Friday, 21 November 2014

Momenti Milanesi's Top 20 things to do in Milan part 2

10. Go to the Natural History Museum in Parco Montanelli.

Since it's a personal list I'm starting the second part with something else a little off-beat. The Natural History Museum is not big nor grandiose but it's got dinosaurs and gem stones and I really like it. It's also in one of the (if not THE) nicest parks in Milan. There are lots of paths to discover, grass for picnicking on, and you won't get disturbed as often by people trying to sell you things as in Parco Sempione.

After this, go to Via Cappucini and peer at the flamingos hidden behind the hedge of someone's private garden.

9. Have an aperitivo.

I like Hora Feliz near the Colonne di San Lorenzo best, although I don't go there much as it's rather out the way. The choice of food is really quite amazing and it's generally pretty good. They also offer Pimms and if you can keep it to one drink, it's a very cost effective way to have dinner. Milan does good aperitivos from 6pm onwards- just don't get there too late!

Looking about 15 years old and getting served with no request for ID - I love Italy.

8. Window shop in Via della Spiga and Montenapoleone.

This is a great thing to do if you aren't from Paris, London, New York or Tokyo. For country girls like myself the luxury shopping district in Milan is a tourist attraction in itself. Have fun mentally  gawping at the prices and pretending you can't see the security men watching you. Have more fun laughing at some of the more ridiculous items in the window although you'll probably have the most fun if you have the money to spend and go in and buy something.

An Herm├Ęs silk tie costs about 150 euros so if you need a special present for the man in your life it's a good place to have a look and the service is excellent and a little turquoise box from Tiffany seems to go down well with pretty much any young woman.

7. Climb the mini mountain in Parco Monte Stella.

Climbing a hill is decidedly novel business in Milan. The pianura stretches for miles and miles around to the mountains in the distance and it's very flat. To get any kind of view you need to go up a building or come to this park. The view isn't exactly Florence, Verona or Rome, but it's certainly interesting to view Milan from on high. Take the metro past Lotto Fiera Milano City to QT8 (yes that really is a stop) and it's right around the corner. When I went there was only one drunk and lots of dog walkers and cyclists, making one of Milan's most relaxing parks. In the winter if it snows, I gather it becomes very popular with skiers and snowboarders too. On clear days you can see the Appenines and the sweeping arc of the Alps.

Sunset is a particularly good time to go.

Taken Last Weekend.

6. Eat milanese food at a trattoria.

This is without a doubt one of the things you really shouldn't miss out on... I mean, you came all the way to Milan. Where else are you going to try cotoletta, risotto giallo alla milanese or polenta with gorgonzola? Gorgonzola is down the road by the way.

I particularly like l'Osteria dell'aqua bella in Porta Romana on cold or wet days.

5. Explore the hidden charms of San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore.

Outside it's easy to miss. It's a very uninspiring looking church, and Santa Maria delle Grazie, which houses the Last Supper, is just down the road. Inside it is a colourful glory. Frescoes, frescoes everywhere and a beautiful choir through a tiny door. My favourite paintings are Noah's Ark and the angels on the ceiling in the starry sky. Just take my word for it, it's worth a look.

4. Go shopping in Via Torino and Corso Vittorio Emanuele.

More fun than window shopping is actual shopping. Milan is like a shopping Mecca along with New York and the home of Italian fashion, so it's got more than it's fair share of flagship stores. They have a saying - 'If you can't buy it in Milan - it doesn't exist!' There is more than one retail hub, but may favourite is the area around Duomo in Via Torino and the pedestrianised Corso Vittorio Emanuele with galleries to walk under for when it rains.

Shopping in Milan

3. La Basilica di Sant' Ambrogio

Saint Ambrose is the patron saint of Milan and he even has his own day off work in December here in Milan. He was an interesting man. From what I gather he had no intention of becoming bishop of Milan, since he wasn't actually a priest or even a baptised Christian, but due to popular request from the warring churches he became one after a rather hasty baptism. His leaves behind a saintly legacy of charitable deeds and the beautiful 4th(!) century (although what we see today is more like 11th) church that bears his name. He also leaves his actaul remains on display in the crypt, from which we can gather he was rather short.

