Sightseeing Milan was an interesting experience because it was the first time I had visited a new city without having done my usual micro-planning and with my schedule dominated by a specific unrelated event. A combination of trying to prevent a flu for the entire trip and exhaustion - physical and mental - from Worlds meant that I was actually not in the state for any heavy-duty touristing. I ended up mostly walking around the most crowded areas and in the more remote parts of Milan, just soaking up the atmosphere, even though I actually did walk to the Pinacoteca di Brera and the Pinacoteca del Castello Sforzesco. Another time.
Milan as a city... was dogs. Dogs everywhere, in cafes, in handbags, on the backs of bikes and trotting beside their owners, of all sizes and breeds. It was watching people ride their bicycles along perpetually bumpy roads, the certain breed of chaos and people-on-the-move-ness that is particular to larger cities and weathered, worn-in buildings with churches dotted everywhere, where history and modernity co-exist. It was smoky, car-fume-y and turned the light hazily beautiful, in a Beijing sort of way. In fact, it really did remind me the most of Beijing.
I didn't unlock any life mysteries wandering around often in awkward hours for Italy (early morning, mid afternoon where the quieter, more 'suburban' streets are pretty much deserted and there's nothing much to see) but it did drive home that beyond the flashy tourist attraction at the centre, Milan is a 'regular' home and workplace for most, just set in a backdrop that was sometimes incomprehensibly old. And soaking in that sunlight, which made everything a bit warmer, a bit more beautiful.
FOOD & SIGHTS RECOMMENDATIONS
- Bianco Latte - best gelato I've had so far. Not too creamy but still so vivid and fragrant in flavour. Kind of wish I had gotten another cone, if only I hadn't been sick. They do a pretty solid lunch menu too, though I was again a little too sick to stomach anything other than soup
- Miscusi - the modern 'hip' Italian eatery with excellent interior design, slick packaging and actually really good pasta
- Luna Rossa - relatively cheap, solid Italian cuisine with a large variety of dishes in the Navigli area. Generous portions given their price point and I was also promptly adopted by the owner while waiting for a friend with characteristic Italian hospitality
- Mascherpa Tiramisu - a last minute impulse purchase that turned out to be pretty damn great tiramisu in a little jar. A little sweet but pretty damn good
- Farini - I was drawn to this store purely because of its excellent interior design but it sells some pretty decent portions of pizza and Italian street food for its price point and offers an excellent range
- A'Vucciria - For your quick stop arancini balls. Not sure if it's the best I've had but it's a solid proportion for price point and fried fresh to order, so you can scarf it down right at the shop like the locals
- Macha Cafe - Again, A++ design, expensive but I love a cafe that commits to its theme (thank you to the Milanese local who recommended these on Twitter BTW)
- To see: Duomo, walk around the Brera district, Navigli Grande at night or late afternoon or on market days, Parco Sempione is a lovely park to walk around in (and basically a dog park), walk from Porta Ticinese through Colonne di San Lorenzo and follow that main road to the Duomo for ~typical~ architecture, the area around Corso di Porta Vittoria is quiet and mostly deserted but full of beautiful houses.