italy, milan, solo travel, travel

My First Solo Trip to Milan

September 12, 2018

I chose Milan as my first trip abroad, solo. It wasn’t intentional. I simply found some flight tickets that coincided with my days off work and I couldn’t find anyone else who wanted to go with me so last minute. Usually I would rely on my sister, Rebecca, for this, but after I supposedly “broke her ankle” in Barcelona a few weeks before, she wasn’t having any of it. Besides, I had gotten so used to being alone at this point, I took the risk and booked the flights.

I flew in to Bergamo airport, about an hours drive to Milan. Luckily there were plenty of coaches and when we got to the city, we were just around the corner from my hostel. After I put my bags down and got myself sorted, I headed out to explore.I first went to Villa Necchi Campiglio. A small art deco villa with a crystal blue swimming pool outside. Unfortunately, so late in the day, all of the English tours were booked up and they don’t let you visit without a tour, so I tagged along on an Italian one. I understood the words ‘Gucci’ and ‘Balenciaga’ and not much else.After the tour, I decided to wander around the streets in search of an apartment block with trees on the balconies. I noticed Milan is unlike any of city in Italy. Well, at this point I had only visited Rome but I’ve seen pictures of the sun soaked streets of Florence and the colourful canals in Venice. Italy always conjured up images of ancient Roman architecture dotted in between old pizzerias and gelato shops, a beautiful yet dilapidated landscape. Milan was nothing like that at all. Everywhere you looked in Milan was style. From the well-dressed strangers on the streets, to the New Yorkesque skyscrapers and high fashion boutiques, Milan was the elegant, sophisticated black sheep of Italian cities.That’s when I saw it. Bosco Verticale. I’ve seen pictures of it on instagram but the photos didn’t do the place justice. It’s another experience entirely to see it with the naked eye. Almost 1,000 trees standing tall on balconies on a 111 metre tall complex. I couldn’t admire the building for too long as the jet blue sky had turned a cloudy grey and before long, the rain began.I stopped for tea at Soulgreen Italia. This was my first time dining alone and I’m not going to lie to you, I felt awkward sitting at the foot of a table designed for a large party. I ate gazpacho soup (Spanish food in Italy only added to my awkward, out of place feeling), a matcha latte and a cake for dessert.Unfortunately the rain didn’t show any sign of stopping so I headed back to my hostel for an early night.

I awoke early the next day and I mean super early. About 4am. I KNOW! I don’t know what’s wrong with me, either. I decided to make the most of my strange holiday spirit body clock and I was out of the door by 5:30am.I made my way down the shopping streets, stopping to window shop at Dolce and Gabbana, Prada, Gucci and other places I know I’ll never be able to afford, nor would I want to. After my window-shopping spree I finally reached my destination. The Milan Cathedral.The Cathedral itself was remarkable. The largest Cathedral in Italy and the third largest worldwide. As impressive as it was, it didn’t look to me to be anywhere in the same league as some of the other cathedrals I’ve visited lately, Cologne Cathedral and the Sagrada Familia to name some examples. For this reason (and the fact that I’d just bought myself a vegan gelato), I decided against going inside. Instead, I decided to check out Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II for some more glitz and glamour.The Gallery is one of the oldest shopping malls in Milan and homes some of the most famous names in the high fashion world. Like the cathedral, these shops were something I appreciated from the outside only, having no interest to look in and start shopping myself.By this time it was around 8am and the Cathedral and the mall were getting crowded so I decided to try and get some peace and quiet at the Parco Sempione. Here I read some of my book and tried to get a solo photoshoot by the Arco Della Pace. It didn’t work as well as I would have liked, but I had little time to dwell as I was off to my next destination. The Fondazione Prada.This ended up being one of my favourite places in Milan. On first glance it’s a simple art gallery but it ended up being so much more than that. There’s a café designed by Wes Anderson, Bar Luce, a tower made of gold that glitters in the hot Italian sun, multiple exhibits in different buildings and even a cinema. I spent a good part of the day here.After the art, I began to feel a bit peckish. I decided to try out Joia, a vegetarian restaurant with a Michelin star. If you’ve read my article about my weird experience of dining alone in Italy, you’ll know I accidentally ended up dining in the bistro section instead of the restaurant and didn’t get the experience I was after. Oh well. The food was still good and I decided I’ll try again the next day.I ended up sitting in the park for another hour or two, sunbathing and reading. Then, I made my way to Navigli, an Amsterdam-esque district in Milan where colourful houses sit along the canal and a mix of tourists and locals sit on the banks eating gelato. Naturally, I sat along the banks I ate gelato.Somehow I still had room for a real meal after all that ice cream and ate at Flower Burger for tea. I ended up wandering passed Bosco Verticale one more time on the way back to my hostel to try and get some pictures without the moody, storm cloud backdrop.The next day was my final one in Milan and by far the hottest. I walked down to Cimitero Monumentale Di Milano, Milan’s largest cemetery. Why would I want to hang out in a cemetery alone in a foreign country, I hear you ask. Well, I read that is was kind of beautiful with many artistic tombs and monuments. It was! Some of the statues atop graves were larger than myself and certainly impressive. Still, I knew it was a kind of a weird pit stop, so I made my way back to Joia to eat the three-course meal I wanted to have the day before.After lunch, I left Milan and got the coach back to Bergamo, the airport town. I had a good few hours to exploring left before my late evening flight so I decided to hike up the hill to the castle to see the beautiful views of Bergamo from above.Bergamo is certainly a beautiful city, similar to the picture postcards you imagine to see when you think of Italy. It’s weird that Bergamo is so often ignored in the place of Milan, but I understand why. Milan was a strange fusion of architecture, glamour and design. Bergamo is your bog standard town in amongst a beautiful Italian countryside. If you’re planning on visiting Milan, I’d recommend stopping by the city of Bergamo, at least for a few hours. It really is too beautiful to miss.  

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