Milano, Quintessentially, Yours
My friend, Ijay and I spent three months trying to figure out where we were headed for a long weekend.
We had never been to Milan. I had suggested Sicily but on second thought, we were only meant to be gone for a long weekend. 3 nights seemed more appropriate for Milan than Sicily. My blog about Sicily will tell you that I needed to spend longer than a long weekend there.
I knew this trip was going to be a little soulless, perhaps less adventurous and matter of fact, more of an elegant indulgence with the city. But it was fine; we just wanted an excuse for a jaunt to a European capital to celebrate belated birthdays.
The long weekend was anticipated to be a fusion of culture, exploring trendy fashion designs, dining for Italian food, exploring art nouveau, medieval castles, art deco and really taking in some Milanese R&R.
R&R meant that we planned to have longer lie ins, order breakfast in bed, slowly wander late mornings into town, check in to these local chic urban cafes, traditional modern bistros, local boutiques, and art galleries to soak in the northern Italiano culture. Like they say in Italy, “Dolce Far Niente”, meaning; the absolute sweetness of doing nothing. Why not?
Come to think of it, most of the north of Italy seems to be the more affluent parts of the country including central regions such as Tuscany, (which I toured last summer of 2018 and have great memories of). When you bring it back home to the UK, it’s the complete opposite with the South being the more affluent parts of the UK, specifically London. The world is a very interesting place.
So Milan, this world’s landmark for global fashion, a fascinating wealth of art and history made us bond with the vibrant metropolitan city for three nights.
As this break was booked probably about 10 weeks before we left, I had tried to book tickets well in advance to see ‘The Last Supper’ knowing fully well how difficult it could be getting tickets when we arrive. Well, it turned out to be sold out even 10 weeks in advance including the ‘Lates’, one that I was specifically interested in attending to avoid the overwhelming throngs of tourists.
Oh well, we were certainly gutted but tried not to let it taint our excitement before flying.
After all, I love Italy; it will be my 4th time in the country. Italy always reminds me of Elizabeth’s Gilbert’s ‘Eat Pray Love’. Each time I go, (whether it’s the Eternal City (Rome), Tuscany, San Marino, Venice, wherever)- I fall in love. Whether its with my romance with Tuscan influenced villas, fresh Italian coffee, sweet pastries, (Baroque) Piazzas, Basilicas, vine yards, art, freshly made pasta (especially a pasta alle vongole) and some fresh local red wine. My life is that simple and I find substantive comforts in these things.
We touched down just after noon, and decided as check in was at 15:00hrs, we could kill a bit of time by being adventurous and using local Public Transport. So we navigated our way with google maps from the airport using a bus half way into town and getting on the metro from Forlanini to Republica station. We lodged at the Westein, 5 star rated (4 star rated by us).
The hotel was beautiful, we loved the Victorian and modern interior fusion. The reception smelled of citrus and pink roses. They had brought me a chocolate and vanilla sponge coconut coated cake to celebrate my birthday which was really sweet. The city view from the room was refreshing each morning when I woke up.
After a short and sweet siesta, we wander into the Duomo, about 15 minutes’ walk away from us. The weather was pleasant; it was a beautiful summer evening. Milan was beautifully bright with pink, yellow and blue trams passing through colourful streets, bright coloured fashion designs illuminating through store window panes, and museums and galleries at every nook and corner of town.
So as the Piazza del Duomo connects into the galleria, after visiting the extraordinary Duomo, we walk into the absolutely stunning galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
It was a remarkable experience. The galleria had this incredible octagonal shaped arcade and oozed of haute couture, luxurious fashion designer stores, chic coffeehouses and expensive jewellery stores; we wandered through them. After all, it was all for the Milanese culture. I considered it a wonderful work of art.
We spontaneously enjoyed some yummy flavours of gelatos and after our wanderlust; we somehow randomly strolled into Lumas art gallery. It was inviting, I loved it there.
My senses seem to awaken once I behold visual art. It’s life. I was desperate to buy some black and white vintage portrait photographs from the 1930s. But it was too expensive that as much I was keen to get one (not a set), Ijay talked me out of it and it felt (at the time) like I needed to be talked out of it. But I got back to London and wondered why I didn’t whack it on my credit card.
The next day, we had planned to visit the magnificent Lake Como. We were due to leave at 10.30am from Milan to Varenna on a train and change to Como through a ferry to Bellgaio. However, we didn’t get to Varenna as the train company was on strike so we stopped in a town just after Milan and was stranded for an hour. There was no way to connect. No one would help us or other travellers. It was a bit of a disaster.
