Aaron and I have always wanted to take an extended vacation and tour around Europe. First, deciding on where to go seemed like the hardest part of the planning, but we quickly decided on Italy and Spain. The deciding factors were based on the fact that my maternal grandfather was born in Italy, I've been to Spain and love Spanish culture, plus Ibiza has been on our travel list for as long as we've known each other. Paris topped my list and London topped Aaron's, but we thought narrowing our three week trip down to two countries close in proximity would be best.
Our first stop was Milan, Italy. We flew in on Saturday, April 29th at 6pm, after leaving Phoenix the day before at 7pm and connecting in London. Visiting Milan was an obvious choice for me being that the city is known for their fashion. After researching our other stops, we knew that a full day in Milan would be enough time for us. We checked into the Hotel Diana Majestic near Palestro, which is a very nice Sheraton hotel without being too expensive and also close enough to the main spots in Milan, but not right in the tourist area. Our first Italian meal was dinner at Quore Italiano, which we could see from the window of our hotel room. I had three different kinds of tortellini; pumpkin, cheese/spinach and cheese. Aaron had meat lasagna, which was so different from American lasagna. It was very light and clean. There wasn't a heavy red sauce or a ton of cheese like we're used too. The pasta in both dishes was so fresh, soft and almost doughy. The strawberry cheesecake for dessert was okay. It wasn't as sweet as we're used to and it had jello on top, which threw me off.
Our second day (or our first full day), we naturally woke up at 7am and decided to get our day started by heading to Duomo Di Milano, the main cathedral in Piazza del Duomo. We took a 10 Euro Uber and arrived by 8am. As soon as we walked around the corner, there it was. So breathtaking, so tall, so large, so striking and so white. There were no more than a dozen people in all of the square. It was so beautiful to watch the sunrise from behind Duomo. It took us a little while to find the ticket office, which was along the side of the Cathedral in another building. We waited about 15 or so minutes to buy our tickets, which was the longest line we waited in all day. We walked around the inside of the Cathedral, underneath it in the archeological tour, and on top of it on the terrace. The inside has ceilings as tall as 158 feet. Outside, the tallest spire is over 300 feet. We walked up a narrow enclosed staircase of 150 stairs in order to get to the terrace. My claustrophobia kicked in immediately, but the hike was over before I knew it. The view was so worth it! Aaron is afraid of heights and there was only one part where we walked up another set of stairs, which was really close to the edge, that he felt his phobia kick in. When we finished touring Duomo, we were very thankful for waking up early because the square was packed and lines were long.
After our hike, we randomly came across a rooftop restaurant inside a department store called La Rinascente Milano. I would have walked right past it, but Aaron noticed a sign for rooftop. The restaurant was Maio Restaurante. We ate outside with a gorgeous view of Duomo and had an interesting, but good Italian breakfast. Then we wandered around the designer shopping center, which reminded me of Barney's and Bloomingdales in the Upper East side of NYC. We found a 658 Euro silk zip up children's hoody by Gucci. Needless to say, we did not buy anything. After that we walked through the World's Oldest Shopping Mall called Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II where we were swarmed by a couple men from Africa who tied "Friendship Bracelets" on our wrists and demanded money before we could even comprehend what was happening.
We walked back to our hotel, took a nap and when we woke up we walked to dinner at Baladin, which is a brewery and burger place in La Foppa. The buns were so delicious. Literally the best bread ever. My burger had pesto on it, with pine nuts and soft cheese. Aaron loved his beer that came in a wine bottle. After dinner, we walked around near Stazione Garibaldi, which seemed like a very popular area. Everyone was enjoying their Sunday funday with orange cocktails (Aperol Spritz) and tapas. We went to Eataly at the Piazza, which is a four-story supermarket with restaurants, dessert shops, cafes and wine bars. We enjoyed glasses of red wine and people watching. We walked home that night, which added to our 20,000 steps for the day and headed to bed.
If we had one more day in Milan, we would have taken a day trip to Lake Como. I met a very friendly woman in the lobby of the hotel who was visiting from London with a girlfriend. She showed me photos of their day trip and it looked incredible. Apparently George Clooney has a vacation home there, so it must be good!
Similarities to USA
Milan reminds me a lot of NYC. It's a gorgeous city with tall apartment buildings and hotels. It's hard to tell which is what because all buildings have a similar look and feel, that is the old Italian styling. There is a cable car/ trolley that runs throughout the city in the middle of the road and big green trees that line the trolley on either side, so you hardly notice the tracks. The sidewalk restaurants and cafes definitely remind me of the little Italy neighborhoods in any big US cities.
The fashion is incredible here. There is at least one store for each high end designer on every block. Walking a mile home from El Duomo to our hotel, we passed at least six different Gucci Stores. We also saw a lot of Adidas, Alexander McQueen, DSquared, and Prada stores. Aaron pointed out to me that the fashionable men wear ankle length pants or they roll their pants in small cuffs to show their ankles. This trend is also worn by women and usually the pants are skinny jeans or tapered pants. Another big trend that I noticed is how every women is so on point with their sneaker game. A lot of Adidas old school favorites are worn here. We haven't seen as many Nikes as we see in the states, but they also seem popular. New Balance is another brand that I've noticed a lot of. The women wear them with casual or fancier dresses. One women was wearing the most beautiful long dress that was colorful and printed along with black leggings and bright purple New Balances and she looked straight out of a fashion magazine and totally fabulous. Of course, sneakers are worn with jeans too. I have not seen many people wearing athleseiure here. It seems like most people dress up. Overall, everyone is incredibly beautiful here. Very fresh faced, not a lot of makeup, slender build and average height. Unfortunately, most people here smoke.
Jet lag is no joke! I didn't think it was effecting me too badly until the second night when I woke up at 4am and couldn't go back to sleep. The first night we were pretty exhausted too, but the excitement of finally being in Italy kept us going. One thing we learned pretty quickly is that you have to ask for your check at restaurants, otherwise you'll be sitting there forever.
Currently as I'm writing this post, we are traveling to Venice by train, which we learned that pre-booking your train rides is only helpful if you bring your Eurail pass with you, which we left in our filing cabinet in America. Oops! Stay tuned for my Venice write up...