The church itself has a gorgeous courtyard and is tucked away next to the Catholic University of Milan. It's one place where a good trawl of it's Wikipedia page will really pay off while visiting as it has many notable features.

Sant' Ambrogio

2. Look for the trompe l'oeil at Chiesa di Santa Maria Presso San Satiro.

Another hidden gem  of a church. This time it's hidden off Via Torino on your left as you walk from the duomo. It took me years before I learnt about it. It has an impressive trompe l'oeil by Bramante. Don't look it up on Wikipedia. It's much more exciting if you don't know what you're looking for! Go and search for the trompe l'oeil yourself - it's so good that we nearly left without seeing it.

1.Walk on the roof of the Duomo.

My number one choice won't come as much of a surprise. The duomo is THE icon of Milan, like the Eiffel Tower is to Paris or Big Ben to London. The golden Madonna on the top even has her own song O mia bella Madunina written in Milanese dialect and it was a massive hit in 1936 becoming the unofficial anthem of Milan to this day.

The inside is worth a look but it's the outside that makes it so spectacular. A trip up to the roof is the best way to appreciate it as it gives you a close up look at the sheer amount of work that went into it. The details on the hundreds and hundreds of carvings and statues are simply breathtaking!

How many have you done? Did I miss anything?

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Momenti Milanesi's Top 20 things to do in Milan part 1

In order of preference...

20.  Catch a train in Central Station!

Yes. It's a bit of a silly one, but going on what I've already talked about before, Milan's location is really excellent for seeing many other places and it's very well connected. When I first came to Milan I came in at Stazione Centrale. It certainly lets you know you've arrived. Its slightly fascist pomp is definitely worth a look from the piazza in front. Don't go straight into the metro!

19. Go to the Castello Sforzesco and walk around the Parco Sempione.

Milan is surprisingly not famous for having a castle. However, it's got one and it's the gateway to a picturesque park and Napoleon's Arco della Pace. Like all touristy and green spaces in big cities it attracts a lot of pickpockets, bracelet sellers and the slightly deranged, so I tend not to sit down or stop too much when I'm on my own. This is why it's not further up on my list, but it's still worth a visit.

Castello Sforzesco at Night

18.  Go to the Museo del 900 and survey Piazza Duomo.

The museo del 900 is a museum of 20th century modern art - a lot of it Italian - and it has quite a few well known pieces, like merda d'artista if I remember well. I've got rather a lot of arty things on my list, and although I'm not such a big fan of modern art, I really enjoyed the museum because the building is rather lovely. It has some great views over Piazza Duomo for people watching when the Art gets a bit much.

People Watching in Piazza Duomo

17. Go to the Noberasco shop and stock up on dried fruits!

Well it's my list after all, so after the gallery you'll probably feel a bit hungry if you're anything like me. Not far away in Via Spadari there's Noberasco. It's originally from Turin but I'm including it because it's like no other fruit shop you've ever seen. It does dried fruit but super fresh, if that's not an oxymoron.

If you're not feeling snackish then buy your family presents from Peck, a famous food shop, also in via Spadari. Buying a panettone for Christmas would be about the most Milanese thing you could do.

16. See Da Vinci's Last Supper... if you can get tickets. 

I've not been to see the Cenacolo yet, and that's why it's not further up the list. If you can get tickets go. I hear it's very good. I'm going to attempt it before the year is out, but the tickets need to be purchased a month or three in advance if you don't want to go at 8 am on a Tuesday.

Santa Maria delle Grazie

15. Go to the Pinacoteca and walk around Brera.

If you've ever studied and enjoyed History of Art then this is the museum for you. It's got more than one painting I remember studying, like Mantegna's foreshortened Christ. The area it is in is also a very fine neighbourhood  with all the best kinds of pushchairs (according to my ex-colleague who knew her buggies) and is partially pedestrianised. It sells design furniture, antiques and aperitivos and the things that la gente che piace like. It's like a posh Parisian corner of Milan.

