Thursday, October 19, 2017

Milan Essentials

After having lived 1 and a half years as an expat in Milan, I have accumulated some tips that could be useful to my dear friends who want to visit the city. Instead of writing again and again the list, I decided to write a small guide with the main points where I'd take you if I was still there. And... to my Italian colleagues: obviously I don't know the city as well as you, so please don't hesitate to contribute with the cool places you know ;)

I'd recommend you to look for a hotel/airbnb in the areas of Porta Venezia and Brera. They are both located near the center of the city (max. 20min walking ditance) and in them you'll find the main Train/Bus Stations to get to the airport. In Brera there's Garibaldi Station and Cadorna Station. In Porta Venezia there's Stazione Centrale, the place where most of the national trains stop.
In addition, these areas are well served, full of bars and restaurants and not dangerous at all.

THE CENTER - Quadrilatero della Moda
I'd start the tour from Corso Venezia, walking down the avenue till San Babila, where you'll start feeling the fashionable air in the streets and the stores. Once you're in San Babila street, you'll be able to see the top of the Duomo at the end, don't stress, the most iconic and beautiful view is from where the statue of Garibaldi stands with his horse, you'll see it easily once you've crossed the Duomo square.
If you are not a fan of churches but you want to do some sightseeing, I'd recommend you to visit the Duomo's terrace. In case you are not claustrophobic you can access the rooftop by going upstairs through the spiral stairs on the side of the monument. I'd say that visiting the interior is not a must and usually there's a long queue.
Then, I'd take you to La Rinascente. This is a huge Shopping Centre full of Luxury-Premium-Emerging brands that is considered to be the biggest in the city. Don't miss the Annex of La Rinascente! A hidden part of the mall where you can find much more affordable stuff for young people.
Before leaving the building you can also go upstairs and, on the top floor, you can have a drink or aperitivo while enjoying the views of the Duomo.
Next step would be Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele. These ancient galleries are the second most iconic site of Milano. All the top fashion brands have presence there. In it, you have to do 2 things:
  1. Have a coffee in Marchesi, the cafe/bakery of Prada. If you want to save money ask your coffee to be served on the bar. They'll charge you more if you sit on one of those cool tables.
  2. Put your heel on "the balls" of the bull that is drawn with a mosaic on the floor of the gallery. It's usually easy to find because many people wants to do the 3 turns on it (to have good luck, they say).
Finally, once you've walked across the Galleria you'll see one of the theatres and Opera Houses most famous worldwide: La Scala. If you don't want to spend a lot of money in the Opera you can also visit it as a tourist, but I'd say it's not a must in a 2-day trip.

To eat:
  • Fratelli la Buffala (pizza)
  • Mozzarella e Basilico (pizza)
  • Luini (panzerotti)
  • Straff (aperitivo)
  • Marchesi (cafe)

Between the square of La Scala and Porta Garibaldi there's the district of Brera.
There, you'll find a mix between cool, fashionable and elitist lifestyle together with the ancient harmony of the particular tiny streets that bring you to the traditional Italy. I'd recommend you to go up the street of Via Mercato, following through Corso Garibaldi till Moscova. Or just getting lost in those streets with no direction at all.
At the top of Brera there's Porta Nuova and Garibaldi Station. The area that surrounds Moscova to the top of Corso Como is particularly known for its active nightlife.
Corso Como is short but has a strong fashion identity too. In it there's Corso Como 10, a concept store that is the Mecca for any fashion addict that visits the city. On the base floor there's the expensive restaurant/bar together with the store that sells the iconic fashion brands of the moment. On the second floor there's the book store and the Gallery of Carla Sozzani (Franca Sozzani's sister). And last but not least, don't miss the rooftop that very few people know... you can access it from the tiny spiral stairs inside the Art Gallery.
Following the tour, you should walk up to Gae Aulenti Square; one of the most modern spots of Milan. The UniCredit tower has become an emblematic building of the city, together with Bosco Verticale, the building covered with plants that you can easily see from there.
To finish, go on foot through the Samsung District, that will be a relaxing walk that will make you forget you're in Italy.
In case you still have strength, you can also explore the District of Isola, which hides number of stylish and cool cocktail bars.

To eat:
- Baobab Organic Burger (burgers)
- Tramé (sandwich)
- Temakinho (sushi)
- Radetzky (drinks)
- Dry (drinks and pizza)
- California Bakery (cakes)
- Rocking Horse (pizzeria)

I don't know much about the city of Como but all the times I've been there it has been a beautiful day.
You will understand why George Clooney has a house there when you'll walk by the side of the Lake and see the amazing views along the walk.
If you have enough time you should take a boat and sail across the Lake to the village of Bellagio: a colourful village that seems to be taken from a fairly tale.
To get to Como from Milan you can easily take any of the trains that depart from Cadorna, Garibaldi or Centrale Stations.

