Of all the places I visited on my post-elective travels, Milan was the city that surprised me the most. In fact, we hadn't even originally planned to come here at all! Initially we were meant to be meeting in Rome, but during the planning process, the other girls' flight destination changed to Milan. A surprise, but happy incident for all of us.
I've visited Italy on a number of occasions, but this was my first time to Milan and I didn't really know what to expect. I'd imagined streets of expensive shops and minimal character, but I couldn't have been more wrong! Milan is a charming city with stunning architecture, fabulous food and a pretty stylish crowd of people.
Following a short afternoon flight from Heathrow, I had a well-timed reunion with my two travelling buddies at the baggage carousel of Milan Malpensa airport. After collecting our bags and passing swiftly through passport control, we boarded the train to Milano Centrale Railway Station and settled down for an hour of catching up on what we'd all been up to for the past two months.
We then successfully navigated the Milan Metro system, finally arriving at our apartment around 9pm. Being so central, taking trains and the metro was a great way of getting to our accommodation and probably way cheaper than trying to arrange a private transfer.
By this point we were all hot, tired and hungry so we dumped our suitcases in the apartment and wandered along the street in search of some dinner. We didn't have to go too far to find a small restaurant serving pasta, cold drinks and Italian coffee.
Refreshed after a good night's sleep, we rose early the next morning and walked the short distance into central Milan, admiring the Milan Cathedral and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. The Catherdral (or Duomo) was exquisitely ornate, with endless detail to marvel over. The Galleria is one of the oldest shopping malls in the world and is also full of detailed architecture. In fact - I barely even noticed the designer shopping names I was so distracted by the building itself! We had a tasty breakfast of almond cream-filled pastries and cappuccinos, then marched off into the city...
With just one day to sight-see it was lucky that we'd asked our host for some suggestions and we set
off towards Castello Sforzesco, a 15th Century Italian castle. It's free to wander the grounds of the castle, admiring the patterned walls and the intricate stonework. There are also a number of museums sited here as well as tours, all of which you can buy tickets for. In the interests of time and money though we opted just to explore the grounds.
We walked through the castle to the Parco Sempione, a picturesque park situated behind the Castello. We strolled between the greenery and water features in the warm sunshine, pausing to take photos and watch the terrapins basking on the rocks!
Exiting the park through the castle, we decided to base our explorations on the principle of 'walk in the direction of pretty buildings', a method that served us excellently! Because Milan has no end of 'pretty buildings'. We sought out smaller churches as advised by our host and admired the architecture around us.
Snaking our across the city, we made our way down to the canals for lunchtime - taking our time to wander up and down before settling on a waterside restaurant for delicious salads and a chance to rest our feet.
Then we continued to walk (and walk, and walk), heading back into the bustling heart of the city around the Duomo and made a little detour into H&M, followed by ice creams - because you can't go to Italy and not have one! Weary after walking almost all day, we meandered home through smaller streets, eyes peeled for a good place for dinner.
Once we'd rested and freshened up, we walked back into town for dinner - classic Italian affair washed down with Prosecco before heading home for a good night's sleep after nearly 40,000 steps of walking in one day!
The next morning we treated ourselves to breakfast out - fruit, yoghurt and croissants plus more coffee, before zipping up our cases and catching the metro back to Milano Centrale, from where we boarded a bus to Milan Bergamo airport, ready to make our way to Budapest!
All in all, Milan was a beautiful city and I glad we made the most of our short time there. It was by the far the most expensive of our locations, but with relatively cheaper living later on in the holiday it all balanced out nicely. Taking public transport and doing all our exploring on foot kept costs down, whilst also allowing us to wander at our own pace and see as much as we wanted.
Have you visited Milan, or would you like to?