A Week In Milan

I’d meant to publish this when I returned from Milan at the beginning of last week but I was frantically faffing about and running errands in preparation for Reading Festival last weekend!

Last week I returned from a week with the family in Milan. I had never been to Italy before then, so I was excited to soak up the unfamiliar Italian culture.

We stayed in an apartment near the Naviglio Grande, a attractive canal in the Ticinise, just south of the city centre. On the first of many humid but cooler summer nights, we walked the surrounding promenades, which are littered with endless bars, restaurants and gelateria. The Navigli became our regular go-to for evening meals, what with the buzzing atmosphere, vast choice and not one eatery quiet.

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Amongst the numerous, pricier Italian gelato chains, a refreshing alternative I’d recommend for gelato is Gelacrepia; situated at the busier end of the Navigli, it offers a great range of gelato flavours and freshly-made crepes at seriously inexpensive prices. With 2 generous scoops of your choice for only €2.50, you can’t afford to not make daily trips to this gem.

Before our trip, I had presumptions about Italian food, and my presumptions were correct – every ‘authentic’ Italian restaurant I visited, the cuisine literally consisted of the three stereotypical foods of Italy: pizza, pasta and risotto. That is LITERALLY their cuisine. So be prepared for that.

On the second day, we took a short journey on the Metro to the centre of Milan. As soon as we emerged from the Metro, we were faced by the Duomo, one of the largest cathedrals in the world. Easily Milan’s primary attraction, it’s a must-see, even if, like me, you don’t go inside.

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Adjacent to the Duomo is Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. An absolutely beautiful, grand arcade with domed glass roofs and marbled, patterned floors, it primarily houses luxury retail stores and restaurants, and is also the place where Prada’s first store was establishes and remains the flagship store. I went in there and saw my absolute dream bag there. Sadly, I couldn’t take a picture 😦

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Residing in the Galleria is Annex La Rinascente, a department store full of hidden treasures and a mish-mash of trendy brands. It’s the sister store of La Rinascente, the department store opposite the Duomo, which could be compared to Selfridges.

If you carry on along Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, which runs past the Duomo towards San Babila, you’ll encounter a whole calibre of shops. Think of Corso Vittorio Emanuele II as the Oxford Street of Milan, only it has a Sephora. And I found a NYX store tucked away on Galleria Passerella just off of it! I think the NYX had only recently opened as most of the stock was sold out 😦

On the third day, we took the hour-long train journey from Cadorna station to Lake Como, resting at the very north of Italy, just below the Swiss border. After taking a tram up the mountain to a small villagey-residential area full of big, fancy, gated mansions, we came back down to realise how unbelievably hot it was. To cool down, we went for a boat cruise around the lake, and I got that nice lakey breeze. Then when we returned to land it was bloody hot again.

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The next day, it was time to get our art fix. Fondazione Prada, the arts centre funded by the fashion house itself, is a bit of a trek out of the city centre – a 20 minute journey from Duomo to Lodi Tibb on the M3 metro line, then another 15 minute walk from the station to the Fondazione in the August heat – but I was interested to see the kinds of contemporary art Prada has invested itself in.

For €8 (I got the reduced ticket price for being a student), I was given access to a vast compound of several buildings, each containing their own installation. Steely, minimal and spacious, with granite floors, I found the flow of the separate buildings and their exhibitions to be a little confusing and slightly incoherent. I also found the numerous works of art a little difficult to comprehend; whilst I was expecting “contemporary art” (for some reason, I feel the need to air quote that), I hadn’t heard of any of the artists before and I found their concepts to be a little obscure. To my slight disappointment and surprise, there was no gift shop, meaning the only souvenirs I had to take away were my personal photos and the information brochures from each of the installations. Still, I think it was a worthwhile experience that differentiated itself from many of the other, more traditional, art museums in Milan.

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We also visited the Pannacoteca di Brera (nearest metro station: Lanza / Montenapoleone), a grand palazzo north of the Duomo, home to a collection of medieval and Renaissance art especially from Northern Italy. The majority of the art is Madonna and Child and other highly biblical paintings, so if you know that isn’t to your taste, perhaps give this one a miss. This applied to myself, but hey, it was something to pass the time and create some dank Medieval memes.

The last couple of days of our stay consisted of walking the city streets, lazily flitting between Milan’s galleries and museums. One thing I notice about Milan is that surprisingly, despite being one of the big fashion capitals, there are hardly any fashion-related museums in the city. You might hit the jackpot with the Armani Silos museum; no longer than a 10 minute walk from where I was staying, and not far from Porta Genova station, it houses the past forty years of Giorgio Armani’s work. I was so excited to go, but was absolutely gutted to discover that the museum was closed for the entire duration of my stay. Prior to our visit, we weren’t aware that many Italians leave for their holidays in August, leaving some local shops and attractions closed for that period of time, so bear this in mind if you ever decide to visit the city in August!

Hoping to substitute this grave loss, I paid a visit to the Palazzo Morando, which apparently houses a costume exhibition. A short walking distance from San Babila station, you could compare the street it resides on, Via Sant’Andrea, as the Bond Street of Milan (what is it with me and comparing streets in Milan to streets in London?), lying in the heart of Milan’s fashion district. I had previously gathered online a constant link between Palazzo Morando and costume moda, which translated to me as fashion/costumes. However, I was disappointed to discover that the palazzo was more a collection of antique sculptures, objects and paintings, with only a small handful of period costumes, which is not what I had envisioned. Still, I emerged from the palazzo to be greeted by Givenchy, Chanel, Maison Margiela and the crew, so at least I got a vague fashion fix in that sense.

On our final full day in Milan, we got the metro on the M2 line from Porta Genova to Milan’s Centrale station, which recalls the architectural grandness of Grand Central Station (I’ve now moved on from London to compare Milanese attractions to NYC, despite not having been there before). A decent spot for shopping, I wouldn’t necessarily deem it as an essential must-see in Milan, but if you’re running out of things to see it might be worth having a gander there. Call me shallow, but the personal highlight for me was the NYX store, which, unlike the one off of Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, was almost fully stocked. It was exciting for me as I’ve always sought after NYX products, unimpressed by the fact that they’re only stocked in a random handful of Boots stores across the UK. I bought their Lip Lingerie in Lace Detail, their Liquid Suede cream lipstick in Soft-Spoken (which I later discovered was a slight dupe for my Kat Von D Everlasting Liquid Lipstick in Lolita), and their Matte Lip Creams in Abu Dhabi and Transylvania

Late afternoon, we returned to the Navigli for one last stroll and dinner along the canal. If I have to recommend one place to visit in Milan, it would have to be the Navigli as it’s just the perfect place to go for some dinner; it’s always busy during the evening, but not in a stressful way at all – being surrounded by people relaxing and enjoying themselves amongst family and friends (corny, I know), is guaranteed to have you in a great mood too.

I’m looking forward to returning to Italy, this time another city. Where in Italy would you recommend going?

The Style Banks x

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