April 07, 2016

I've always wanted to see Italy and experience the Italian lifestyle and culture that you see so often in movies and TV shows and this weekend, I finally got that chance! I went to Milan and experienced all it has to offer, despite the unpleasant weather. So here's my experience of this beautiful Italian city of luxury and my recommendations for anyone visiting Milan anytime soon. 


We stayed in the Ostello Bello Grande hostel, which is situated right next to the Milan Central train station. Despite sounding like an ideal location, it's about a 20-30 minute walk from the city's main attractions but that was the hostel's only disadvantage. As soon as you walk in the front door, you are witness to everything a Pinterest user has ever dreamed of: travel quotes on blackboards, fancy bulbs and lampshades, mis-matched furniture.. If you're a keen Instagrammer, you'll want to stay here. 

Photo credit: Carly Duckett 

We had arrived early for check-in as we had just wanted to drop off our bags but instead were invited to stay for a free breakfast while we filled out our check-in forms to ease the process later. The hostel offers pretty much everything you can think of for free - free breakfast, free snacks, free luggage storage, free padlock rent and much more. It's got a rooftop terrace, a 24 hour bar, a fully-stocked kitchen (which is also free to use) and the best atmosphere of any hostel i've stayed in. I cannot rate this hostel highly enough, it made our stay in Milan that much better knowing we had a cool, friendly place to rest our head at night. 

Food and Drink

Italy is well-known for its food and drink and Milan certainly didn't disappoint. Despite being lactose-intolerant, nothing was going to stop me from having a cheesy pizza or creamy pasta.. it's Italy after all. For our first meal (lunch) in Milan, we asked the hostel staff for recommendations and they sent us to Pizzeria Maruzzella. It didn't look like much from the outside but inside it was a typically small, homely Italian restaurant with attentive staff and "interesting" decor. After looking through the many pages of pizza options, we finally decided on what we wanted and waited in anticipation as we watched the restaurant get busier and busier. The food didn't disappoint and it was the best way to start off our Italian weekend!

Photo credit: Carly Duckett 

After wandering about the city and having a nap (we spent the night before on a noisy and uncomfortable bus, don't judge) we once again asked the hostel staff for a recommendation of somewhere we could go for dinner. They gave us different options and when the time rolled around, we chose the one on the map closest to where we were at that time which happened to be Salsamenteria Di Parma. Whenever I travel somewhere I like to seek out the restaurants that the locals go to instead of the tourist traps that are so easy to be fooled by. When we walked in this tiny little tardis of a restaurant, with whole big legs of ham hanging from the wall, and I saw Italian families of all sizes with various generations round the one table, I knew we had found an authentic local restaurant. 

Photo credit: Carly Duckett 

The speciality seemed to be traditional Italian cuisine, away from your typical carbonara or spaghetti, the menu had different meats and vegetable dishes that I didn't recognise. We had 2 courses which seems to be what you do in Italy so who was I to complain! We both opted for pasta to start (Carly went for ravioli and I went for gnocchi) and a sausage and potato dish for our second course. We also ordered a bottle of Prosecco (when in Italy..) which was served to us in bowls.. yes, bowls (again, when in Italy..?) All our food was amazing and I would definitely recommend it to anyone visiting Milan. It was an insight into what seemed like the authentic Milanaise culture and drinking Prosecco from a bowl was certainly an experience. 

That left one more meal to experience in Milan. For lunch on Sunday, while walking around the shops we stumbled upon Quore Italiano. As we were in a more touristy area and had little time to kill, this restaurant wasn't as good as the others but was still enjoyable. We both opted for pasta which was lovely. I don't really have much else to say about the restaurant - it was nice, but I wouldn't rush to go back when I know there are other, more enjoyable restaurants in the city. Overall, our food over the weekend was amazing and exceeded my expectations of proper Italian cuisine. It's safe to say I was pregnant with quintuplet food babies when I boarded the train back to Lyon, but nevertheless the food was worth the exhausting pregnancy hahaha!


As far as other European cities go, Milan seems to lack a lot of sightseeing opportunites and general things-to-do.. then again, it could have been the bad weather we experienced. Of course, there is the beautiful Milan Cathedral (Duomo) which stands proudly in the centre of the city and holds a presence over the grand square before it. Despite the strong smell of pigeons in the square itself, it was a beautiful sight to see. 

Next to the Duomo is the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II which is a large cross-shaped building which houses some of the biggest designer names you can think of but, unless you're extremely wealthy, you can't do much other than look in the window at the priceless bags and jewellery and whatever else. The building itself is beautiful and has a great atmosphere and is definitely a sight to see when in Milan!

If you venture further out of the main tourist part of the city, you'll find the Parco Sempione which houses the Castello Sforzesco (essentially, it's a big castle in a big park). The castle is stunning and reminded me of Roman movies where the gladiators fight in the middle of a big arena. There's a large square in the middle of the castle with lovely gardens and statues. The park it stands in is beautiful as well but, if i'm honest, once you've seen one city centre park you've seen them all. 

Overall, I loved having my Lizzie McGuire moment - running about mental in Italy, eating all the pasta I can and talking to my cartoon self (wait, what?). If you've been to Milan before and been to any of the places I mention, let me know. If you're going to Milan soon, definitely check some of these places out and let me know if you do. I'll definitely be back some day to have that pizza again..


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