Italians love to hate Milan. Before we got there, they said “Oh no, don’t go to Milan, it’s not really like Italy.” “It’s definitely not Italian.” Once we had arrived there, the locals asked us “Why did you come here?” informing us where we could go to escape the city on weekends. And finally when we left, they breathed a sigh of relief and asked us if were happier now we didn’t live in Milan.
It’s true that I never fell head over heels in love with Milan, but I never hated it either. It’s a big city, yes, it’s dirty, yes, the people work hard, yes, but is that different from any other big city in Europe? Food is highly respected – like everywhere in Italy, the public transport is better than Rome (i.e. more than two metro lines), the Duomo (Cathedral) is gigantic and has spectacular views of the city from the top. And apart from all the parks the city has on offer, there are more museums than you can shake a stick at (or visit in almost 3 months).
Although the ferocious Milanese zanzare (mosquitos) were out in droves all over the city for summer, nothing could keep me away from the Navigli area. Canals lined with restaurants, old buildings and people out strolling made for a vibrant atmosphere. It was especially beautiful as the sun was setting, splashing colours from the horizon and orange buildings onto the water.
On Sundays I enjoyed savouring a gelato in Parco Sempione, one of Milan’s great parks, while watching crazy locals who thought it was appropriate to go for a run while the sun was at its peak and temperatures were in their high 30’s. A group of African bongo drum players jammed together each Sunday, creating a relaxing ambience for young and old to hangout and chat, play football or frizbee and of course to eat.
Eating is something we certainly enjoyed in Milan. The aperitivo, which is now found in most of Italy, originally came from Milan. There was no better way to finish a long day at school or an exhausting day wandering around sightseeing than with a drink and free plates of delicious food. Anything from olives and chips to mini-sandwiches, pasta, salami platters, fish and even tiramisu could be expected.
After the chaos and tourists of Rome, I was happy to call Milan my home for summer.