About this time last July, we visited Milan. The main reason for our visit was Bruce Springsteen's concert at Stadio San Siro, but also, we've never been to Milan before and wanted to explore the city a bit. Turned out (unsurprisingly) that we loved it and that three days in the city are sometimes just what you need for a perfect summer escape.
On our first day, we arrived just in time to catch the golden hour over the Duomo (Milan Cathedral) rooftop. Touristy as it may sound, but climbing that rooftop would be a shame to miss. It took six centuries to finish the construction (from 1386.-1965.), almost 80 architects and engineers, and an organization called Fabbrica del Duomo, which has been responsible for preservation and restoration of the cathedral for more than 600 years now. With the construction spam so wide, it is hard to talk about unified style, but in the end, it is predominantly gothic and neo-gothic, and one glimpse of its lush ornamentation including flying buttresses, spires, gargoyles, and sculptures will leave no doubt about it. You don't always get the chance to see the architectural ornamentation up close; that, with a bird view of the piazza in front of the cathedral and people looking like figurines in a model train landscape, makes this rooftop one of the most interesting spots in the city.
Since Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is located right next to the cathedral, we had just enough time before dinner for admiring both Italian architecture and style (and I'm not only referring to the shops but to elegantly dressed Italians as well!). The gallery was designed by Giuseppe Mangoni in the second half of the 19th century, with the epoch's characteristic glass and steel dome and vaults construction. The legend says that if you spin three times below the central dome it will bring good luck. I did do that, and only afterwards read that this is causing damage to the floor mosaic (note to self- don't act like a classic tourist.).
First in the line of restaurants we tried in Milan was Trippa, based on the good Tripadvisor reviews. It was indeed good, I couldn't say spectacular, but the funny part was meeting two other Bruce Springsteen fans sitting on the table next to us. Stories from past concerts have been shared, along with a couple of guesses which songs was he going to play this time and the general conclusion how Bruce loves his Italian fans and how concerts in Italy are the best.
We had luck finding the apartment, not only because it was located 15 minutes walk from the stadium, but also because it was located about 5 minutes walk from the Gelateria Baci Sottozero, a place where I had a lot of pistachio ice-cream and Luka a lot of Sicilian cannoli. Both for breakfast and dinner. If you find yourself in the neighborhood, well, lucky you.
For a real breakfast next day, we headed to Pave, a bakery situated on a completely opposite side of the city, which didn't stop us from hopping on a metro, and having first in a row of three most delicious breakfasts we've had in a while. There were little sandwiches made of crunchy croissants, creamy cheese and walnuts, plum cakes and muffins, mint milk and freshly pressed juice, just about anything a sweet tooth's heart could wish for. It also had a young staff, funky old school furniture, and a large open space perfect for people watching- needless to stay, we didn't do breakfast the Italian way (that is, having something sweet and a quick sip of coffee on the counter).
Our plan was to visit the Castello Sforzesco afterwards, a giant castle built by Duke of Milan in the 15th century. We circled the castle from the outside, were lured into the greenery of the Sempione park in front of it, and then discovered that there was a Milan Triennale taking place, with a part of the exhibition in the Triennale building inside the park. As contemporary art aficionados, we couldn't resist that, so we left Castello Sforzesco for some other time, and spent the next two days exploring the Triennale exhibitions. I think that even for people who are not that into contemporary art, this would be very interesting, as there were interior design, contemporary pottery and jewelry included, along with a couple of interactive sound installations, and an amazing exhibition on human technologies tracing back to prehistory, with final exhibits such as drones and fake eyelashes (called Neo-Prehistory). We took many photos, but I've cut that selection to a couple of ones I found most interesting.
Next, a lunch at Brunello, a restaurant proposed by Jamie Oliver's magazine (whose article on Milan was consulted many times before our trip). Brunello is a modern osteria, beautifully furnished, cozy, and most importantly serves delicious food. I went overboard with ordering a cotoletta a la Milanese on a hot summer day (I had to try it, it was great, could barely walk afterwards), Luka had the tuna steak with mayo, and we split the pesto pasta for a starter. Each thing on that menu was delicious, well thought of and nicely presented. It is one of those restaurants I would return to over and over again.
Conveniently, that neighborhood was also home to one of the architectural wonders I've been wanting to see for a while, Milan's Vertical Forest. It is a complex of two residential skyscrapers whose facade is home to more than 900 trees, planted on its balconies, providing residents with shade, fresh oxygen, moderate temperatures, noise protection and beautiful greenery. Boeri Studio's idea was to stop spreading the cities horizontally in order to avoid taking precious land for agriculture, but at the same time providing much-needed greenery, and the result is in my opinion fantastic. Now I'm very curious to see one of those apartments from the inside.
That evening was all about the concert. We went to the apartment earlier, to rest and have a couple of drinks before heading to the stadium. Next to the stadium, we had a grappa (which has sort of become a tradition for us before Bruce's concerts in Italy), then almost stayed outside because of the tickets that for some reason wouldn't pass the control, and in the end, ended at what turned out to be one of the best concerts of our lives. Everyone was in the mood: the fans, Bruce, the E Street Band. It was positive energy, shared emotions, and a very loud singalong for more than 3 hours. Some of the songs he pulled out will always make me think of Milan. Just an amazing experience.
Next morning was for Pinacoteca di Brera and Brera district. Brera gallery hosts one of the greatest collections of Italian painting, such as Caravaggio's Supper at Emmaus or Mantegna's The Dead Christ and Three Mourners. You could spend a whole day in Brera's spacious and cool rooms on a hot summer day, enjoying both art and architecture, but we only had a morning. We wanted to explore more. Brera district is charming, with its streets on a human scale, restaurants, bars and cool shops. I couldn't help but enter a lovely jewelry store from a brand called Rosso Prezioso, founded by young Milanese designers who wanted to create a line of high-quality Italian design (which they did). I bought a pair of wooden earrings that look like precious stones, and are now one of my favorite pieces of jewelry as well as a lovely memory of our Milan trip.
For lunch, we headed to famous, nearby Latteria San Marco, a tiny restaurant praised by all food-related people I follow (Jamie Oliver, Mimi Thorisson for example). The owners both grow and cook the food they serve, and it is the simplest (in a good way) Italian food based on high quality produce. What did I enjoy most? Strawberry dessert and chatting with another guest and the owner about how Bruce Springsteen visited with his family once. It seems that everything evolved around the concert those days.
We spent the rest of the afternoon on the Triennale again. It was that good, and it was a necessity to hide away from the heat (it was July in the city after all). In the evening, we headed to the Navigli district where we had a fabulous plate of cold cuts at Ciaccia Coi Ciccioli, and then took a long walk down the canal. I think summer evening was a perfect time to explore this area, because all of those people, both young and old, lively bars, music, monitors broadcasting the Soccer World Cup, vendors selling beer out of the ice buckets on the floor. It felt like proper summer in the city.
We left Milano the next day completely excited and blown away by the concert, food, art and the beat of the city. I would dare to say that it was one of my favorite city escapes so far. And that I can't wait to go back.
*I wanted to say thank you to all the people following me on a regular basis (Hi, mom!), and all the people bumping into my blog online, finding it useful and interesting sometimes. It is really so much fun sharing this stories with you, and I always love to hear from you, be it just to say hi, share opinions or ask a question. I'm here and let's connect! A.
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