24 Hours in Milan- My first solo trip!

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April 19th 2022
Published: April 19th 2022
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Well, hello, dear readers, long time no see! I have been busy with my new life in London- work is going well and we are all settled into to our flat. One major thing I have noticed is how cheap flights are from London to the rest of Europe. You can go to skyscanner.com, type in your departure city, select "take me anywhere", and up will pop the cheapest flights for the dates you have selected. One night I was exploring the website, dreaming about a weekend trip somewhere, when I saw that in a few weeks from then there were 9 pound flights to Milan, Italy. These flights would get me there on Saturday afternoon and would then leave early Sunday morning, so I changed around some times and managed to find early morning Saturday, and late afternoon Sunday flights, for 35 pounds altogether. How crazy is that! I booked, a bit spontaneously, and eagerly awaited the next few weeks.

On Saturday the 5th of March, I headed off at 3am to Golders Green (a 20 minute walk down my street) to get the National Express bus to London Luton Airport- my flight was at 7am and they recommended getting there 3 hours early (of course, it’s international). It took about 15 minutes to get fully through to the boarding gate…so I was stupidly early. None of the shops at the airport were even open yet, so I decided to get breakfast- scrambled eggs on toast and a bloody mary! I’d never had one before but I texted Mum asking if I should get that or a mimosa and she recommended trying something new- but they’re pretty gross. I couldn’t even finish it. Anyway, that week in London the tubes had gone on strike (it was not a pleasant time), and so keeping in theme of strikes it turns out the airport ground staff had also gone on strike, so we sat on the plane for about two hours waiting for someone to come move the stairs away from the plane. I was tempted to just say “oh my god, I’ll get down and push it myself and you guys can just lift me back up again!!”. I don’t know if that’s how it works, but I was tempted. I kept getting texts from the airline telling me that my flight had been postponed, and apparently everyone else was getting these texts too because at one point the woman behind me said aloud, to no one in particular, “yeah I know, I’m bloody sat on it”. So, I did end up getting to Milan two hours behind schedule. But no matter, we get on with it! I felt super excited but also incredibly nervous- sitting on that plane for that long did not help. But the nerves sort of melted away when we landed and excitement completely took over- ITALY!! As soon as I stepped off the plane, though, I realised that of course Europe has different adaptor outlets to the UK, and my phone was on dangerously low battery after my unexpected long morning, so my first stop was at the airport newsagency where I bought a ridiculously overpriced EU charger (although at least now I won’t have to worry about it again), and had my first language barrier issue. We sorted it though, I charged up my phone, and finally left the airport at about 1:30pm. I declined the plethora of taxi drivers offering “affordable” trips into the city and went straight to the train station, where I did get a bit confused, but there was a very lovely station officer who was clearly very experienced in dealing with tourists and he helped me pick the right train. Finally made it into Milano Centrale!! First stop: food. Mum more or less warned that she would disown me if my lunch wasn’t a prosciutto sandwich and a peroni, so I headed off in search of that and ended up finding it! Although it was a mozzarella, tomato and basil sandwich. But soooo yummy. I enjoyed my lunch whilst watching a group of teenagers in a skateboarding competition take turns skating, smoking, and yelling obscenities at eachother. Or, at least I think they were obscenities. I don’t speak Italian.

The main things I wanted to see in Milan were the two primary shopping streets, the Duomo, and some other cathedrals. I figured out where everything was in relation to each other and planned out the best course of action in terms of what to do and when so I could make the best of my short time. So I headed off to Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, the first shopping district. I didn’t buy anything (couldn’t afford it!) but my goodness the stores were beautiful. The stores themselves were beautifully constructed (think: gold and marble), and the clothes were clearly handmade with the most incredible fabrics. It was gorgeous. At the end of the main street I found the Duomo. I gazed at it in shock, wishing there wasn’t a giant TV screen on it. I was surprised at myself that I only stayed and stared for a few minutes- this is one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, and I didn’t feel so struck with wonder that I needed to stay longer? Feeling a little guilty, I left and walked around the side of it, where I found a little gelato van- and really, when in Milan! I got pistachio and Stracciatella (pistachio ice cream is definitely different back home- evidently real Milano pistachio ice cream is a lot more medicinal tasting than whatever we make in Australia) and kept walking. Very shortly I realised why I had felt the need to stare at the Duomo for only a few minutes. I had been looking at the back of it. The front of it… completely blew me away. I almost dropped my gelato!! It is the most spectacularly gorgeous building I have ever seen. I stood there, licking my ice cream, gazing in awe as crowds and crowds of people milled about around me. I think there had been some kind of festival on during the morning because the ground was littered with paper confetti, and every single child in sight had massive, cartoon-esque balloons. It really added to the overall vibe. I went to take a few selfies, wishing for the first time that I had someone with me to take a proper picture, when a random stranger kindly offered to take my picture for me. I posed, he clicked, I said thank you and moved to take my phone back and he said “no, no, I’ll get some other angles.” So we had a bit of a photoshoot! Only one decent picture though, bless him but I don’t think photography is his life calling.

By this point I was desperate to find a toilet, so I popped into a little shop that seemed to be a thrice levelled but very narrow hybrid of a bar, restaurant, and café. I frantically asked if they spoke English, they said a little, I asked for the toilet, they seemed confused, so I made some sort of gesture (which I shall not be detailing here) and they seemed to understand. “Oh, upstairs! Upstairs!”. So up I climbed the narrow stairs, and in a few minutes was heading back down to leave. I suddenly felt bad however, that I had used this establishment without buying anything, so I figured I’d better buy another Peroni. Hey, it's only polite. As I was finishing my drink on the second level, an elderly woman walked down from the third level, said something to me in Italian, and before I could respond she suddenly started yelling at me! In Italian! I was so taken aback that I must have just stared bluntly at her, until the man running the shop called out to her from downstairs, again something in Italian. “Ahhh,” she said, giving me a huge smile, “Arrivederci!”. I nodded slowly, gave a very uncertain reply of “arrivederci” and smiled as she kept making her way down the stairs…. such an ODD experience.