The street that goes down from Duomo's Square to almost Colonne di San Lorenzo is called Via Torino. This street is one of the most crowded streets of the city and is full of smaller and cheaper stores. Find there a more relaxed atmosphere, with number of Ice Cream shops and tasty Pizza Slides called "Trancio di Pizza" haha.
Buy a gelato in Gelateria della Musica and sit happily in Colonne di San Lorenzo. You'll feel young even if you're a granny.
After this sweet break, go on with the walk to Navigli through Via Ticinese. The downtown Milano is characterized to have some Amsterdam style canals which are completely surrounded by bars that offer aperitivo.
Note: Aperitivo is what they call to the happy hour (normally from 6pm to 9pm) in which all the bars offer a free buffet of food (finger food or cold dishes) together with the cocktail you ask. The most common drink in Milan is Spritz, an orange drink that is made of Prosseco, soda and Aperol or Campari. If you are not an enthusiast of Spritz, I'd recommend you a Moscow Mule, an alcoholic drink with a touch of ginger that you will definitely like if you are a lemon/lime lover.

To eat:
- Papagayo (aperitivo)
- Greek Fusion (pitas)
- Bond (aperitivo)
- Officina 12 (gin tonic)

When in the square of Duomo, there's a wide car-free street called Via dei Mercanti (and afterwards Via Dante) that goes to the castle of the city. Walk up to the castle and, after crossing it, enjoy the beautiful Sempione Park, always green and full of life. Doesn't matter the season, you'll find many locals hanging out, either having a picnic or doing yoga there. On the top of the park you'll find Arco della Pace, a huge arch that stands majestic in the beginning of Corso Sempione.

To eat:
- any of the bars in the beginning of Corso Sempione

Hope you enjoy your trip and, please, don't forget to tell me your favorite places once you are back!

Enjoy :)

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Emerging China - IV. SUMMER PALACE

Day 5 Summer Palace

We left our luggage in the hotel ready to depart on that evening to Shanghai, then we took the metro to Summer Palace which is a little bit isolated but worth to go!
Maybe it was due to the hot weather or the early hour in the morning but this was the attraction in which we found more queues to enter. This huge park was the garden in which the emperors went to scape from the boiling city.
Once inside, we took an alternative path to get away of the crowd and, while going up to the hill through the forest, we came into a group of elder Chinese practising tai chi. Once again, sitting there staring at them was amazingly relaxing.
Some say that the views of Beijing from the top of the hill are priceless, but it's also true that in that city there are many days of poor visibility, and that was one of those days. In any case, we could enjoy the magic gardens with rivers, nenufars, pavilions, bridges and the lake. There was a corridor similar to the one we saw in Temple of Heaven from which you could see the whole lake of Kunming, the boats where so authentic, and the whole scenario too.

Back in Beijing, we picked up the luggage in our hotel and before taking the Airport Express train (that casually stops in Dongzhimen too) we had lunch in a Vegetarian Restaurant called Nei Fu Dishes Wuyutai, clean, cost efficient and kind of luxurious. One of the particularities of China is that you can find a Hutong at a 10 meters distance of a business center skyscraper. Related to this, we found this restaurant at 5min walking distance to our hotel, and we could even order the plates in an iPad. The problem was not knowing the dimensions of the dishes... and it was useless trying to ask in English, so at the end we got a table full of a delicious meal that ended up to be also our dinner (you can ask to bring with you the remaining food, they'll put it in a take away plastic box, easy and practical!).

Finally, we travelled from Beijing to Shanghai. (Take into account that the majority of internal flights in China are delayed, ours departed 45min after the scheduled hour; the other option is the high speed train, that it's said to be reliable and so modern.)

Monday, August 28, 2017


Day 4 Most Famous Temples in Beijing

We did not have breakfast included in the hotel, and on this day we woke up with so much need of a coffee, so on our way walking to the Lamas Temple we were lucky to find a Starbucks (it is a pleasure to eat occidental food for once), seating there in the terrace we could stare at the business people entering a tower next to the temple; in that moment I first saw how stylish Chinese women can be. They are particularly elegant, wearing plain soft structured clothes as if they had bought all those looks in COS.
The Lamas Temple was inspiring, relaxing. It was my first time in a buddhist temple. We saw many locals praying, old and young, performing a kind of prayer holding incense sticks. This, together with the giant Buddhas and colourful interiors, contributed to provide us a whole peaceful experience.
Our following stop was Temple of Heaven, a Chinese holly place located in a huge garden in south-east center of Beijing. The corridors with decorated roofs were infinite and gave us shadow in a burning day. We could sit there with the green garden behind us, staring at the elder locals gambling with cards. The main pavilion of the Temple is on the top of a hill from which you can enjoy the nice views of the city. Remember that you'll have to pay twice to enter the proper temple.

That evening we decided to walk direction to Sanlitun (area known for its active nightlife) but the rain caught us and we aborted the plan halfway.

On our way to Lamas Temple we got lost intentionally through a Hutong

Temple of Heaven

Dongzhimen District