After arriving in Milan in the afternoon and spending basically the entire day sleeping off a cold, I figured getting up early for my first and last full day in the city wouldn’t be the worst idea. Uncharacteristically I headed out at 9:30 in the morning at went straight for the city’s biggest tourist attraction “il Duomo” of Milan.
Fortunately, due to my early arrival it wasn’t particularly busy as it was just me and the other Asian tourists. There were quite a few Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Pinoy tourists walking through the church – which were fairly easy to distinguish from each other. They were all taking absurd amounts pictures but the Koreans and Pinoys were the ones stopping to pray at the alters, while the Chinese tourists walked by taking pictures with their their camera phone shutter sounds echoing throughout the cavernous room.
Stepping out of the dim lighting back into the daylight I stepped back to observe the church. The exterior, even for someone who isn’t that into churches or architecture is quite impressive. The facade is intricately detailed with the standard effigies of saints, but for me the most impressive part was the spires coming out of the top. It kind of made me think of Mortal Kombat – as in I’m pretty sure if you did a flawless victory secret move over the top of the Duomo it would kind of be like falling into that pit of spikes. I mean this in the most beautiful way possible.
While taking in the view I was constantly interrupted by my absolute favorite part of being at tourist attractions – the dudes trying to scam you into buying shit. All around the church there were African men walking around trying to give you “good luck bracelets.” Fortunately I had read about this ahead of time and knew if you were stupid enough to let one of them tie a string bracelet onto your wrist you would be mercilessly followed and harassed until you gave them some absurd amount of money. Accordingly I kept my hands in my pockets and used it as an opportune time to work on my resting bitch face. And if you were successful in dodging the bracelet dudes, there were also a shit ton of pigeons strutting around. Which is not unusual, except aside from avoiding them, you also had to avoid the guys trying to force you to take a hand full of corn to feed the pigeons, have them flock to you and then take a picture – which you would also be charged exorbitantly for. Why the fuck would I pay to get attacked by pigeons? If I wanted to pay to get attacked by birds I would go to Jones Beach, leave a sandwich on my blanket and wait for the seagulls to come.
Dodging the bracelets, pigeons and pigeon enablers I headed across the plaza to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele – which is a famed super expensive shopping arcade containing the likes of Prada, Louis Vuitton, Gucci etc etc. While absolutely beautiful I obviously wasn’t buying anything and just took a minute to take in the ambience I’ll never be able to afford then went for a walk through the city.
After traipsing through the park I decided to try to check out the Last Supper which I apparently neglected to notice is actually located in Milan. Unfortunately, viewings are solely by reservation and they also only let in 15 people every 30 minutes or something “in order to preserve the painting.” Because apparently too many people breathing at once greatly affects murals.
After all that walking and doing some shopping it was still only 2pm and I was exhausted. I decided to take a nap until it was time for Aperitivo Happy Hour. The aperitivo is a ubiquitous Milanese institution where in the evening hours many bars offer up access to a buffet of appetizers with the purchase of a drink, usually between 6-10€, which I considered a pretty decent deal. Although I do kind of hate going out to drink on my own. On the other hand…free dinner. In Navigli area, the famed canal of Milan – which happened to be completely drained, I encountered dozens of “waterfront” bars offering aperitivo happy hour specials. Passing each bar, a designated spokesperson was sent out to hustle me into their bar. As is my general practice, I settled on the one that had wifi and looked the busiest and ordered a Campari and soda with prosecco. Not a bad choice – and neither was the buffet. The cafe I had selected had an array including, mozzarella and tomato salad, green salad, olives, salami, pepperoni, bologna, cappicola, provolone, smoked cheese, brie, bruschettas, rice, pasta with tuna, fried eggplant, grilled vegetables, meatballs, pizza, and a bunch of other stuff that I’m forgetting at the moment. So yes, my 10€ drink was well worth it. I just wish I had friends to drink with instead of being that awkward antisocial weird tourist sitting glued to my phone.
Leaving with a light buzz, after they also gave me a free shot on the house, I decided to check out the Duomo at night since I heard it was pretty in the evening. To be honest it looked roughly the same to me, but it was a hell of a lot less crowded. I also got stopped by a Swiss-French art student who I thought wanted me to take his picture, but actually drunkenly spent twenty minutes making me look at his art portfolio and give him feed back. Humoring him, and not wanting to be the first person back in my dorm again, I threw around some terms like “impressionism,” “Monet” and “VanGogh” and he seemed to brighten up. Then he invited me to coffee and I told him I’d already had an espresso from a subway vending machine and ::yawn:: it’ was past my bedtime.
The next day I had a few hours to kill before heading on my train to Venice so I did some more window shopping then walked through what I came to realize was the Asian neighborhood in which I was living. I went to a gelateria to get a fruit shake and realized they also had ube, queso and buko pandan gelato in addition to serving halo-halo. I just can’t get away from Asians.
As I walked back to the hostel I also realized that since the sun had come out I could also just see the Italian Alps on the horizon. The stranger from the bus the first day had told me that Milan was one of very few cities in the world where the mountains are visible from the city center. Truth or just Milanese pride, either way it was a beautiful note to end my stay in Milan on.