Unfortunately all of the shops were closed until January 7th. I guess wealthy people need a really long New Year's vacation. I think it would be fun to visit when the shops are open and the beautiful, fabulous people are shopping. On one of the side streets we saw an older woman with perfectly coiffed hair, chic sunglasses, and wearing a snowy-white ensemble right down to her stark white shoes, which were somehow in pristine condition even though the streets were wet and grimy. She was walking purposefully toward an ornate apartment building and as she passed I got a whiff of her expensive perfume. I wanted to follow her and find out who she was but that would have been wrong. And creepy. It was like she had walked off a glamorous movie set from the 1950s.
The architecture was beautiful. Graceful mansions tower over streets that are lined with immaculately-manicured shrubbery. Even if you aren't absorbed by fashion and wealth, it's a very pleasant walk through the Quadrilatero della Moda. And who knows? Maybe you'll run into the woman in white and she'll invite you into her palatial apartment for some wine and divulge her secret about how she keeps her clothing so immaculate.
We were off to a late start on New Year's Day and we were well into the afternoon when the skies finally opened up into an earnest downpour. We decided to go back to the hotel and try again later. Later turned to evening because of the bad weather. We ended up walking several blocks to find a cafe that was open. We ate some paninis (by now our go-to food choice) and went to sleep early so we could take full advantage of our last day in Milan.
We'd heard about the 'canal district' so we decided to trek it over to Naviglio the next morning. The weather was still abysmal but at least it wasn't raining. Naviglio is an up-and-coming area that feels very local. We didn't have the opportunity to see it during the evening but it's known for its nightlife. In recent years it has also become a haven for artists due to low rent costs.
|Naviglio, Canal District|
|Santa Maria delle Grazie|
Santa Maria delle Grazie is worth seeing on its own. The interior is dominated by breathtaking frescoes and we were still able to see some of da Vinci's work in the lunette in the portico.
courtyard, flanked by
Santa Maria delle Grazie
Our next stop was the Sempione Park. Its origins go back to the 14th century. The land was originally used as a hunting ground for the Visconti. Today it's a pleasant retreat in the middle of urban sprawl. Sforza Castle flanks it on one side, and on the other is the Arco della Pace (Arch of Peace). It was built in the early 19th century to celebrate Napoleon's victories. The view from the park is impressive, even through the fog.
|Arco della Pace|
Milan was nice. I think three days is more than enough time to see everything if you make some plans in advance. If I had it to do over again, I would make sure to get tickets for "The Last Supper," have dinner and drinks in the Naviglio district, and participate in Aperitivo.
Aperitivo is my biggest regret from our adventure in Milan. As I mentioned before, it's a very expensive city. We had a difficult time finding filling meals that were reasonably-priced. Aperitivo is basically a happy hour accompanied by lots of appetizers. It's a very Milanese thing to do and most neighborhood cafes host them. We accidentally happened in on one after we'd already had dinner. There were cheeses, olives, bruschetta, meats, potatoes, and vegetables. They typically begin around 6 or 7pm and last until 9. The atmosphere is jovial and energetic. And here's the best part: the only money you must spend to make your way around the buffet is for one drink. ONE! I definitely felt cheated for missing out on this wallet-friendly experience.
So, Milan. I don't know if we'll ever meet again and I don't think I will be too disappointed if this turns out to be the case. I must admit that I wasn't terribly impressed with the food. I think a different region of Italy might be on the menu for next time. People, in general, were kind. I loved hearing all of the Italians speaking. It really is how you imagine; lots of "Pregos!" and "Bonjournos!" Milan certainly feels like a lived-in city. Lots of tourists abound but there are also many people dressed in suits, carrying briefcases, and going to work in large, concrete buildings that smell like money.
|Rooftops of Milan, from the Duomo|