The capital of fashion, a compulsive shoppers heaven, and hustlers on every tourist hotspot. Where else could I be talking about other than Milan?
The trumping of musical tones and the traditional Ryanair tannoy of “Congratulations on surviving your flight” or something like that, is what greeted me to Milan. As I left my my plane hopping on the bus that took me to the airport, I had been worrying about finding my way in the airport, and trying to find a bus that would take me to Milan central. These worries were for nowt however as practically every sign in the airport had an English translation below it, these signs lead me to the ticket office for the buses,.
” Buona sera. Parla inglese?” Good evening, do you speak English, Was what I asked the nonchalant ticket purser. He replied by shaking is hand side to side, meaning he knows a bit for anyone out there unknowledgeable about the usage of hand gestures. I then asked for a ticket to Milan central, once giving to me the ticket officer told me which lane my bus was in. I then traversed the maze of tourists, natives and workers, flying in, out or working at the airport. I reached the automatic doors that opened up revealing to me a cluster of buses, all patiently waiting for passengers, like excited canines waging there tails desperate for attention. I reached my bus and out of habit started talking to him in English, which his answer for that was to stare at me until I put my bag in the hold and went on the bus.
I then spent the bus journey with buttocks firmly clenched to Stop me from shitting myself out of fear from the driving style of our bus driver. No close car or even checkpoint would slow this maverick on a mission. By the time I had finished doing a cameo for need for speed, and reached Milan, I was then desperate to reach my hostel and sleep, so I walked there with my backpack firmly making a dent on my spine and reached my destination the ‘Koala hostel’, where I quickly checked in then went to bed.
Exciting stuff right, I got a whole paragraph done on just going from my plane to hostel. But don’t fear dear reader, I wont go into scrupulous detail of my every second in Milan. I’ll just give you the highlights from the bad and the good.
Starting from the bad, there is hustlers and scammers in any of the major tourist spots, all with there own thing to sell. A very common one you find is Africans coming up to you trying to give you twine bracelets in the colours of different African flags, they will greet you with a big smile and will tell you there bracelets are free, but once they put them on you they will start asking for money. A lot of the time the other bracelet men will surround you, trying to intimidate you into coughing up some money. But just tell them no, or better don’t get any bracelets in the first place. They might keep following you trying to convince you but be adamant you have no interest and they will leave you alone, and like vultures circle some other prey.
Another scam I unfortunately fell victim for was a man coming up to me outside the train station asking if I was a tourist. I, clad in shorts (which no local ever seems to wear), and sporting a bum bag and a complexion I like to call sickly-Scotsman, was quite clearly a tourist. I told him I was and he then went into a long explanation how he had just got to the city and had his bum bag with all his money stolen, yada yada he needed some change to use a payphone to phone the police. I being the wee, innocent, naive rural island boy, thought I had to help this man in need. I gave him 3€ but he told me it wouldn’t be enough as he had to make a few calls so he could let his family know what had happened. I told him it was all the change I had but then he asked if I could maybe buy something in the stall not far from us and give him some of the change. I had been meaning to buy some glasses so thought what the hell. I picked out a nice pair costing €6 and gave it to the stall owner. He then slyly ripped the price tag of, then when I gave him €10 acted like that was the price of them in the first place. Knowing the actual price I stared at him until he gave me my change. By this point I knew the two guys were working together but I just gave the man some of the change, just cause I didn’t want to start any trouble. But in retrospect I think it would of been much more satisfying to have kicked his head in.
As it being my first time travelling I expected I would be inexperienced in most aspects of travelling to say the least. Although it still gives you a sense of annoyance at yourself for falling for anything like that. However I’ve not falling for anything since my first day, so it would seem I have learned from my lesson. And I wanted to go traveling for different experiences, so I suppose I certainly got that.
Now for the good bits. Milan has some truly lovely buildings and the city’s metro means you can easily get all over the city. Just purchase your ticket from a machine and find out which train line goes where by reading the maps placed around the station. Or just walk the city if you’d prefer to have a look round. If you are doing this near the centre you certainly won’t have anything to complain about regarding the aesthetic.
The hostel was decent with its best quality being the friendly atmosphere. Making pals with someone there certainly wasn’t hard. What was hard though,was sleeping, as one of those pals who will remain nameless, snores like a bear which made sure I would get as little a sleep as possible. I would full heartedly recommend staying at the hostel and visiting the Duomo do Milano and Sforza castle if you are in Milan.
The castle is a piece of history that houses different museums, containing furniture, paintings, and other decorations that give a sense of Italian and European culture, throughout the ages. It also has the last and only unfinished work of Michelangelo that he worked on until his death. But best of all its cheap, I bought a ticket (pretending to be a student to get it cheaper), and it only cost me €3. It’s certainly something worth doing, and not far from the castle is the Arco della pace, which is good for a picture.
The duomo is truly a work of art. Picturesque Gothic spires and arches, coated in life like statues, at times seeming to be statues on top of statues. The main doors of the building are without a doubt the most beautiful doors I have seen, with it being more a collection of sculptures rather than a door. You will also notice the level of security Italy has at its tourist hotspots, armed soldiers will search your bags and use metal detectors on you when entering the doumo. You can purchase a ticket to enter the duomo in the office in the surrounding buildings which I would recommend. As you enter the duomo you will be hit by an intimidating, and brooding beauty, with powerful large pillars, beautifully adorned alters and painstakingly detailed sculptures.
A particularly beautiful sculpture inside the cathedral is that of saint Bartholomew, who had been skinned alive because of his beliefs. The sculpture shows him wearing his skin as a robe as he stoically stands bearing his muscle and sinew on show.
The highlight of the cathedral must go to the view at the top, which puts a chain onto your soul making you never want to leave. I sat, stood and lay on the top of that roof for hours until closing time. Watching the sunset with not a care in the world.
Over all I thought Milan was okay. Although the doumo was simply unforgettable, the rest of the city apart from the castle I found to be lacking in what I came to Italy for, that being the history of the place.
Milan is a modern city, filled with shopping emporiums and a mix of people from all over. But it doesn’t have a true essence of Italy, which being in Florence at the time of writing this I can tell you that it’s the complete opposite, every bit of the city screams Italian. Although it didn’t always treat me right, Milan will always be my first destination, on my first time travelling, and that is something I can say with pride. So that’s about it for Milan, arrivedirce. I will be in Florence for a few days so it might be a while till my next blog post, so goodbye for now, I’ll talk to you later.