumbled upon Villa Reale, not to be confused with Palazzo Reale. Villa Reale, which is located between the city central and main railway station, is the Modern Art Museum of Milan and surrounded by beautiful gardens whereas Palazzo Reale, which was the seat of government in Milan for many centuries, is next to the Duomo and is now a cultural museum. The Villa Reale collection is excellent especially the paintings donated by the Grassi family in 1956 which fills the whole upper floor and includes van Gogh, Matisse, Millet and Gaugin paintings, an amazing collection of Toulouse-Lautrec original posters and many other masterpieces.
So despite what you may have been told there is a lot to see and do in this city, except for one thing. It is actually too expensive to buy fashions here. Even the locals go outside to shop for clothes. So just look and try to find similar elsewhere. Probably a maximum of 2 weeks would suit most people as this gives you the opportunity to explore the city as well as do a couple of day trips like we did. We highly recommend the Brera area as it is close to everything, has lots of restaurants and a very lively social lifestyle.
Milan – Final Impressions
Thursday, May 23, 2013
Milan, Lombardy, Italy