14. San Siro stadium.

So here's something for those who like music or sport, in particular football. Milan is home to two big teams, Milan /MEE-lan/ and Inter /IN-tairrr/ which share a home in San Siro. From the outside it's pretty ugly but inside it's pretty impressive. I saw a concert there and didn't particularly enjoy it (it's OK, we laugh about it now) but the atmosphere of the full stadium was undeniable. I hear from some guests of mine that the tour is very good too.

13. Go for a drink in the Navigli. 

Whether you go in the evening and see the lights reflected in the water (if the canals aren't drained) or if you go in the afternoon and stroll around the side streets and arty and hipster shops the Navigli canals are a great place for a drink on a sunny day. It's an up and coming area and as all trendy areas are its slowly being gentrified. Personally, I don't think this is a bad thing if it means they clear up the canals a bit. It's another pocket of Milan that feels somewhat un-Milanese in that it has it's goes at it's own pace. In short, it's a prime passeggiata spot.

The trendy Navigli area

12. See an exhibition.

Milan hosts heaps of exhibitions which is great if it's raining. The best ones, but also the ones with the longest queues, are in Palazzo della Ragione in Piazza dei Mercanti or in Palazzo Reale just next to the Duomo. Going on a week day is a wise choice if you can, as Sunday Afternoons can see three hour queues for the most popular exhibitions. Palazzo Reale tends to do all the big ones... Van Gogh, Dali, Chagall.... while I've been to see two photographic exhibitions in Piazza dei Mercanti. The Palazzo della Ragione is an exquisite medieval hall in an exquisite medieval square and that's why it's my favourite exhibition space.

Exhibitions at Palazzo Reale

11. Walk around San Lorenzo with an ice cream from Grom

Admire the roman columns out front and the higgledy-piggledy back of the church with an ice cream from Grom (another very welcome invasion from Turin). My favourite flavours are Raspberry and Yogurt but they're all delicious. The church of San Lorenzo is not far from the Navigli and there is a distinct alternative vibe going on with alternatively dressed people perched, smoking, among the columns and in circles in the park round the back.

A rare slice of Roman history in Milan

That's it for part 1. Part 2 coming soon. In the meanwhile...

Do you agree with my choices? What should be coming up next?

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Zzzapped! Italian Health and Safety strikes again.

Yesterday, much to my consternation, I turned on the tap only to discover that water was soon pouring out from the cupboard below all over my new kitchen's floor. You'll never guess what happened next.

Or maybe you will.

I turned the tap off.

I turned the tap off and got a nice little zap in the process. Unknown to me the water had gone all over the plug socket of the dishwasher, which is situated.... that's right... out of sight, right under the tubes of the sink!

At first I was pretty pissed off with the Italian designer of the kitchen. Given the noise I soon realised the elctricity needed to be turned off quickly! Then it dawned on me that I was bloody lucky. Maybe it was because I kept my slippers dry. Whilst the fuse was royally blown and was replaced this morning, I wish I could say the same for my mood.

This morning (my arm was no longer tingling)  I was trying to explain to the electrician in typical irritating ex-pat style,
"...but... but, in England they put the sockets up above the machine and they have special switches."
"Oh, like, regulations?"
"Yes, buiding regulations!"
"Yes we have those here too." *Shrugs in a way that explains everything.*

Somethings Italians are great at  - like moving house. They are so equipped! Although I don't think I'll get over seeing all my posessions suspended many many many metres in the air for some time. Sweaty palms. Sweaty, sweaty palms.  I just wish safety in the home could be one of them.

Due to the black out and all my books being in boxes I soon figured out the only thing to do was sleep. I think I went to bed at 9.45pm so I was a little bit disappointed to discover the dark circles under my eyes were still here at 7.30 am when I woke!

Suffice to say, the kitchen is getting a bit of rewiring this weekend. AND I might even flounce off to see if I can get a smoke alarm for good measure because Goddamit Italy.