My phone was once again dying- hours on end of using google maps and the camera had drained it significantly. My plan of attack was to head towards the hostel, and either 1) walk all the way there, drop my stuff, charge my phone, and head back out again, or 2) head in that direction, find a place along the way that could charge my phone, stay there for dinner, and eventually wind up at the hostel ready for bed. I did option 2. After about 40 minutes of walking I came across this massive and beautiful outdoor restaurant called Gud. They put my phone on charge, I ordered a cocktail and some type of focaccia (I had no idea what I was ordering but it had a “best seller” sticker next to it so I figured it was as good a choice as anyway), and, out of a bale of hay, a deck chair, and a hammock, I picked the deck chair to sit in for my dinner. Eventually though I moved undercover where the heaters were- it was still winter after all. Dinner was amazing, and they gave me a bag of popcorn with the drink as well which was interesting. I still had another 45 minutes of walking to get to the hostel, and when I was close enough I stopped into a grocery store for two reasons. Firstly, I wanted to see what a regular Italian grocery store looked like (answer: very cool. LOTS of cold cuts, cheese, and olive oil), and secondly I knew I was going to want dessert at some point and I was hoping they might have sold little tubs of tiramisu or something. They did not, but I picked up some little chocolate biscuits (funnily enough called “Pick-Ups”), and a bottle of red wine for ONE EURO. I didn’t know when I was possibly going to drink said wine, but who cares, it was ONE EURO. I finally headed to the hostel, which was quite difficult to find, and they tried to get me to pay again. I got to my room, discovered it was empty, breathed a sigh of relief, got ready for bed, and just as I was about to turn off the light two French girls arrived. We made a bit of small talk, but it was 10pm, I’d been awake since 2am, and my feet were aching, so I excused myself and fell into the deepest sleep you could imagine.

I had decided not to set an alarm because I figured I should sleep for as long as my body needed, but also I thought I would probably end up naturally waking at around 6:30am, which would give me plenty of exploring time for my Sunday in Milan. I ended up waking closer to 8:30am, and very quickly raced to get ready- I’d missed so much daylight already! Checking out was a bit of a pain- I brought all my sheets down to the desk and struggled to find where to put them (eventually found a big laundry bin tucked around the corner of reception), and then I waited for AGES for someone to come along and check me out but no one was around. So I just dropped the keys over onto the desk and left- no one has contacted me or charged my account so I’m sure it must have been fine. First stop for the day- breakfast! Like all Europeans, Italians have a light breakfast so I was only looking for something small, but I had something very specific in mind. I went into the first little café I found and ordered an espresso and a chocolate croissant- it was divine. I went for a long walk then just exploring the city, gazing at the beautiful buildings with their little balconies and hanging vines, admiring all the vespas in the street, soaking in all the Italian sun and language around me. My first stop for the day was at Santa Maria Delle Grazie, where Da Vinci’s original painting of The Last Supper lives. I was a bit silly and hadn’t looked up opening times (of course they open later on Sundays!), but it was still lovely to look at the building and the gardens within the gates. Just knowing that I was so close to the painting is enough! I then walked over to Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio which was just gorgeous- the bells tolled while I was there and there was something quite magical about it. There was another cathedral I tried to get to but there was a lot of construction going on in the area and my maps were just a bit too confused, so I gave up on that one and headed to Porta Ticinese, another main shopping street of Milan. However, once again, being a Sunday, a lot was closed. The final place I wanted to visit was the Castello Sforzesco, and I knew there was a big beautiful park around it, so I decided I would have a picnic! So whilst I was around Porta Ticinese I went to a place that just had the most amazing looking pizzas in the window, and I bought a slice of margarita (think big, juicy cherry tomatoes, the whole pizza covered with chunky mozzarella, and fresh, full basil leaves on top), and I then went to a bakery and got a fruit tart and a tiramisu. I also asked for an empty (unused) coffee cup. I made my way over to the Castello, which was gorgeous, walked through it to the park, found a shady spot, and settled in. I set up my pizza slice, my fruit tart, and pulled out the wine I had gotten the night before! It was a lovely lunch. I lay back and watched the clouds for a while, before realising it was time to head to the airport. I called my family as I was walking to the train station, and suddenly I was another 10 euros down (train ticket), sitting on a heated seat eating my tiramisu, waving goodbye to Milan. Once again I was way too early, although better to be early than late, and of course my flight was pushed back right before we boarded. Upon touchdown in London I realised I didn't have a proper game plan to get home, but I assumed the tubes were back to normal and it would be a quick hop, skip and a jump back to my station. The tubes were not back to normal. Luckily the national express bus stops literally on my road (the same bus and route that I had gotten to the airport the day before), so I waited in line for that- and of course the bus drivers were on strike too! They were running but on a very slow schedule. I ended up having a nice chat with the man behind me in line- would you believe his ex-girlfriend lives in Perth! That's another thing, every single person I meet here, in the UK or in Europe, when I tell them I'm from Brisbane, without fail they will say they know someone who lives in Perth. Why Perth?! Every single person. Anyway. Eventually I made it back to my station, and then home to my girls, my own bed, and my first solo trip tucked under my sleeve. It was a beautiful weekend, and I can't believe it was so easy to just pop to Italy for the weekend. And I'm sure I could do it on a budget and have just as much fun. I think there will be a lot more weekend trips in the future!


20th April 2022

NICELY WRITTEN! You seem very enthusiastic about everything!

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