So we walked in a café for a snack and drinks to work out a plan from this cock up. We were subsequently told that we could get direct buses to Lake Como from that town.
We got tickets and got on the bus. It was worth the hassle when we arrived. Como was mind-blowingly picturesque, absolutely unbelievable. So we spent some time wandering round town, got on the slow ferry to Bellagio and that ride was a ride of a lifetime. I still cannot get the memories off my mind, I was surrounded by absolute beauty, It was like something from the moon or a Disney fairy-tale.
The lakes nestled and surrounded by the hills, the mountains, the colours, the lushness of summer colourful flowers and trees, the towns, the belvederes, all of it were fond discoveries of a lifetime. I couldn’t be more grateful for stumbling on a video on my Facebook wall and to Sajid for encouraging me town hop.
We had one of the dreamiest romantic lunches I would ever have. It was in Hotel Florence, (Restaurant de’l hotel Florence) , an exquisite al fresco style overlooking the lake and the shore lines.
The restaurant had beautiful orange tress shading the tables covered in a light pink table cloths, contrasting with the colour of the lake, the skies and the trees. It was beyond beautiful. I see why it’s called the ‘Pearl of Lake Como’- because of its beauty and its position between the two branches of the lake. Lunch was fresh, a culinary decadence.
We subsequently took a walk along the promenade and into the villages, taking in the views of the colourful homes and flowers. I remember walking up the hill on our way back and it was a quiet path up and Ijay and I put on Burna Boy’s ‘Ye’ on my phone as we danced and sang along walking up towards the ferry dock. A few people smiled at us and must have thought, look at these crazy bitches! I said to Ijay, this is the Nigerianness in us coming out.
We took the fast ferry back to Como and the train back to Milan. When we exited the station, we stopped for local pastries and bought a whole bunch of these breads baked with black olives. I don’t know what its called but it was super-yum and we ate them on the streets as we tried to hail a cab down.
The next day we wandered into the fascinating and exclusive upper class world of Quadrilatero della Moda. It reminded me of New Bond Street, London. The numbers of stores and boutiques with really luxurious and (un) affordable items was overwhelming. The fashion designer houses were so traditionally Italian, they had kept their original historic forms from the 1960s or wherever.
Valentino for example had a number of floors and this was the pattern for the big luxurious designer houses. A number of black men were security guards in these stores. They would wave at Ijay and I as if to identify with people who look like them but are not necessarily in this world they have found themselves. It was sad but endearing. We would smile and wave back. After all they are holding dignifying jobs within their contexts in the most sought out fashion district in the world.
It was great especially for Ijay my friend who loves her fashion. From the Hermes, to the Valentino, to Prada, Fendi, Gucci, Ferragamo - just name it!
A hub of luxurious fashion, it was oh so fascinating. Admiring from a distance, was the real definition of window shopping,
After 2 hours of wanderlust and flattering our lust and appetite for luxury in the ultimate fashion shopping district, we decided to stop for a treat at Armani cafe for some light lunch and coffee.
It was a lovely little treat; we had some fresh salads, fresh juice, breads and coffee. It was so good; we had decided to reserve dinner for later at their fine dining restaurant upstairs
After admiring fashion designs and having the ultimate window shopping, we decide to head back to the hotel for a nap.
Sadly, the Westein didn’t have a proper spa like a heated room or a heated pool so we decided to nap like the Italians, seeing that we don’t have that opportunity back home. It was our penultimate day anyway.
I loved the art, the food, the fashion culture, the city pace, the gelatos and sorbets at your convenience, the colourful trams, the shiny and colourful window displays, the grand palaces and the bustling city nature.
But I found Milan a little soulless. It would not be my first choice. It’s the same sort of soullessness I had when I visited Dubai. But Como and Bellagio compensated for this elegant Italian affair and I cant be more grateful for the opportunity to experience such captivating beauty.
Our penultimate day was super chilled out and we had the most amazing luxurious dinner at the Armani restaurant, real fine dining. This was what Milan was about. A lovely grilled sole fillet over beautiful white wine followed by a rich creamy selection of fresh baked desserts.
We ate, prayed, loved, laughed and boarded a plane back.
And then there was Milan Fashion Week…after we left, one on the bucket list which we will one day we will both be back for.
Thank you Milano, Quintessentially, Yours, June.