How I Learned to Love Milan, Italy
Milan is not a city that I fell in love with right away. It is not what I would call quintessentially Italian and I tend to love the traditional, perhaps even stereotypical, Italian city with laundry hanging out of windows, car-less streets, and the afternoon pausa (or two-hour gap of free time in the workday).
Milan does not have a pausa and the streets are anything but void of cars. It kind of ripped my expectations to shreds. But I’m so glad that it did because there is never a lack of things to do in this city and there is so much to take advantage of here.
Looking at Milan from such a great height made me realize just how spread out the city is, and initially, this totally overwhelmed me.
Obviously, the Duomo should not be missed. The gothic style cathedral is so immense that it’s almost impossible to fit in a photograph. If you climb to the top on a clear day, you can see the Alps in the distance and the statue of the Madonnina close up. You literally feel on top of the world up there among the perfectly sculpted spires and statues. Looking at Milan from such a great height made me realize just how spread out the city is, and initially, this totally overwhelmed me.
Thankfully, the big city is made smaller by its many neighborhoods. One of my favorites is the Moscova/Brera area, which makes up the space between the famous Teatro alla Scala and the most prominent feature of the Milanese skyline, the UniCredit skyscraper. I celebrated my birthday in Brera just weeks after my arrival in the country with people I hardly knew and now these people have become some of my best friends. For this reason, Brera will always hold a special place in my heart.
Also in this area, you’ll find the best burger in the city. Go to Baobab on Corso Garibaldi, and I promise you, you won’t be disappointed. They have literally any burger you could ever want, which is great because often there is nothing I want more than an inexpensive piece of red meat after all of the pizza and pasta. An Italian friend introduced me to the place and I later found out she was very nervous to take me there because “trying to impress an American with a hamburger is a hard job.” I can confidently say I was thoroughly impressed.
One of the best things about Italy is that people watching is a lifestyle.
Parco Sempione is another favorite destination on sunny afternoons and weekends. In fact, since it is close to my school I often walk to the huge green space and plop down in the grass to read a book, make a daisy crown, or just people watch. One of the best things about Italy is that people watching is a lifestyle. No one is embarrassed when they are “caught” looking at another person; they don’t even look away when they’re caught!
This park is so peaceful you hardly feel that you’re in the heart of the city. It has provided a space for many a happy picnic and a long walk with friends. It will also be one of the places I will miss the most when I leave to wherever I go next.
Knowing that the job I came here to do is almost finished and this means I’ll be moving on to the next chapter in my life is exciting and scary at the same time. On the other hand, knowing that I will probably be leaving Milan is full of heartbreak. After giving the city time to grow on me, I kind of can’t imagine my life not being here.
I think the most important lesson I’ve learned from this experience is that any new adventure you take will be what you make of it. You can be disappointed when expectations are not met or you can delight in new findings. Choosing to open yourself up to every new bit along the way will be the reward to your risk.