This weekend I decanted, squeezed and strapped my life into a handbag (bordering on breaching Ryanair’s tiny standards) for a weekend in one of the four fashion capitals of the world: Milan.
In all honesty, I wasn’t really sure what to expect apart from a string of designer boutiques and incredible pizza, but it turns out that northern Italy’s fashion haven is also it’s cultural capital. I loved the integration of contemporary life with Milan’s ancient ruins; think vintage tramways zipping past modern art museums and you’re just about there.
Arguably, Milan isn’t as sought after as it’s big brothers Florence, Venice or Rome but there are definitely enough things to see and do to keep you happy and busy. So here are my recommendations of what to see and more importantly how to stretch that student loan!
1: Marvel at Milan’s cityscape from the top of the Duomo Cathedral
There’s no way you can avoid this beauty – the iconic Duomo Cathedral towers over Milan’s tourists and is a must-see. Taking almost 500 years to complete, it really is a marvel of human workmanship. Impressive as it is to to look at from the Cathedral square, for only €6 (or €10 to be lazy and take the lift) you can climb up to the roof - here you’ll see the Cathedral from a totally different perspective and have a 360º view of Milano. If heights aren’t your thing just enter the cathedral for free - I really recommend it, I’ve never seen stained glass windows that huge!
2: Spin on the Bull’s balls in the Galleria Vittorio Emmaunel II
The Galleria, with it’s huge glass domed roof, is famous for being one of Milan’s most sought after places to wine and dine. Not only is it home to haute couture, luxury cafés and (whoodathunkit) a McDonalds, it’s home to a mosaic bull who’s balls have taken quite a hit. Apparently if you spin 3 times on the bull’s balls you will have good luck… Just don’t do what I did and push a kid (literally) out of the way to have a go. Good luck comes to those who wait, afterall.
3: Window shop in the Golden Rectangle
Any fashion brand worth knowing about will have itself a sparklingly beautiful boutique firmly planted on Milan’s Golden Rectangle. Bag yourself a bargain you will not, this is a square with serious fashion credentials – Louis Vuitton, Versace, Prada, D&G, Chanel, Gucci… you name it, the Golden Rectangle is ready and waiting to accept your plastic. Ok, so even if a pair of boots costs more than your entire degree, make sure you go just to marvel at the window displays; just be prepared to battle with eccentric Italians and their pesky little pooches.
4: Wine and Dine along the canals of Milan
Venice it’s not, but Milan boasts some beautiful canals with an array of art stores, bookshops, cute cafés and eateries lining its banks. I visited this area at night and the canals were beautifully lit up, glittering through Milan’s signature fog. Along the Ripa Di Porta Ticinese (nearest metro stop: Porta Genova) we found many bars offering a drink and a buffet dinner for only €10. Here we had a selection of risotto a la Milanese, chicken wings, a salad bar, pastas and more – all night long! Washed down with cocktails from the biggest list I’ve ever seen. A great way to spend the night! (Beware: drinks are expensive in Milan! Goodbye Erasmus grant…)
5: Take a peek at the Teatro alla Scala
So I’m not a massive opera fan, well, what I mean to say is that I’ve never been to an opera. I only decided to pay €5 to go in here because it’s (arguably) the most famous opera house in the world – and boy am I glad I did! With more red velvet than Santa's winter wardrobe the most theatre boxes I've ever seen, the building was incredibly opulent and made me wish I was going to see a show there. For a few culture vulture points it’s definitely worth a peek!
If you get a chance to go to Milan, take it! Flights are a steal with Ryanair (other low-cost airlines are available blah blah blah) and you’ll soon discover, as I did, that this style city’s beauty is much more than skin deep.