Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Milan, Italy - A Whirlwind Tour

How do you end up in Milan for fashion week? In our case, by accident. Our plan was to be in Munich Germany for a couple of weeks for Oktoberfest (that's a story for another time) but as time went by we decided to add a short side trip. We were going to be in Europe for a while, we figured we'd have some time and flights within Europe are generally inexpensive.

I started to look at places for us to visit for a couple of days and finally settled on Milan. I really wanted to visit Italy and Milan was about an hour flight from Munich and the airfare was very affordable.

Courtyard at the Enterprise Hotel - Milan, Italy
 Once we settled on Milan we needed to decide where to stay. I checked a lot of online resources and chose the Enterprise Hotel. The Enterprise Hotel is located outside of the city center but it is very convenient to public transportation. There's a tram stop right nearby the hotel. The tram will take you to the city center and to points of interest in the city. The hotel is about 45 minutes by taxi from the Malpensa airport or you can take a shuttle from the airport to the central station in Milan and take a bus or taxi from there. (That is the option we decided on.)

Statue of Leonardo da Vinci
  We were only in town for 48 hours so to see as much of the city as possible we took a bus tour. The tour was great and because it was a Hop On/Hop Off style tour we could get off of the bus at places we wanted to linger and get back on when it made it's next arrival at our location. If you only have a short time to spend at your destination look into a bus tour. It's a great way to see a lot of the city in a short time.

Of all of the things on the must do list for Milan, Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper is it for a lot of people. Sadly, we didn't see it while we there. I wasn't able to work the timing for a visit so we skipped it. (Heresy I know!) When we're in Milan again it'll be at the top of our list. We did get to visit the Duomo di Milano and see a lot of the city's history.

Duomo di Milano

In the morning we ate breakfast at the hotel. The Enterprise Hotel has a very extensive breakfast buffet and one of the better ones I've seen.  Italian cold cuts, all kinds of cheeses, wonderful pasties, fresh fruit. All well presented and very fresh. There are American breakfast options available on the buffet but I stayed away from those. I can get bacon and eggs at home.You might wonder how much gelato and how many paninis someone can eat in such a short time. Take my word on this, a lot. We ate sandwiches from street side cafes and food trucks. And the gelato was just sublime. Rich, creamy, so delicious.

Because it was fashion week when we were there big screens were set up all over the city to live stream the fashion shows from the catwalks.

Milan is a city of contrasts. Modern and ancient, side by side.

Before we knew it our time in Milan was at an end. I left reluctantly and with a promise to myself to return to Italy for a much longer stay.

A few tips:

Before we left for Italy I wrote the name of the hotel and the street name in Italian on several 3x5 cards. I carried these with me and when the cab driver we hired didn't speak English I just handed him a card. He knew exactly where we wanted to go, no problem.

Familiarize yourself with a few phrases in the local language. Please, thank you, do you speak English? These simple phrases can make a huge difference when interacting with the locals. I've found even that small effort in their native language makes a huge difference.

Have an idea of things you want to do before you arrive at your destination. You don't want to spend one minute of a short stay playing the what do YOU want to do game?

Pack a good pair of walking shoes. I know this one seems obvious. If you have to buy new shoes do it at least a month or more before you travel and WEAR the shoes as often as you can to make sure they're comfortable. Nothing like sore feet to ruin a sightseeing trip.

We also took a picture of the tram stop list at the stop near the hotel. It showed us the tram lines that we could use by number and the name of the stop we needed to look for to return to the hotel.

Most of all have fun. Engage with the locals, try the local foods, and just enjoy the time you have to the fullest.

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